When Phangkhar gewog officials in Zhemgang put an agenda to the dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) session about Sangseri land issue last summer, they had expected the members to resolve the problem.

Instead, the DT members resolved to follow the law and implement it, resulting in the officials cutting off electricity for the residents for a night. The officials also warned the residents of about 12 households that they would dismantle the house if they don’t comply with the rule.

The residents had constructed their houses on a wetland.

The worried residents then pleaded the officials and the gewog officials requested the drungkhag and dzongkhag administrations to intervene while they find a solution to the problem.

The gewog officials appealed to the then agriculture minister to look into the problem, reasoning the wetland was never cultivated because there are too many gravels and lack of irrigation water.

Phangkhar gup Tashi explained Sangseri is a dry land belonging to five households in the gewog and late Dasho Nishoka, popularly known as Japan Sahib, converted into wetlands for 20 households.

He said the national cadastral survey was also done in 2012, dividing the land into 20 families as an inheritance.

People prefer to stay in Sangseri since it is near the Gomphu-Panbang highway and also because the school, basic health unit and other amenities are nearby.

The gup said 12 families constructed houses, four concrete buildings and other semi-permanent houses. “But the issue came up since it is registered as a wetland.”

He said agriculture ministry officials visited the site, compiled a report and said they would get back in two to three months. “We hope they would facilitate the conversion to dry land.”

Meanwhile, a Sangseri resident, Kesang, 46, said she constructed her one-storied semi-permanent house when she had two children.

She now has seven children and said her children are studying. “I don’t have any dryland nearby to construct a house.”

Another resident, Pema Choki, 43, said she doesn’t have anywhere to go if the government asks her to vacate her place.

The single mother said no one made any issue when they constructed the house and now that they are settled, it would be too expensive for them to dismantle the house. “I hope the government officials look into all these.”

Tashi Dema  | Zhemgang