The People of Tsamang Gewog in Monggar are not happy with the stone extraction work carried out along their Gewog Centre road. They are now accusing the gup of issuing the public clearance to the construction company without consulting them. They say the stone extraction works are not only damaging the road but are also posing risks to travellers due to falling boulders and landslides.
This is BK Construction’s stone extraction site, located about seven kilometres away from Yongkola. The private company uses the stones for the Namling to Yongkola highway widening works.
However, people are not happy with the damage the extraction work is causing to the road. Some portion of the road at the extraction site is eroded and landslides block the stretch frequently.
Though some people say the gewog office clears the road upon request, others say the stone extraction work is causing them inconvenience.
“Last time, when I was travelling through that cliff, falling boulders hit my car’s wheel drum. And I called the gup and said I need to look at how the agreement was drawn between the gup and the company. In the agreement, they would have mentioned clearly that the extraction work would not give problems to the public,” said Dorji Nidup, a resident of Banjar.
“We have to drive through the extraction area every day carrying passengers. We also have to pick up and drop off our children to school. If the falling stones from the slope happen to hit on our car and passengers, I do not know who is going to be held accountable,” said Tsheltrimla, a resident of Drangmaling.
They added that the gewog office has approved the extraction work without consulting with the people. And as a result, their road is being damaged and they have to risk their lives while travelling through the site.
‘‘Without consulting with the public the gewog, has decided to approve the extraction site. Because of this, the road, which was blacktopped and in good condition in the past has been damaged today because of the heavy vehicles,’’ said one of the residents.
‘‘Last time when we had a patient, the ambulance has been waiting about two to three hours at Gombra. We have evidence about it. On top of that, when we take dead bodies during the night, the gewog office did not clear the road. We have cleared ourselves and travelled through it,’’ said another resident.
Tsamang Gup, Sonam Phuntso, said since there is a plan to widen the road and convert it to a bypass between Monggar and Lhuentse, the custody of the road was already handed over to the erstwhile Department of Roads in Lingmithang before he joined the office.
“We discussed whether we need to consult the people or not before the site was given to the private firm. If we have to seek permission from the people, there should be some sort of health hazard caused by dust and other pollutants. The issue arose because the site is located in the forest and there were landslides in the area even before the extraction activity began. Our intention is not to damage the road but improve the road as the private firm agreed to build retaining walls and improve the road along the stretch,” said Sonam Phuntsho, Tsamang Gup.
However, the chief engineer of the Department of Surface Transport’s regional office in Lingmithang said since it is a Gewog Centre Road, it is mandatory to seek public clearance before the site is given for stone extraction.
‘‘We have asked the contractor to bring the sample of the stone and they brought it to our laboratory we tested and it qualified and then from there, we asked the contractor to seek clearances from the Gewog. Since this is a GC road, the gewog officials and the public of Tsamang must give the clearance and then secondly as it falls under the park area, they have to get clearance from the park office and the Department of Surface Transport,” said Kinzang Dorji, chief engineer.
“The gewog office forwarded a letter to the Phrumshengla National Park for the approval of the site following the due process through the Online Forestry Service,” added Tsamang Gup.
However, the Phrumshengla National Park said the forestry clearance was issued with good intentions based on the gewog clearance and recommendation from the Department of Surface Transport’s regional office in Lingmithang.
Meanwhile, the people still want an investigation into how the clearances were given without their consent.
Karma Wangdi, Monggar
Edited by Kipchu