Kelzang Wangchuk  | Samdrupjongkhar

Kuchi, 72, of Dewathang, Samdrupjongkhar moved in a semi-permanent house. She cannot live in her two-storey traditional house now because it has developed dangerous cracks.

She said the cracked started appearing three years ago because of the coal mining activities in Khorpam. She reported the issues to the company immediately.

Cracks on Kuchi’s house

Cracks on Kuchi’s house

The SD Eastern Bhutan Coal Company Limited ended mining activities on December 31 last year.

Kuchi said she requested the company to construct a protection wall below the house but the company refused. “I then reported to the gewog administration in August.”

She then wrote to the company on November 29 along with 27 other individuals. “But the company refused to believe that the cracks were developing due to mining coal.”

According to the complain letter submitted to the company, the cracks on the houses were caused by explosives and movements of the machines and trucks.

Kuchi said the experts from the Department of Geology and Mines (DGM) in Thimphu visited and investigated the cracks. 

The experts told they needed detector machine, as it was difficult to establish what was causing the cracks and that she would have to bear the cost of the machine.

“I agreed to bear the expenses but they didn’t turn up,” Kuchi said.

Kuchi is not the only one affected.  Three more houses in Khorpam have developed cracks.

Sonam Pemo’s said that there are cracks on the walls and floor. Cracks have started developing in toilet also.

Dawa Dema, 44, said she had planned to build a house and had procured the construction materials but she could not because the foundation developed cracks. Materials like timber got spoiled. “Who will compensate the expenses?”

Dawa Dema lives in a small hut with her children. Coalmine area is about 20 metres away from her place.

The mine’s chief executive officer, Sonam Drukpa, said the company received a complaint from four individuals whose land was affected last year and the company agreed to compensate them as the issues were genuine. He said the company gave Nu 10,000 per decimal to the three victims and was planning to give land as one of the victims asked for land replacement.

He said the company also received complaints from 28 individuals in November but the mines did not cause the damage to their houses. Most of the houses were located about 400 metres to 500 metres away from the mining area, he said, adding that the company never used explosives at the site.

“Experts from DGM who investigated Kuchi’s house established that cracks on her house was not because of the mines,” Sonam Drukpa said, adding that his company was a responsible company that looked into any matters related to the affected community.

Dewathang gewog administration forwarded the complaints to the dzongkhag administration last week.

Samdrupjongkhar dzongdag, Tharchen Lhuendup, said DGM had investigated the cracks. “We didn’t get the report yet.”

He said that the dzongkhag administration had formed an investigation team and would soon visit the site.