World Bank Strengthens Support for Urban Transportation in Bhutan

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

The grant funds have been made available by 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.

The grant funds will support project preparation for two key investments. Firstly, the development of a 16 km priority bus service corridor along Thimphu’s north-south axis (Babesa to Dechencholing). The characteristics of the service (grade separated, priority lane, signal prioritization, vehicle type etc.) will be determined during the analysis. Second, the pedestrianization of part of Thimphu’s main 1.3 km boulevard known as Norzin Lam.  This will allow 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.

Bhutan’s urban areas are experiencing rapid growth in population and vehicle ownership and use. Between 1990 and 2010, the number of Bhutanese living in urban areas nearly tripled and this growth has continued.  The number of vehicles has increased  between 9 and10 percent per annum over the last decade. Taxis and personalized 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 Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB) 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 Agreement was signed by Honorable Lyonpo Namgay Tshering, the Royal Government of Bhutan’s Finance Minister, on behalf of the Royal Government of Bhutan, and Tenzin Lhaden, Resident Representative for Bhutan, on behalf of the World Bank.