Cities in the Himalayas have faired very poorly in the Twentieth Century, collapsing under the weight of massive migration of hills people and responding with no planned infrastructure, urban management systems or participatory mechanisms. In such a milieu managing heritage sites, enhancing the environment and creating convivial places for people and communities is not even a consideration.

With a planning project budget of less than $150,000 a small team from Bhutan and India created a Multi-tiered system of “planning layers” that dove-tail into one another. The first layer of group consensus is the Principles of Intelligent Urbanism that lay down a set of axioms by which stakeholders agree to evaluate options in the plan. The next layer sets down a set of “structural themes” that must necessarily persist through all micro-level plans. These themes include measures to protect the fragile eco-systems; an open space system; definition of Urban Villages that are demarcated by micro watersheds; an Urban Corridor that link Village Squares; designated heritage areas; and the definition of Precincts [such as the Trashichhoe Dzong Precinct, wherein lies the ancient Fortress Monastery] and an Amenities Plan providing social infrastructure. The Urban Corridor provides a channel for disposing sewerage to a bio-digestion farm, allows for a rapid bus system connecting Village Squares to the Urban Core and a path for trunk infrastructure in the future. Public consultations and “on web” transparency were used at the Structure Plan Level.

Participatory Micro-level planning within watershed-defined Urban Villages employing Land Pooling involves all of the local area land owners in a micro-level planning exercise.

Urban Management Systems, including a system of building bye-laws, development rules, project clearance procedures and recent land pooling and urban planning legislation have enriched the plan.

The plan was vociferously opposed by feudal land interests and old guard developers. Yet, as an integral component of the movement toward democracy the framework of the Structure Plan prevailed.

Based on its success nine more Structure Plans, with participatory local area plans have been created in Bhutan.  The World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other donors have been catalyzed by the plan to invest in the capital city’s development.




Built Up Area26.13 Square Kilometers

Site Area26.13 Square Kilometers



DUDES, MoWHS, Royal Government of Bhutan


Prime Contractor



Ramprasad Akkisetti

Design Team

Prof. Christopher Benninger,Uday Bhaskar, Omkar Samudra, Mehul Naik, Rahul Nawale, Rahul Sathe, P.M. Apte, Prof. Ravi Anand