ACC sitting on complaint letter submitted in 2018

Nima Wangdi and  Rinzin Wangchuk 

Villagers of Walungna in Maewang gewog, Thimphu completed their changla (paddy transplantation) recently, but after much difficulties. Irrigation water was scarce and construction of  a concrete tank at the source of the village’s drinking and irrigation water is blamed to have contributed to the already scarce water. 

Villagers said they never knew of construction activities until four years ago when some government officials who were on official visit in the village shared with them about concrete structure being built at the water source. “We were surprised to see a concrete water tank being built with pipes connected,” a villager said.  “ Pipes were also laid underground to different plots above the village.”

There are about 30 households in Walungna. Villagers said they were never consulted nor knew that a new settler had bought 14 acres of land above the village, once their tsamdro (grazing land).

A villager said that a person called Sangay Norbu, a former National Land Commission surveyor, owns more than 14 acres of land above the village. The land is divided into plots and being sold. He said about 10 plots have already been sold. “This will worsen acute water shortage.”

Villagers claimed the land owner had bought only 3.60 acres of land, but they came to know later that there are more than 14 acres of land that belong to the Walungna community registered in his name. “We don’t know how that happened.” The villagers said.

Villagers wait for ACC’s intervention

On June 27, 2018, villagers complained in writing  to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for investigation,  but nothing has come out of it as yet. They said they followed up three times and managed to meet the officials only on the third time. 

A villager, Migma, said they were sent back every time they went to ACC. During the third visit last year, they waited from 9am and could see the ACC officials only around 6pm. “The official we met checked the case status on his computer and confirmed that the case was registered with the commission. The official said they would investigate but it will take time due to human resource shortage.”

Another villager, Kinley Dub,  said it’s been years since they reported, but no investigation has been done. “We told them that there would be many houses in the village putting pressure on the already scarce water by the time ACC investigates,” he said. “An official said they can dismantle all the structures  if found to be built on illegal land.”

The complaint letter to the ACC requested the commission to investigate how Sangay Norbu got about 14 acres of land belonging to the community. It also requested the ACC to investigate how many acres of land he actually purchased. Nine people have signed on the complaint letter.

The concrete tank was dismantled last year after villagers complained. The pipes have also been collected. He said there are 100 acres of wetland in the village and all will have to be left fallow if the water shortage becomes critical. 

Khandu, 85 said the water used to be enough not only for Walungna, but villages below in Danglo in the past. “Today, acres if paddy fields lay fallow due to water shortage,” he said. 

Tsagay, 44 said that cultivating paddy has really become difficult today. He planted chillies in his paddy field. The vegetables too aren’t growing well without enough water.

Sangay Norbu refutes allegation

Meanwhile, Sangay Norbu said there is no issue of legality about how he came to own the land there. He owns 14.378 acres. He said originally the land was only 3.60 acres when he first purchased it in 1988. 

Later the land was surveyed during the first cadastral survey conducted in 1989. There were 10.22 acres of excess land. Sangay Norbu, who superannuated in January 2011, said that he also received about 17 decimals of excess land through a Kasho after the digital survey in July 2011.

“I paid for all the extra land since there was a system to do that and I have all the documents, including the money receipt to prove it,” Sangay Norbu said. He said that the village Land Tshogpa, representatives from the department of forest were there when his land was surveyed. “The owners of the adjoining lands were also there and they showed the demarcations.”

He said the land was categorised as Pangzhing then. Later that category was abolished and it was turned to Kamzhing (dry land).

He said he constructed the concrete water tank after following proper channel. I had sought approval from the dzongkhag and the gewogs as well. “However, the public were not consulted since I had got the approval already.”

“I was asked to dismantle the water tank by the gewog and I did it last year. Today, I face  drinking water shortage at home,” Sangay Norbu said drinking water is his fundamental right.

ACC officials refused to comment.