Local leaders of Sarpang rejected a proposal to extract quartzite from Dekiling gewog in the recent dzongkhag tshogdu (DT).

Two Gelephu residents, Sithar Dorji and Kinley Wangdi, had submitted a proposal to mine quartzite from Pharkay during the second DT session.

Ratey village, consisting of 17 households, is about eight kilometres away from the Dekiling’s gewog centre. It is one of the remote areas in Dekiling gewog and the residents struggle to stay connected with the gewog during monsoon. There is no bridge over the river.

The two individual had sought community clearance from the villagers before proposing to the DT. They had promised a bridge over Ratey River, a school bus, job opportunities, and better road while seeking community clearance. The villagers so agreed to give the clearance.

Sarpang’s local leaders were not convinced with the community clearance and formed a committee comprising of nine gups during the second DT session to study the advantages and disadvantages of quartzite mining. An environment officer accompanied the committee.

It was learnt that although the villagers agreed to the mining initially, most of them were against the idea later.

Sarpang DT’s chairperson, Nim Dorji Sherpa, said that the tshogdu could not approve the proposal because it was found that the mining would cause more damage than good to the community.

He said that it was found that in the long run, the mining would cause damage to settlements downstream. There is a crocodile farm, Royal Bhutan Police Training Centre, Jigme Wangchuck Power Training Institute, water sources, and Ratey village that would be a threat.

The gup also said that the mining would affect the installation of electricity towers that is ongoing for power lines from Punatsangchhu to India. “The areas will be affected severely if there is a flash flood.”

The DT members claimed that their decision to reject the proposal was to keep the downstream settlement safe.

Dekiling Gup Padam Singh Mongar said that if the mining is approved, the settlements downstream would have the same fate as the people in Setikharey area in Gelephu. “It is said that mining was carried out in the upstream of Setikharey in the past, which has since been causing flashflood every year.”

The gup also said that the gewog had already proposed a budget to construct a bridge over Ratey river in the 12th Plan.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang