The National Environment Commission (NEC) is to soon send a letter to the Department of Roads (DoR) notifying them to stop the road widening works commissioned next to the Paro Airport immediately. Adding on, the NEC is planning to impose fine.
According to an official from NEC, they had written to the department to stop their works 14 days before as the investigation of whether it was a river protection or road widening works are still under way.
The non-compliance to the stop order from NEC has lead to a decision to fine an amount of Nu 20,000 a day after they issued the order. This amounts to Nu 2, 80,000. Further the NEC would probably impose a fine of Nu 50,000 for not having a valid environment clearance, said the official.
He said that the work that is being carried out violates all the terms of references of the forestry and Dzongkhag clearance. It includes taking of stones from the river bed for embankment purpose is not allowed and minimal disturbance to the natural course of the river. “One stretch had gone right into the river, changing the course of the river,” he said.
On top of the fine amount, the NEC would require the DoR to restore the river to its original state and it should start soon, he added.
The NEC found out about the non-compliance based on the monitoring inspection and also unofficial complaints by people were heard of. “They were alarmed at the way work was going on,” said another NEC official.
The river protection works worth Nu 160mn is 70% close to completion The work was awarded through a tender and number of contractors were given the work. The retaining wall that is under construction is 6 meters with 3 meters in the river bed and 3 meters above it.
This is done to save the airport runway from flooding in times of a flood, said the Executive Engineer under the Thimphu Field Division, Chador Gyeltshen.
After the river protection works are completed, the road next to the airport is to be widened to Asian Highway standard. The road width of the standard is 7.5 meters and foot path. The pavement formation cutting is 12.5 meters (Phuentsholing to Chuzom). Under the primary National Highway (Trashigang to Semtokha) the road is 6.5 meters wide and 10.5 meters of pavement formation cutting.
“We have the approval and we have all the documents with clearances till 30 December 2012 for the river protection works,” said Chador Gyeltshen. And as far as the road is concerned, we have not been able to secure funds, he added.
The design for the road and the bridge is underway. He also said that there is a committee to resolve any issues that surfaces. The Committee includes himself, Deputy Executive Engineer, Gup and the Chief Forestry Officer (CFO). The CFO looks into the environment clearance, and keeps monitoring it, he said.
However the Chief Forest Officer, Sither Dorji said that they do not look after the environment as their mandate covers only forestry.
The NEC had earlier fined the domestic airports and several other projects for non-compliance.