The Chairperson of the Good Governance Committee Sangay Dorji presented the review report of the farm road issues at National Council on Friday and said that giving due consideration to the importance of farm roads, in the 12th Five Year Plan, the Royal Government has allocated Nu. 1,050 million (1.5 percent of the total capital budget) for the construction of new farm roads, and Nu 4,000 million (2.78 of the total current budget) for the maintenance works and laying base course.
He said that across the country, there are 2,232 farm roads totaling 9882.728 kilometers. The government has set aside funds to provide granular Sub Base for all farm roads in order to improve the quality of the roads.
“In Phase I, one farm road per gewog was prioritized based on resource availability and given a GSB and drainage budget of Nu 1.66 million per km. Local governments were granted flexibility to adjust scope, such as stone soiling, rigid pavements, causeways, blacktopping, and so on, but additional funding will have to come from the LGs own RAF budgets,” he said.
He said that with resource fully mobilized for the ongoing Phase I ( Nu 2.6 billion) and Nu 1.5 billion for Phase II, there is a total resource gap of approximately Nu 12.34 billion. Phase II will be rolled out based on performance of projects under Phase I.
“However,roll out is being deferred till end of monsoon. The resource gap will be explored through external financing, in absence of which RGoB funding may have to be explored,” he said.
The deputy chair of the committee Surjaman Thapa said that according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature, of the 688 farm roads investigated, over 5 percent was found to be not usable at all and 5percent of the roads were functional only on seasonal basis and most roads were found defunct, posing threats to the environment by triggering massive mudslides and turbidity issues in down stream rivers and water sources.
Further, the alignment of several roads is such that they serve only a few households in the community and so it lacks sense of ownership for road maintenance despite knowing its benefits.
He said that the guidelines for Farm Road Development 2013 were developed to sustain rural livelihood and assist farmers and relevant stakeholders in implementing farm road plans and programmes. Purpose of the guidelines were to strengthen the farm roads planning , budgeting and implementing process through institutionalization of rigorous and regular monitoring system in the development, maintenance and management of farm roads.
“In 2019, the standards were updated to include improved screening criteria, planning and budgeting, construction responsibilities, and supervision to address new farm road concerns. However, the amended guidelines’ aims have yet to be fully realized,” he said.
The objective of the review is to assess the current situation of the farm road, identify challenges and issues faced in construction and maintenance of quality farm road, and recommend the way forward for improvement of rural livelihood through sustainable and optimal utilization of public resources.
The committee proposes to review quality of farm roads which included the budget allocation and eligibility of farm roads, permanent structures along the farm roads and environmental, social and Economic impact.
They also want to review implementation status of Farm Roads Guidelines which includes coordination among and between central agencies and LGs and Human Resource Capacity.