Remote areas need more services
poverty exist in Bhutan? As the issue of poverty in Bhutan becomes a more
intensive debate the first study of its kind, a Poverty Assessment and
Analysis, does not define a clear cut poverty line but stresses that there
is much to be done to reach services to many parts of the country.
six-month study by the Planning Commission, with technical assistance from
the Asian Development Bank, covers all the 202 geogs and 22 townships in
Bhutan. It assesses the impact of the policies that the government has
pursued in improving the quality of life of Bhutanese.
taken for poverty study
benchmarks taken for poverty study in Bhutan included household income,
education, health, economic activities, non-materials, physical facilities,
environment, transport, communication, and the position of women.
study revealed that household incomes in Bhutan are "very low". Household
consumption expenditure was taken as a proxy for household incomes.
The average per capita household income of Nu 1,200 per month, about Nu
40 per day, is less than a dollar per person per day on average, says the
report. The average income in urban and rural areas is Nu 2,130 and Nu
990 per month respectively. That is Nu 70 per person per day in urban areas
and Nu 33 per person per day in rural areas. Considering that 79 percent
of the Bhutanese population lives in the rural areas, poverty based on
monetary income is widespread in Bhutan.
most hard hit geogs belong to Trongsa, Gasa, Zhemgang, Trashiyangtse, Pemagatsel,
and Samdrup Jongkhar where the household income is below national average.
Large income differences exist in geogs of Thimphu, Paro, Samtse, Wangdue,
Trongsa, Sarpang, Lhuntse, Trashigang and Mongar.
over the past decade, has invested heavily in education. There are 133
community schools, 121 primary schools, 51 junior high schools, 21 high
schools, seven private schools, 10 institutes, and one college. Even
after all that, basic education is not yet available to everyone, the report
states. Inhabitants living in the remotest parts of the country have no
access to education, although access to basic education is the right of
study says that there is "still some way" to go to achieve the government's
policy of universal primary school enrollment at the end of the Eighth
Five-Year Plan. According to the report, 45 geogs are below the national
average of primary enrollment rate that was 72 percent in 1996. It says
that there is a primary school in 144 out of the 202 geogs and 22 towns.
Around one-third of all geogs do not have a primary school and about one-third
of the country's population live in these geogs. Most of these geogs are
in Pemagatsel, Mongar, Lhuntse, Sarpang, Wangdue, Paro, Samtse, Gasa, and
Tsirang. However, in 2000, more than one-sixth of the population was in
educational institutes and adult literacy has risen from 10 percent in
1970 to 47 percent in 1999.
four hospitals in 1960, today there are 28 hospitals, 149 Basic Health
Units, and over 454 Outreach clinics in the country. By early 1990s, the
estimated basic health coverage was more than 90 percent. However, the
coverage and access to health coverage in remote settlements and scattered
population is absent, the report states.
women make up 50 percent of the total population. Although gender relations
are more equal in Bhutan than in many other South Asian countries, primary
and secondary school enrollment are still lower for girls than for boys.
In secondary school gender disparities are clearly higher and even more
so in the college, the report states. Fifteen geogs located in Tsirang,
Zhemgang, Pemagatsel, and Trashiyantse report large difference between
girls and boys primary school enrollment.
mortality, child malnutrition, and maternal mortality are particularly
high in eastern dzongkhags like Mongar, Lhuntse, Trashiyantse, Pemagatsel,
and Samdrupjongkhar. The main causes of infant mortality and child malnutrition
are inadequate and poor diet, lack of adequate sanitation, hygiene and
clean water supply, the report states. In Bhutan, 63 out of the 224 responding
geogs and towns report food insecurity, and 16 geogs in Thimphu, Wangdue,
Lhuntse, Mongar and Pemagatsel report food insecurity for more than one
month every year.
79 percent of Bhutan's population survives on farming alone. From the approximately
46,000 square kilometers land area, less than 10 percent is arable. Almost
40 percent of all units are less than self-sufficient in cereal production.
These local units make up about one-third of the country's population.
With population growth rate of over three percent and with no scope for
expansion of agriculture land area, the rate of national policy of self-sufficiency
will decline rather than increase in the coming years, says the report.
Gasa and Zhemgang account for the lowest or no economic activities taking
place at all.
strong donor support, huge investments were made in physical and social
infrastructure in the past years. But going by the study, most households
in Thimphu, Sarpang, Trashigang, and Tsirang geogs do not have access to
water supply. The lack of access to toilets or VIDP facilities is concentrated
in Paro and Samtse. Most households in rural areas do not have access to
electricity. The study reveals that only 35 percent of 202 geogs have access
to electricity. The physical facilities like access to piped or protected
water, access to toilets, and availability of electricity is poor in Punakha,
Trashigang, Tsirang, and Samtse, particularly in Lhuntse.
3,700 kilometers of road connect the various parts of the country. Despite
improvements in the expansion of road networks in the country, it is limited
in its coverage, the report states. Taking into account the 79 percent
of the population living in rural areas, access to transport services is
very important. Without rural roads, the remote areas are unable to catch
up with other parts of the country, the report states.
study reveals that one-third of all the geogs are not connected with feeder
roads. In another one-third of all geogs, few parts are connected and in
another one-third geogs, most parts are connected by feeder roads. Called
the tri-junction, most geogs of Mongar, Zhemgang, Pemagatsel, and Samdrup
Jongkhar have little or no access to roads. In these parts, six to seven
days are needed to reach a village.The study reveals that living standards
of people in geogs and villages that have access to roads are far better
off than those that do not have.
progress in the field of communication, the study points out that in about
two-third of all geogs, most households are required to travel for half
a day or more than a day to reach the nearest telephone service point,
and 83 geogs lack a postal agent.
ranking the dzongkhags according to the indicators, Gasa comes out as the
most vulnerable followed by Pemagatsel, Lhuntse and Zhemgang, with Trongsa
and Samdrupjongkhar alternating in fifth and sixth place. The study points
out that the majority of poor are concentrated in the South-Eastern parts
of the country with 53 geogs as the poorest. About 75 percent of the households
of the poorest geogs live in Pemagatsel, Zhemgang, Mongar,
Samdrupjongkhar, and Trashigang.
article was contributed by KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper 2001