The Gol (round) building constructed sometime in the 50s stands as Phuentsholing’s landmark. Little children studying in India used to be hysterical when they caught a glimpse of the building while returning for vacation because then they knew they were home.
But the building which has 87 units including 21 commercial units and approximately 500 families residing in it does not have scientific or seismic elements incorporated in its design.
Moreover, water is already seeping into its walls and cracks have developed. Also plants have started growing on it. Currently, the National Housing Development Corporation (NHDC) is still in the process of assessing the building but a recent visit by its engineers reportedly revealed that the building seems to be standing strong.
According to the Real Estate General Manager of the NHDC, Dechen Wangdi, earlier due to budget constraints, water and drainage problems among others were constant issues. However, the Phuentsholing Dungkhag has taken care of the minor hitches like wiring, pipeline and some leakages; the major ones will be handled by the NHDC.
It has been over three months that the building has been handed over to the NHDC; earlier, the building was under the care of the Phuentsholing Dungkhag.
However, Dechen Wangdi said that the Gol building is much stronger than most of the structures that have been built in Phuentsholing prior to the year 2000.
Some were government-owned quarters but most were private buildings.
Dechen Wangdi said that to design structures to make them earthquake-resistant was a costly affair.
One example he cited was the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) building in Thimphu, which after assessment was to be seismically designed; however, the costs exceeded 80% of the original amount allotted.
Therefore the plan was dismissed and UNDP is said to be going in for a new construction for its office.
Phuentsholing Mayor Tshiteem Dorji, said the building owners have been informed that houses that had been built before 1999 should go for retrofitting and reinforcement of pillars for earthquake resistance but none have approached the municipality so far.
“Going for such renovations are expensive, a better alternative would be to dismantle the structure and rebuild it with the necessary arrangements,” said the Mayor, who added that it was the people’s safety that concerned them the most.
Dechen Wangdi added that in Thimphu alone, there were about 300 buildings that were not seismically protected and safe.