It was a brief downpour but it wrecked havoc in Thimphu city.
The road below the referral hospital resembled a torrential river. Long lines of vehicles had to form as each carefully navigated through the water. At least one vehicle stalled after water entered its engine.
Near the main traffic roundabout on Norzin lam, a large pool of water formed.
A sewer burst and overflowed onto the expressway.
Drains turned into raging streams of muddy water depositing gravel and debris onto the roads.
Many videos and pictures were taken but such occurrences are nothing new.
In fact, these problems occur every year and usually in the same places.
While much has been written about the poor state of our drains, we are aware that the thromde is attempting to improve the infrastructure.
Much has also been written about our poor waste disposal habits, which results in trash entering drains and the sewers thereby choking pathways and disrupting the flow of water. We are aware that efforts are underway to change our waste disposal habits.
But what was most apparent during Tuesday’s brief flooding was the impact on pedestrians.
Areas, like the footpath below the hospital became inaccessible. Many had to risk harm by wading through fast flowing waters carrying all sorts of debris on the Chamzamtog road, some even chose to wade through barefoot to save their shoes.
We are trying to encourage people to walk and discourage the idea that everyone should own a vehicle. Such incidents will not help encourage a walking culture and instead reinforce the mentality that a car is necessary. Many could have made up their minds yesterday that they must redouble their efforts to purchase their own vehicle.
There are still a few months before the heavy monsoon season is upon us. Preventing flooding in Thimphu city this summer should be considered a priority and funds diverted to begin constructing either permanent or even temporary mitigating measures. There is time.
Pedestrian traffic is being accorded more priority in recent times like the establishment of zebra crossings, more footpaths, and better lighting, but preventing flooding, which impacts pedestrians the most during heavy rains, is also needed.
We are aware that Thimphu’s population has exploded, which is a challenge for the thromde in terms of infrastructure and budget, and that there are many other priorities to choose from but it is hoped that preventing flooding especially in high traffic areas, both pedestrian and traffic, should be a priority this year.
We must ask ourselves what it reflects if the same problems occur year after year.
We are already experiencing the perils of too much traffic: bad driving, accidents, hit and runs, road rage, etc. We need more walkers and to achieve that walking needs to be a safe and reliable activity.