- In a landlocked and mountainous country like Bhutan, its road network plays a crucial role in delivering goods and services, promoting trade, and contributing to economic development.
- ADB will provide a grant of $2 million to develop Bhutan’s Masterplan for National Highways Connectivity, road maintenance plan, and build transport planning capacity of the DOR.
- The masterplan for national highways will improve national and regional connectivity, urban-rural accessibility, and regional trade corridors.
Bhutan is a landlocked nation with a small population of about 756,000 dispersed throughout its mostly mountainous terrain. Formidable geographic and weather conditions make it difficult and expensive to deliver services and to build and maintain vital infrastructure. Road transport is by far the dominant mode of transport, followed by air transport. The country relies heavily on its roads for domestic and international trade. About 95% of freight is transported by road to and from the border crossing points between Bhutan and India. The country's main border check post is in Phuentsholing and accounts for 76% of the total trade with India.
Guided by the Comprehensive National Development Plan, ADB is supporting the government of Bhutan develop an efficient and reliable network to (i) provide alternative routes, (ii) address rural-to-urban migration and promote regionally balanced development, and (iii) reduce travel times for the north-south corridors to 8 hours and for the east-west corridor to 16 hours or less. The current thrusts of the road sector in the Twelfth Five-Year Plan are to (i) improve the road network through consolidation, enhance the national highway grid, and complete the missing road links; (ii) improve national highways using environment-friendly road construction and climate-proof technology; and (iii) reduce travel time with bypass roads and tunneling options. An updated master plan for the national highway network would help the DOR to budget and plan resources to achieve the long-term plan.
The road transport is by far the most dominant mode of transport in Bhutan which is a landlocked nation with a small population of about 756,000 dispersed throughout its mostly mountainous terrain.
As of 2020, Bhutan’s road network has a total road length of roughly 18,000 kilometers, of which 61% are farm roads, around 15% are national highways, and about 11% are the dzongkhag or district roads.
By 2021, around 114,500 vehicles were plying on one of these roads which have been proven to facilitate domestic trade within the country as well as international trade primarily through India for Bhutanese people.
However, the road sector in Bhutan is not without its own challenges and issues. Formidable geographic and weather conditions, and effects of climate change make it difficult and expensive to deliver services and to build, and maintain vital infrastructure.
With the continuing rural-urban shift which is a consequence of better social opportunities and employment, and increased demand for inter-Dzongkhag travel is expected.
Building on its assistance in the road sector since 1993, ADB is currently implementing a US dollars 2 million Masterplan for National Highways Connectivity TA aligning to ADB’s Strategy 2030.
The technical assistance is expected to be completed in fourth quarter of 2024. The main objective of the TA is to improve planning and programming of road transport sector by enhancing Department of Roads (DoR) planning capacity, reviewing road connectivity, and maintenance plan and developing a masterplan.
A masterplan for national highways will be produced which will improve national and regional connectivity, build up urban and rural accessibility, and enhance existing corridors with climate resilient features.
DoR’s capacity on transport planning and road asset management with gender sensitive lens will be enhanced.
Finally, once the TA is completed, a road systematic maintenance plan for recurrent, periodic, and emergency maintenance will be developed which will improve road efforts life and its quality.