By Tandin Wangchuk
The Joint sitting of the parliament this week adopted the Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) recommendation on the need to establish and institutionalize road asset and information management system to enhance planning, and prioritization of road maintenance in the country.
In their findings the Royal Audit Authority’s (RAA) had stated that road maintenance works were not given importance as required in its performance audit report of road maintenance works carried out from 2013-2018.
“The Department of Roads lacked proper maintenance planning, prioritization of roads for maintenance, assessment of achievements and challenges. This slowed down prompt decisions and improvements in performing their maintenance operations. For that reason, the RAA had proposed developing a comprehensive information management system,” the review stated.
The review further stated that only base course and blacktopping the roads will not help enhance quality and sustain the roads.
The Agriculture and Forests Minister, Yeshey Penjor, said that we also need to study the situation of a place to understand proper planning and implementation.
Some MPs said the issue of farm roads is not included in Royal Audit Authority’s report. A MP said that despite more than 4,783 kilometres of national highway being mentioned, about 9,082.2 kilometres of the farm roads are not included in the report.
Among others, the parliament also deliberated on the safety and technical aspects and issues of roads with many stating that safety of the farm roads should be kept paramount ,
The Works and Human Settlement Minister said that to increase the life span of roads, the government is working on micro-surfacing the roads whereby asphalt is laid over the top of the existing surface to seal and protect it.
Further, the Minister added the wage rate for labourers working under the Department of Roads has also been revised to a minimum rate of Nu 460 per working day.
The joint sitting also adopted the PAC’s recommendation on the need to coordinate and monitor the quality of roads as per the Road Act and Guidelines and to explore an appropriate mix of labour and equipment in the routine maintenance work to improve enabling working environment and cost-effectiveness.
Meanwhile, the Bhutan Sustainable low-emission Urban Transport System Project this week launched 25 Electric Vehicle (EV) public charging stations.
The charging stations have been installed in 15 different locations in Haa, Paro, Punakha, Phuentshogling, Thimphu and Wangdue Phodrang. The project started in 2019 aims to replace 300 fossil fuel-driven taxis with EV taxis by next year.
One charging station can charge two cars. Of the 25 charging stations, 15 are DC (direct current) charging stations that enable fast charging while the rest are AC (Alternating Current) charging stations which are semi-fast charging stations.
The project will roll out around 30 EV cars next month.
Bhutan also aims to reduce 43,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emission by next year through the project.
The project provides a 20 per cent subsidy grant which translates to US dollars 5,500 on purchase of every electric vehicle taxi.
A budget of Nu 69 M has been allocated to install charging stations in the remaining districts in the next fiscal year. As of today there are more than 140 electric vehicles in the country.