Following concerns raised on infrastructural development works and construction activities carried out in isolation, the works and human settlement ministry has notified that applying for construction permit should be routed through the local government.

Department of engineering services’ director, Karma Dupchuk said dzongkhag administrations have raised concerns on construction activities carried out in isolation without permission.

He said this has resulted in uncontrolled urbanisation and non-compliance to regulatory framework especially in terms of keeping the traditional settings of the structures. Such rampant activities, Karma Dupchuk said was especially carried out by government agencies more than private individuals.

“That is why we issued a notification to make it clear that all government, corporate, agencies, NGOs and private individuals shall hereafter require to apply for building or construction permit through local governments,” he said. “The process to obtain permit is already prescribed in the Bhutan Building Regulation (BBR) 2018 and Local Government Act of Bhutan 2014.”

However, no detail was available on how many such cases were reported to the ministry.

“Usually the construction permit should be routed through the local government and then comes to the ministry for technical sanction,” Karma Dupchuk said. 

“However, some dzongdags shared that some government agencies don’t submit the drawings to the local government or ministry.”

Although the rule existed, Karma Dupchu said dzongdags said they could not control and regulate.

“We thought the dzongdag could intervene if illegal construction was carried out but because such a notification was not issued to make it clear, the dzongdag was not able to intervene,” Karma Dupchuk said. “It could possibly be to avoid hassles that they don’t route through the local government.”

On the building height in rural areas, the department of human settlement’s chief urban planner, Tashi Penjor said that many people especially living in peri-urban areas appealed to the ministry and the government to allow three storied in rural areas from 2012 to 2018.

On July 12 last year, the former government lifted the height restriction and issued an executive order to allow three floors in principle in rural areas, which was incorporated in BBR 2018.

“The approvals for building permits are accorded by local government since early 2000 as per the decentralisation policy. However, projects of higher complexities and importance are approved by central agency and in most cases ministry.”

Tashi Penjor said that local governments who do not have technical capacity forward the drawings to the ministry for scrutiny and technical sanctions.

“However, non-compliance is one of the challenges faced during implementation. Despite having approved drawings people still find means and ways to deviate. The building inspectors in local governments are not able to monitor construction sites at all times.”

Yangchen C Rinzin