Lhakpa Quendren

GELEPHU – Efforts are underway to expedite the process of land replacement and compensation for affected landowners that fall in the line of Gelephu domestic airport expansion.

After the completion of land replacement and compensation projects, of which 80 percent are completed, expansion works are expected to begin soon.

As of now, 141 landowners whose land has been acquired have been provided with substitute land. Substitute land has been allocated to the affected landowners within Samtenling gewog.

The Sarpang Dzongkhag Acquisition and Substitute Land Allotment Committee (DASLAC) conducted the final land allotment session for the remaining 17 landowners on October 26, but only two landowners were present at the meeting.

Sarpang Dzongdag, Lobzang Dorji said that despite repeated announcements, most of the remaining landowners failed to attend the meeting where land substitution was discussed.

The committee previously decided that if landowners failed to attend the final consultation meeting, the remaining land from the identified area would be allocated and registered under their Sathram, as the final and binding decision made by the committee.

However, regarding the absentees and appellants, the committee decided to seek necessary directives from the National Land Commission.

In addition, the committee also directed the Samtenling gewog Administration to trace and contact the 15 remaining landowners to report to the dzongkhag administration for consultations.

Dzongdag Lobzang said that the committee developed guidelines to ensure fair and transparent allocation of substitute land. “In the past, affected landowners were allowed to select their own substitute land, which was perceived as unfair.”

As the substitute land is allocated through a lucky draw process, the committee will not consider the appeals from the 11 landowners who have requested re-allotment due to their dissatisfaction.

Sarpang’s senior land registrar, Yeshey Rangdol, said that the dzongkhag land record section will initiate the online approval process for land substitutes after the current suspension of land transition is lifted.

The committee also endorsed cash compensation for structures—both standard and semi-permanent—fruits, crops, and fodder within the extended airport area. However, a separate team, comprising a member from each of the relevant sectors, will be established to conduct the verification process.

The dzongkhag administration conducted four rounds of consultation meetings with the affected landowners since 2021.

The existing domestic airport spans over 521 acres. The expansion will extend the total area to over 750 acres in Samtenling. The airport has remained silent for about a decade except for the occasional chartered flight.

Despite receiving certification for an international airport upgrade, it will continue to function as a domestic airport even after the expansion.