Phub Dem | Paro

Four years since local leaders implemented the Paro Valley Development Plan (PVDP), the guiding framework for Paro’s development and land use for 20 years, local leaders have been discussing it in every dzongkhag tshogdu (DT).

This, according to the local leaders is because the plan supposed to preserve the cultural landscape, topography, surface hydrology, natural environment and existing settlement pattern has some practical issues.

Local leaders said the plan is confusing and not applicable.

Last year, Paro DT passed a resolution to request the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement to review the development plan.

Following this, the ministry froze construction and conversion of wetland to dry and residential land in the dzongkhag.

The temporary restriction has affected the locals and left many disappointed.

According to Lamgong gup Gem Tshering, documents from people who wanted to convert wet to dryland was forwarded to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forest, but only an individual from Tsento got approval.

He said that the ministry did not provide any clarification for not approving the conversion. “We are planning to send the application again.”

Gem Tshering said that according to the PVDP, Lamgong should accommodate only residential houses, but landowners wanted to explore other facilities such as futsal grounds and workshops.

He said that while Lamgong has an ideal location for automobile workshops, dzongkhag could not relocate it due to the plan. “On the other hand, the dzongkhag is still in search of an ideal place for workshop relocation.”

He also said the plan had kept provision for a buffer zone even for a small stream along the field, restricting people from construction.

Doteng gewog, which was partially included in the PVDP earlier, was removed during the revision.

Although Doteng gewog doesn’t fall in the PVDP, he said that locals had to bear the brunt of the plan revision, such as delaying the land conversion, which has affected many people.

He said that if the government could consider studying the ground reality and plan accordingly, it would address many inconveniences. “There is a need for a clear and specific directive when imposing a restriction.”

DT chairperson Tshering Dorji said that a team from the ministry reviewed the plan making some required changes as per the DT’s resolution.

However, he said that it was doubtful if the review document could solve the problem and benefit the locals. “The team agreed to discuss the issue with the ministry and respond. We are waiting for a positive change.”

The planning boundary extends from Shaba gewog to Tsento gewog but Tshering Dorji said  people wanted to keep a buffer for road widening starting Chuzom. “People want to preserve wetlands if they get land replacements, maintain the architectural design of traditional houses, and allow the development of towns along highways and maintaining buffers along lhakhang and other religious structures.”

He said that many unrealistic provisions in the mapping show a lack of consultation with local people while developing the development plan.

“As per the plan, Paro will have 35,000 population by 2030, but the existing floating population in Paro is 55,000, “ he said.

Considering the boom in population a decade from now, Tshering Dorji said that the plan should provide alternative road connections and other facilities. “We requested for a comprehensive review of the developmental plan to avoid inconveniences and restriction during the development process.”