The solid waste disposal site identified by the dzongkhag at Tshelshing Poktor between Kherigonpa and Chungkhar village, some seven kilometers away from the present town, will go ahead despite complaints lodged by the people of Chungkhar village. This was decided on August 29 during the second day sitting of Pemagatshel’s fifth Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT).
Although the majority of the DT members supported the decision, it was not a unanimous one with deliberation taking on a heated tone at times. In the end, though, it was adopted with majority consensus. The DT members said that while they supported the idea of a solid landfill site, the technical feasibility and provisions in the various laws and regulations have to be taken into consideration by the respective sector heads, who were to ensure that laws were not violated under any circumstance.
“We have ensured that no law has been violated and that the waste disposal site poses no risk to anyone and the proposal fulfills all existing criteria,” submitted the dzongkhag environment officer, Chhimi Wangchuk.
The sector heads from forestry, land records and health said legal provisions of their sectors have been adhered to despite public complaints.
“Since we don’t understand various sectors’ criteria on such a project, it is the responsibility of the sectors concerned to take care of how it should be done. If these are taken care of adequately as submitted by the respective sector heads, we must support the move,” said Shumar Gup Lepo, who is the DT deputy chairman.
However, Zobel gup and mangmi expressed their reservations about the decision and called for further consultations with the complainants, which comprised 24 households of Chhungkhar village and a group of Chhungkharpas living in Thimphu.
“Pushing this proposal is not an answer. People must be thoroughly consulted and taken into confidence. And we must be ready to face any consequences,” argued Zobel Gup. Mangmi Sonam Choden supported the stand taken by her gup and said she could not support it.
Zobel Gup suggested that since a report had been submitted to the National Environment Commission (NEC) responding to public complaints, it would be appropriate to wait for the NEC’s response.
The residents of Chhungkhar earlier complained that there are three water sources near the proposed waste disposal site besides private land within close proximity. The complaint also stated that the area is a traditional grazing land and a potential tourist site.
The committee, on the other hand, explained that of the three water sources close to the site, only one is being used for drinking by the residents of new village of Khinadang. Dzongkhag health officer (DHO), Gopal Hingmang, said none of the water sources is directly below the proposed site, and even the one from where people drink is more than 500 metres away from the proposed site diagonally and separated by a small ridge. The site poses no threat to any of the water sources, he said
“The private land near the site is all 180 to 250 metres away from the proposed site with buffer government forest in between,” explained the dzongkhag land records officer, Wangdi. “None of these plots of land is cultivated.” Both the territorial forest sector and the dzongkhag forest sector also cleared the proposal for a go-ahead.
The committee also reported to the house that some complaints like tourism proposal and possibility of a future lhakhang construction have no credibility.
Dzongda Tshering Kezang informed the house that if the site was not feasible for different reasons, DT in the same sitting must find an alternative site. He said a proper solid waste disposal site is a must for Pemagatshel. He informed the house that the site identified earlier at Dzongsinggonpa was about 25 kilometres away and thus not feasible.
The work for the construction of the solid waste disposal site was awarded to a contractor a few weeks back and the work could begin any time soon.
Meanwhile, due to lack of a waste disposal site, the waste collected during the last cleaning campaign is left in the open in Yalang village much to the consternation of the nearby residents.
The DT directed the respective sectors to make a thorough study of two other identified solid waste disposal sites at Yurung bridge under Shumar Gewog and Shame Borang under Chongshing Gewog. These two potential sites are for the upcoming Denchi town. The proposal will be discussed in the sixth DT.