To ensure that people take the ownership of not only the plans but also implementation of development plans, the revised Land Pooling and Readjustments Regulations 2018 provides a provision for landowners to be involved right from the preparatory stage to the implementation of planning.

Works and human settlement ministry’s chief urban planner, Tashi Penjor, said this aspect was not clear in the earlier land pooling rules and regulations 2009.

“Chapter two of the regulation states that the landowners would be required to be involved from feasibility study of the plan and attend the public hearing, which didn’t take place earlier,” Tashi Penjor said. “This would ensure people’s participation where they could write or express issues against the plan but if two third of the plot owners agree, the plan would be considered endorsed.”

Section nine of the regulation state that if a local government undertakes a feasibility study, it should encourage active public participation in the preparation of the study and conduct at least one public consultation meeting.

Section 13 also states that after a feasibility study has been conducted, the local government can give public notice of the proposed declaration of a land-pooling scheme based on the feasibility study.

Tashi Penjor said this would mean people are part of land pooling process.

‘We’re here to plan and provide services to people through land pooling; we are not here to impose that it is compulsory to have land pooling,” he said. “Land pooling doesn’t necessarily mean that the government is taking away the land. It means that people are contributing land for development in the area.”

Tashi Penjor said that the ministry decided to amend the Land Pooling Regulations after it found that the 2009 regulation was either irrelevant or had become redundant over years with many developments taking place.

The revised regulation also has a provision where a land-pooling scheme may provide for plots, known as reserve plots, created through contribution by private landowners for the purpose of sale to generate funds.

“This means people can contribute maybe a small plot of land contributing towards development and take ownership. Currently all the activities are taken up by the government’s budget but if there is a reserve plot then we can auction and raise the money to develop infrastructure,” Tashi Penjor said.

The local government may retain a reserve plot temporarily after consultation with landowners in the area and use a reserve plot for public purposes.

Tashi Penjor said the revised regulation also covers differential pooling, which means that henceforth, land would be pooled based on the size and location of the land.

He explained that earlier, irrespective of the location and size of the land, every landowner would have to contribute the same size for land pooling, which was unfair.

“If the land is big then an owner gets to construct a five storied building but even after contributing the same size of land, another owner gets approval for only two floors because his land is small.”

The ministry has also revised the Bhutan Building Rules 2002 (BBR 2002) to Bhutan Building Regulations 2018 and integrated the provisions of both BBR 2002 and rural construction rules in one document.

The revised regulation also covers both rural and urban areas unlike in the past when rural areas were regulated by Rural Construction Rules 2013 (RCR 2013).

Tashin Penjor said that the main objective is to promote safe building construction and a healthy living environment in both urban and rural areas. These documents were launched during the engineer conference in Mongar earlier this month.

Yangchen C Rinzin