Almost five years after Trashiyangtse dzongkhag officials allowed two building owners in Chorten Kora town to increase the number of storeys to three from two, residents are questioning why the two owners were favoured.

The approval was given in September and December 2012, although the action area plan (AAP) for Trashiyangtse thromde, allows the construction of only two storeys, technically known as G+1 buildings, in town.

The two structures were increased to three storeys (G+2) in 2013 and 2014 and belong to two residents, Tashi Dendup and Sonamla.

Dzongkhag municipal officials said that the approval for the extension was given, following a circular from the works and human settlement ministry.

The circular of December 14, 2011, stated that following a proposal from the Thimphu thromde and a meeting held on October 21 2011, which was chaired by the former Prime Minister, the ministry approves the construction of an additional full floor instead of an attic.

The circular also stated that numerous unsightly attics were being constructed across the country affecting landscape, both in urban and rural settlements. “Authorities were not able to enforce the Attic Rules of 2009, especially in the urban centres, which resulted in the construction of many buildings with attics that have not adhered to the rules strictly and there was a need for a rational solution to address the problem effectively,” the circular stated.

However, in a letter of May 7, 2013, the secretary of the works and human settlement ministry wrote to the dzongdag stating that the dzongkhag’s approval for the construction of two buildings with three storeys height was “inappropriate.”

The letter stated that Trashiyangtse town is referred as a model town for its architecture of two storey buildings constructed with local materials.

“Often remarked as an exemplary town, the approval for the construction of three floors is, therefore, not only a serious deviation from the permissible height but also poses a risk of destroying the aesthetic of the town,” the letter stated.

It also asked the dzongkhag administration to do necessary rectifications so that the existing image of Trashiyangtse as a model town is preserved and promoted.

The letter also mentioned that the option for construction of a full floor instead of an attic permitted in the circular of December 14, 2011, did not permit blanket application of the circular. The circular is now suspended.

A town resident, Tshering Dendup, said it was unfair for the dzongkhag administration and municipality to allow only two contractors to add a storey to their house when the rest of the residents are requesting to construct an attic.

“The demand for houses has increased ever since the Kholongchu project started in Yangtse,” he said. “Given an opportunity, we also like to build three-storied houses. But we are not even allowed to construct an attic. This is not fair. Rules should apply to all.”

Meanwhile, municipal officials said that the approval for the two three-storey building was awarded after the 2011 circular. “Now that the circular is no more in effect, we do not allow any construction of buildings with three-storeys in the dzongkhag,” an official said.

Younten Tshedup | Trashiyangste