Phub Dem

Many residents, who moved out of their house and decided to settle in their inherited land, are waiting to convert wetlands to residential land.

Although the Land Act of Bhutan allows conversion of chhuzhing (wetland) as residential land if a landowner has inherited only chhuzhing in his thram, the approval, according to local leaders, was on hold for more than a year.

According to Paro dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) chairperson, Tshering Dorji, Ministry of Works and Human Settlement issued a circular to local leaders, temporarily restricting the conversion of wetland to dry land, as the Paro valley development plan (PVDP) was under review.

He said that with the restriction prolonged for a year, residents planning to build houses on their inherited land were affected.

Local leaders raised the issue in the recent dzongkhag tshogdu (DT).

According to Lamgong gup, Gem Tshering, many approvals were pending.

He said that locals who own dryland along Pachu could not convert their wetland to residential as they have dryland. But he said that people were unable to construct houses in their dry land to maintain a 30ms buffer from the flood level marks.

Gem Tshering said that most families own only wetland and many issues arise while converting the inherited land into residential.

Doteng gup Letho said that land conversion was causing lots of inconveniences to the people.

Unlike the extended family practice in the past, he said that people move out of their house once they start a family, putting pressure on the limited landholding.

Considering the inconvenience caused by the restriction, Paro DT resolved to request MoWHS to lift the restriction at the earliest.

Tshering Dorji said that the DT has already sent a letter to the ministry and awaited a response.

According to sources, some landowners deliberately transferred the census of their children to convert wetland into residential land to sell at a higher price.

Gup Letho said that such practices were prevalent as there were no rules and guidelines to address the loopholes. “It is a huge concern.”

Given its proximity to the capital city and scope for development, many feel holding onto farmlands will be a challenge.

Studying the planning blunders of Thimphu and other dzongkhags, Tshering Dorji said that residents of Paro proposed PVDP to prevent the dzongkhag from a planning disaster.

However, he said that the PVDP lacked important aspects, and people were unhappy with the plan and were betting on MoWHS’s review.

On the other hand, if the government lift the PVDP guideline considering people’s choice, he said that Paro would become a mess losing its identity and charm. “Parops don’t want another Thimphu,” the DT chairperson said.

According to the PVDP, future development on limited dry land due to an increased risk of converting wetland for other purposes in the dzongkhag is a concern.

The plan proposed the government to provide land substitutes from the government reserved forest land or state-owned land and keep wetland as state land to preserve it.