The dzongkhag is concerned about unsustainable harvesting of timber

MB Subba

Numerous applications for operating sawmills in Haa are awaiting approval but the dzongkhag will allow only six new sawmills – two each in the three gewogs of Gakiling, Samar, and Sangbay.

The decision was taken by the Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) which was held on November 20.

The dzongkhag had stopped allowing new sawmills a few years back due to concerns about unsustainable harvesting of timber in the dzongkhag.

The dzongkhag’s DT members hope that the new policy will help regulate sawmills in their dzongkhag.

The dzongkhag has one of the highest numbers sawmills in the country, according to local leaders.

There are today 23 stationary and three mobile sawmills in Haa.

Applicants must fulfill some criteria to acquire a sawmill-operating license.

DT Chairperson Thinley said that the authority had received numerous applications even when the dzongkhag had stopped allowing new sawmills. He said that there were requests made to local leaders to allow new sawmills in the dzongkhag.

He said: “Approving all the applicants will have adverse impact on environment. Despite being a small dzongkhag, we have the highest number of sawmills.”

Haa Dzongdag Kinzang Dorji told the DT that licences would be issued after assessing environmental impact in the area, applicant’s capacity to run the proposed sawmill and the expected benefits to people from the proposed sawmill.

He also said that licences would be issued on a first-come-first-served basis. He said that the government did not issue licences based on personal connections.

Kinzang Dorji said: “We are not the approving authority. We will recommend the proposal to the approving authority if the applicant fulfills the criteria.”

Local leaders expressed concerns about environment degradation in the dzongkhag due to the growing number of sawmills. They also said that locals had complained about sawdust from the sawmills.

According to local leaders, sawmill owners give Nu 25,000 annually as donations to the dzongkhag. The dzongkhag uses the money for plantation of trees among other purposes.

The DT also decided that the dzongkhag would not recommend new sawmill in case of closure of an existing sawmill.