The 104 land owners whose 31.7 acres in Hejo is to be acquired for the long pending Diplomatic Enclave have seen a new ray of hope as the National Land Commission (NLC) is working on a new solution to minimize the loss of land.
It is understood that the NLC also submitted the matter to His Majesty The King for consideration.
The Land Secretary, Pema Chewang said, “His Majesty considered the submission subject to a thorough ground study.”
Currently in line with the provisions of the Land Act those losing their only plots of land in their name are eligible for getting a satshab or replacement plot within Thimphu while the rest get only cash compensation at government rates. However, the problem is that a majority of the landowners would not be eligible for satshab plots as they have other lands either in Thimphu or outside Thimphu.
The land secretary, said that the new solution for landowners losing land in the Diplomatic enclave is that if they have land either in Thimphu or other parts of Bhutan, then nearby excess government land equivalent in value to land in the Diplomatic Enclave can be added into their Thram.
Giving an example the secretary said in certain cases it could be some kind of ‘trapped government land’ of a few decimals that cannot serve any public purpose or a similar land that is already being occupied and used by the landowner.
He, however, said that such land cannot be useable government plots or land that can be used for public infrastructure and government institutions.
The secretary clarified that except for those losing the only piece of land they own, the NLC would not create and give new plots within Thimphu.
The Land secretary said that this special consideration was being made for the Hejo landowners given the large amounts of land the landowners lost over many decades to the government for government offices and institutions.
The secretary said that while granting land Kidu recently to Thimphu Dzongkhag residents His Majesty in the Royal address mentioned that the issue of ‘Kheb Nyim’ or original inhabitants who lost a lot of land needs to be studied.
The residents of Hejo over the decades have lost large amounts of land to the Golf course, National Assembly area, Supreme Court and the Green Zone.
At least in the case of the Green Zone it was already designated as a no construction zone under the 2002-22 Thimphu structural plan and so its land value was only in growing rice. While in the Supreme Court much lesser land of 1.75 acres was acquired. Moreover, both the cases have already been resolved with landowners accepting compensation or in some cases satshab, for those who were eligible.
However, the diplomatic enclave land presented a special problem given its size at 31.7 acres affecting 104 landowners and how many of these landowners and their families had already lost land earlier.
The land secretary said that the Diplomatic enclave area issue was a long pending once since 2002 approved by the then cabinet for the 2002-22 Thimphu structural plan. The land secretary said that currently consultations are going on with the landowners.
In the meantime due to a communication gap a few landowners after seeing a recent Thimphu Thromde notification on land acquisition in the Diplomatic Enclave area approached the Thimphu district court. The landowners were not aware of the NLC’s new solution. It is understood that the court has given some time to solve the issue.
The land secretary said that he wanted to make it clear that the NLC’s solution was not a result of the court case by a few landowners but was looked at by the NLC months before that. He said that those landowners who have heard of the new solution are in fact dropping out of the court case.
Two lawyers that The Bhutanese talked to said that given the sections in the Land Act there was very little hope that any landowner can win a case.
The land secretary said as early late last year he had called some of the Hejo landowners to discuss a solution but only around 15 of them had turned up. The secretary said that the NLC would have to go by the court verdict for those who even after knowing about the solution insist on a legal case.
A group of landowners that the paper talked to said that they welcomed the NLC’s new solution.
A few of them alleged that Hejo in North Thimphu lost a lot of land in the 2002 structure plan as some ministers at the time had lands and interests in South Thimphu.