Revisiting Thimphu’s structural plan through a Strategic Environment Assessment

Feb 1, 2017

In 2016 the UNDP-UNEP PEI project collaborated with the Korean Environment Institute to support Bhutan in carrying out the SEA for the Thimphu Structure Plan. The 25 year plan (2002-2025) was reviewed in 2004 and has not been assessed since.

Thimphu, the capital city has been facing rapid growth hosting almost a fifth of the total population and serving as the economic and governance hub of the country. While the population of the city is expected to double by 2030, the room for expansion is limited, giving rise to numerous challenges related to urban poverty, inadequate public services, congestion, pollution, waste, crime and etc. The key stakeholders responsible for the TSP has voiced the need to conduct the SEA for TSP, to take account of the city’s rapid growth and development and trends and future challenges. It was pointed that this will not only be timely to review and update the city’s plans but will also address future development from an environmentally sound and sustainable perspective.

NDP-UNEP PEI was successful in tying up with Korea Environment Institute, a national leading think tank with over 23 years of experience in environmental policies and environmental impact assessments. KEI visited Bhutan from 20-22 July 2016. The purpose of their mission was to consult with key stakeholders and discuss the objectives, scope, approach and institutional arrangement of the proposed SEA while also strengthening partnership with Bhutan. 

To promote south-south, KEI supported an exchange visit for a groups of 16 officials from the Royal Government of Bhutan. The visit was a culmination of case studies, best practices and to learn from their experience in carrying out SEAs and EIAs, while also presenting their achievements. The visit also included several site visit in Sejong, Incheon and Seoul from September 26- 2 October 2016. 

The SEA process has been initiated through the formation of a core team with representatives from the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement, Thimphu Municipality, Ministry of Information and Communication, National Environment Commission, Gross National Happiness Commission and UNDP-UNEP. The process has successfully streamlined institutional arrangements which faced some challenges in the beginning.

The Ministry of Works and Human Settlement is now taking the lead with full support from the Municipality and other relevant agencies. MOWHS will also propose for additional support and technical guidance from KEI to complete the SEA for TSP in 2017.  This has also been featured in the Annual performance agreements of the Ministry in 2017.

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