The 14 plot owners are willing to take the risk and start constructions if they are not compensated at market rates or given land substitutes 

Land: After 14 plots under Trashigang Township were declared as red zone in 2013, the disgruntled plot owners are crying foul over the procedures involved in the classification.

All plots fall along the steep slopes of Melphey with 10 plots situated directly above Methidrang town. While two plots are near the water tank area, the other two plots lie near the drainage outlet.

Plot owners said it was only after the Local Area Plan (LAP) for Melphey was finalised that they opted to purchase about 10 decimals each.

One of the owners, Kinzang Wangchuk said that land pooling and demarcation of plots were completed. Thrams were also distributed and about three plot owners had started excavation works.

“When construction approvals were sought, the municipal authority said our plots fell in the red zone,” he said. “Where was the red zone when the LAP was on going? None of us were also informed when studies were being carried out.”

Municipal engineer, Pema Dechen clarified that plot owners were first allowed to go for single storied constructions according to the LAP.

“However, a geo-technical study carried out by the works and human settlement ministry later found out that these areas were not stable and vulnerable to natural hazards,” she said. “It also posed risks to the town below.”

These areas were marked as red zones and further declared as green zones, she said.  The plot owners put up a petition to the dzongkhag administration asking for either land substitution or compensation at the prevailing market rate.

A red zone is a high-risk area that is vulnerable to natural hazards and geologically unstable for any developmental activities. A green zone is an area where constructions are not allowed and the landscape should be left undisturbed.

Soon after, a letter from the National Land Commission stated that plot owners wouldn’t be eligible for land substitutions given that the land fell inside the green zone. Compensation, the commission stated, would be provided at the PAVA rate.

“The government’s compensation rate is unacceptable because we purchased the plots at market prices. I paid about Nu 0.6M for my 10 decimal plot,” Kinzang Wangchuk said. “Otherwise, we are willing to bear the risks and go for constructions.”

Plot owners also approached the works and human settlement minister, Dorji Choden during her recent visit to Trashigang. Municipal officials said that the ministry would be taking up another study and also look into the possibility of land substitution.

The way forward according to the municipal engineer could be finding substitute lands when the structure plans for Pam and the extended Melphey areas are drawn.

“With Pam and extended Melphey coming into the township, we would consult the local administration and the land record office to see where government lands are available,” she said.

About three acres of land is required for the substitutions and to carry out basic developmental activities. Samkhar gup, Sonam Dorji, said that although the terrain may not be good enough, finding the required three acres of government land around Pam should not be a problem.

Tshering Wangdi,  Trashigang