Stone collection works at Wadulumba in Monday, Paro has been halted after about 14 residents of Menday submitted a written complaint to the department of forest and park services (DoFPS) on August 20.

The stone collection site is about two kilometers from Menday village and started operation about two weeks ago.  Following the complaint, forestry officials visited the site on August 21. Officials said an investigation is under process.

Among the several complaints in the letter, one claimed that the owner failed to pay the villagers the agreed amount for the usage of the farm road that runs along Menday village.

The complaint letter stated that in July 2017, when the people of Menday signed the agreement to provide community clearance for the work, it was agreed that the quarry owner would compensate the village with Nu 70,000 for using the road.

The agreement had stated that failure to pay the agreed amount would result in rejection of the community clearance agreement signed by the people of Menday. The village has about 24 households. It was said that about 95 percent of the villagers signed the agreement.

Owner of the stone collection activity Chencho Rinzin said the people had only asked Nu 50,000 from other contractors in the past. “However, if it benefited the village I agreed on paying it.”

“During the first round the tshogpa was missing. During the second meeting, instead of the payment they asked me to do the road maintenance work,” he added.

One of the people’s representative at Menday, Tashi, said that the people of Menday constructed the road in 2012. “The land belonged to other people and when constructing the road, the land owners were compensated with money. And if the road is damaged we have to do the maintenance work.” One of the people’s representative said it was decided among the people of Menday that the received amount would be deposited in a bank for future maintenance of the road.

However, a resident said that the village didn’t receive the agreed amount of Nu 70,000 even after a year of signing the agreement with the owner. “But we do have to agree that they did a two-day maintenance work at the road a few weeks ago,” another farmer at Menday said.

While Menday village was consulted on usage of the road, a resident of Shaba gewog also said that to collect the stones from the current location, the owner has also been using the road running through Shaba gewog. “However, we were not consulted about the usage of the road or about the stone quarry. They have not started carrying stones but vehicles are plying,” she said. The road running through Shaba is however, not built by the community.

Farmers of Menday also pointed out that the community clearance had agreed Zinloshina as the location for stone collection and not Wadulumba. They also told Kuensel that owner was excavating the land instead of collecting stones as agreed.

Owner Chencho Rinzin said he had confused the two locations as Wadulumba. The two locations are about 1.5km apart by road. He said he has not excavated the land and only collected stones until today. “The excavators were to widen the road that was too small for the vehicles to turn. And I do have road clearance certificate.”

Phurpa Lhamo | Paro