Thimphu is growing and growing fast. In the past five years, houses have mushroomed in the city even extending to its outskirts and up on the hills. The greenery has gradually given way to concrete walls, footpaths, and roads.
Our habitat is changing from pristine villages to a concrete jungle. Many of the trees in the core Thimphu have been removed. If we miss the greens and other colours of foliage that we had in the rural setting, it is sad. As it is, foliage is not a priority in our towns as evident in the scars around town and in the nearby forests of Thimphu.
With thousands of vehicles imported every year, most of which are in Thimphu, we are breathing polluted air increasingly. If current trends are not reversed, we will be living in the heart of the most pristine country, filling ourselves with toxic air.
Basic infrastructure and services are critical for citizens to live a decent life in a city but when our development is guided by the philosophies like Gross National Happiness, we have to pause and rethink if we are heading in the right direction.
Increasingly more residents are living crammed in smaller apartments, as rents continue to soar. Children are confined indoors for lack of proper playgrounds. However, what we don’t know is the psychological and social impact that this is having on the residents, mainly our children. Children growing up in two rooms must develop differently from those with an entire village to explore.
We’ve inherited the diet from our grandparents, and one which is no longer healthy while our lifestyle remains mostly sedentary. The sad thing is despite an increasing number of users the public gyms have come apart and are in dire need of repair. There is no one looking after these scarce equipment, installed through foreign grants. After the grand opening ceremonies, they are forgotten, neglected.
Why are non-communicable diseases a growing burden on our health care system? What is causing so much depression and mental health issues? Our youth problems? The problems are many and they are emerging fast.
We need not be experts to draw some basic conclusions. The recreational facilities for youth, parks, and libraries are a major scarcity where every corner of the street has a bar. Our happiness, at this rate, is taking on a different meaning.