Road widening works unsettles Sha Ngawang people

Land has slid and crops damaged while some farmers still await compensation 

Land: Eighty-year-old farmer Pema cannot remember when the Wangdue-Trongsa highway was built, but he sure remembers how the road cut through his paddy field.

The road was completed. Many years had passed but the octogenarian from Shar Ngawang never received the land substitute, he claims he was promised. The road left his phazhing (ancestral land) divided, half above the road with his house and less than half below the road. His hope for land substitute also disappeared, as several dzongdags kept postponing his land substitute date.

The problem is back. Widening works on the same highway is eating into his land. More than an acre of his land with paddy, fruit trees and bamboo plants slid in July after the widening had passed his area at Namgayling. The ground floor was flooded one night from the heavy monsoon.

“We have paddy plants growing well along with fruits, vegetable and bamboos, but everything was lost,” his wife said.

Pema said that prior to widening works, the department of roads (DoR) Lobesa held a public consultation in Bjena. “We agreed when we were told they would take 19 decimals of land for widening and give substitute,” he said adding they were promised that other portion of the land would not be affected.

“Having gone through a similar experience earlier, I realized it would affect other portion of my land,” Pema said. “I requested DoR to construct walls against my house and land before the widening works begin to avoid problems.”

The DoR agreed, he said, but went ahead with the widening works first, which caused immense sliding with monsoon at its peak.

“We were worried as it has become difficult for us to even stay in our house,” Pema’s wife said. “Both my neighbours and DoR asked us not to stay in the house during monsoon.”

After writing to gewog several times, DoR started to construct wall against Pema’s house to protect it from sliding, but the work was left incomplete. “We were left with few decimals of paddy, which was also destroyed in the October 13 hailstorm,” Yangzom, Pema’s daughter said.  “We requested the gewog administration to look into it as we lost our crops and the land is no more cultivable.”

More than six houses and around 33 households’ land were affected by the road widening works, Bjena gup Khandu said. Those who lost more than 10 decimal were given land substitute and the rest were given compensation.

He said the government compensated for the land taken for widening, which was Nu 4,078.89, a decimal for wetland and Nu 3,373.06 a decimal for dry land.  However, four households refused to take the compensation claiming they lost more land to the sliding after the widening works.

He said since the sliding began, the gewog office has written to DoR several times. It has been three months and the DoR has not yet responded.

The gewog office wrote to the dzongkhag administration recently. Some of the walls constructed against the sliding land and houses doesn’t look protective, said mangmi Kinley Tauchu. The walls are not concrete and the concrete ones were of short in height and unable to protect the land from sliding.

Gup Khandu said the widening works has also affected drinking water pipes, paddy and drainages. He said, the DoR has however agreed to send new pipes and compensate with rice for paddy lost in the slide.

Showing a yellow file containing hundreds of letters, Gup Khandu said he has been receiving endless complaints from people after the road widening works began.

Meanwhile, DoR’s executive engineer at Nobding, Bala Ram Acharya said they agree to Pema’s claim that the sliding of cultivated land was caused by road widening. He said they would continue with the wall construction by first week of November.

He also said the department would take responsibility and compensate for the damages caused.

Bala Ram Acharya said the 80km road widening from Rabuna – Chuserbu on the Wangdue-Trongsa highway is expected to complete by February next year.

Dawa Gelmo, Wangdue

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