Bhutan has witnessed rapid development over the years and continues to keep apace with astonishing changes in the world that is ever so fast-paced. Because we have always known that lagging behind is not an option, we have had to cope and hit the ground running. In doing so, we made admirable progress in many spheres and sectors of development. However, along the way, we have also had to confront some sad realities which are threatening to become a festering scab. 

Development brings roads and cities, schools and hospitals, service centres and businesses. Township development thus received special attention and continues to receive priority. Jonathan F P Rose said: “Cities are birthplaces of civilization; centers of culture, trade, and progress; cauldrons of opportunity” which is why infusion of a system to ensure “equality, resilience, adaptability, well-being, and the ever-unfolding harmony between civilization and nature.”

Sadly, however, our planners saw township development as only raising tall, multi-coloured buildings. Soon we learnt that we had forgotten about water and other basic amenities. Bajothang in Wangdue and Khuruthang in Punakha are classic examples of such planning that has become an eyesore. Changjiji housing colony in Thimphu is another.

We forgot that residents of these towns would need recreational facilities, parks, and playgrounds for community vitality. Bringing these components now is challenging because our plans had no space for them. But efforts are being made to incorporate or add these elements. Recently, Bajothang town inaugurated a much-needed leisure park. It is a big attraction for the residents, especially children who need such a space to enjoy and be safe.

This is a lesson for our future town planners who should see town and city planning beyond making space for the buildings to come up sans any sense of aesthetics or soul. But the bigger problem is after bringing in these much-needed, soul-nourishing elements of towns and cities such as parks and playgrounds. The parks and open-air gyms in Thimphu and other towns are living examples of what can become of such facilities in a few years down the line.

These facilities, as important as they are, must be taken care of and maintained well because they are not just a pretty extension of our communities—they are the very heartbeats of our lives in rapidly urbanising milieus. Responsibility of safeguarding these facilities should be shared by the town councils and residents equally, however the arrangements are made between them.

Certainly we need more parks and recreational spaces in our towns and cities but we must appreciate and take ownership, for the sake of our children and posterity.