With Thimphu getting crowded and the city expanding both towards north and south, planners decided to prepare a local area plan for Kabesa, in north Thimphu.
It was a decade ago when the idea was conceived. Yesterday, at the Thimphu dzongkhag tshodgu, representatives of Kawang gewog where Kabesa is located, was questioning the progress.
According to Kawang Gup, Thukten Wangchuk, the issue were raised during previous dzongkhag tshogdus but nothing has been decided so far.
“Since the plan was announced, people had gathered materials like timber and saved money for the construction of buildings. People are still waiting,” he said. “The timber is not even good to be used as firewood.”
The gup questioned the progress of the plan.
The dzongkhag administration in the capital city, often overshadowed by the Thromde, has approached three decision-making agencies, Ministry of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS), Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) and National Land Commission Secretariat to address issues with regard to Kabesa town planning.
The main issue was regarding the conversion of wetland to dry land where people could develop their land into commercial space. Given its proximity to the city and the pressure on housing, Kabesa landowners want to construct buildings and rent out.
Dzongdag Dorji Tshering, at the tshogdu yesterday, said that the meeting held among three agencies on April 15 has decided to conduct proper research on the possibility and impact of land conversion from wet to dry in the gewog.
“Accordingly, they will again meet in June to further discuss and we expect to receive a directive by July,” he said.
Gup Thukten Wangchuk said that it would be convenient if people are allowed to convert inherited or purchased land to dry land considering the yield and income from wetland.
There is a problem.
To preserve wetland in the country, the Land Commission restricts people from converting their wetland to dry land randomly.
Section 167 of the Land Act, on Conversion of Chhuzhing (wetland) as residential land states, “A landowner with only inherited Chhuzhing in his Thram may apply for 50 decimals in rural areas from such Chhuzhing to the Local Authority in a format prescribed by the Ministry of Agriculture. The application shall state the location and name of land, total area, and the intended year of conversion.”
Supporting the Kawang gup, the Mewang gup (south Thimphu) said that planning a town in Kawang gewog would be impossible if wetland is not converted to dry land. “About 60 percent of its total land in the gewog is wetland,” he said.
The tshogdu’s Thrizin, Dagala gup, Gado recommended starting a plan on the existing dry land rather than pushing for conversion of land. “If the gewog again propose for conversion like in the past, it would be impossible to implement the plan as the law doesn’t allow conversion,” he said.
According to Dzongdag Dorji Tshering, the former works and human settlement secretary considered to support the conversion, considering that agricultural land in the areas do not contribute much to the residents’ economy. “Similarly, the present secretary, Chencho Dorji has also considered,” he said.
“With this, we are hopeful that converting into dry land might become possible,” he said. “The time has come to take proper decision on the issue. We should know by July this year.”
In 2014, the works and human settlement ministry even announced the need for consultancy services for the preparation of structure plan and a local plan for Kabesa town.