Thimphu national referral hospital’s management has blocked the entrance, for vehicles, to the emergency department.  This will cause inconvenience to those visiting the hospital.

But the management had to do it.  Despite a huge parking space around the department, vehicle congestion is a common sight.  The final decision, it was learnt, was made after an ambulance couldn’t enter the area, as it was blocked with vehicles parked carelessly.

Those visiting the department are wondering and questioning the logic behind the decision.  The patient and the relatives in the ambulance would have the best answer.  Normally, it is often the poor or serious patients referred from hospitals outside Thimphu who use the ambulance service.  Every second is precious during emergencies, and only those affected will understand the value of time and immediate medical attention.

Vehicle congestion is a problem; we experience it everyday everywhere, but a more serious problem is not respecting public space.  Sometimes hours are wasted, because the car in the front has blocked the way, and there is no choice but to wait for the owner or driver to finish whatever they are doing.

Beyond the hospital area, it is everywhere.  Queuing up at banks, counters and hospitals.  Driving in town, parking at wrong places, at parks and festivals, littering and not caring for public property.  The list is long.

We have developed a lot, judging by the number of vehicles on the road.  But while some of us know how to handle the steering wheel, we lack traffic sense.  Pedestrian rights are violated even at zebra crossings.  Rush hour is a mess, as every driver tries to occupy the little space and causes more inconveniences.

It is normal to see a motorist stop in the middle of the road to talk to a friend and keep a line of cars waiting.  We do not realise we share roads with hundreds of others, driving their kids to school or trying to reach office on time.  Slow and fast lanes on the expressway are alien to most.  Pedestrians wait for cars, even on the speed breakers, to cross the road.

For many, public property is nobody’s property.  That’s why we have broken swings in parks, abused dustbins marked ‘use me’, and missing flowers and ornamental plants from public gardens.

We believe that we are small in number and easier to manage, but we are proving ourselves wrong.  Garbage and littering public space is embarrassingly one of the biggest problems in the capital city.  All this will not change even with strict regulations.  A culture has to be developed.

Regulations are made but implemented half-heartedly.  A good example is the parking space requirement for every new building constructed in the city.  The reality is all cars are parked on the road, while the basement is converted into a shop or a snooker room.

There is a long way to go.  When and where do we begin to change?