KP Sharma 

In a significant move to address the challenges faced by rural communities in constructing houses, the National Assembly voted yesterday to exempt the requirement of structural drawings for single-story houses. Additionally, the government will provide free model drawings for buildings with more than two storeys in rural areas.

The motion to annul section 46 of the Bhutan Building Regulation (BBR) 2018, which mandates the submission of structural drawings for rural house construction, or the provision of free model drawings by the government, was submitted by Mp for Dewathang-Gomdar, Ugyen Dorji, on behalf of the opposition party.

Ugyen Dorji highlighted the challenges that the requirement of certified architects and engineers to submit structural drawings has posed for people in rural areas. He argued that this constraint has hindered the construction of private houses and impeded the well-being and development of rural communities.

Addressing the issue, Ugyen Dorji emphasised the importance of promoting equitable access to housing and discouraging rural-urban migration, which has led to an imbalance in rural areas. He stressed that alleviating the burden on rural communities would not only help build quality homes but also contribute to sustainable rural development.

While the majority of members supported the second alternative motion, reservations were raised regarding the first motion. As a result, the member modified the motion and resubmitted it for further discussion.

Supporting the motion, MP for Jomotshangkha-Martshala, Norbu Wangzom, argued that not only houses but also constructions such as kitchens, toilets, and cowsheds should not require structural drawings and designs. She highlighted the difficulties faced in finding engineers to draw and design facilities within houses, such as electrical and water systems, in villages.

Norbu Wangzom pointed out that villagers often have to travel long distances to the dzongkhag, leading to delays in construction due to errors in documents.

Expressing dissatisfaction with the lack of supervision by relevant authorities after the completion of construction, MP for Drametse-Ngatsang, Ugyen Wangdi, questioned the necessity of structural drawings when there is no one to monitor the process.

Opposition Leader, Dorji Wangdi, said that there is need for ensuring that every family has a roof over their heads, and called for practical measures that maintain quality and safety without compromising convenience.

Infrastructure and Transport Minister, Dorji Tshering, emphasised that the BBR prioritises the safety of the people and is not intended to create challenges. The minister clarified that structural drawings are primarily required for modern-style buildings rather than traditional-style ones.

He informed the house that BBR 2018 is currently under review, with exemptions of the non-requirement of structural drawings for one-storey buildings included and set to be implemented soon.

The ministry also plans to provide at least 10 model drawings to the dzongkhags to facilitate standard home construction and reduce expenses.

The minister also mentioned an online portal designed for construction approval and designs, aimed at assisting the people.

While some members argued that structural drawings are necessary when seeking loans from financial banks, the National Assembly directed the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport to enhance support and monitoring services for sample drawings and provide online services with detailed information.

The decision by the National Assembly reflects the ongoing efforts to strike a balance between ensuring safety and easing the regulatory burden on rural communities in their pursuit of adequate housing.