Trashigang dzongkhag administration on May 5 notified 22 house owners to either dismantle or shift the structures they constructed illegally along the Trashigang-Yonphula highway within two months.
The notice stated that failure to comply would force the dzongkhag administration to forward the case to court for further action.
The 22 structures were deemed illegal after the structures failed to meet the road right of way requirements when a team comprising of representatives from the dzongkhag, Department of Roads (DoR), forestry and municipality conducted a joint inspection.
The road right of way requires any structures to maintain a space of 50 feet on either side of the highway.
Of the 22 structures that were found to be illegally constructed, 10 were built on state land and also did not meet the 50 feet space requirement. The others did not meet the road right of way requirement.
The structures, both permanent and temporary were built on state land and the dzongkhag administration has asked owners to demolish it completely.
A majority of the structures were makeshift constructions functioning as grocery and pan shops along the road.
The dzongkhag land registrar, Sangay Zangmo, said that despite repeated notification the dzongkhag issued to the owners, they failed to comply with the regulations. “This is the third and final notice that we would be sending to them.”
During the inspection, it was learned that the approval to construct the structures came from Kanglung gup Kinzang Dorji.
One of the owners, Leki Wangmo, said that on the approval of the gup, she shifted her grocery shop since the previous stall was close to the road. “The gup gave us the approval to construct the shop on his land. We were told that it would be okay to have the shop built on the current location.”
A resident in Rongthong, Tashi Wangdi, whose house is built some 32 feet below the road said, “The gup informed me that maintaining a distance of 30 feet below the road should be fine. Constructions above the road should have 50 feet distance from the road.”
The single storied house was constructed some six years ago. “I was not aware of such rule. Shifting the house now would be difficult,” he said.
However, DoR officials said they informed the people that it is mandatory to maintain a 50 feet space between the road and the structure.
Chimi Wangmo runs a grocery shop at a temporary shed that was initially constructed to sell local produce in Rongthong. “Because nobody used the facility for almost a year, the space was lying idle so I requested the gup if I could use it to sell groceries.”
“I’ve three children to look after. I don’t know how we will survive if I close this small shop,” said another owner. “This is the only source of income for the family.”
Dzongkhag officials said that the gewog administration can approve construction requests in consultation with the dzongkhag administration for clearance and demarcation works.
No consultation was done with the dzongkhag administration in approving the proposal of the 22 constructions.
It was also learned that the gewog office has collected money from some owners for operating businesses like restaurants and grocery shops.
Gup Kinzang Dorji said that he provided the approvals so that it would benefit the local people. “Since most of them requested to make use of the unused vegetable shed, I thought the resources would be put to a better use than leaving it idle.”
He said that the approvals he provided were only for temporary sheds. “It is clearly mentioned in the letters that no permanent structures could be built since it was state land,” he said. “And it would be removed if the government finds it inappropriate.”
He added that the money the gewog office collected from some of the owners was to deter the owners from claiming the state land in the future. “The money collected is also deposited directly into the gewog CD account.”
Trashigang dzongdag, Chekey Gyeltshen, said that the dzongkhag administration would henceforth have the sole authority to approve construction requests even at the gewog level.
Younten Tshedup | Kanglung