… and leave reassured that they are being cut a fair deal
Amochhu Power Project: Speaking in Lhotshamkha, Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley, assured families who are to be affected by the soon-to-begin Amochhu power project works, that they will be compensated before they are displaced or the land is acquired by the project.
The families, in turn assured that they have no issues in giving away their land, provided they are compensated on time.
The meeting was held yesterday in Phuentsholing.
The estimated Nu 43B, 540MW hydropower project is expected to start its pre-construction work early this year, after a memorandum of understanding is signed between the two governments of India and Bhutan.
A total of 276 households with 1,726 families will be affected, from five gewogs under Chukha and Samtse. Phuentsholing and Lochina under Chukha have 21 villages and Denchukha, Tading and Dophuchen under Samtse have 12 villages.
The project requires 5,017.14 acres of land, of which 1,366.49 is private land. For immediate use, about 50 acres is required. The construction period is expected to complete in 66 months.
While briefing them on the benefits like job opportunities, tourism benefit, and other economic prospectives, Lyonchhen also highlighted the importance of becoming self-sufficient, especially with donors withdrawing.
Affected families to be compensated will be paid monetarily or given substitution, depending on their choice. This is in line with the Land Act 2009. For those with less than 10-decimal land will be paid money. The crops affected will be paid, in line with agriculture ministry rules.
Most expressed a desire for land substitution. A few, who owned less that 10 decimals, said they should also be given land substitution.
The land substitution was sought in the same gewog where they are settled or, if possible, in the same area, or the land remaining excess after project use. The families also asked if monetary compensation would be increased.
Tandin Zam from Tading said that for her house, which she will be losing to the project, she’d like to receive a house, instead of monetary payment. “Money doesn’t stay for long,” she said. “Moreover I’ve constructed the house with such difficulties.”
The five gups said the communities have agreed to give their land, understanding the benefits, especially for their children in future.
They also raised questions on behalf of the people. Dophuchen gup Chandra Prasad Phuyel asked if farmers would be compensated for the actual harvest done in a year, which, unlike in other parts of the country, is three times. “People have asked for bonus payment, based on the fertility of the land,” he said.
In response, National Land Commission’s executive director Tshewang Gyeltshen said compensation would be made as prescribed in the Act. “Everyone will be compensated as they deserve,” he said.
Apart from the compensation and substitution, affected families, officials said, will be entitled to benefits like free electricity of 10,000 units for an acre of land, or 100 units for a decimal of land each year.
This, officials from hydropower and power system department under economic affairs ministry explained, can be used for self-consumption or sold to the project, with each unit costing Nu 4.25.
“They can also sell certain units to the project for export to India,” an official said.
Other benefits, officials said, farmers can continue to use land for farming until the project actually starts using it.
The consultation meeting lasted for about five hours. The highlight of the meeting, families said, was the language in which the meeting was conducted. “We have no doubts now,” said one. “It was difficult to understand what was being said before.”
By Yangchen C Rinzin, Phuentsholing