The move drew sharp responses from the six eastern dzongkhags

Clearance: Beginning July, the National Environment Commission (NEC) will start charging an application fee of Nu 500, along with a processing fee, which would depend on the nature of the work, for environmental clearances (EC).

For instance, the processing fee for construction of any type of road would be two Ngultrums for every metre.  For small, medium and large cottage industries, the fees charged would be Nu 2,000, Nu 30,000 and Nu 50,000 respectively.

Any urban activity would be charged a processing fee of Nu 1,000 and Nu 1,000 per megawatt, in case of hydropower.  Similarly, mines and quarries, forest management unit, EC renewals and power lines among others would also be levied fees.

The fees are introduced to regulate the costs of administering the Environment Assessment Act.  Section 35.3 of the Act, empowers the NEC to issue regulation and guidelines on fee schedules.

NEC secretary,  (Dr) Ugyen Tshewang, said the fee schedule would cover the operating costs involved in reviewing and assessing EC applications.

“To assess applications, we need to travel extensively and, to carry out studies, we need to recruit experts, and the associated costs are high,” he said.

During a dialogue on assessment of projects of EC between NEC and the six eastern dzongkhags on April 20, the discussion mostly revolved around the need to reduce or waive off fees for constructions of houses in the rural pockets.

Trashiyangtse’s dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) chairman, Cheku, said the fees would only add onto the burden of the rural folks.

“Villagers would have to pay Nu 500 and the additional fee even if they are to construct a small house,” he said. “Many wouldn’t be in a position to pay.”

Trashigang’s DT chairman, Kinzang Dorji said it was not mentioned clearly in the fee schedules where the rural activities would fall and what processing fees would be levied on them.

“Should it fall on the ‘others’ category, we’d be paying Nu 2,000 as processing fees which is ironically higher than the ones charge for urban activities,” he said.

Pemagatshel dzongdag, Tshering Kezang, suggested if the processing fees could be restructured. “Maybe if NEC can re-look into the fee structure and reduce the amount for some categories and make it up by increasing in other categories,” he said.

Trashigang dzongdag, Lungten Dorji, said that there was also a need for the participants to understand how the fee structure was reached.  Trashiyangtse dzongdag, Sangay Duba, added that the fee system would have a negative impact on the growth of small and medium cottage industries.

Mongar dzongdag, Sherab Tenzin shared his concerns that introduction of the fee system by NEC would be followed by other agencies in future.

“There’s a need to look at it from an overall context and see whether it falls in line with government policies,” he said.

It was resolved that NEC would consider the issues raised and work out a way on fees pertaining to constructions of houses in rural areas.

By Tshering Wangdi, Trashigang