Getting around the capital city, even for long time residents, is quite a challenge.
This is because our address system has not kept up with the growth of the city, especially in terms of numbers of building mushrooming every year. In fact, we never had a street address system, although attempts were made as far as 2001, when the Thimphu structural plan was just taking off.
The thromde and Bhutan Post has launched a pilot project for a proper city addressing system in two areas. If it works, it will be expanded to the whole city slowly. Many of us may be communicating digitally and electronically today, but a proper postal address system, although very late, is necessary.
Technology might have reduced the volume of mail that has to be delivered, yet there are other benefits such a system could bring. We will not have to search for the yellow building behind the Changangkha lhakhang, or the red tall building behind shop number 7, when we go around looking for places. Tourists and, for that matter, locals are left bamboozled when seeking directions. Even today, many Bhutanese use their work place address or their parents and relatives’ work addresses to receive mail or parcels. This is hampering efficient delivery of mail.
We have no avenue and street names. The few we have are hardly used. Except for Norzin lam (the main street) and probably Changlam, which is also known by the Druk Air office, not many are aware of the lams. In the meantime, the city is expanding.
A problem many Bhutanese face when filling up forms for travel or higher studies and training abroad is not having proper addresses. It is either below the labour ministry office or near Druk hotel. There are incidents, where applications are rejected or applicants scrutinised for not having proper street addresses.
A proper postal system comes with many other advantages. As it involves mapping every street, road and building in the city, such information would be extremely useful for urban planning. With global positioning system or GPS, which is based on proper addresses it will make getting around easier. Even Bhutanese visiting developed countries rely on GPS to get around. And in emergencies we need not locate the tall yellow building first to get to the right place.
Proper addresses have become an important part of urban infrastructure. With better town planning in the last few years, we have better roads connecting places and most buildings have access roads. The city is smaller and therefore manageable to still do it.
It will be confusing for those delivering mails and parcels in the first few weeks, as we will have more new avenue and street names, but it will still be easier to have proper postal code, street and avenues to locate places.