Transportation and Communications
Figure 16. Bhutan: Transportation System, 1988
Source: Based on information from Bhutan, Survey of Bhutan,
Bhutan: Administrative Map, Thimphu, 1988.
Until 1961, because of the lack of paved roads, travel
Bhutan was by foot or on muleback or horseback. The
trek from the Indian border to Thimphu took six days.
construction began in earnest during the First
(1961-66). The first paved road 175-kilometers-long was
in 1962 (a branch road later linked Paro with the
PhuntsholingThimphu road). Described as a jeep track, it linked
Phuntsholing with Jaigaon, West Bengal. The travel time by
vehicle from the border to Thimphu had shrunk to six
30,000 Indian and Nepalese laborers were imported to build
with Indian aid at a time when India was bolstering its
defense against a possible Chinese invasion. Bhutanese
obliged to donate labor for the construction work. Another
connecting Tashigang with Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, also
By the mid-1970s, about 1,500 kilometers of roads had
built, largely by manual labor. There was a linked network
kilometers of roads in 1989; at least 1,761 kilometers of
were paved with asphalt, and 1,393 kilometers were
fig. 16). Despite the construction
surfaced roads linking the principal towns in the south,
mountainous terrain elsewhere makes travel even from one
the next quite difficult. Most roads run in river valleys.
of the Sixth Development Plan, the Department of Public
cooperation with the Indian Border Roads Organization,
to construct and upgrade 1,000 kilometers of roads and to
the road network through the five major river valleys by
Motorable roads were not the only important development.
estimated as part of the Fifth Development Plan that
needed some 2,500 kilometers of mule tracks to connect the
A mountainous country with numerous watersheds, Bhutan
numerous bridges. Built as part of the road modernization
most were of reinforced or prestressed concrete for
and of modular, prefabricated timber on secondary roads.
footbridges joined paths across precipices and waterways.
Nationwide, some 6,910 vehicles were registered in
including 1,235 private automobiles, 250 taxis, 118 buses,
four-wheel-drive vehicles, and 1,249 trucks. The most
form of transportation was motorcycles and scooters, with
2,882 registered in 1988. Diplomatic offices registered
of transportation vehicles. Most vehicles were of Indian,
and European manufacture. The Bhutan Government Transport
operated a fleet of buses nationwide and provided minibus
twice a day between Thimphu and Phuntsholing. A subsidiary
Royal Insurance Corporation, the Transport Corporation of
also ran bus service between Phuntsholing and Calcutta. In
the government bus service carried 1.2 million passengers.
in 1985, private companies operated some bus routes. The
availability of transportation increased opportunities for
Bhutanese citizens to travel within their country and
was no railroad system.
Although Bhutan had no railroads, a small monorail
inaugurated in Paro in 1990. It was used to haul produce
Data as of September 1991