JICA: At a time when rapid urbanisation has plagued the country’s limited arable land, a project to formulate a comprehensive national development plan (CNDP) will soon begin.

JICA presented the project inception report in Thimphu yesterday.

The project currently titled formulation of CNDP 2030 will be the first attempt to envisage spatial structure at a national level. The project will enable the framing of a harmonised plan between settlement and non-settlement areas.

The project for formulation of CNDP will also help the country strike a sustainable balanced use of limited land among different sectors such as industry, settlements, agriculture and environment. The project will do an analysis and examination of development issues, strategic environment assessment, development objective and vision, land use pattern and socio-economic patterns, among others.

The project will then help formulate CNDP for Bhutan to promote balanced development in urban and rural areas across the country to maximise Gross National Happiness. While formulating the plan, the development plan will be aimed at reducing the number of pertinent issues like rural-urban migration, social disparity and bring about balanced development for human settlement, economy, environmental conservation and disaster management.

Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) secretary Thinley Namgay during the discussions said that the project is timely since it comes at a time when various sectors are competing for the country’s limited land for various purposes like settlement, industrilisation and agriculture.

“We are glad that JICA is supporting us in formulation of CNDP 2030 and as we are in the process of formulating the 12th Plan, important inputs will be provided in terms of how we utilise the limited land,” he said.

Thinley Namgay said that the project would also be part of a bigger national zoning, which the GNHC, National Land Commission (NLC) and agriculture and forests ministry (MoAF) will soon meet to take up on how to balance land use among sectors like agriculture, settlement, industrilisation and environmental conservation. But he suggested that the project also be attuned with the 12th Plan.

NLC secretary Pema Chewang suggested that the project officials visit them before venturing into the project since it managed to store a cache of information on myriad  issues after the national cadastral survey. “I think project officials should visit our office in order to avoid duplication of things, which would also help the project cut down costs,” he said.

Pema Chewang also recommended the project to incorporate preservation of cultural heritage sites. “This has to be spelt out clearly in the project since preservation of culture is one of the pillars of GNH,” he said. Some of the steering committee members also suggested the project to incorporate food nutrition and safety policies since it is directly linked with land utilisation.

“The project must come up with what kinds of employment opportunities will draw youth and men back to the farms,” an official from the agriculture ministry said.

Thinley Namgay also asked the project to find if the country should continue supporting the existing policy to develop all dzongkhags equally. “The project should find out whether some of the dzongkhags should be developed at the current pace especially if rural-urban migration is going to continue,” he said.

JICA Bhutan chief representative Koji Yamada said that the project is a starting point for all the regional projects both for Bhutan and JICA. He also said that the project should be widely shared and made known to the people by inviting stakeholders to create a sense of ownership.

“The issue is not the submission of the final report but what we do with the final report the study team will submit,” Koji Yamada said.

Tempa Wangdi