Chhimi Dema  

By the end of 2022, a network of electric vehicles (EVs) charging stations would be established in all dzongkhags, information and communications Secretary Phuntsho Tobgay said at the Fourth Ministerial Conference on Transport last week.

“This is aimed at reducing vehicular pollution, dependence on imported fossil fuel and adverse impact on human health,” he said.

The initiative called the Bhutan Sustainable Low Emission Urban Transport System started in 2019 to replace 300 fossil fuel taxis with EVs in the country.

There are 33 EV taxis  out of the 207 EVs in the country. By December, the number of EV taxis will increase as 147 applicants  got the subsidy to import EVs. There are 33 charging stations in six dzongkhags of the western region and Phuentsholing.

During the ministerial conference, Phuntsho Tobgay said that the country for development of a safe, affordable, efficient, sustainable, and inclusive transport system has undertaken several initiatives.

The ministerial conference is a platform bringing together transport officials and ministers from the member states of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) to discuss issues and the way forward for the transport sector.  The First Ministerial Conference was held in 2006.

Bhutan became a member of ESCAP in 1972.

Phuntsho Tobgay said that the country was exploring alternative modes of transport such as railways, cable cars, ropeways, among others to make the transport system in the county more resilient and to provide alternative transport choices.

He also highlighted the country’s effort to invest in the Urban Transport System. And shared about the launch of Low Emission Development Strategy for the surface transport sector and the development of a comprehensive Surface Transport Policy.

Low Emission Development Strategy is a thirty-year strategy document that provides direction and strategy for development in the transport sector.

The Surface Transport Policy will look at emerging priorities such as the development of alternative modes of transport while also maintaining the country’s carbon neutral status and other policies.

There are 116,926 vehicles in the country as of September from which 207 are EVs.

“As we progress, new issues and challenges continue to emerge that are of local, regional and international concern,” Phuntsho Tobgay said. “We must therefore be prepared to work together to overcome the numerous challenges.”

Bhutan as a member of UN ESCAP receives capacity building through seminars, workshops, conferences, working and expert group meetings; access best practices, framework, standards, guidelines developed by experts; and collaborate in regional connectivity.

The conference will result in the adoption of the Ministerial Declaration that is non-binding and provides direction for transport development in the next five years.

It will also lead to the adoption of the Regional Action Programme for Sustainable Transport Development in Asia and the Pacific (2022 to 2026).