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The World Bank (WB) will provide a grant of USD 975,000 to support the government’s efforts to design investments that would provide access, efficient, safe, and green transportation options in Thimphu city under the Bhutan Green Transport Project (BGTP).

The grant agreement was signed by Finance Minister Namgay Tshering and WB’s acting resident representative to Bhutan, Tenzin Lhaden.

The fund will support project preparation for a 16km priority bus service corridor along Thimphu’s north-south axis, from Babesa to Dechencholing. The project will include analysis of the characteristics of the service, grade separated, priority lane, signal prioritisation and vehicle type.

The fund will also be used for project preparation of pedestrianisation a part of Norzin Lam in Thimphu city.  The pedestrianisation of the 1.3 km boulevard road is aimed at allowing priority for pedestrian access along Thimphu’s main business district and contribute to the decongestion of the city center.

Inclusivity, safety and accessibility will be central to the final designs.

A press release from the World Bank office in Thimphu stated that the country has seen a rapid growth in population and vehicle ownership and that the number of Bhutanese living in urban areas nearly tripled between 1990 and 2010 and the growth has continued.

The number of vehicles has increased between 9-10 percent per annum, over the last decade.

Taxis and personalised vehicles are currently meeting some of the travel needs for Bhutan’s population, but the absence of quality alternatives to private transport is unsustainable and increasingly constraining access to economic opportunity and social services.

“In addition, the rapid growth in private vehicle ownership is placing a strain on Bhutan’s commitment to remain carbon neutral under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.”

The government has set out its policy for urban transport in a guiding document known as “Bhutan Transport 2040 Integrated Strategic Vision”.

This policy aims to create vibrant, functional, and livable “green” cities. It focuses on providing attractive public transport services and facilities for pedestrians, with a view that public transport and walking may become the dominant mode in the central area of cities and for short trips.

The grant has been made available through the Korea-World Bank Partnership Facility (KWPF). Established in May 2013, KWPF is an initiative between Korea’s Ministry of Economy and Finance (MoEF) and the World Bank.

The facility’s overall objective is to assist developing member countries of the World Bank in achieving inclusive and sustainable economic growth and to foster broader dialogue on economic development issues.