NEC to penalize Department of Roads

The DoR will be fined Nu20,000 per day

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.

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11 comments

  1. NEC should butt out and go save some flies, stupid people always hampering economic development. Maybe Bhutanese should take NEC out so that we don’t waste tax payers money on those useless bureaucrats. The road is for Bhutanese benefit, last time they fined Thimphu city Corporation because city wanted to provide water to the people. NEC get your priorities right.

  2. I also felt that something is wrong with the design of the work being carried out here. As seen from the picture, the river protection wall and thus the road do not have to be that far from the airport fencing. If the river becomes big there is not much space for the river to flow if the wall stands where it is being built right now and it will surely flow in to the road. I think it is good that NEC if intervening in this project because when i look at the work done here it looks like a big mining project….but i think its too late ….anyways lets wait and see what NEC can do….i hope they are not barking like a dog and that never bites…

  3. I think, NEC should think in a broader way rather than sticking on specific rules. If we go 100% by rules, nothing can be made possible and during framing such rules,no one could have foreseen such practical problems.

    I don’t think that changing a course of river for few hundred meters will have drastic impact on the environment. NEC should think that DOR is doing for the benefit for the country as a whole and if the benefits outweighs the impact, then there should be some flexibility.

    • Either have an environment law or don’t have it. Don’t have inbetween interpretations such as ‘for the benefit of the whole country’ etc etc. There are many projects that also benefit the country that are being forced to abide. So should all govt projects.

  4. NEC is not against the economic development. We simply wanted to ensure that irreversible damages are avoided and the implementation of the activities are in line with the legislations and the rules of procedure. Just because one has the resources, does not give the absolute right to mess up the environment which belongs to not just the present generation, but also for the future times to come. A pristine river that had stood the test of time and should be revered for being one of the rarest natural flowing ecosystem does not warrant to be ploughed indiscriminately by the modern machineries. It is a shame on us if such adhoc activities are allowed to continue.

  5. All NEC can do is penalize government or public entites. What are they doing with those private companies which are infact violating the enviroment rules openly and rampantly. Visit Samtse. What have they done with one who had done mining in the name of establishing School.

  6. Proper rules and regulations must be followed and adhered to at all costs and for any project. If the on-going project doesn’t have an EIA clearance then it is a serious breach of regulation. However, I have heard stories from few consultancy firms that EIA is just on papers and that there are no follow up actions on the recommendations of the report both by the Government’s procuring agency or the NEC..
    lastly i have a doubt whether the ground leveling works beside the Pelkhil School in Thimphu and the construction of the bridge adjacent to it has proper approval from relevant agencies esp the NEC since i have seen soil being dumped into the river and noted a significant diversion of the course of the river at the location of the bridge if my memory is correct. Sorry for bringing a diff topic but it is relevant with the work NEC does.

    • these laws and EIAs are a bigger joke than you think. If EIAs had any meaning, it would be impossible to justify opening a single mine. Step into any mine and you will find total environmental destruction and degradation. The absolute strictness of the NEC starts hen you apply for the clearance and ends once you get it. Ground ‘strictness’ comes once in a while when someone like PM complains etc.

      If you look at the road works, even the new roadwidening works from Dochula, you can see all the environmental rules have been flouted. Entire stretches of hillside have been covered by dumping excavated mud down the hillside, an absolute no no in environmentally friendly road construction. And it’s worse because these areas are already vulnerable to slides and with the foliage covered, the entire road now has a chance of sliding down.

      Pasakha factories have polluted the air and water in pling. it’s an old case and NEC is still sitting pretty doing nothing about it. Every stone quarry is at complete odds with environmental policies. Punatsangchu is completely at odds with environmental laws. 

      The problem seems to be that the NEC does not seem to have a way to balance out the cost-benefit factors in a reasonable way. Sometimes they are too strict, sometimes they are too lenient. Most times they are sleeping and wake up suddenly after most of the damage has been done and then make a lot of noise.

  7. Thanks for the Pelkhil school bridge and the mucking by the river side. Thimphu Thromde is the immediate Competent Authority that should take up the matter and they have been prompted in the past to act on it. If they are not fulfiling the duties they are supposed to discharge, I guess we will have to request NEC to step in. The reports and information from the concerned people are crucial to help probe into the issues, so we request more of such from our people.

  8. NEC’s rules are wide and sweeping but their application is based just on hearsay and knee jerk reactions. 

    The DOR project is a good example for them to prove their commitment. If the DOR can change the course of a river, then the NEC should pack up their Environment act and throw it into the river. And the NEC should stop bothering people, both private and government. 

    There should not be double standards for private and public. There are too many examples.

    Look at the track and athletic field. It is built on a green belt and the river protection work is inside the river. Look at the centenary children’s park. it is inside the river.

    I think the NEC is doing to much picking and choosing when it comes to which battles to fight. 

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