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Opposition Leader Pema Gyamtsho (PhD)
Opposition Leader Pema Gyamtsho (PhD)

NA discuss challenging natural resource permit procedures

The National Assembly yesterday decided that good governance committee study the issues of distribution of subsidised timbers and lengthy procedures in availing permits and report at the next session of the Parliament.

Some MPs raised concerns over lack of a service provider in the nearby gewog for the benefit of the people.

Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi said that although the gewog had a forestry office, people had to receive the permit from the dzongkhag.

He added that in some gewogs and dzongkhags, along with the forestry office there was also the park services office.

“Because Phangkhar falls under the Royal Manas National Park, people in Phangkhar had to receive the permit from the forests and park services office. So this place is far and people had to travel making huge arrangements,” said Dorji Wangdi.

To avail of a permit for the natural resources in the country, an individual following procedures from gewog required approval from the chief forestry officer. The approval is sought through community information centre (CIC).

The need to change the policy in providing the services was also debated.

However, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that instead of changes in the policy, digitalisation and improving the online permit system would benefit in improving the service providing procedures.

Opposition Leader Pema Gyamtsho (PhD) said that Bhutan had about 80 percent land coverage today. “Of the total annual allowable cut (AAC) without harming the forest or the animals, we don’t cut one percent of the AAC. The import of timbers is worth Nu 4 billion (B) every year and export is only about worth Nu 3B.”

To this, PM said that the government would work to commercialise forest and wood-based industry.

The need to extend subsidised timbers to those building three-storey house was also discussed. Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor said that if one could afford building a three-storey house, it meant that they could also afford to buy the timber.

Although it was recommended that a committee be formed with members from relevant agencies to conduct a study to address the issue, Opposition Leader Pema Gyamtsho (PhD) said that similar resolve was made in the past but the issue still persists. “Good governance committee should study the main issue and discuss with the agencies and provide a report in the next Parliament.”

Dorji Wangdi also raised concerns over Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited (NRDCL), a government agency formed to benefit the people handing over the projects to contractors. “This results in price rise. And then when they bring it to the people, the very purpose of bringing them at affordable price is lost.”

Phurpa Lhamo

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