NA: Those losing their land to high voltage power transmission lines would be fairly compensated, the Prime Minister informed the National Assembly on December 4 at the question hour.

Discrepancies in compensation for private land have remained a contested issue. The Property Assessment and Valuation Agency rates, which need to be revised after every three years, have not been revised.

An individual sued Bhutan Power Corporation in one instance and won the case. The court ordered the corporation to compensate the individual fairly.

Drujeygang Tseza MP, Karma Dorji asked the Prime Minister how the government could help these individuals to be compensated adequately.

Four households in Geduchu village, Dagana just owning 54 decimals each have lost their land to transmission lines. They were compensated for their houses but are still waiting for land replacement.

Each transmission line pole occupies two to 10 decimal of land. Constructing homes within 50 metres of the poles to right and left is prohibited in the Bhutan Electricity Act.

“Without amending the Land Act 2007, how can the Prime Minister help these people who sacrificed their properties for the good of the nation?” MP Karma Dorji asked.

Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay said the National Land Commission and Bhutan Power Corporation have been working out the compensation rates. The rates would need Cabinet approval before implementation.

“I see no problem in compensating the villagers with higher than the PAVA rates,” the Prime minister said.

Compensation is paid in compliance to Land Act 2007, section 267 at PAVA rates.

“There is no rule restricting the government not to pay more than that,” the Prime Minister said.

The high voltage transmission lines today stretch to 1,102km.

Economic and Private Sector Committee member, Kinga Tshering said, “If the poles are in fields, it would not allow them to cultivate or do anything.”

“In future, many more could be affected if this issue is not resolved,” he said.

A few days ago, the National Council raised similar concerns over compensation to affected households when deliberating the review report on hydropower policies and strategies.

The Economic Affairs Committee reported there are visible instances where Land Act 2007 has been disregarded by implementing agencies.

“The Act and its provisions concerning acquisition of private lands for public and national purposes must be followed strictly,” the Council passed as one of its resolutions to the government.

Tshering Palden