NC follows-up on its strong resolutions in its first session

The National Council (NC) evaluated the follow-up reports on the resolutions of first session of the second NC yesterday.
These were on the Annual Budget report, restoration and renovation of sacred artifacts, legality of imposing restriction on mining activities by Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) within their geographical jurisdiction, impact assessment of mining activities, Trowa Theatre land case, and performance audit on Constituency Development Grant (CDG).
On the Annual Budget Report resolutions, NC Deputy Chairperson, Tshering Dorji, made a presentation on the allocation of budget for the Dzongs destroyed by earthquake and on enhancement of agricultural products by use of green house and identifying niche market for agricultural goods. The possibilities of tourism in eastern and southern dzongkhags were put up as well.
With regards to the restoration and renovation of sacred artifacts, the Ministry of Finance report response says that the authority lies with Gewogs to plan for their activities and implement its annual budget. Further, it states that the Gewog Development Grant (2 million) annually can be used, keeping in mind the austerity measures. The report states restoration and renovation of sacred artifacts is a non-economic activity. The Department of Culture, MoHCA is also allocated nominal budget for restoration and procurement of nangtens in every five-year plan period.
The NC had also passed the resolution on the legality of imposing restriction on mining activities by Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) within their geographical jurisdiction. The resolution does not allow the Dzongkhag Tshogdu to have the authority to impose blanket restriction on mining activities within their geographical jurisdiction but just the authority either to issue or deny clearance in consultation with the public. It also stated the intent of the law promulgated to agencies concerned for greater clarity in the interpretation and proper implementation of the above legislations.
The report from Department of Geology and Mining, Ministry of Economic Affairs said that all mining approvals are made in accordance with the relevant provisions of the mining, environment and local government rules and no mining license is issued without fulfilling all the requirement of public consultations and clearances from local government administrations. It further states that clearance should be primarily acquired from Dzongkhags or the local community.
To facilitate the public consultation process, the Department of Geology and Mines has drafted the public consultation guidelines and the preceding government had approved it. The final clearance lies with the Dzongkhag Land Leasing Committee and the decisions are made in accordance with the National Environment Protection Act that requires clearances to be made taking into consideration individual, community and national interests. Moreover, if projects are in national interest, the Royal Government is empowered to take over the land for development.
On the resolution for impact assessment of mining activities, conducting a detailed geological mapping of the country and a comprehensive cost benefit analysis of the mining, the Department of Geology and Mining reported such a study will take a long time.
The House had also passed the resolution on the government to refrain from issuing mining and quarrying licenses to FDI companies till the completion of the above study and a recommendation to the Royal Audit Authority to conduct a Performance Audit on Tax of mining and quarrying sectors to support the study of the ad hoc committee.
On this, the government report states, according to the FDI Rules and Regulations 2010, mining for sale of minerals in primary or raw form is in the negative list and no licenses are to be issued.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs expressed reservations on the neutrality of a recommendation that comes from the report on socio-economic and environmental impact assessment on mining by the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN). The ministry stated RSPN is non-governmental organization and biases have been noted in the report. It recommended that an independent competent third party review the mining sector.
The NEC and DGM have investigated the maintenance done by completed mining and the effects of the undergoing mining activities on the environment. The investigation is to be completed by January 2014 and the report will be submitted to the government and concerned agencies.
NC Chairperson concluded by saying that the issue contradicts the FDI Policy 2010, and said the issue was to be discussed within two days.
On the Trowa Theatre land cases, the Ministry of Work and Human Settlement (MoWHS) reported that the new lease term was made from January 1, 2013 and lease term was made effective from the new lease. It also received no objection from National Land Commission Secretariat (NLCS). The House finally resolved to close the case as all the recommendations were conformed to by the agencies. The NC Chairperson concluded by saying that government land cannot be procured by private entity and it is on lease and not sold.
On the performance Audit on Constituency Development Grant (CDG), the house had passed resolutions on the clear guidelines for implementation, avoidance of political interference in the fund and fund allocation for maximum socio-economic benefit to the community identified after discussions within the local community. The House resolved that RAA should consider fixing accountability on concerned individuals in performance auditing or if this is not possible, then in severe case of mismanagement and lapses, it must be immediately followed by compliance auditing.
The Ministry of Finance reported that CDG has been discontinued from FY 2012-2013. With respect to new Gewog Development Grant (GDG), it is different from CDG conceptually as it provides full autonomy to the respective Gewogs without the involvement of MPs for the utilization of the fund. The Samtse NC member stated the clear guidelines for allocating the budget. The Thimphu NC member recommended giving authority to the Gewogs as the government will not able to reach to all Gewogs during times of natural disasters. Eminent NC member Karma Yoezer Reddy talked on recommendations to be brought from the GDG grant budget allocation. The NC Chairperson said there would be further discussion on the issue in the upcoming session.

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