Taking the zoning system beyond lockdown

Zoning system to resolve the address problem

Yangchen C Rinzin

Dividing the capital city and the dzongkhags into zones, an emergency exercise during the nationwide lockdown would continue as a proper planning tool hereafter.

With the command from His Majesty The King, a task force was formed to develop a zoning system to address the issues during the lockdown, especially in the delivery of essential services. The task force member came up with 43 zones and two super zones.

In two days about 31,000 cards were distributed to people by almost 900 De-Suups, which allowed people to move out for shopping and take a brisk walk during different times of the day.  Head of the Office of Performance Management under His Majesty’s Secretariat (HMS), Karma Yonten who is a member of the zoning task force, said that His Majesty felt that if the lockdown continued for a long time the lockdown associated problem would be greater than the Covid-19 problems.

“With problems increasing, His Majesty felt we must come up with a viable solution. That was when His Majesty came up with the concept of zoning system and movement pass to try and address the problems.”

 The zoning system will apply and cards would be still used as and when a lockdown takes place. The government has partially lifted the lockdown and people can now move around their localities without any timing or having to carry a movement pass.

 

Beyond lockdown 

Karma Yonten said that with His Majesty’s farsighted vision, the task force was asked to go beyond and design a zoning system that would be used as a planning tool for future plans.

“Using the experiences gained from the pandemic, the zoning system takes into consideration how to prepare ourselves for a new normal or post Covid-19,” Karma Yonten said. “The pandemic gave us an opportunity to sit down, reflect and prepare a system that would address similar issues in the future.”

Karma Yonten said that as a result of this zoning exercise, it was realised that there was a need for a proper addressing system in Thimphu where the country still lacks postal codes or pin code systems even after 60 years of development.

The National Land Commission, De-Suung and the zoning team are working on digitizing the address system instead of postal address or pin codes. The teams have already geo-coded each house that will give details of each flat, building numbers and accurate addressing system of the location in each zone using the zoning system as a platform.

“This was important because we still use landmarks to give someone the address,” Karma Yonten said. “One of the biggest issues during this lockdown was delivering essential items where it took almost an hour to find the house.”

Karma Yonten said that the zoning team is already meeting with Bhutan Post and Thromdes on how they can use the details to address issues of the addressing system. “As Covid-19 is here to stay, the zoning system must act as responses to a similar pandemic or any kind of disaster in the future.”

 

Independent zones

A zoning system would also create independent areas where each zone will operate as an independent entity. Karma Yonten said an independent zone would mean zones that would have facilities like essential services, grocery shops, vegetable shops and medical facilities. “This is important because, during pandemics, it would reduce the threat, as people would not intermingle and remain in their respective zones.”

The zoning system created recently also saw that some of the zones did not have essential facilities. “If essential services are not available, it would isolate the zone and supply would be disturbed,” Karma Yonten said. “With this concept, we’re broadening it and see how we can make each zone independent.”

Households in the zones without essential facilities have agreed to contribute place/space to be used as shops while the economic affairs ministry will take care of the license part. If there is no space, the government will come up with temporary plans during a crisis.

 

Mass testing in future

The zoning system in future will help in mass testing if required as it would have all the details of people in each zone. The system will help the health ministry come up with representative sampling in a short period and also know who to call for the test.

Karma Yonten said the current zoning exercise has listed all the details of shopkeepers, taxi and bus drivers, De-Suups, police and the army. “This will help in testing frontline workers immediately. We’ll be much better prepared should there be a lockdown in future.”

 

Zoning system for dzongkhags

The zoning system will be uniform in all the 20 dzongkhags although the focus was on the thromdes given the density of population, movement and the risk associated.

The zoning system will help target red zone areas so that if there is one positive from one zone, the rest of the zones need not go under the lockdown. “We’re looking at a targeted approach, so that the whole country doesn’t suffer because of an outbreak in one area.”

The zoning team consists of members from works and human settlement ministry, the agriculture ministry, economic affairs, ECB, NSB, Thimphu Thromde and HMS.

The zones were created based on Thimphu thromde’s plan that had 13 urban villages. The zones were defined based on the boundary, number of shops within the zone, the proximity of shops from home and population density.

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