For months, the hot mix plant on the banks of Pachhu in Shaba had been an eye sore for farmers, visitors and commuters. Many thought the plant billowing smoke and dust was not appropriate in Paro.
For many, Paro is known for its lush green paddy fields, clean air and the crystal clear Pachhu meandering through the valley. Farmers in Shaba had a different reason. It was affecting their health and crops. They shut it down.
They had to take the matter in their own hands. Their plea to authorities did not work. They felt cheated and were not consulted. It was the right decision.
The issue is not about farmers winning or the proprietor or dzongkhag officials losing. Villagers should be appreciated for fulfilling a duty that is enshrined in the Constitution. The Constitution mandates every Bhutanese to be the trustee of the county’s environment. It is the fundamental duty of every citizen to contribute to the protection of the environment.
The villagers are not environmentalists or conservationists, but when oily sooth lands on the leaves of plants and trees, they know it is not good for their crops. As a developed dzongkhag, people in Paro are perhaps more politically aware. Their responsibility has empowered them to make a good decision.
It is not the first time communities got together to stop projects on environment grounds. Not every one was successful. While people should come together to oppose plans and policies that are benefiting only a few, there is also risk of people misusing this responsibility. One or two disagreeing with the community can hinder plans.
With people becoming more aware of decision-making process, they are not happy when they are not consulted. We are encouraging people to make their own plans and polices for vibrant communities and democracy. When leaders forget to consult the people who elected them, it is a problem. In today’s governance system, there will be different groups who have other priorities that can influence decision-making.
This will not be the last case. As people become more conscious of their living space, there will be more. We are already complaining of noise pollution in urban areas where construction works go late into the night. The machines they use keep the whole area awake.
There are technologies that are environment friendly. It is wise if those in the construction business upgrade theirs so that both their businesses and the community are not affected. It is also time authorities look into this. For instance, if we can’t stop buying new cars, there is no age limit for vehicles. It is not safe for everyone including the environment when emissions from vehicle are already rated as the highest pollutant.
Meanwhile, those villagers who made the issue public or stopped the plant form operating should not be punished. They shouldered a responsibility. They should not be “marked” for complaining to authorities or talking to media. They should be thanked.