A team from the land commission is expected to inspect such activities soon

Land: Shongphu gewog administration’s repeated reminders to stop constructions on the wetlands of Chongthi and Buna in Trashigang have gone unheeded.

Shongphu gup, Kinzang Wangdi had again raised the issue recently at the annual gups conference and said that people remain adamant despite their reminders.  “Only one household approached the gewog but the national land commission didn’t permit the construction.”

He said the villagers were also asked to put up applications to convert their wetlands into dry lands. However, the gewog received no such applications.

“Instead, we are seeing new houses coming up and hearing about more people wanting to do the same,” he said. “After carrying out inspections in 2012, we forwarded the issue to higher authorities but things are far from improving.”

The gewog agriculture extension office has inspected thrice since 2009. The issue was also deliberated in one of the dzongkhag tshogdus (DT) in 2012. A team from the dzongkhag administration also inspected the areas and found about 26 illegal huts and nine illegal permanent structures. Today, there are 10 permanent structures.

Back then the dzongkhag land record officer had raised the matter with the agriculture ministry. However, the issue remains to be settled.

Trashigang DT chairman, Kinzang Dorji, said local leaders couldn’t do much to stop such practices. When the gewog administration denies any application, he said, people somehow managed to carryout constructions after talking with some higher authorities.

“The secretary of NLC informed us during the conference that a team would be sent to carry out inspections,” he said. “Though the practice is rampant in Shongphu, almost every gewog in Trashigang are seeing similar cases.”

Land Record Officer (LRO) Gyembo said that the land act of 2007 prohibits construction on wetland and that permission has to be sought from the NLC before constructing on wetlands.

“Otherwise, people without any dry land can also go for land conversion that is handled by the department of agriculture,” he said.

Shongphu agriculture extension supervisor, Tshering Penjor, said there are possibilities for villagers to convert their land into dry land.

“But we need to see the potential of their wetlands for paddy cultivation and if the areas have irrigation,” he said. “Two landowners from Chongthi and Buna have already converted their wetlands.”

Meanwhile, the house owners in Chongthi said they had no other choice but to carryout constructions on the wetlands. One of the owners, under anonymity, said he was not allowed to construct a house in his dry land because it fell within 50 feet from the road.

“I had to live with four children in a hut for quite sometime and because others were constructing houses on wetlands, I decided to go for it as well,” he said.

Elders of Chongthi village said constructions started coming up in the early 2000s, following the construction of Rangjung lower secondary school. “Otherwise, the whole of Chongthi, which is more than 30 acres, was all paddy fields,” a 57-year-old Dorji Nidup said.

Should no action be taken by relevant agencies, Shongphu gup said the agriculture wetlands in the gewog would drastically reduce. On the other hand, Gamrichu has already washed significant portions of the paddy fields in Buna area.

Tshering Wangdi, Trashigang