Over 70% of the country’s population would be residing in urban areas by 2020, according to Bhutan national urbanization strategy 2008 hence the government’s major focus in the 11th five year plan would be urban development.
“The government is highly alarmed with the increasing rate of urban population,” said an urban specialist from the works and human settlement ministry (MoWHS), Meghraj Adhikari.
Indicators to this trend are villages becoming almost empty and the uneducated, disabled and aged getting left behind in rural areas looking after their inheritances.
According to him, the economically active group (16-59 years) is unwilling to return to and stay in rural areas.
With increase in the urban population, a growing need will arise for houses, roads, hospitals and other social amenities.
Meghraj Adhikari said that pull factors in urban areas including high income, health, education and recreational facilities are blamed whereas push factors such as rugged topography, small family land holding and hardships faced while working in fields are equally responsible for the rural-urban drift.
A major problem facing policy makers is infrastructural development at the cost of rural lands and activities.
“Some of the vivid examples are Lungtenphu and Babesa. Ten years back, they were paddy fields,” he said.
In the past, the government had suggested urban agriculture since some people were complaining that paddy fields were being sacrificed for urban development.
But then there was a revolt regarding the cost-benefit analysis. The government was asked to allow the public to work as per the market forces.
Since the major chunk of the population will be living in the urban areas in the near future, the government will be focusing on urban development but that does not mean that the rural areas will be neglected.
According to the chief planning officer, Policy and Planning Division under MoWHS, rural areas will also see coordinated development.
To improve agricultural practices and farmers’ income, the agriculture and forest ministry (MoAF) will be involved in conducting several programs.
An official from MoAF said construction of a farm road in each village through which people can access facilities is a major developmental mandate.
He added that farmers are provided agriculture, livestock and forest inputs for free or at subsidized rates.
Internationally, by 2030, three-quarters of humanity will be living in urban areas, according to UN data.