National Council, in its 14th session, submitted written questions to the Minister for Works and Human Settlement on limiting rural houses to have only two-storeys outside the municipal area, leading to construction of houses horizontally, which will exert more pressure on limited land and will also force farmers to build houses in their wetlands, which are being lost to the rapid urbanization.
In response, MOWHS Minister informed the house that the policy for rural housing construction rules and regulations has been initiated in 2013, based on the executive order issued by the then Cabinet through letter vide no 26th March 2012.
Responding to the questions put forward by the members of the National Council, MoWHS Minister, Dorji Choden, said such issues arise mainly in western regions, like Thimphu, Paro, Punakha and Wangdiphodrang. She said the policy was framed as a measure to control the rupee outflow.
The written answers provided by the ministry quotes almost all the clauses of rural housing constructions rules and regulations as justification for imposing such restrictions, which left the public convinced of such one-sided rules and regulations that deny them certain economic opportunities.
It was pointed out that the restrictions do not really apply to the government institutions, like schools and hotels even outside the municipal area.
The policy has affected the public wanting to construct houses with in the immediate vicinity of the municipal boundaries and the scope of earning a livelihood through nominal house rent is also affected.
Such restriction on construction further places pressure on the already limited land and the cost of utilities, like water and electricity, which will ultimately escalate.
Moreover, most of the people have already constructed houses with attics and it is viewed that there is an implementation problem with the rural housing construction rules.
Thimphu National Councillor, Nima Gyeltshen, said, “The rules and regulation changes with the changes in government, we need proper rules, regulations and demarcation as to apply such rules uniformly to every people.”
MoWHS Minister said the ministry has carried out research in 2014 at all 20 dzongkhags and got results from 14 dzongkhags and 2 thromdes.
According to the research, the ministry has found out that in construction of 2-storied houses, 720 households constructed following the housing act and 4 percent has followed the act in constructing 3-storied houses.
Lyonpo Dorji Choden said that in the rural areas, 3-storied houses has to be built in a traditional way rather than building using concrete materials.
“We must preserve the Bhutanese architecture and take precaution to prevent it from the natural calamities, the original identity of the Bhutanese is our houses in rural areas,” said Lyonpo.
“When we make demarcation in urban areas, we asked to make it flexible and when we change rules, there is inconvenience in it. We will research and discuss about it,” MOWHS Minister said.