Map of Strategic Sites in Paro and Thimphu showing their land use mix and neighbourhood groupings

Thimphu and Paro to come together under the National Capital Region Strategy

Thimphu and Paro maybe located into two different valleys but the two places have become synonymous with each other over time as both places boomed and the transport infrastructure improved between them.

The Prime Minister in his State of the National Address mentioned that the Thimphu-Paro capital region will be ranked among the top livable cities in the world by 2029.

The vision of the strategy is guided by GNH and Doughnut Economics which is a sustainable economic model that encourages a model of development where people’s basic and other needs are met but without destroying the ecology.

The plan covers an area from Begana to Rama in Thimphu, then from there to Isuna in Paro and from there to Satsam Chorten.

The vision says it will cultivate balance between tradition and modernity, rural and urban and the natural environment, heritage and prosperity.

The project will nurture community neighbourhoods that are equitable and support wellbeing at all life phases.

It aims to create opportunity, foster prosperity, support livelihoods and be governed with wisdom and compassion.

It will inspire, enrich spirituality and culture and function as a model for sustainable development.

The strategy is based on NSB population projections till 2047 which says the existing population of Thimphu, will grow from 138,736 in 2017 to 263,152 in 2047 and for Paro, the projections show growth from in 46,316 in 2017 to 74,067 in 2047.

However, such large increases would compromise the vision and so two other alternatives of smaller population increase based on the space and resources were also considered.

With Sustainable basis of planning it also has various spatial strategies on the planning map of the two Dzongkhags.

The conservation and protection layer identifies existing and proposed designations which define limits to urban growth, environmental protections, and heritage protections.

The urban areas and activity centres layer focuses on high-quality growth and regeneration in priority areas. It establishes main locations for urban development. In Thimphu these include the City Core and South, southern extensions and two satellite communities in Yusipang and Bjemina. In Paro, these include Bondey and Shaba with a focus on the polycentric region opportunities around Paro Town, Bondey and Shaba.

The employment layer identifies key existing and emerging employment sectors and their location. In Thimphu these include the commercial sector in the City Core and southern district centre, industrial in Bjemina, agri-business in Yusipang and Hungtsho, public sector in the City Core and north as well as a regional network of higher educational institutions.

In Paro, these include the agro-tourism and homestays sector in Upper Paro Valley and Dopshari Valley, commercial area in Paro Town, agri-business and manufacturing in Bondey and Shaba, as well as higher educational institutions in the south of Paro Valley. The key sectors of employment also consider new tourism strategies, such as third sector tourism.

The green infrastructure and open space layer has open space focus on river buffers, the setting of cultural/heritage sites and trek routes, and public open spaces and parks.

The transport layer addresses the connectivity of existing and future residential and employment areas, and a reduction of in through-traffic in the Thimphu city core.

The integrated utilities infrastructure layer highlights the need to increase the capacity for water supply and wastewater treatment to be able to cover current and future demand.

The Regional Strategy will focus on optimising growth in a series of priority areas in the short-to-medium term.

These areas, called “Opportunity Areas”. In Thimphu Kabesa will be a protected area, with focus on rural livelihoods.

The Thimphu Core North areas will have mixed use and regeneration, Thimphu Core South will also have mixed use and regeneration

The Olakha/Babesa Southern District Centre will be mixed use and regeneration. Rama/Depsi will be the southern extension to Thimphu, with balanced employment focus.

Yusipang will be a model village with rural industry focus.

 Khasadrapchu will have future potential for model new settlement, with balanced employment focus.

Upper Paro Valley will have protections, with focus on rural livelihoods. Dopshari Valley will also have protections, with focus on rural livelihoods

Paro Town will have mixed use western extension. Bondey will be a model new settlement, with balanced employment focus, south of airport

Shaba will be reserved for future potential

The next stage of work will also identify potential additional suitable sites and rough carrying capacity in three locations: Paro Town, Bondey and Rama. These sites would need to be made available through substitution, compensation, or acquisition.

An official said that the strategy looked at the carrying capacity of Thimphu and Paro and the resources available and required. He said a place like Paro plays an important role in the overall landscape of the country and so they don’t want a situation where Paro, like Thimphu, is converted into a concrete jungle.

He said the strategy has land use along with protections. The plan also wants to avoid some of the unsightly structures and development already coming up along the highway. He said unplanned development can also lead to natural disasters.

There are ten themes of the strategy. One is Transport where it will improve connectivity across and within the two valleys, have sustainable, effective and desirable public transport and the two valleys, Thimphu and Paro, will create attractive and coordinated routes for cycling and walking.

In Utilities Thimphu and Paro will deliver an efficient water supply and waste water treatment system with sustainable storm water management, promote a resilient and sustainable power network, create a safe and equitable telecommunication network and reduce waste and facilitate the transition to the circular economy.

Under Governance Thimphu Paro will increase accessibility and engagement, increase efficiency and transparency and ensure compliance.

In Built Environment, they will balance between two valleys, have sustainable Bhutanese style and enhance heritage sites and support health and wellbeing.

For Economy, they will have productive employment in diverse value additive industries and a self-reliant region, promoting local materials, products and resources for sustainable resourcing and revenue creation.

With regard to the Natural Environment Thimphu and Paro will maximise green and blue infrastructure, enhance biodiversity whilst reducing instances of conflict and be pioneers meeting carbon reduction targets and reducing poor air quality.

When it comes to Resilience Thimphu and Paro will be prepared through data collection and disaster management plans, reduce risk and damage to both current and future development, ensure developments are resilient to seismic activity, reduce risks due to flooding and reduce instances of forest fires.

Under Heritage the two valleys will protect heritage, enhance culture and reimagine modern Bhutanese building types.

For Housing the focus is affordable housing for all and quality of life.

For population, the plan is for balanced distribution and equal opportunities.

The ‘Thimphu Paro Regional Strategy’ project was developed on behalf of the Royal Commission for Urban Development in collaboration with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, key stakeholders including technical experts and relevant ministries.

As part of the above strategy the Thimphu Structure Plan has been updated and was launched on Saturday. The Paro Valley Plan of 2017 is also being relooked at.

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