Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
A private firm, BMML, in Samtse has made a proposal to the dzongkhag administration to set up a ferrosilicon plant at Norbugang (Chengmari).
Although the firm has already received clearance from the gewog, about 42 people have signed a petition against the establishment of the plant.
The petition, addressed to the dzongkhag, has also been submitted to the Cabinet Secretariat, Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA), and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF).
It stated that BMML has proposed to set up the ferrosilicon plant on Daina paddy land, but there has not been sufficient agreement among residents to constitute public clearance. “The company obtained the consent of a few well known people and considered it to be ‘Public Clearance,’ then used that to establish the plant.”
The petition also stated that under no circumstance will the concerned thram holders of the paddy fields accept the clearance signed by only a few individuals.
“We would also like to request that the dzongkhag administration withhold the approval for further processing at the initial stage.”
The petition also highlighted global warming and climate change. It noted that these types of ferrosilicon plants will degrade the soil quality, which will result in loss of soil fertility.
“Should the ferrosilicon industry be established within the vicinity of the wetlands, there will be future negative implications for agricultural products.”
“The organic products grown by the nearby community will be contaminated by the chemicals produced by the factory,” the letter said, adding that it would also pollute the environment.
“We know the smoke released by this particular industry is a health hazard.”
A farmer told Kuensel he had no idea how the gewog issued the public clearance.
“Only people from below the highway were called to attend the clearance meeting,” he said, adding that the plant will impact those residing above the road as well.
“Only a few residents were called.”
The farmer said that if a ferrosilicon plant is established in Norbugang, the agricultural productivity, which is vibrant at present, will be ruined.
“Today, we are able to sell organic vegetables to Gomtu. With the plant, we will have to buy vegetables in the future,” he said.
He said the paddy fields are golden with healthy paddy plants right now.
“The industrialists must go and establish their plant in other places where the government has planned for such ferrosilicon plants.”
Local residents claimed only 10 to 15 people attended the clearance meeting.
“I was also there, but I didn’t sign for approval,” a villager said. “They said there won’t be any pollution. But how can a ferrosilicon plant not pollute?”
Samtse dzongdag Pasang Dorji said the dzongkhag has received the complaint signed by a few people.
“We will review the case. The project is in the review phase and is not yet approved.”
A representative of BMML in Samtse said that the project is in the initial stages.
“There are many other agencies we have to visit. We have to get environmental clearance too. There are experts to look into all of these factors, and if they find that the plant will have an adverse impact, they will not give us the clearance,” he said.
The representative said they followed procedures under the purview of the law. “There was nothing illegally done.”
He also said that there are certain laws that guide the approval of the establishment of these types of plants.
“We have to consult people within a certain area. We made a presentation and everyone signed the approval. We have submitted that clearance to the dzongkhag. We also took the letter of intent from the MoEA.”
He also said that they are planning to lease government land in the Daina area near the border.
“If the project is approved, more than Nu 900 million (M) will be invested.”
According to the representative, those who have approved for the gewog clearance demanded employment, and they had agreed to it.
He claimed there are advanced pollution control technologies these days.
“If we have to get approval from everyone, such projects will never materialise.”
Meanwhile, there are people who support the plant establishment.
A businessman, Dipen, said having a ferrosilicon factory is important. He said there are several such plants in Pasakha.
“It will give us employment opportunities. Many are jobless.”
Edited by Tashi Dema