Tshewang Choden

Loud noises from construction sites are always annoying, but when the noise continues late into the night, it becomes bothersome.

This is what is happening in the capital city where hundreds of buildings are built. In the interest of time, construction workers, thikhadars (contractors) and owners are least bothered about disturbing the neighbourhood. Ear-deafening sound from drillers, electric saws, planers and steel cutters keep whole neighbourhood awake late into the night, always grumbling, but without any choice.

This happens even with a standing rule.

In August this year, the Thimphu thromde tshogde resolved that noise created by machinery and construction activities should not be allowed from 9pm to 8am.

The resolution, according to thromde officials, was made in response to numerous complaints they received on late-night disturbances. They also said it was based on the Environment Act and Development Control Regulation 2016 that prohibits the creation of such noises.

The thromde then notified the public about the resolution through media and said that those not complying with the resolution would be penalised.

Five months had passed since the resolution was passed, however,    it was found out that there are no penalties specified for those failing to comply with the resolution.

Thromde officials said that since noise pollution is an emerging issue, they are in the process of reviewing the resolution.

Officials claimed they are looking into penalising construction workers by either confiscating their work permit or imposing a monetary fine.

The executive secretary of Thimphu thromde, Karma Namgyel, said thromde couldn’t completely stop construction activities because construction works cannot be carried out without making noises.

He said that while activities that produce loud noises would be prohibited, inaudible activities such as plastering and machinery that produce less noise, are authorised to be carried out even after 9 pm.

“The resolution was formulated after taking into consideration the interests of both the construction owners and the residents,” the executive secretary said.

However, the other issue Thimphu residents are grappling with is where to complain when there are disturbances at night.

While thromde officials say people could either write to the thromde’s environment division or the head of inspection and monitoring to register a complaint and the building section handles the field inspection, Thimphu residents say the response system is ineffective.

A Babesa resident, Tashi, said she lodged numerous complaints to police and written complaint to the thromde. “But the construction workers in the locality keep using their machinery late into the night. The thromde has no monitoring system in place.”

Meanwhile, another resident, Sonam Zangmo, 30, said, they hardly get any sleep because of the construction activities. “People come home tired after a day’s work, looking forward to taking rest, but with construction activities every night, we spent sleepless nights.”

The teacher said thromde should implement their resolution. “The resolution should not remain on paper. It should help the distressed residents.”

Another teacher in Taba said it was worse when there were elderly people and children at home. “While we understand that they have to finish the work on time, they should be considerate about the neighbours,” she said.

With constructions happening in residential areas, the noise is becoming a nuisance in almost all part of the capital city. This becomes worse with the thromde not monitoring construction sites.

Sharing an experience, a Semtokha resident said the construction workers became arrogant when he asked them to put off their machines. “The thromde should insist on environment friendly tools when allowing construction in residential areas,” he said. “Without authorities’ intervention, people have to live with the disturbances.”