Biological corridor reduced to 500m, both landowners and businesspeople happy

Nganglam: The long delayed Nganglam town at Rinchenthang is expected to see some development with the issue of biological corridor boundary solved.

The corridor that became the bone of contention between planners and landowners and halted the development of the town is now reduced to 500m from 750m as planned earlier.

Works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden said the boundary was reduced following several rounds of discussion among all government stakeholders. It was initiated by the Prime Minister who assured both businessmen and landowners of Nganglam last year that he would look into the issue personally.

“With the boundary reduced to 500m, there will be no changes in the master plan,” lyonpo Dorji Choden said. “A majority of the private land will no longer be affected and only small structures will be affected which are mostly government.”

Although the Nganglam township was planned years ago, it had to be stalled owing to most land falling within the 750m-biological corridor. The boundary, according to people, was drawn without their knowledge. During the Prime Minister’s visit to Nganglam last year, businessmen and landowners raised the issue after which lyonchhoen assured to look into it.

“This was a clear case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing,” lyonchhoen said, adding the works and human settlement ministry had prepared the  plan for the township while the forest department had earmarked 750m as biological corridor and even pegged the boundary without consulting people.

Lyonchhoen said he met all the relevant agencies to find out whether 750m was required and told them not to take even a metre that was not necessary. Lyonchhoen also inquired if the township was really necessary.

“I asked them to produce a joint proposal after discussing with each other, which didn’t take long, and they agreed to 500m,” lyonchhoen said.

Lyonpo Dorji Choden said, as Nganglam was a growing town, unless plans were properly implemented, there was risks of haphazard developments.

Meanwhile, the reduced boundary came as a huge relief to about 300 businessmen, residents and landowners affected by the delayed township. The 300 businessmen had also submitted an appeal letter to lyonchhoen last year.

The issue was also discussed in National Assembly.

The town planning began since 2009 and its master plan was completed and approved in 2012. The plan had to be halted after half of the envisaged town was identified as biological corridor falling within the radius of 750m, connecting Manas National Park to Khaling wildlife sanctuary. A total of 124.03 acres of land belonging to 51 private landowners fell under the biological corridor.

Nganglam dungpa Nima Gyeltshen said the dungkhag haven’t received anything in written from the ministry yet.

“We’ve proposed Nu 1M budget for the year 2015-2016 for demarcation, survey and to clear the forest,” the dungpa said.

Before the biological corridor issue came up, the government had approved the master plan and had asked us to go ahead with the plan implementation allocating Nu 200M to start the first year activities. The approved budget was later re-appropriated in other developmental activities.

The present town is located in Nganglam with temporary houses built on government land.

Town tshogpa Namkha said they were happy that with the issue of the biological corridor solved, development of the township would begin.

By Yangchen C Rinzin, Samdrupjongkhar