At times developmental activities come as a double-edged sword, and this is particularly true for the villagers of Chhema and Monangkhola villages in Khaling under Trashigang who interpret such an intervention as both a boon and a bane.
The recent visit of a bull dozer cutting roads to their villages left at least four houses in a dangerously precarious condition. The bull dozer excavated earth while constructing the road, which adversely impacted the houses, leaving them prone to collapse, come rain this summer. With no fortifications or protective measures put in place after the fresh cut of soil, both the settlement area and agriculture fields are now under a direct risk of potential landslide, which could prove detrimental to both lives and properties.
In addition to the majority of the residents, who lost their precious arable land to the road cutting, four traditional Bhutanese houses were seriously affected as their foundation was disturbed during the cutting. This was made worse by the incessant rain.
A house has developed huge cracks between the kitchen wall, leading to the seepage of rain water. Such seepage leads to a sinking area each time it rains. It is also visible that, due to disturbance in the stable earth by the road cutting and the seepage, the crops cultivated near the houses are washed away bringing them down to the road.
According to one of the affected house owner, Ugyen Tshomo, such danger to her house would have been averted if the concerned party involved in road cutting had built some retaining wall. Such a structure, according to her, would prevent sinking of the land.
“During summer, it rains almost every day and the situation of my house is getting worse each time,” she said. She and her family, during heavy rainfall, need to take shelter with the nearest neighbor who lives a 15-minute walking distance away. If it starts to rain in wee hours they stand to risk their lives.
While another house owner, Kencho said that he reported to the gewog about his problem but nothing was done as of now. He said that he will have to seek help from the higher authority as the gewog officials do not show much concern. “Each time it rains, the house bears more cracks and the situation now is very bad,” he said.
He also said that after the road cutting was completed, it not only caused problems to the residents but also to the vehicles plying through the highway.
While another resident, Karma Choden said that during heavy rainfall water floods down to her cultivated land and also between the houses. “Cutting works were completed long time back, but nothing had been done to prevent such disasters in the making,” she added.
Residents shared that the arable land is slowly decreasing since the top fertile soil is washed away by mud water. “Even the road condition itself is very bad,” said the affected residents. Some shared that the road cutting is more of threat than help to them, and said, “The people who are responsible are not so much bothered of the ultimate consequences of such negligence.”
Another resident, Sintong, 60, said that such a risk calls for immediate action from the responsible people to prevent further loss of land and damages to the properties. He added that as the monsoon season begins, many future complications would occur if nothing is done at the initial stage.
“It is very risky for us and also for commuters who use the road to travel,” he said. He also said that the landslides triggered by road cutting have become quite common and nothing much is done to prevent even if it posing huge risk to settlements.
Road cutting which was completed six months ago has not only consumed arable land and crops, but cause further loss of land from erosion.
People in the community shared that the risk is not only to their lives but also to their crops. “Our crops are all in stages of bearing fruits,” they said. “If such carelessness from the people responsible ends in washing away our crops, our whole year’s ration is at stake,” they added.
Another affected resident, Tandin wangmo said that some part of her arable land was destroyed during the road cutting. However, she sacrificed from what little land she owned, thinking of the overall good the road would do to the community. But, she said that to further lose another part of land is regrettable. “Concrete walls and proper water drainage scheme is mandatory after the road cutting, especially around the human settlements,” she added.
Several people also shared that the road cutting has left many hanging boulders, soil, logs, etc. which they say is hazardous and can roll down to their houses anytime.
According to the Khaling Gup Tashi Dorji, the gewog officials visited the affected households frequently to study the risks associated and also to ascertain the damages caused. He said that the four affected households will be getting concrete wall constructed around their land.