PHPA-II: Punatsangchhu Hydropower Project Authority (PHPA)-II will be able to handover a stone quarry to its contractor Jai Prakash and Associates Ltd after the environmental clearance for the Taksha stone quarry-IV was approved last month.

The detailed project report for PHPA-II requires that it provide a captive quarry to the main contractors for sourcing raw materials. As per the records with the project, official work on the proposal of the stone quarry was started in early 2012.

Without a stone quarry of its own, the contractors of PHPA-II have been purchasing stones from private quarries in the dzongkhag.

Located on the left side of the farm road connecting Taksha-Silli village in Daga gewog, Wangdue, the Takhsa stone quarry-IV will be the fourth stone quarry operating in the Taksha area.

In 2012, PHPA-II authorities obtained clearance from the gewog through rounds of public consultations and subsequently in 2014, the project managed in seeking  endorsement from the dzongkhag tshogdu.

However, the project could not get an environmental clearance for the quarry as the people of Taksha, Silli and Tsara lodged a complaint claiming that the project had obtained public clearance illegally.

Official sources also attributed the delay to the requirement for all stone quarries be operated by Bhutanese contractors. However, Jai Prakash and Associates Ltd had to be permitted since the PHPA  II detailed project report was drawn up in the previous government’s term. The project had to allow its contractors to operate the stone quarry as per the contract.

Following a written complaint from the communities in Taksha, Silli and Tsara, the National Environment Commission (NEC) along with Daga gewog, the dzongkhag and PHPA-II officials held a public consultation in Takhsa in August, this year.

Following the consultation, in October and November, PHPA-II received both an environment clearance and a land lease certificate that were issued based on the dzongkhag land lease committee’s findings submitted to the National Land Commission.

Official sources said that currently the quarry proposal is with the Department of Geology and Mines (DGM), where it will be tabled at a committee meeting for the drawing up of a lease agreement between DGM and PHPA-II. After which DGM will issue a work order to start the stone quarry. “DGM will ask PHPA-II to deposit an environment restoration bond and only after that the project will hand over the quarry to its contractor to operate the stone quarry,” an official source said.

Meanwhile the quarry will be operational for the initial period of four years.

During the consultation in August this year, the representatives of the villages of Taksha, Silli and Tsara raised issues concerning blasting from the existing quarries that have led to drying up of water sources in the nearby villages. There are concerns that the new stone quarry will cause the same problems, especially for those households that are located above the proposed quarry.

Many were of the view that the project authority is not carrying out its corporate social responsibilities and that the new quarry may add to existing problems of dust.

Dawa Gyelmo | Wangdue