The dzongkhag thromde includes 311.19 acres of wetland

Visit: People of Hoongrel and Wangchang gewogs in Paro would continue to cultivate on their wetland and at the same time derive the benefits of a dzongkhag thromde through development.

Speaking to the people of the two ‘affected’ gewogs during his visit yesterday, lyonchoen assured that the wetland can be protected in line with the Land Act.

People who want to preserve their wetland indicate so through the gewog and the dzongkhag. “The dzongkhag will identify the area of wetland as protected agriculture land in line with the Land Act,” lyonchoen said, adding that the particular area will remain untouched, not hindered by the developmental activities.

In August, local leaders on behalf of the people of Hoongrel and Wangchang submitted a petition to the government against the new thromde boundary demarcation, which includes most parts of Wangchang and Hoongrel gewogs in the Paro dzongkhag thromde.

Protection of wetland, tax burden and status of gewog were the main concerns of people. The dzongkhag thromde boundary includes 311.19 acres of wetland of which 46 acres lies in Hoongrel.

Lyonchoen said that in other dzongkhags, people are desperate to convert their wetland to dry land.

“In Paro, it’s the opposite which is why I respect your decision,” lyonchoen said citing the example of the green zone area at Hejo. “I fully support your decision.”

Once the wetland becomes a protected agriculture land, lyonchoen said there is no question of land pooling.

Lyonchoen also informed them that establishment of thromdes is not a short-term vision but one that would cater to the future generations.

“Which is why the dzongkhag thromde cannot be concentrated in just one area,” he said, adding that benefits from thromdes are enormous.

On the gewog boundary concerns, lyonchoen clarified that it will become smaller but gewogs will remain.

“To increase or reduce gewogs, the Parliament has to decide through three-fourth majority votes,” lyonchoen said, adding that when its difficult to get the required majority votes even for a good cause, change in the status of a gewog was a different issue.

Lyonchoen said many blame the government for the dzongkhag thromde boundary when the boundary was endorsed in the Parliament with support from the opposition and the National Council members.

Lyonchoen reminded the people that the Parliament endorsed the Paro dzongkhag thromde with 60 “yes” votes.  He said its wrong of them to think that developmental activities would commence overnight or that they can build buildings once a thromde boundary is declared.

While most people are genuinely concerned about protecting the wetland, the prime minister said that the issue is about taxation. People will not have to pay urban taxes unless development takes place.

“It is important that we have more thromdes to the exisiting four thromdes,” lyonchoen said, giving the example of Kabisa in Thimphu that neither qualifies as a rural community nor a town.

Kabisa, lyonchoen said is booming with construction, without any proper planning which would lead to issues in future such as parking, road and water, among others.

A former Hoongrel gup sought clarification on whether it would be possible to have a gewog for about 100 people, which is the case in Hoongrel.

He said people are not against the dzongkhang thromde per se but the boundary, which includes the wetland.

Besides preserving age-old tradition, the former gup said that wetland has to be protected so that their children have something to look forward to. “Its not possible for all educated youth to be employed,” he said, adding he is hopeful of government’s support when the dzongkhag thromde boundary will be tabled at the summer session of the Parliament.

Lyonchoen said people could opt to keep their wetland under the protected agriculture land for 10 years after which they can decide on whether to keep it as it is or convert it into a dry land.

Many from the two gewogs returned home convinced with the prime minister’s assurance.

“In the earlier meetings we attended, things were not so clear like lyonchoen stated in this meeting,” Sangay from Geptey in Wangchang gewog said.

Lyonchoen accompanied by foreign minister Damcho Dorji who looks after Paro also visited Dogar gewog yesterday. With Dogar, lyonchoen has visited 58 gewogs to date.

Kinga Dema, Paro