For those of us in Thimphu city, especially vehicle owners and drivers, hope is on the way.
The thromde will soon get funds from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to fix the potholes that pockmark most of the capital city’s roads. It is also presumed that the ADB support will also cover broken and missing slabs that cover drains along and across roads.
Some of our roads are in terrible condition. For instance, the road that leads to the Kuensel office besides the expressway resembles both an old blanket and the surface of moon, with numerous patches and craters. Some potholes on some roads are allowed to mature into large ones and remain a constant source of annoyance and potential damage to vehicles. How much potholes and bad roads cost the country in terms of vehicle damage is not calculated but definitely is adding to our foreign currency outflow. The failure to spend minimally to fix a small fissure or pothole results in higher costs being entailed later to not only fix it but repair vehicles.
The question is what causes our roads to deteriorate to such poor conditions, not only in the capital city but in other dzongkhags as well.
There are several reasons. One has been identified by the thromde already and that is water and sewage leakages. No matter how well a road is built, it will deteriorate faster if it comes into contact with flowing water and ice. The thromde currently has a team out looking for and fixing leakages before the potholes are fixed.
However, besides leakages, inadequate drainage is another factor. Again, the thromde has plans to address this problem. As a short term measure, it will repair drains and also look to divert water. Nu 2 million has been invested to come up with a drainage master plan. Only once the drainage system keeps water off our roads, can we expect our roads to last longer.
Another reason for the roads deteriorating is the constant digging that occurs to lay or repair water pipes or electrical cables. Even roads that have been newly paved are not spared. The repair work that usually follows is shoddy or sometimes even ignored. Clearly there is a need for the thromde to get strict and penalise those who illegally dig up or damage public roads. The thromde must also ensure that the repairing of dug up roads is paid for by the digger and returned in the original form, not with some subpar paving. The same goes for our footpaths as well. The details do matter.
But in the long term, constant digging up of roads must not happen. The thromde must begin constructing spaces or culverts below our roads so that pipes and cables can pass through and be easily accessible during times of inspection and repair.
The state of our roads has even led to the formation of a Bhutan Pothole Police on Facebook. This is positive development in that members of the public will begin identifying potholes and bring it to the attention of the thromde. Perhaps, this could lead to more collaboration between relevant agencies and the public in not only finding potholes but identifying those who destroy our roads, and in fixing them.