Owner claims he obtained “temporary approval” to use Govt. land for an archery ground

Disagreement: Locals in Thedtsho gewog of Wangdue suspect a discrepancy in the system for the government’s inability to close the archery range below Bajothangu village in the gewog.

Locals in the village say that the archery range was built by encroaching on State Reserve Forest (SRF) land.

Following a notice from the National Land Commission (NLC) in 2014, forestry officials in Wangdue have begun dismantling all structures built illegally on government land.

To the dismay of the people of Thedtsho, structures on the archery range were not dismantled. Tshering Dendup, who runs a canteen in a temporary structure within the area, says he has obtained a “temporary approval” from authorities to use the land.

The archery range is located a few minutes’ drive from Bajo town, and is surrounded by a fence.

No individual can build structures or use government land without obtaining a permit from the NLC, according to officials.

Dzongkhag officials told Kuensel that a person wishing to acquire SRF land on lease must first write to the Dzongkhag Land Leasing Committee (DLLC). If the committee is satisfied with the feasibility report, it will forward the proposal to the NLC with the relevant documents for approval.

Except for the NLC, officials said no agencies have the right to issue a government land on lease. Officials in the gewog can only provide their views and issue public clearance.

Dzongkhag officials said they have neither leased out the land nor processed any documents related to the land.

Chief Forestry Officer Kencho Drukpa said the forestry division in Wangdue had issued several notifications asking the operator of the archery range to vacate the place and close the canteen. The owner of the canteen claims the forestry department in Thimphu has granted a “temporary approval” to use the land.

There is a plan to plant bamboo in the area with financial support from the Punatsangchhu hydropower project authority. The canteen owner says that there is a mutual understanding between the forestry department and himself to vacate the place when the plantation starts.

Kencho Drukpa added his department will soon issue another notice to vacate the area and that the department will soon start planting bamboo in the area.

Tshering Dendup said the village had an archery range in Bajothangu village but it was destroyed by a road project that cut through the village. Locals then requested the gewog office for a replacement archery range at the present location.

Tshering Dendup said he wanted the land on lease, but his request was turned down. He claims that he sought approval after he was asked to vacate the place.

Meanwhile, sources claim that Tshering Dendup rents out the archery range and pays a certain percentage of the earnings to the gewog office. Tshering Dendup denied the claim.

“The ground is being used by the general public and benefits archery enthusiasts,” he said.

The land has been used for three years.

Dawa Gyelmo | Wangdue