NA: Following a daylong deliberation amid confusion and accusations flying back and forth, the joint sitting of Parliament yesterday decided to endorse the previous boundary map for Paro dzongkhag thromde that the fifth session of Parliament had endorsed.
The new map that the Paro dzongkhag tshogdu endorsed that also includes Jitshiphu was turned down.
Presenting the revised map, works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden recommended that the Parliament stick to the old Paro thromde as altering the boundary that was already endorsed could go against the existing laws.
“As only 10.5 acres of wetland was left out in the revised map that the dzongkhag tshogdu proposed, it appears that the wetland was not the reason for the proposal to change the boundary,” Lyonpo Dorji Choden said. Over 300 acres of wetland was included in the thromde area in the previous map.
As per the recommendation, loss of wetland was a primary reason that led to the review of the thromde boundary. After the review of cultivated wetland in the revised map, the areas of wetland under the thromde remained almost unchanged.
“Only around 12.5 acres of wetland behind Hotel Holiday Home has been left out from the revised thromde map. But with inclusion of two acres of wetland in Bondey, only 10.5 acres of wetland has been removed from the revised thromde area,” stated the recommendation.
The ministry received the revised thromde map from the dzongkhag tshogdu with three major changes like exclusion of places under Hoongrel gewog such as Gaupey, Taa Dzong, Langchuna and Hungrelkha measuring about 100 acres. However, about 177 acres in Bjitsiphu was also included in the new boundary.
The revised plan included Wangchang, Lungyni, Dopshari, Shaba and Tsento against the Parliament’s approved map that included Wangchang, Hoongrel, Lungyni, Dopshari and Shaba.
The revised dzongkhag thromde map in Bondey area from Tseykha near the fuel depot included only the front row of the settlement along the airport road. The settlement towards the Agriculture Machinery Centre on the other side of Bondey zam was also included.
The area approved by the Parliament included major settlements from fuel depot and both sides of the Bondey zam. Approximately 26 acres of developed areas near Bondey zam and two acres of wetland near Bondey zam towards the Agriculture Machinery Centre were excluded.
The dzongkhag tshogdu proposed no changes in the airport, Palace, Tshongdue, Olathang, Geptey, Taju and Khangkhu areas. But an addition of 8.611 acres was included in Nemjo against the Parliament’s approved area between the road and the Pachu.
While major settlements and constructions are mushrooming along the road at Nemjo, Satsham Choeten, Lango and Bjitsiphu, the revised thromde areas has excluded the clustered settlement in between, according to the recommendation. Hence, the rationale and purpose of integrating and catering to the adjoining areas for a holistic planning is defeated.
In Bondey, which has access to municipality services demarcation running through a clustered settlement without any distinct feature was highlighted as another area of concern. This according to the ministry’s recommendations would create confusion and complication in providing services and local administration between the gewog and thromde. The boundary in Nemjo also has been criticised for its arbitrariness.
Therefore, the recommendation from the ministry stated that considering these points, there was no value in revising the thromde delimitation that was being submitted for re-deliberation. “The thromde boundary approved by the Parliament in the fifth session is comprehensive and better suited for planning and administration,” it stated
Further, the Election Commission of Bhutan has completed delimitation of thromde demkhong as per the Election Act, and is preparing for election, reported to take place soon, stated the recommendation.
“The government therefore submits to the Parliament that the boundary endorsed during the fifth session be retained,” Lyonpo Dorji Choden said.
Meanwhile, during the prolonged session some members called for stringent measures to protect the wetland for the country’s long-term food security.
South Thimphu’s representative Yeshey Zimba said, “Lets not change Paro, the outside world identifies our country with its beautiful valley since it is the first and the last place foreigners see when they arrive and leave.”
“Lets not damage our country’s image by destroying Paro’s lush green wetland,” he added.
Lamgong-Wangchang representative Khandu Wangchuk said that the decision to include Wangchang was made amidst insufficient representation of landowners. “But if wetlands were to be included in the thromde, it will be lost forever,” he said.
“Without these wetlands, Paro has no area for thromde and constructions.”
Khandu Wangchuk reiterated that for a country like Bhutan, which has only around eight percent of cultivable land, protection of wetland is crucial for the larger interest of food security, to control rural-urban migration and for the sovereignty of the country.
“For a country where wetland area is scarce, no amount of wetland even if it is one acre would be too little to protect,” Khandu Wangchuk said.
Panbang representative Dorji Wangdi also pointed out that no adequate representations of landowners were made during the public consultation meeting.
“If what I heard is true 43 people of the 73 present at the meeting made the decision to be included in the thromde,” Dorji Wangdi said, adding that the rest around 300 landowners abstained from the meeting as they had already decided to be excluded from the thromde.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho said that the thromde does not necessarily have to be on plains and wetlands. “If the government really wants to plan a thromde, it can also be developed on hillsides like Hoongrel,” (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho said. “Towns can also be developed by protecting and sparing wetlands.”
The revised dzongkhag thromde boundary area as endorsed by the dzongkhag tshogdu stands at 1,323 acres against the 1,357 acres that the Parliament approved in its fifth session. The population in the new boundary, however, increased to 11,200 from 10,250. The area of wetland in the thromde decreased to 277 acres in the revised map from 287.5 acres.