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Social and green cities in low-income countries

Thimpu, 2009 © Juan Carlos Madrigal CC BY-NC 2.0

Bhutan

The Thimpu Structure Plan acknowledges the needs of different occupations and lifestyles in the spatial organisation of the city. The plan is organized around 22 themes, including the achievement of a “balance with nature and tradition, conviviality and creating the ‘city of our dreams’” (Figure).

To achieve balanced industrial and residential development, environmental management and social and individual well-being, the municipality has employed a development suitability matrix that lays out the degrees of inter-compatibility of different types of land use. The matrix includes considerations of rainfall levels and temperature and of climate extremes, to encourage low-risk land-use planning. It supports development of multiple land uses to enhance livelihood diversification and sustainable development to strengthen the city’s economic resilience.

However, there has been criticism in the local press regarding the slow implementation of the plan and its increasingly outdated features, as its original timeframe ended six years ago. In addition, Thimpu is still challenged with limited capacity in disaster risk management, including early warning and emergency funding, watershed management and access to risk information. But the municipal government’s attention not only to physical safety in planning economic development within the city but also to lifestyles and a social-environmental balance in the city landscape is an approach that may well prove to build mid- to long-term resilience.

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