The idea was good, but the execution was not.
Thimphu city has expanded, urbanising villages on its periphery. With rapid urbanisation, the demand for amenities grew too. A sewage treatment plant was planned at Hejo. It was a different kind, one that would take up less space, money and popular in Japan, who funded the project.
The plant was inaugurated two months ago. It is not operational and the stench is bad as the project is embroiled in a blame game. Thimphu thromde claims they are in the dark. The department of engineering services oversaw the work constructed by two companies, one a Japanese. Thromde officials claim they knew about the plant only when it was inaugurated.
From what is going on, the project will not be operational anytime soon. The Thromde has no money to lay the pipes and complete the project. The plant is under lock and key as of today.
There is nothing to be surprised about the lack of coordination and communication. It is a typical case of our planning. Even if the thromde manages fund, the operation, it seems will have another round of problem with the Hejo locals.
In what is a case of putting the cart before the horse, residents or local government representatives were not informed about the project. They were surprised to be invited to an inauguration of a plant that directly affects or benefits them. If land is involved is laying the pipes, we can expect more delays. Land is scarce and parting with it for public interest is difficult. The thromde knows it from past experience.
With rapid urbanisation, proper planning is the call of the day. The public is exasperated when the same section of the roads is dug up repeatedly and separately to lay electric cables, telephone lines, television cables, water pipes, sewerage pipes, and other services.
A basic planning strategy is to coordinate. Lack of it results in the delivery of services. It has almost become a cliché to say that our advantage of being a late developer is to not repeat the mistakes others committed. We are committing suicide when a project is inaugurated without coordination among stakeholders. The project may not help Hejo residents, but will surely find a space in research papers as an example of planning errors.
Thimphu has not finished developing or creating infrastructure. With more and more people pouring into the capital city, its infrastructure will be overwhelmed. There will be expansion and creation of infrastructure. There is limited space and it will call for proper planning.
Without coordination, communication and consultations, we will not be able to keep up with the demand for urban infrastructure. In the meantime, we can take the Hejo case as a good case of failed planning and learn from the mistake!