Requests for a joint investigation and an Environment Impact Assessment 

Almost a month after the Sarpang Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) resolved to deny approval to a private individual proposing to set up a stone (quartzite) quarry in Pharkey, Dekiling gewog, the applicant has appealed to the Prime Minister.

In his appeal letter, the proponent Kinley Wangdi said that it has been 11 years since he first proposed the Department of Geology and Mines (DGM) to set up a stone quarry.

The proposal was found feasible by DGM following a public clearing he had sought promising to built a bridge and road, the appeal states. Two years later the department had written to the dzongkhag administration and the dzongkhag discussed the issue at the 87th DT, which resolved to allow the stone quarry. But works could not begin as the Chudzom farm road was being constructed.

Seven years later in 2015 Kinley Wangdi said, he received a conveying letter from the director general of department of forest and park services (DoFPS) to the chief dzongkhag forest officer for approval to lease the state land to set up the quarry.

Later in October, the director general of DGM had informed the dzongkhag administration that an environmental impact should be done during the Environment Impact Assessment study by relevant agency.

The proponent was advised to seek community clearance from villagers of Ratey village that consists of 17 households. It is about eight kilometers away from the gewog center.

“This assessment never happened,” he said. “The dzongkhag instead disapproved the proposal even before the environment assessment was done.”

Kinley Wangdi accused the dzongkhag tshogdu for undermining basic procedure and for not honoring the approval of a higher authority.

Prior to the disapproval, not convinced with the community clearance Kinley Wangdi had sought, a committee comprising nine gups was formed during the 2nd DT to study the pros and cons of quartzite mining. An environment officer accompanied the committee.

The proposal was disapproved following the committee’s field assessment that found the mining would cause more damage than good. It was found that in the long run, the mining would cause damage to settlement downstream. There is a crocodile farm; Royal Bhutan Police training center, Jigme Wangchuck Power Training Institute, water sources and Ratey village itself that are at threat.

Kinley Wangdi said that it was a committee of gups who are not experts in studying technicality of a mining site. “Moreover they studied a wrong site and I was never consulted,” he said.

In the appeal to the Prime Minister, he has requested to order a joint investigation and Environment Impact Assessment Study by concerned Agency and Cabinet representatives to ensure that the matter is resolved in the right perspective.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang