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Government’s uncertainty on Amochu hydropower project confuses villagers

Sonam Wangdi, Phuentshogling

May 10 2014

Lingden-Amochu hydropower projectThe government’s uncertainty about the 540 Megawatt Amochhu project has left many villagers of Lingden under Phuentshogling Gewog equally uncertain about their future. Lingden is one of the 21 villages under Chhukha Dzongkhag that would be affected by the Amochu Hydropower Project.

Only after extensive consultative meetings with the stakeholders, people of Lingden had then finally agreed to forgo their land for the project. But the recent news of the project being shelved; which has come after more than a year and a half since the agreement, have left people in a quandary.

For Lakhman Rai, 65, a villager from Lingden, said not much agricultural activities have been going on in his land since the project came into being. In fact, he had been travelling to places as far as Lhamoizingkha frequently in search of substitute lands.

His plan to construct a bigger house also had to be pushed further. “There is no hope left among the people because we felt even if we work towards developing our living environment by incurring expenses, we will be able to reap its benefit only for a year after which the project will start. And those expenses, I am not sure if the government would consider compensating.”


Moreover, he says, there is no certain order from the government’s side on what they should be doing or the progress of the project. “We are left in a dilemma.”

The other villagers are also in a limbo.

They have been visiting places within their gewogs and other dzongkhags looking for land substitutions which they now feel might be futile.

The uncertainty has also hampered other works of the village.

“People had readied nurseries to raise saplings for orange, teak and other hardwood trees. They in fact had plans and hope to bring development to the village thereby uplifting their own socio economic conditions,” said Lingden’s Tshogpa, Gesingh Lepcha.

Another villager, Bhaktiman Rai, said one issue the villagers face is the lack of road connectivity.  “We have put forth this matter to the gewog administration many times and we learned that it was actually in the initial plans. However, because of the project, we are not sure if the plan will get through or not.”

Another villager, Ash Man Rai, said the uncertainty of the project has hampered a lot of their planned activities. He said development works for the school in the village could not be taken up as well. As of now, the school just has one academic building with six classrooms.

The School Principal, Tobgay, said they are in need of two more classrooms. “Despite the need for physical development of the school, nothing of that sort has been mentioned in the current plan.” Tobgay said there is a need to fence the entire school area. “Moreover, we have five teachers and we need staff quarters for them to stay.”

 Last month, the Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay, in an interview with one of the newspapers had said the government of India, like in the case with most hydropower projects, had not decided on the financing of Amochhu. But it was included in the 10,000 MW electricity target. Commenting on the matter, the Economic Affairs minister, Norbu Wangchuk, said since the project is within the 10,000 MW target, it would be constructed anyway.

However, for now there is no tentative date of when the construction would begin, he had added.

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4 comments on “Government’s uncertainty on Amochu hydropower project confuses villagers

  1. Pancha Rai on said:

    The suppose 540 MW Amochu Hydro Power Project at Phuentsholing would be displacing more than 350 house holds from the two Dzongkhags, Chukha and Samtse, which means people of these two dzongkhags are would loose more than 3000 acres of their ancestral land if the project comes through, highest displacement among all the hydro project (commissioned ones, on-going and upcoming ones). Is it worth while to construct the Amochu Hydro Power in the name of the development by taking away the livelihood of thousands of affected citizens in the country of GNH?????? – my 2 cent opinion only!!!!

  2. jigme on said:

    It has been quite long this section of people has been disturbed of their peace in the villages. They have agreed to leave the villages in the interest of the national plan which they were made to understand was one major sourcing of Bhutan’s richness in long run in terms of economic. They thought that was a worthwhile contribution on their part for the future of Bhutan, but the question is what of them? These people are made to search land substitution on their own which is good in one way though, yet when and how they would be relocated is still known to none.
    Leaving the people in confusion for years is a state crime in all sense if we logically ponder. They have worried for at least four to five year by now, and how long they are going to live in the same predicament of disturbance, no one cares. It is more than many of the natural disasters striking the houses of our people across the country. In the wake of natural disaster, immediate relief service arrives with projectionist ministers and officials working to rebuild the houses in the face of media’s camera. I am not against this at all, for people need this sort of assistance in the time of despair, terror and lose, but what of in this case mentioned in the above article? Is it not a disaster in a softer sense, causing people to displace themselves from the home they lived out their ancestors for ages; and beating on the wound, leaving them unattended and un-sympathized, forget about compensating their goodwill towards the nation makes the it even worst if one views this state of matter from the in depth human value.
    If citizen are to be for the soil the soil shall reap harvest for the people too, then the question would be asked what people can do for the soil. So government needs to keep the people informed about their plan and must make an arrangement for the people to relocate themselves soon if it is anyway-going-to-happen plan, so that people can resettle and make their home at another place sooner. I think we all know the Bhutanese saying, earlier the fire is made, earlier the home get warm. Think government must consider this issue an issue for it involves many people’s peace and tranquility against the spirit of GNH.

  3. Annahazaree on said:

    The agriculture land will be decreased further to 0.5% from 2.9% which is now. Has the government done any cost-benefit analysis and risk analysis before replacing agriculture land with such hydro project? Has anyone done sustainability and externality analysis on food security and rural livelihood? Poor farmers are adversely affected, wasting their time, who is paying for these wasted time? Is it the project or the govt? These poor farmers should have been relocated prior to project construction, so that they are resettled for their livelihood again.

  4. B N A on said:

    What I feel about the project is it needs to be build but away from Villages and Fertile lands considering the 7% of cultivable land of Bhutan, because what I heard is the submergence area would swallow a large portion of fertile land. The business opportunities are short term and the employment opportunities too. Amochhu project could be constructed above the confluence of Namchhu and Somchhu where the area is with scattered population and the geographical area lies as a cliff. Just my feeling as laymen.

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