Monks at the monastery said the infrastructure started falling apart within a few months’ time
Compassion and endurance may have been preached by the Buddha, but contractors through a shoddily-renovated monastery have tested these qualities of resident monks at the historically and culturally significant Pangrizampa monastery in Thimphu.
And what is worse is that the monastery blames the government and the contractors for using up around Nu 30 mn of its own funds donated by an Austrian tourist for a job which the monastery feels could have been done in a much better way for a much lesser amount.
The Monastery had initially planned to do a much better job itself by using the funds given by the devotee but the government stepped in the form of the Home Ministry which insisted that the works had to be done and tendered through the ministry. This was even though the monastery was being offered private funds by the Austrian benefactor.
In the meantime the result is that monks at the Pangrizampa monastery have endured a lot of stress and anxiety for more than a year due to deteriorating conditions of their classrooms, hostels and other infrastructure. The entire infrastructure which developed by local contractors hired by the government did not hold for even a year, and the residents of the monastery had to toil to renovate the entire buildings alongside with their monastic routines.
While the construction ended in 2008, the entire infrastructure had to be mended even before the year ended. Starting from electrical wirings and water pipes to many major renovations, the monastery had to shed capital from their own budget and also help with manual labor.
Many monks at the monastery said “it was like re-constructing everything and we are really disheartened by the job done by the builders.”
The donated fund of about Nu 30mn was routed through the government.
The construction work for a hostel, a classroom block, kitchen, bathrooms and principal’s block among others was awarded by the Home Ministry to two private contractors through a tender process. The Home Ministry’s Department of Culture was also the key agency that helped the monastery to come up with the structure.
Since the project was initiated before the 10th five year plan, complete information couldn’t be availed from the ministry. The head of Division for Conservation of Heritage Sites under the Home Ministry, Nagtsho Dorji said the focal person who took care of the project was out of station for a week and the information could be fetched upon his arrival. “Unfortunately, he is the only person who would know about this and I would be able to answer only on what happened within the 10th five year plan,” Nagtsho Dorji said.
The then Home Secretary Dasho Penden Wangchuk who is currently the cabinet secretary said “very unfortunately, the contractors whom we thought would do a good job let us down.”
He said the “monastery wanted to take up the works themselves but then the government had to follow procedures and in the end the two contractors let us down. Nobody can deny that the quality was poor.”
The principal of the Pangrizampa monastic school, Lopen udzin Ugyen Dorji said monks had to live under pathetic conditions before the construction and even after the completion of it as works done were poor.
“Just like pigs, we had to eat, sleep and pray in the same room,” one of the senior monks who were there even before the constructions began said.
Many monks who talked to The Bhutanese said they had to find time from their daily monastic duties to help with the renovation works. “Although not much, it did affect our studies as well,” another monk said.
The Udzin said complete renovation had to be done on all the structures. “For instance, the toilet and bathroom they constructed had to be completely deracinated and redone using the monastery’s finance,” he said.
Electrical wirings were poorly done and the monastery had no choice but to dismantle everything and put it back together. “The electrical wiring was out of order in just one year and we had to redo the wiring from scratch,” a senior monk said.
“In some parts, planks and wooden pillars started to rot. Maybe it was because there was no room for air,” the Udzin said.
They wires were spread carelessly beneath the floor planks which had to be pulled up and replaced. “They didn’t want the PVC pipes and wires to be visible but we were worried that it might be dangerous. If there is a fire it can bring down everything in just an hour. We were all gripped by worries so we repaired everything,” a monk said.
Even the plumbing works for drinking water supply had to be repaired from source. Residents said the contractors just dug around six inches to bury the water pipes. “We pulled out the pipes, dug up around 3feet to place the pipes and it is all good,” the Udzin said.
Sanitation structures also had to be rebuilt. Senior monks at the monastery said they had to replace the four inches-wide poor quality pipe used in the toilet construction with an authentic six inched ones which cost about Nu 0.2mn including labor.
The bathroom which was equipped with geysers for hot water shower was not used at all due to poor infrastructure and defunct water heaters. “We didn’t use it even once and also didn’t feel the need to repair it because of financial constraints,” the Udzin said.
A carpenter was kept on payroll by the monastery on a daily basis during the renovation as cracks started developing in the walls.
While the renovation works are almost over, one of the buildings used as a prayer hall is still under repair. “Firstly we have the financial constraints and secondly it’s hard to get human resources,” the Udzin said.
The monastery in the past had written several times to the concerned engineers and contractors which elicited no response at all.
The Udzin said, “frankly speaking, we feel it is the engineer’s job to see into all these matters but there hasn’t been any good work done here despite requests from our side.” They didn’t pay heed to our letters once their contract period was over,” he added.
Many monks at the monastery said the “contractors constructed the buildings in haste which could be the cause of all these issues. Even if they did that, they should have at least done it in a way that repair was not necessary immediately after completion of construction. When this is the government’s way of executing works, it saddens us all.”
A total of almost Nu 0.7mn was spent to repair the structures that started to fall apart less than a year after its completion.
The Udzin said he is grateful to the Austrian donor who generously contributed toward building proper structures that is benefiting more than 120 monks at the monastery.
“The donor visits us annually and during the first visit after the structures were completed, he said it was disheartening to see the results despite pumping in sufficient capital,” the Udzin said.