The project Helping Environment, Health and Economy (HEHE), initiated with much enthusiasm by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) in August 2008 has made little impact, with the number of car users continuing to shoot up in recent years, even posing threats to pedestrians.
The MoAF staff headed by the Agriculture Minister, Lyonpo Dr.Pema Gyamtsho, started observing the ‘No vehicle day,’ with a mission to reduce carbon emission, traffic, and fuel import expenditure.
“We started off well and succeeded in maintaining the enthusiasm for a year but after that the number of people observing the walk decreased,” said the minister adding that HE HE is not as active as it was.
He explained that most people prefer to drive rather than walk and each driver has two passengers at least.
Unsafe walk ways, improper foot paths, lack of enough zebra crossings and bad driving culture were some reasons cited for the seeming failure of the HEHE walks. According to Lyonpo, the driving attitude is very unfriendly towards pedestrians and does not encourage people to walk.
“We are planning to train and educate the drivers in order to ensure safe driving and make them abide by the rules and regulations of Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA),” said Director of RSTA, Tashi Norbu.
“Some of our officials walk to office every morning and even I try to walk whenever I do not have early morning meetings or a heavy schedule but the unsafe walk ways and traffic do not inspire pedestrians,” said the Lyonpo.
However, Thimphu Thrompon, Kinlay Dorjee said that it is difficult to make the city environment better for those who prefer to walk because of congestion.
The long term solution, as per the Thimphu structural plan, is to allow only pedestrians on Norzin Lam by 2013 with the completion of a multistoried parking building. Other plans include widening the Phenday Lam and Jangchub Lam that would connect to Chorten Lam.
The areas which are funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank will have enough roads and foot paths while core areas which are not included in ADB and World Bank financed projects would be taken care by the city with the budjet available.
MoAF will bring up the cause again when conditions become more conducive for walking. “We need concerted effort from all the people; unless everybody cooperates we are not going to succeed,” said the Agriculture Minister. HE HE walk is expected to be revived this year.