While four land owners cry foul over compensation

PHPA II: Kinley Dorji, 54, has been living in a single storied structure at Kamichu market along the Tsirang-Wangdue highway for more than 23 years.  The structure is all that the family owns.

But as the year ends, the single father of two is worried. His structure, which was constructed on government land, would soon be dismantled.

A week ago the gewog had issued him a final notification to vacate the land by December 31. He was among the seven residents of Kamichu who according to the local government were illegal occupants.

The notification was issued as per the Land Act, which states that construction or occupying of any land irrespective of government or others is not allowed, if it does not belong to the occupant.

One of the occupants is 44-year old Sangay Choden. She runs a small shop at Kamichu market and has lived there for more than 24 years. “I am worried; this shop is our only source of income, which has helped me raise my children.”

Kinley Dorji said he has nowhere to go and owns no land. “I can’t even work.” Kinley suffered a major burn on his body few years ago while working at a hotel in Punakha.

Daga gewog’s administration officer Desang said they have been issuing several notifications since last year as per the land commission’s instruction but none of the occupants have complied with it.

This time he said the gewog has notified all residents, both illegal occupants and thram-holders to vacate the area by December 31, since the land would be used by Punatsangchu hydropower project Authority-II for the construction of a substation.

Desang said there are seven illegal occupants and seven thram holders, and a forestry office. PHPA has designated land substitutes for the forestry office and thram holders from an area that is located opposite Kamichu market.

While three of the seven thram-holders have accepted PHPA’s compensation and also taken land substitutes, the rest have refused. The three thram-holders who have accepted the compensation run shops in Kamichu while the other four do not have houses but owns land.

Wangchuk, a former gup is one of the landholders who have refused the compensation. He said he owns 13 decimal of land at Rurichu prior to PHPA construction. “When project construction started, my land was taken for PHPA-I and a substitute was given from Kamichu. We were told the Kamichu area would remain undisturbed by project activities back then,” he said.

He said they were given land substitutes in 2011 following which he has collected timber to construct house. But they were notified to stop the construction. “We were told they need that land for PHPA-II and would issue land substitute from other place,” he said. “Six years has passed and only few months ago I was called to the project office and asked to accept the compensation and land substitute.”

Dawa Gyelmo, Wangdue