Showing posts with label Road. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Road. Show all posts

10 November 2014

Copyrighted Road in Paro?

Japanese are very serious about copyright infringements and I heard even their fruits come without seeds because they don't want the rest of the world to grow their fruits. Talking about copyright, did they copyright the amazing farm roads they built in Paro?

The farm roads Japanese built in Paro are simply the finest example of how engineering when woven with nature can become timeless. They haven't used concrete nor were the roads blacktopped, but over the last 20 years the road stood the test of time. The gravels and sand just seem to know where to remain for ages, and this cannot be an accident. Japanese found the secret to building himalayan roads. And I am thankfully loving this road on my way to meeting my son on the weekend.
How is it built?
But the sad and obvious Bhutanese story is when the Japanese left we only kept the roads, we haven't learned their ways of building that kind of roads. In last 20 years our highways were redone over hundred times and we have built hundreds of funny farm roads across the country, if we knew the Japanese way it would have saved us millions from each kilometer so far. The Japanese came to overseas and mountains to help us but we just took their kindness for granted.

I'm wondering what those Bhutanese offices, engineers, and people who were involved with the Japanese projects were doing besides licking boots. What have they learned? Or am I right in guessing that the Japanese copyrighted the road, and never revealed the secrets? We will never know how good roads are built.

06 April 2014

Bajothang is Becoming a Town Soon

'Bajothang Town' had been a new phrase to describe all the problems in the world. There is limit to failure, Bajothang crossed all lines. It's a town build on problems and it never failed its history. Reconciliation with its failed past was long overdue.
Death Traps
Well now things are happening finally. Looks like we are soon going to have a town around here. I can see people mending the broken pavements and dusting the potholes. I can see thick smoke from the middle of the town where they seem to be mixing blacktopping materials. I can see some roundabouts are resized. I can see some drains reappearing from underneath tonnes of earth. I am happy.

Mending the broken town
Smoke of Hope
There should be strategic planning to make adjustment with irreparable structural errors, because streets cannot be widened now- if every street is allowed for parking there is no room for traffic. With the drains repaired the sewage overflow will find its way and with the roads blacktopped the dust will be gone. This is the town Bajothang deserves to be and I hope the contractor will deliver it, and I hope the municipal will see to it. Because contractors are business people, they will try to make profit from every corner.

Redesigning the errors

I am eager to see how they will go about this!
Work Done so far
The few patches of finished work that are visible aren't so promising but we are optimistic people and we hope the contractor will learn to do better, and that he will leave behind a legacy that he can be proud of rather than endless court orders.

If you are visiting Bajothang these days you will find it too dusty to live but for people who are living here it's the dust of hope and change, it's the last of dust and stink, and we are enjoying it. Wish us best of luck.

07 March 2014

Playing Police Where There is no Police

The Dochula Block saga begins again. The road widening works are back, they always wait for the rainy season. The mess from last season has not been taken care of yet and now new works have begun at three locations. Traffic remains closed for hours, there are police on the spot and of course roadside thukpa sellers. When traffic opens on regular intervals vehicles go wild from both directions. There is nobody to manage the flow.
So on a typical day, I was on my way to Thimphu. I waited an hour sandwiched between hundreds of vehicles. I finished reading all the tweets I missed in many days and completed several levels on Diamond Dash. When the floodgate of frustrated traffic opened I landed up after two trucks. We were moving like glacier. Soon a truck from other direction slipped and hit its body onto the nose of the first truck before me. Everybody came out and that's it, the traffic came to standstill.
It took quite sometime for me to dare put my new shoe into the red mud covering the road. I went to the accident spot only to find that the two drivers haven't even started talking. They were facing away from each other and talking with their groups of supporter- you know how people take sides. I looked at the damage, the dent was only about a punch size that could hardly be worth Nu.1000.
Look who is angry!
The driver of the damaged truck blames the other for not stopping and not keeping enough gap but it's clearly visible the there was no room for safe gap and that he had slipped despite stopping. There was rather space on his side and he could have moved a little away. I voiced that. I told them that there is no way any road safety official could reach us from either end and waiting there any longer will only build the traffic jam that could lead to bigger problems. So I decided that they share the cost. With Nu.500 we began clearing the jam. It was another hour before I could finally free myself from the snailing convoy. But damn, only to be stopped at the next block.
It took me six hours to reach Thimphu. What causes this problem? Does road widening have to be road blocking? Do we really have to stop traffic? Well I heard that thing about safety, but where is the safety in creating traffic jam along the unstable hill (remember the incident from last year? I nearly lost a friend. he lost his hi-lux though and nobody paid for it) Don't we have a smarter alternative? Though Bhutanese are generally lazy we still have better things to do than play mobile games at high altitude road block.

12 May 2013

Breaking Traffic Rule

I am otherwise a law abiding citizen but in Bajothang town I break one traffic rule every day, more under compulsion than intention. I always take the shortcut instead of going around the roundabout because there is a huge pothole waiting behind the roundabout. I break that rule regardless of who is watching because I am waiting for that one chance to tell them to fix the road before applying rules. I want to remind them that this town deserves more than a farm road. I also want to let them know difference between road and drain.
That one chance finally came one rainy afternoon. Three traffic policemen were standing at the junction, as if waiting for me. I shivered a bit and broke the rule anyway. My eyes were on them and theirs on me. I was signaled to stop,
"Documents, please."
"What for?" I asked, as if I didn't know.
"You came from the 'No Entry' side."
"I didn't see 'No entry' sign anywhere."
"You should be coming around the roundabout." He fingered the direction, which of course I know.
"But I always come this way!" I declared honestly. That moment I saw him lose his cool, and called his colleagues. He passed my license to them and remarked, "He says he always come this way." Which means, 'he needs to be fixed up'.
He asked me to park my car somewhere. I did. I came out and went to them and politely said,
"The whole town is in mess, and there is hardly any visible road in the town, I thought traffic rules are not applicable as of now. Moreover that pothole is too deep for my car." I pointed at it. I could see the disgust on their face, and the guy with my license disappeared already.
"I promise to follow the rules when the whole road is blacktopped and all traffic signs are ready. But for now I am sorry but can't risk damaging my car."
red is my car and blue is the pothole
I know these are not the types of justifications that work with police, but neither am I going to give them the type they are ready to listen to. I don't know if traffic police are responsible for reporting bad road to city authority but for some reason I feel when they monitor us they must monitor road as well.
"So, what is the penalty/" I asked impatiently, because the way I presented to them didn't leave any chance for excusing me.
"You will have to pay a fine."
"When?" I asked, seriously I never came in conflict with law before therefore I don't know the procedure. But I was prepared to narrate whole essay on Bajothang town road to their officer before paying the fine.
"Wait, your license is taken to the incharge."
Then I remembered the 6 PM Party President Debate on TV, which was almost beginning. I didn't wait anymore, after all I have to pay the fine.

At home, I received a call from a friend asking me to come back. He saw me with the police while passing by and had come back to help me out. He said he has done the groundwork of requesting, and all I have to do was say some words of apology. But I said I was busy watching the debate and that I will follow the due process since I have some message to convey as well. He hung up angrily. In five minutes he called back to tell me that he has my license. I didn't know if I was to be happy or angry but I thanked him.
I may have to break the rule again until the road is fixed.

01 May 2013

Drunk Chorten on the Sober Road

I was looking for ST Auto Spa, the latest car servicing facility in Thimphu, to give my car a nice treat for the 90,000 km service it provided to my family. I could see the orange building with big signboard but couldn't find the road that leads to the facility. After a short drive I was startled to find a chorten standing on the road, I nearly honked at it. It looked like a drunk chorten on a straight road.
My Tweet! (@Passu_Diary)
For sometime I forgot everything, just came out of the car and stood there wondering what exactly must have happened with the chorten to be there right on the road. I joked about it on twitter but it's anybody's guess that it wasn't the chorten that encroached on to the road. It was standing there for ages not realizing that one day it would be standing on our aggressive road to change.

11 February 2013

How I Spent this Losar Day

Thanks for all the Losar Greetings you sent me. Losar Lolay to all of you as well, May the new year bring you greater joy, health and wisdom, may you find stronger purpose in living and live life bigger than ever. And most of all make you celebration reasonable, don't drink your health away, don't drive after your heavy losar drinks, don't go on long drives with your family if you intend to drink- make it a happily memorable day.
My family didn't have a plan of going anywhere away from home. I have the company of my brother in-law who just got married and brought his beautiful wife along to spend their losar with us. But later this morning our aunty gave us a call asking us to join her family to Kamichhu. Her husband didn't have holiday on losar, he was on duty somewhere 38km from here. He works as a security personnel and has handsome wage but when it comes to work timing I don't envy his salary.
There were 19 of us in three cars to give our sad uncle a huge losar surprise. The journey was rewarding- there were hundred new things to watch on the way, no one would expect so many people and activities along the narrow valley. There was nothing that didn't change- even the mountains were moved.
But the best experience was driving through the 1.5km highway tunnel, which is the first of it's kind in the country. It was scary and cold inside and it never seems to end. Visibility was low with flying dust, of course the speed limit was 20km. 

The First Highway Tunnel in Bhutan

I was obediently following the speed limit but one blue Bolaro camper taxi was enjoying maximum speed, I would have reported him to police but his blinding speed had the upper hand. Speed could be risky inside.
The Scary 1.5 km through mountain

Highway tunnel may be very expensive in building but this could be the answer to so many problems our highways face in the country. It could reduce distance, mitigate the seasonal landslide problems, reduce the risk of going off-road and can save lots of trees. This is the beginning of the change in how Bhutanese built roads through mountains.

Our surprise for uncle didn't last long because we couldn't locate his work place and we had to call him hundred times to ask the direction- there were many new roads and bridges along the highway and several time we had taken wrong ones. Finally we made it to where he was working. His morning must have been gloomy, thinking about all the fun he missed but three cars full of people coming just for him made his day. He took us down to an island below his site and we began the day. By then we were all hungry and it's fun eating when we are hungry...

How did you spend you losar?

09 January 2013

Tragedy of Haa Bus

When I heard about the passenger bus fire incident of Jan 6 I knew it could only be Haa Bus. But I felt good about it. It's not a tragedy, it's the wake up call. The real tragedy is the type of buses that run on Haa road. For years the dumbest buses rode our road. May be it's time now to give people of Haa some comfortable transportation like the other Dzongkhags.
Haa Bus- Obviously  (picture from Kuensel) 
As a child I used to think Haa is the farthest place from Thimphu, because we get in the bus in the morning and reach Haa at night. We would fall sick for day after the journey. Only recently I realized that the journey is only of four hours at the most. But the type of Buses that run on our road are the ugliest and the slowest, they break down often. I used to wish for a coaster bus to Haa but it never happened.
It is rumored that people of Haa are very rough to deserve Coaster buses, our people litter the bus with doma, and tear the seat covers-I hope they are joking, and they even say we carry lots of luggage which is not suitable for coaster buses. I hope these funny logic is not the real reason behind why all clumsy buses are sent to Haa.
Everything has time and limit, but go to Lungtenzampa and see, Haa bus is easily recognizable because like the rest of the culture it is also preserved for ages. I hope people responsible recognize the need to change the buses to Haa.

21 September 2012

Our Outdated Towns

BBC was showing a video of a street in London shot over hundred years ago and they were amazed at the architectural farsighted of their ancestors, that even after hundred years they didn't have to change a slightest bit to accommodate modern metropolitan city.
London in 1902
Here in our country, where modern towns are only a few decades old, every now and then we have to demolish structures to widen streets and bring in better infrastructures, only to discover that it needs to be changed again. In last few years Thimphu saw many breakings and makings, yet streets are flooded with rain water every monsoon season, and often we get to smell the overflowing sewage. Thimphu needs to be changed every day and I don't think I will see a finished city ever in my life. Our designers didn't even see what would happen in 10 years time. 
Phuntsholing comes to a standstill every morning and there is nothing anybody can do to solve this problem. The problem is not with the population, not even the number of vehicles because these are expected with the change in time. This change in time had to be seen by our designers and planners.
Lets forgive them now because those days they walked straight out of their villages and saw lesser world to make any significant difference- or so I assume.
Now we have planners and designers who went to the best universities in the world and some of whom have multiple qualifications, they have seen the world and they have better resources in their hand. Therefore what we could least expect is to see our planners and designers build a town as good as the ones westerners did in early 1900.
And what came up in Khuruthang and Bajothang shattered all our hopes. Let alone standing and serving for centuries these two town failed in their own times. Even before completion they have become outdated in their structural designs and efficiency against the growing traffic. Each building accommodates over six families excluding the business operators on the ground floor and visibly there is parking space for only three cars. The parking space takes up half the width of the road.
Bajothang town from a Distance because that's the only way it looks good
Even before we had the buildings we had blacktopped roads, we had even pavements, we had drains, and sewage line. Now we have buildings, rough roads, risky pavements, hidden drains and blocked sewage. Everything that was built before was lost and it seems to take forever to get them back. Some constructions are frozen in time, and the construction material for a three storied house disables 300 meters of public land around it yet they are calm. I saw a construction of 40 storied building in Bangkok that didn't even throw a piece of scrap on the road that runs a few meters along it. Then I knew we Bhutanese are a big show off. Government structures here are like huts- be it Municipal office or the telecom office, perhaps to save cost, but what we don't realize is that we will have to rebuild them in next five years. The cost saving will cost heavily then. Children park and civic hall are like stories from dreams- the big space could be turned into parking lot instead of letting a jungle grow in the town. It's worse in Khuruthang though it is much older than Bajothang.
Bajothang and Khuruthang are repeating the mistakes made by Thimphu and Phuntsholing and the upcoming town could easily copy the trend but what would make the difference is to think differently and plan smartly, after all it is not everyday that we design towns. Hundred years from now when our children look at the pictures from our time they should not feel like they have reached a different world. We should leave behind what will last long than us.

17 September 2012

Who Will Pay for the Damage?

Road blocks and Landslides have a long history in our country and as of now there is no sign of learning from the mistakes. We don't have to worry about waterways and railways like other countries but as is our Bhutanese nature we even forget to worry about what we have to worry about.We have tried doing big things like the big worlds but we have lost our grip over small things. We have more airports that brought in more shame- ours must be the only airports with potholes. We have built bigger roads and started having bigger landslides- thank god the rainy season is very short otherwise there won't be a road left on the hills.
Picture Source: Kuensel
Some one lost his land cruiser to the landslide near Dochula but he is happy it spared him, so is my friend who lost his pickup yesterday along with five other vehicles when a tree fell on to them. I was a victim myself, I was greeted with rolling stones at Nobding last year and in last few years we heard of many mishaps caused my roadblocks and landslides. But in none of this cases people are held responsible, except the drivers. I was seeing my friend who was a victim of Dochula mishap yesterday and asked him who will repair his vehicle. He looked at me in surprise, as if I stole the question from his mouth. Yes, who will pay for the damage?
Whose name is written on this tree?

It's time we differentiate between the natural and man-made landslides. Natural landslides are the ones where slides occur without the intervention of human activities, and those that are causing problems these days are for us to judge. Road widening projects are vital for the growing economy of the country but what they leave behind is a ticking time bomb. They save cost by focusing on the road and forgetting the hills they have damaged, even an ordinary observer like me can see how many rocks are waiting to fall, and how many trees are ready come on to the newly widened Thimphu-Wangdue highway. Disaster management should be intervene, do hazard hunting and let the road builder rectify the potential disasters before roads are taken over. Accountability should come to Bhutan now.
Time Bomb ticking its last seconds!

In the wake of time, when we dare say that if a child commits crime parents bear the punishment, we can rightfully take road contractors to court in such mishaps. In air crash investigation we see how a screw making company goes jail because it was a faulty screw that caused the crash. But here we are talking about something far bigger than a screw, for everybody to see and still we let it go. If we let somebody pay once, perhaps it may never repeat again. So who will pay for the Damage?
Waiting to shift down!

Hazard Hunting pictures are taken by Tashi Dorji. Used here with his kind permission.

09 June 2012

Friendly Road For Walking

Of all the changes that happened in recent times I loved the idea of walking to office on Tuesdays. And I loved the way many people received it. We were walkers until recent times, our ancestors walked all their lives, and our living parents walked the best part of their lives. We have walking DNA in us, which should still be very much there. It's only Tuesday we are going to acknowledge our DNA, and I hope we don't cheat ourselves by taking cabs and buses. If two cars meet on the road its called accident but when two persons meet on the road the story is different. Walking together will provide long opportunity to interact and form relationships and some day we will look at Tuesdays as vacations.
Chimi R Namgyal on BO
I walked the best days of my life, and it was a day in 2009 that I finally bought a car and became lazy. Cars are like pampered kids, they suck through our pockets day in day out and we still love them. And I love my car best because I have some really bad experience with walking. I wanted my revenge on the once-upon-a-time of my life. Those first two years in Bajothang gave me a few occasions to visit Wangdue Dzong, that was when I asked if we really had 72% of forest cover because that wasn't one tree on the entire road from Bajo to Wangdue Dzong. After having baked and roasted three times on that road I put together all my guts and bought a car.
Typical Treeless road in Bhutan
We have hell lot of trees but they are all in the jungle where monkeys live, if we are to encourage walking we have to have tree by the roadside and make walking a pleasure. I love the road from Paro Town to Nemizampa, we could replicate that very easily. I prefer walking over driving if only roads are friendlier.
Mission Possible
I hope to see the Pedestrians’ Day become very popular throughout the country, and I hope to see green roads where everybody loves to walk. Because in Walking we can regain our lost tradition of social interaction and relationships.