To address the issue of rural-urban migration and promote regionally balanced development, a Comprehensive National Development Plan (CNDP) for Bhutan 2030 was launched on June 27.

CNDP identified various issues such as an increase in rural-urban migration, mainly from east to west contributes to labour shortage leading to increased fallow agricultural land and fragmentation of sociocultural values in rural areas.

The project was aimed to promote well-balanced development between urban and rural areas. Identifying fragmentation of policies, plans and programmes as a major concern, the plan was aimed to facilitate a coordinated approach to development.

The report highlighted the importance of integrated sectorial interventions in development of special economic zones, industrial estates, hydropower projects, tourism, farming, and agro-based industries.

Works and human settlement minister, Dorji Tshering said that the essence of development has diluted among laws, plans, and policies. “Development and urbanisation had left unwanted byproduct – rural-urban migration and regional disparity among societies,” he said. “This indicates that the development activities were not on the right track.”

However, he said that the formulation of CNDP came at the right time. The report will be the mother document for all developmental activities in the country.

One of the causes of domestic migration was the gap in happiness levels between urban and rural areas. According to the third GNH survey 2015, the GNH index in urban areas was estimated at 0.811, compared to 0.731 in rural areas. Also, according to Poverty Analysis 2012, the poverty rate in urban areas was around 1.8 percent to 16.7 percent in rural areas.

However, chief urban planner with the ministry and the project manager of CNDP, Chhado Drukpa said that level of happiness shared was different and urban score high for health and education. Rural areas score high happiness index for time use, value, culture and community vitality. “We should work towards narrowing the difference in happiness index.”

Rapid population growth is a concern in the capital city. The Population and Housing Census have estimated that the urban population will increase from 79,185 people in 2005 to 240,989 people in 2028. To meet the projection, the CNDP suggests strengthening of Thimphu, as a key driver of national economic growth and the designation of nine urban development areas.

The urban development areas consist of economic hubs for Bumthang, Mongar and Kanglung; and growth centers in Gelephu, Paro, Phuentsholing, Punakha/Wangdue, Samdrupjongkhar and Samtse.

Chhado Drukpa said that the CNDP will specify how the land use plan was to be implemented at the national, regional, city and local levels. The document is an integration of policies and plans of different sectors in order to fill the gaps between the strategy, the 12th Plan and the latest information available.

“The committee reviewed more than 81 documents, 21 Acts and regulations, 67 reports and one-to-one consultation among various stakeholders before the formulation of the plan,” he said.

Seven factors of development were used as an option for developmental activities. This includes national spatial structure, national land use, transportation, holistic service delivery system, food self-sufficiency, economy, and planning framework.

Studying the seven alternatives, 16 development strategies were highlighted:

Conservation of protected areas and forests through strategies like promoting community forest conservation, setting clearer land use category and the establishment of a hierarchy for holistic service delivery to maintain effective service delivery to all areas of Bhutan.

Strategies for water resource management including the integration of the cross-sectoral approach and creation of river basin committee among locals were also included. Establishment of a holistic hub for each region, creation of agriculture and livestock promotion area, making water business promotion area, characterisation of regions, towns, villages and locality and creation of resilient national spatial structure against natural disaster among others were highlighted.

The development plan was formulated with funding and technical support from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).  CNDP 2030 will be a reference document for future plans, programmes, and proposals under the ownership and coordination of Gross National Happiness Committee. The document will be a major input for the vision document 2040.

Phub Dem