Industry: A grievance redress mechanism will be established to receive and facilitate the resolution of concerns, complaints and grievances of affected people and relevant agencies on the social and environmental performance of the proposed Pasakha Dry Port project.

This has been highlighted in a draft Social Impact Assessment (SIA) released recently by the economic affairs ministry.

According to the assessment report, all land acquisition and resettlement process of the displaced persons must be completed before the start of the civil works. All land is to be provided free of encumbrances.

Implementation of the project will displace a number of families. Displaced persons from the affected households have to be given sufficient notice prior to start of civil works.

The government with assistance from the World Bank initiated the study for a proposal for development of a Dry Port at Pasakha in the neighborhood of Phuentsholing. The dry port is expected to dovetail logistical benefits with facilitation of customs procedures, it is also expected to decongest cargo traffic at the Jaigaon-Pheuntsholing gate.

The proposed dry port site is located at Pasakha (largest industrial area in Bhutan), and is within 1km from the Bhutan-India border. The dry port will be developed in an area of 15 acres, which is about 20km from Phuentsholing gate.

“We have observed that the proposed dry port is in a strategic location to cater to the needs of Pasakha industrial area and also the trade requirements of northern and interior parts of Bhutan,” states the report.

The construction of an approach road of 271m will lead to land acquisition resulting in physical and economic displacement of people and loss of access to the land that provides for economic resources. The construction of the approach road will entail acquisition of private land of area of 27,443 sq ft.

Private land acquisition will lead to resettlement of five land parcels out of which three land parcels have structures. The assessment report takes into account their land, structures as well as livelihood.

As a result of the proposed activities for Pasakha Dry Port construction, the impacts on human population or social impacts can broadly be categorised as acquisition of the private land and loss of structures, which are currently being used for both residential and commercial purpose. The majority of the approach road falls under governmental land.

However, there are three parcels of land that are registered under private titled holders. Out of these three private parcels, only one parcel of land has a built-up structure on it, the remaining two parcels are barren lands and free of any encumbrance.

Other than these land parcels, there is no tree or crop losses, or loss of common infrastructure across the 15 acres of proposed project development area and also the proposed approach road.

The reference for legal framework and principles adopted for addressing resettlement issues rely on the existing legislation and policies specifically the Land Act of Bhutan amended in 2007 and Land Compensation Rates 2009 (PAVA), the Thromde Act of 2007 as well as BSR rates of 2005.

“If the family losing land becomes endangered, the government will compensate that family the cost of the land in cash and as well as substitute land. In the case of landless people, the land can be allotted free of cost by the Government as a Kidu,” states the report.

MB Subba