Phub Dem  | Paro


Clearing the way to the international airport’s flight path, five houses belonging to three families in Bonday, Paro, had to be demolished in 2004.

It has been almost 17 years since the families tore down their ancestral homes for the country’s airport, but they couldn’t build a house for themselves yet.

Despite running from pillar to post, these families haven’t received their land replacement.

Bida, 73, lives in a rustic mud house that used to be a cowshed in Chintsho, where her home once stood, overlooking the southern part of the airport.

She recalls watching her ancestral home razed to the ground. She said that it was heartbreaking but was hopeful that they could build a new house in a few years. “I never thought it would take these many years to get the substitute land.”

Bida lives with her grandson after her daughter passed away.

Although the families were temporarily relocated to Bumtha Tshekha, two returned and settled where their house stands, reasoning that it was convenient for farming.

According to Bida, the temporary settlement faced an acute shortage of drinking water, and there was no space to grow vegetables.

It had been easier for Bida compared to extended families of Sonam Dema with six siblings and Lhab Gyem with six children. The family members constantly ask for their share of land.    

Sonam Dema said that she had to take care of everything after her mother and grandmother passed away, leaving the land replacement issue halfway, adding that her siblings had been asking for their share, either to build a house or to sell it. “We have invested time, energy and sacrificed many things to get the land replacement. We searched nook and corners of Paro for state land. Still, we don’t have a land certificate.”

Lhab Gyem said three of them visited every office in Paro and Thimphu until the compensation money was exhausted. “We are tired of visiting offices and writing applications to every relevant agency without any progress.”

The families were compensated for demolishing their houses and cutting down fruit trees on the flight’s way.

According to the minutes of a meeting held in 2004, the permanent plot could be allotted from the Bonday township area, but one should pay the land cost and other taxes.

Without proper homes, Lhab Gyem said that many family members stay around the country on rental, hoping that the issue will be solved and they could build a house for themselves sooner.

As the land replacement area is located on a hilltop far from the highway, some family members request the finance ministry for property reassessment. They are relocated from a prime location to a jungle.

In the meantime, Wangchang gup Kuenzang Rinzin said that he started working on the land substitution after discovering the issue, adding that the families had hopped into every office without success.

While the land replacement works are nearly completed, he said that registering the temporary plot at Bumtha Tshangu in the families’ name was the cause of delay due to forest clearance and the Paro Valley development plan.

As the area lies between highway and river, he said it was difficult to confirm whether it falls under green or buffer zone. “For last three years, I have constantly been following up on the case.”

After securing the clearance, he said that the documents were finally submitted to the dzongkhag land office and the online transaction was in full swing.

Although it seems the quest for land replacement is finally over, some family members were still sceptical. Some said that they spent this whole time hoping for some miracle, but the problem remained. “After many rejections, it is difficult to rejoice when officials say things are done. We had waited for years, and we are still waiting.”

According to sources, it was difficult to hold anyone responsible for the delay, adding that past local leaders should have been proactive as they were aware of the people’s challenges at the grassroots level.

Edited by Tshering Palden