It was a big relief and welcome news when the minister for works and human settlement informed the National Council that the government is prepared to implement all the thromdes plans. However, when it comes to the protection of wetland, once included under a thromde, there are mixed feelings.
The minister informed that the government is planning to ensure protection of wetland in the thromdes and proper measures are being taken. The minister pointed out that while agricultural landscapes are identified for wetland protection, heritage villages and sites have been identified to ensure preservation of culture and tradition.
Some say that protection of the wetlands would benefit the country in the longer run preserving agricultural practices and help towards achieving the goal of food self sufficiency. This is undeniably true.
And then there are others who say that a huge disparity of income has already been created in the country between those who own dry-land and wetland. This can also be true in view of spiraling land prices over the years and the returns from the investments thereon.
Wetland owners have already experienced direct and indirect impacts of their land bordering with the town, which include damages of crops, dumping of garbage into paddy fields, influential people convert neighbouring plots to dry-land and constructing buildings, posing serious challenges to maintain wetland quality and the theft of their produce.
Urbanisation is a global phenomenon and our country is no exception. The Vision 2020 document predicts that by 2020, 50 percent of Bhutan’s population will be in the urban areas, which some say, looking at the current trend, may not have to wait that long.
It, therefore, demands an in-depth analysis of the situation of a moratorium likely to be imposed on wetland, which either way has pros and cons. A decision taken now will have irreversible impact on the future of urbanisation in the country.
Our capital city is a living example of how much resisted and protected pockets of wetlands have vanished over the years, adding huge costs to the Royal Government for redevelopment and provisions of infrastructure. But the individual landowners have also become rich.
Therefore, it is a dilemma whether to protect the wetland included within a thromde now, or to develop them now with a holistic and realistic throm plan.