KP Sharma

National Council raised a host of issues in constructing houses in rural areas, during its first question-hour session of the House with Infrastructure and Transport Minister Dorji Tshering yesterday. 

Members said that there is a need to streamline and simplify the processes to make them more accessible and beneficial to people residing in rural areas. Despite the existence of the National Housing Policy 2020 and the Bhutan Building Regulation and Building Code 2018, they said issues in house construction continue to arise, particularly in rural places.

Samdrupjongkhar NC member, Tshewang Rinchen said the troublesome and costly requirements for technical, architectural, structural, and electrical designs and drawings for rural residents. He also highlighted challenges related to affordability, limited design flexibility, and lengthy administrative processes in obtaining building permits.

Trashigang NC member Sonam Tobgyel inquired about measures being taken by the ministry to control the employment of foreign workers in construction projects and stressed the importance of promoting local workers in the sector.

Trashiyangtse NC member, Sonam Tenzin raised the issue of a shortage of professionals such as engineers and architects in both dzongkhags and gewogs. He said that engineers and architects were shared among gewogs in some dzongkhags.

Lyonpo Dorji Tshering said that it was important to comply with the country’s construction regulations to ensure the construction of safe houses. 

“Traditional houses do not require approval as their designs have stood the test of time,” he said. However, Lyonpo clarified that permits for buildings with more than three storeys should be given by the ministry, as dzongkhags and gewogs lack the expertise to approve them.

To control cost escalation, Lyonpo suggested providing dzongkhags with standard drawings and designs if needed. “In Kheytshang town, standard drawings were used for house construction.”

Lyonpo also stated that Thimphu Thromde approves designs and drawings through an online portal.

Lyonpo said that in the next seven to eight years, most of the modern house constructions would be undertaken by builders, which would benefit the people.