Land: Land owners in Wangdicholing village in Bumthang are calling for the government to provide them with land replacement as no new constructions are permitted if their plots fall on the Glacial Lake Outburst Flood zone.

Sonam, 37, who runs a shop below Wangdicholing palace, said she purchased timber and sand in 2008 but failed to get approval from the dzongkhag to begin her construction. “The timber is rotting and the sand is vanishing,” she said.

She added that she approached the dzongkhag for approval several times but to no avail. People who wish to construct houses within this zone are not eligible for construction loans or even insurance schemes.

“I was asked to go ahead at my own risk but I can’t do it as I require a loan for construction,” she said, adding there is no history of the water ever reaching the level of her house. Sonam said she would be grateful if the government provided land replacement at a safer site as the plot is the only one she owns.

Lemo, 42, who also owns land within this zone, said she does not own much where she can make a living through farm work. She said the only option for her is to construct a house and give it out on rent. “But we are unable to do this,” she said.

She added that of her two plots, one falls under the green zone and the other under the hazardous zone in Chamkhar.

Another land owner, Karma, 54, said government officials keep instructing them to wait. He said he could not construct a house during the previous government’s time as construction loans were suspended. “Now the suspension of construction loans has been lifted but we fall under the hazardous zone,” he said.

Nima Sangay, 68, has also been waiting to construct a house for many years. He said he started acquiring timber since 2007. “I had accumulated stones and sand too but gave the sand to someone else as it was vanishing,” he said.

Nima said rods that he purchased for construction have also started to rust. “Of the 10 houses within the hazardous zone, six are in the prime danger zone,” he said.

He added that it is hoped the government can provide land replacement, not necessarily in the town area but wherever there is road connectivity. “We may lose our lives in these old houses otherwise,” he said.

Dzongkhag architect, Tshering Dendup, said there are already several houses in the GLOF flood hazardous zone and further constructions are disallowed. “No insurance schemes will be given to discourage people from constructing houses in those areas,” he said.

Nima Wangdi | Bumthang