By Chimi Wangmo
The Chairperson of the National Council’s Good Governance Committee (GGC), MP Sangay Dorji, presented the interim review report on the quality of roads in the ongoing parliament this week.
The main objective of the review is to assess the current situation of the farm road, identify challenges, and issues faced in the construction and maintenance of quality farm roads, and recommend the way forward for the improvement of rural livelihood through sustainable and optimal utilization of public resources.
The farm roads were constructed to link farmlands and markets to transport inputs and agricultural produce. However, its scope diversified to non-agricultural sectors at a later stage.
National Council’s Good Governance Committee (GGC) said the quality of farm roads needs to be thoroughly reviewed as there are substandard roads surfacing in many parts of the country.
Chairperson Sangay Dorji said poor coordination and communication between central and the local government is to be blamed for the poor quality of roads.
According to the Good Governance Committee, there are over 2000 farm roads measuring nearly 10,000 kilometres in the country. And from nearly 700 farm roads investigated, over 5 per cent was found to be unusable while 51 per cent was found to be functional only on a seasonal basis.
The committee said farm roads were constructed to link farmlands and markets to transport inputs and agricultural produce. However, its scope diversified to non-agricultural sectors at a later stage.
The committee added lack of ownership for road maintenance and improper implementation of the Farm Road Development Guidelines led to the poor quality of farm roads.
Sangay said that although the government had placed the farm road construction and its maintenance in the plan, it is not implemented as per the farm road guidelines and plans. While the government is financially supporting and investing graciously on farm roads but on the other hand, works are divided among many stakeholders in the local government.
He said road ownership is also lost in between and eventually, the funds for maintenance are exhausted and the roads are left without care.
Today, a farm road is monitored and enforced by six different agencies including the local government in accordance with the Farm Road Development Guidelines 2019.
The committee will incorporate concerns from other council members in the final review report which will focus on the quality of roads. The final review report will be presented in the next session.
The report, among others, also highlights the budget allocated for constructing new farm roads and GC roads (Nu. 1050 million) and maintenance works (Nu. 4000 million).
Currently, 2,232 farm roads are measuring 9882.728 kilometers across the country. To improve the quality of farm roads, the government has allocated a budget for the provision of Granular Sub Base (GSB) for all the farm roads. Physical Progress of Farm Roads under Phase I (as of May 2021) and Resource Status for Farm Road Improvements were also illustrated in the report.
While the farm roads have benefitted the rural population through enhanced livelihood, it has also resulted in deforestation, habitat fragmentation, and interruption in natural ecological flows.
Issues related to substandard roads are being surfaced repeatedly both in studies conducted by independent institutions as well as in practical realities on the ground. Acknowledging the lack of community sense and ownership for road maintenance, the guidelines for Farm Road Development 2013 were developed and even revised.
Among others the Committee is expected to review the Quality vs. Quantity of farm roads and Implementation status of Farm Road Guidelines.
During the discussion, the need for monitoring and evaluation of ground works, reprioritization of road maintenances, road right of way and ownership, and safe drinking water sources and the reasons for unusable roads were also raised.