Judiciary: The 29 villagers from Gidawom and Jamdo communities in Thimphu, who took four mining companies to the court over the adverse impacts on their community, health, water, and properties, have emerged victorious.

After the 20-month trial that saw more than half a dozen witnesses and expert summoned and judicial investigations, the court asked RSA Private Limited, Taktshang, and Riverview to compensate the eight houses in Gidawom.

The Thimphu dzongkhag court’s Bench II found the companies guilty of causing cracks on the homes of eight households on July 21 in 2014.

The three companies have to pay Nu 745,530 to the households. Of the eight, the worst affected house will receive Nu 285,981 and the least affected will receive Nu 18,036 for the damage.

The compensation is based on the calculation by the engineering services department of works and human settlement ministry.

However, the compensation has come short of villagers’ demand of Nu 5.1 million.

The verdict points to the need for the companies to adhere to the terms they agreed to earlier but failed to meet them. The villagers have complained that companies were not doing enough for the communities.

The court found two agreements drawn in 2011 and 2013 between the three companies and Nortak mining company and the Gidawom villagers. The former had not fulfilled their terms.

In line with the agreements, the court asked the two companies to prevent wastewater from their units flowing into the irrigation channels of the communities.

The verdict asked Taktshang to construct two more tanks to prevent wastewater from flowing into the irrigation channel. RSA Private Ltd will have to direct their water elsewhere.

“The muddy and waste water from the two units flow in the irrigation channels of farmers,” said the court verdict.

The court gave two months’ time to the companies to blacktop the road from the bridge up to the quarry and mines, including filling of the roadside potholes as agreed between the communities and the companies.

The court also ordered the geology and mines department to assess the damage and rectify them. The National Environment Commission is ordered to ensure minimum air pollution and adherence to the safe limits of blasting at the sites.

On the issue of insufficient and polluted drinking water, the court ordered the health ministry to investigate.

“If the quality and the amount is inadequate, the companies have to provide,” says the verdict. As Jamdo village shares the water source with Gidawom, the companies are asked to provide enough water for both the villages.

The communities have to nominate a water caretaker who will be paid by the companies.

Taktshang quarry owner, Rinzin Dorji, has to “migrate” local deity in to the community lhakhang within two months as the present site is disturbed by mining activities.

The court said that while to avoid the Constitutional rights of the people the agencies should allow mines only after thorough study of its impact on the nearby communities’ health, properties and livelihood after having sought the public clearance legitimately.

The court dismissed the allegations of bribery, illegal public clearance, and that the Riverview quarry illegally expanded from 25 acres to 65 acres.

“While the difference has occurred on paper, the actual operation has not exceeded from the initial allotted area,” the court said.

The parties have 10 working days to appeal the decision to the high court from the day of verdict.

Tshering Palden