An attempt to build professionalism on road constructions

When Bhutan Logging Corporation was established in 1984, it had the primary responsibility of timber harvesting and plantation.

Even now, these mandates are valid and the network of forest roads play a vital role in terms of providing access to Forests Management Units (FMU) for the extraction of timber, stones, sand etc. It is the single most significant financial investment for the company. The access roads are recognized not only as a key infrastructure for NRDCL operations but have also greatly contributed in improving rural livelihoods by connecting them to the urban centres in many areas.

Over the last three decades, forest access roads has increased drastically and it will only continue to do so, as more and more new FMUs, stone quarries, sand quarries and other diversification activities are taken up in future. As of date, NRDCL has constructed a total of about 610 kms of various types of access road as below:

  1. Forest Access road      : 600.00 kms (including timber depot road),
  2. Stone quarry road        : 6.34 km approximately,
  3. Sand quarry road         : 3.39 km approximately.

Despite the critical importance attached to road network, no uniform practice is prevalent and essence of good road building is gradually diminishing. The sustainable development and construction of access roads in Bhutan is constrained by its topography, harsh terrain, geological conditions etc in addition to far flung locations and lack of sufficient and experienced technical manpower at various levels. Most of the work is contracted out and the rates are varying across different Regions.

In view of the absence of uniform standards and practice across various Regions, the Engineering Section of Operations Division organized a day long brain storming session on departmental road construction by involving nearby Regional Managers, Unit Managers and other concerned officials of NRDCL head office on 8th July 2014. The meeting was chaired by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

The CEO welcomed the participants and urged them to take the new approach seriously based on their experience in the field. The forest roads meant for timber and other resources extraction is considered special as the requirements and designs are different from other forms of roads. It is very important to build and upgrade the engineering capability of our staff by adopting environmental friendly road construction technology in order to remain within the framework of government policy, remarked the CEO. Therefore, the two main objectives behind the departmental execution of forests access road are as follows;

The CEO highlighted on the importance of executing the construction of forest roads departmentally with a view to adopt one uniform system with appropriate guiding principles. After a close review of the existing practices where most of the work is executed through the contractors, the draft modality was discussed and deliberated at great length. The meeting agreed to adopt the three broad models as below;

The meeting discussed on the practical problems faced by the field people and came up with a workable, holistic and practical guideline for the three models above with greater focus on the total departmental and the mix of two models. The day long discussion was aimed at streamlining and strengthening the departmental construction of forests access road.

 metting photo

Participants with the CEO

In conclusion, the CEO reminded the meeting about the importance of capacity building through proper planning and basic designing of many of the activities carried out by the company for the long run sustenance and benefit of the company. Achieving the targets is one thing but doing it differently at minimum cost is another important aspect of a good manager, which everybody needs to be mindful of, cautioned the CEO. One area where NRDCL is hopeful to control cost is the departmental undertaking of expensive activities like roads construction.

The CEO briefly shared the ongoing problems faced by the company in terms of market and the management plans for improvements. He urged the members to be mindful of their huge roles and responsibilities and contribute towards improving the performance of the company. He also highlighted about our important mandate as manager of natural resources in the country and wanted everyone to be extra vigilant, quality conscious and customer focused for the overall achievement of the company’s goals.

The CEO directed in particular the Regional Managers and the filed level people to properly relook at the modalities developed and discussed in the meeting and provide their honest feedback before finalization.