Yangyel Lhaden

Over the past two years, Thimphu Thromde found around 100 people who didn’t follow the rules when building structures without permission. As a consequence, they had to pay fines totaling more than Nu 3 million.

Since 2021, Thimphu Thromde has been vigorously keeping an eye on buildings that are being constructed without proper permission.

Unauthorised structures are buildings that are built without permission from the Thimphu Thromde Office. They can also include buildings that are different from the original plans or ones that are built on land that belongs to the government.

Out of the nearly 100 people who didn’t follow the rules in the last two years, 84 of them had built structures that were different from what was originally planned. The most common issues was converting stilt parking floor for other uses.

In the past year, 12 people had built  structures that were different from the original plans. Additionally, 10 people didn’t follow the rules regarding setback structures, and five built without getting approval from Thromde beforehand.

The people who break the rules have to pay a penalty of Nu 20,000, and they receive multiple warnings to remove their unauthorised structures. If they do not comply, the thromde can demolish the illegal buildings as a last resort.

“Unauthorised structures take up space that should be reserved for utility lines, and they often create cramped and unhealthy living conditions, which affects the overall livability of the city,” said a thromde official. “Many of these illegal structures are constructed using plywood, which makes them particularly vulnerable to fires.”

“Following the original drawings and refraining from building illegal structures is essential to ensure that the city develops according to the Thimphu Structure Plan,” he added.

Yet, he noted, there has been a positive shift in people’s awareness regarding the repercussions of building unauthorised structures. This change is attributed to heightened awareness campaigns and the decisive actions taken by the Thromde office, including the demolition of illegal constructions.

“An increasing number of homeowners are now proactively seeking prior approval from the Thromde office, even for seemingly minor constructions like garages or walls, a trend that was not common in the past,” he said.

The public is also actively involved in reporting illegal structures to the thromde office via emails and through the Thromde’s media page.

To effectively monitor construction and unauthorised activities, Thimphu Thromde has divided the city into 13 zones—the division is managed by 14 building inspectors.

When complaints are received, the building inspectors visit the reported site to verify the situation. They also carry out ad-hoc monitoring within their designated zones to ensure compliance with regulations.

“We expect a decline in the number of unauthorised structures in the future, as the number of defaulters is decreasing due to our rigorous monitoring efforts and the growing understanding and cooperation of the public,” said a thromde official. 

When Thimphu Thromde commenced inspections of unauthorised structures on November 7, 2021, within less than seven months, approximately 140 defaulters were identified and penalised.