Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

The recent rainfall washed away a portion of Samtse-Phuentsholing highway at Darapani waterfall in Tading, Samtse.

This, several residents of Ngawang Dramtoe, who are commonly known as Lhops said, was caused by surface collection of black stones (boulders) from private lands.

A villager, Sonam Doya, said the surface collection has made soil unstable and heavy rains have washed the debris.

“A landslide was also triggered on the route from to school,” she said, adding that her child was nearly hit by a falling stone. “I didn’t send my child to school for a week.”

Sonam Doya also said landslides damaged electric poles and wires and attributed all damages to the surface collection.

Another villager, Zochu Om Doya, said debris from the road excavation work for the surface collection sites had entered her cornfields.

“Despite requesting the dredging companies, they have not cleared,” she said. “They said they will clean up but they have left and haven’t returned yet.” 

Lhops claimed there are at least three partners involved in the surface collection works.

Kuensel learnt that some business people bought the stones for 10 to 12 Lhop households.

Many Lhops claimed the dredging company had only agreed to pick the stones from the surface and not dig deep.

Tandin Wangmo Doya said she received Nu 65,000 for the stones from her private land.

“But they came to excavate the land,” she said. “I didn’t allow them to do that because they never said they would excavate.”

According to Tandin Wangmo Doya, the dredgers told her they would dig manually. “My sister called me and I rushed to the site and stopped them. I told them I will pelt them with stones if they ever dug my land with machines.”

Lhops said the excavation works posed risks to their lands and could cause landslides in the future. They also said that the water pipes have been dug out of the ground causing a drinking water shortage today.

Except at one point, Nubchey Doya said all the pipes were underground.

“The pipes have been dug outside,” he said.

He said there was another surface collection company before and they gave four rolls of pipes. However, after they left, the problems started.

Villagers of Ngawang Dramtoe also said that a few surface collection companies have tried taking out the stones.

“One is still dredging from an individual’s lands and it also caused pipe damages,” Nubchey said.

In regards to the Darapani waterfall, a taxi driver said that he had never seen such a landslide at that point despite heavy rainfall in the past.

“I also think it is due to the surface collection and excavation works upstream at Ngawang Dramtoe.”

Kuensel found that major excavation works had been carried out for the road, which leads to private lands from where stones were lifted. Some debris from the construction has also entered into private lands. A landslide has also washed the route to the school. It is over the Darapani stream.

However, a new route was initiated a little above the washed land. At one site, where excavation was carried out, a landslide had occurred and the electric (plastic) wire had fallen very close to the ground.

Tading gewog administration had taken up the matter and put a verbal complaint and Samtse dzongdag had asked the Samtse divisional forest office to investigate.

The gewog administration had complained that the surface collection was the probable cause for the damage on the road at Darapani waterfall. A team of forest staff, tshogpa, and a public representative visited the site on June 22.

As per the report, there is no debris from the surface collection areas flowing into the stream. The team observed only the presence of a spring water route located near a house. All the waste from the surface collection works is found within the private lands only.

“After thorough verification in and around the working site, the team further descended from the site and found there are two points of landslides along the stream, approximately 150 metres from the working site and 10 metres from Darapani water source respectively,” the report stated.