Major facelift for Bajo town in the pipeline

Township: Planned in early 2000, Bajo was to be a model town.

A few years later, streetlights were installed while footpaths and roads were built after the demarcation.

The development on the demarcated area then drew the attention of most commuters passing by the highway near the township.

It was only in 2010 that 131 business license holders were allotted plots at the township. Subsequently the construction works began. With only six architectural designs applied for 131 buildings, a year later the model township turned into an eyesore eliciting criticism from all corners.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, who at the time was the then opposition leader, blogged that the new Bajo town was nothing but a bigger mistake, an eyesore, while Khuruthang town, built earlier, was another mistake. And people could not agree less.

While the verdict on who to blame for the improper town planning is yet to be reached, the works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden, at a public consultation with the people of Bajo recently, said that the Bajo and Khuruthang towns are known for their unpleasant design.

“In every town planning meeting held across the country, the two towns were pointed out as bad examples,” works and human settlement ministry chief urban planner Tashi Penjore said.

Tashi Penjore said research by the ministry found that inappropriate paintings, same architectural designs and attics on all houses affected the look of the town.

While urban planners are responsible for the aesthetics of a township, other factors such as cost and effectiveness must be considered as well. The Bajo and Khuruthang towns today lack basic infrastructure including parks, open playgrounds and green zones, according to architects.

“When the plots were allotted, we requested officials to either allow us to construct four-storeys instead of attics, as it looks inappropriate, but they didn’t agree,” Tsagay, a house owner, said.

With regard to the architectural designs, he said people are to be blamed. “Since we found it cheaper to apply the same design, we all approached the same consultancy firm,” he said.

Some house owners blamed the inconsistent regulation for different structures. For instance, some houses were allowed basements while some were not although it was the same structural design.

Tashi Penjore said that as per the town plan, three-storey buildings were to be constructed but house owners insisted on having attics. Although the house owners were supposed to hire an architect and a contractor, none of them complied.

Tashi Penjore said the gridiron principle, which was internationally practiced, has been applied for Bajo town planning, as it was cost effective and made things equitable. The town planning began in the 1990s and was completed by 2002-2003.

Ministry officials conducted the plan preparation while the infrastructure development was done with a loan from the World Bank, he said.

Tashi Penjore added that the aesthetics of Bajo town would change with the implementation of the structural plan.

Dawa Gyelmo | Wangdue

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