One of the biggest risks of staying in Bhutan is travelling on its roads in the Monsoon season. Many lives have been lost on our national highways over the years, and it has occasionally also exacted an economic price through blockages of essential supplies like fuel and food.
Even the capital city of Thimphu is vulnerable to this seasonal occurrence, as has been shown with the panicked rush for fuel yesterday, as soon as there was news of a road block.
This is not to mention the sheer inconvenience caused to people travelling on the highways.
We have to start treating these road issues and blockages as part of our larger disaster mitigation efforts which means working on it throughout the year and not just in the monsoons.
Roads in Bhutan have gotten better over the years but some old problems like Sorchen and Kamji refuse to go away. While nature and geology must also take a fair share of the blame given the more landslide prone areas as we move south, there are things we can do.
Instead of being at the mercy of such weather and doing stop gap repair work it is high time we invest some serious time and resources in at least making sure our main lifeline to Phuentsholing is not blocked.
There is also an urgent need to share information. A lot of people can avoid risks to their lives and safety if there can be a system in place whereby the source of the roadblock informs the various checkpoints and so vehicles are warned or turned back depending on the severity.
It would also save a lot of time and inconvenience to commuters who don’t have to spend hours and at times days stuck on the road with no proper facilities.
An important aspect in all of this also comes down to road construction quality, proper drainage and also doing adequate studies on geological conditions.
Apart from roads the heavy rains have also washed away Sarpang town this time. This points to the need for detailed surveys and planning by our urban planners while coming up with the final Thromdes not only in Sarpang but also in 20 Dzongkhags across the country.
Ultimately with climate change the weather is only going to get nastier and more unpredictable in the years to come. We should plan and prepare well for both the medium term and long term challenges on the weather front.
‘”A stitch in time saves nine.”