Phub Dem | Haa

Haa Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) passed a resolution to lift the restriction on the number of sawmills in the dzongkhag yesterday.

At the heart of the decision is to provide equal opportunities for all.

Haa DT had stopped issuing the permit to new sawmills due to concerns about unsustainable harvesting of timber years ago.

Haa, according to local leaders, has the highest number of sawmills in the country.

Last year, Haa DT resolved to allow six more sawmills—two each in the three gewogs of Gakiling, Samar, and Sombaykha.

The decision came after numerous applications that are awaiting approval.  And the existing sawmills are concentrated in the upper four gewogs. There are 24 sawmills in the dzongkhag.

Following the DT resolution, Haa dzongdag Kinzang Dorji said that many interested applicants turned up. For instance, Samar gewog received 70 applicants, and he said that it was difficult to select two.

Among the 24 registered sawmills, he said that a few of them had more than one license which was rented out.

He said that there was a need to cancel the “duplicate licence” and give permits to those willing to operate the business. “Every individual should have an equal right to take part in such economic opportunities.”

The restriction, he said, was set to address illegal harvesting of timber. But he said that there were laws to manage such activities. “It is like the existing ones are clean and the new ones will be involved in illegal business.”

Having lifted the restriction, he said that the dzongkhag and forest officials would give permit only after proper study. “The licence will be issued after assessing environmental impact in the area, applicant’s capacity and the expected benefits to people, among others.”

DT chairperson Thinley, said that it was unfair to allow only the established sawmills to deprive others of the opportunity. “If the sawmill owners abide by the ceiling set by the act and regulations, there won’t be an issue.”

Eusu Gup Nima Tshering said that it was unfair to restrict and to allow monopoly.

An official from Jigme Khesar Strict Nature Reserve said that the restriction on the new license was imposed because of incidents of people selling their timber permit to sawmills.