Mongar dzongkhag and Narang gewog administrations have asked the people of Narang gewog to stop constructing houses on wetland.
The dzongkhag and gewog officials claim they were not aware of people constructing the houses until the dzongkhag land record officials went to conduct a land survey in the gewog.
The officials found that people of Rolong village, including the gewog mangmi, had constructed two-storied traditional houses on wetland without approval.
The Land Act 2007 prohibits construction on wetland and that people have to seek permission from the National Land Commission before any construction on wetlands.
The other law in place is that if people do not have dry land, they have to first convert the wetland into dry land.
Meanwhile, the gewog mangmi, Kinzang Tshering, said he constructed the house on his land at the beginning of this year after dismantling his parent’s old makeshift hut.
He said he had to construct the house in place of the old hut, as he did not have any house to live in. “I didn’t construct the house to disrespect the gewog and dzongkhag but because I did not have any dry land.”
The mangmi also said he did not realise it was a wetland, as his parents lived in the hut for so long.
He also clarified that most of house owners constructed houses in their land some 10 to 30 years ago. “We constructed the houses not for commercial purposes but for a roof over our heads.”
Another house owner, Choten Dolma, 80, said she constructed the house some 30 to 40 years ago to work in a paddy field, guard the crops and rear cattle.
“There were no complaints until now.”
Narang gup Tandin Wangchuk said that the Mangmi didn’t inform them about the construction and people didn’t raise any issues. “I knew about it only when the dzongkhag officials asked us to investigate.”
He said the gewog office, after an investigation, asked the mangmi and other house owners to stop further construction.
The gup also acknowledged that the mangmi does not own any house and dry land. “He only has 17 decimal of wetland as an inheritance.”
However, the house owners of 31 households of Rolong have appealed to the dzongkhag administration.
The appeal letter states that they are worried after gewog officials asked them to dismantle their houses. “The houses in the wetland are not constructed in recent times.”
The house owners claimed the land was initially dry land in 1968. In 1980, they converted it to wetland and constructed houses after that to stay and work in the fields.
The gewog’s letter to dzongkhag administration stated that people in Rolong received basic amenities like electricity and drinking water.
Tashi Phuntsho | Mongar