The Local Area Plan (LAP) for Kabisa under Thimphu, which was started in the middle of 2017, is likely to resume soon. Though all the public consultations were done by 2018, they could not progress with the work due to issues raised on the conversion of wetland to dry land as around 60 percent of Kabisa is wetland.
Earlier, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoFA) wanted to preserve agriculture cultivation and to protect the wetlands, and therefore, did not favor the land conversion. Nevertheless, MoAF does not see any reason to hold back the developmental activities and plans at Kabisa now.
Agriculture Minister, Yeshey Penjor, said that they have had several discussions on the matter in the Cabinet, after which the Minister of Ministry of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS) and Thromde office were directed to work on it. The Cabinet is still waiting for their response on this, he said.
Lyonpo said, “In the past, the MoAF objected on this, for the given reasons. Having to convert wetland into infrastructure development would reduce the agriculture cultivation areas, which means we are going to lose food productivity.”
He said that with the increasing number of people buying and selling land, the wetland is being fragmented, therefore, there is no point conserving such wetlands. If they were to stop, they should have done it before the transfers of Thram and before the fragmentation of the land, he said.
“If MoWHS and Thromde come with a proper local area plan then we do not see any stand that our ministry can make because there is no way to block on the food security stand. We will see the possibility of substituting the land for agriculture development,” he added.
Meanwhile, MoWHS Minister, Dorji Tshering, said that even though the ministry is the leading partner, however, it does not have an absolute say on the matter, and instead has to comply with other agencies.
“We have to follow all the relevant Acts and synchronize all the Acts and make a plan, and we should keep in mind the existing laws and norms,” he added.
Lyonpo said, “People expected us to convert the wetland, but we could not fulfill their expectations, and therefore, this has become an issue. We are done with the planning where there is no wetland, while the planning associated in converting the wetland remains as it is. This may not happen also (conversion of wetland into dryland).”
This is why the planners are not able to move forward with the plan for now. However, they are now discussing on planning holistically, including both dry land and wetland, which might be accepted by the people, Lyonpo added.
An official from Thimphu Dzongkhag said, “There are three LAPs at Kabisa. They did not do anything with LAP 2 and 3, while a major settlement has been done on LAP 1. When we were about to finalize and put it up to the high level committee, we had to place it on halt as the issue of conversion of wetland came up.”
Thereafter, the issue has been put up to the Cabinet for further discussion. According to the directives from the Cabinet, the ministry is to review and work into it, he added.