Sunday, May 29, 2016

Dear Pemagatshelpas,

I’ve thought long where to begin this letter. For it’s very difficult to put my thoughts into words here. Still though, I ought to write this chit to you... coz I think I ought to, coz it’s so very urgent.

To tell you, a couple of months ago I’d visited your dzongkhag, fondly known as Pemagatshel, “Blissful land of the Lotus”. There was something about your place that forced me to think hard, something that is too unsavory, something too cruel. And something that unlikely forced me to write to you today.

So I bring to you this message from your homeland, i.e. your dear dzongkhag is sick. In fact, the place of your heart, your home has been suffering silently, feebly for the past three decades.

A cancer called mining has afflicted her, wounding and bruising most parts of her body. It’s gobbling her flesh, ruthlessly ripping the body apart. Her flesh and blood was being sucked out, far away in those jumbo trucks. Her entire body was undergoing very intense pain, trembling.

When I first saw her, I couldn’t believe it. For, I’d never laid my eyes at such painful scenes before. Instantaneously, a deep chill ran down my throat and I almost burst into tears.

Arriving at Pemagatshel, I felt like I’d landed not in Bhutan, at all. I felt I’d entered somewhere else, where the development policy was not GNH but greed and materialism - where the government ventures into evil mining projects even at the cost of ruining environment and its citizens’ health.

The monstrous machines would work at the wounded sites, producing eerie and frightening sound. Even the ride to Pemagatshel was very unpleasant, as the road was in a wretched condition, apparently injured by gypsum trucks.

During my stay there, she was trying to convey many things to me; in fact, she was trying hard to convince me to convey her grief-stricken message to you.

Hey Pemagatshelpas, how could you despise her when she was in such a miserable state? How could you settle in other parts of the world when your dzongkhag is sick and crying out for immediate treatment? How could you migrate to somewhere with an excuse to escape the hostile and aggressive environment?

When I heard there are so many of you - highly qualified, powerful and rich persons in the civil service, corporations, NGOs, INGOs and private sector - it started to bother me in a strange new way. And I became angry. This time not angry at the cancer called mining, but at you. Huh!

What’s the use of your education, high positions and wealth if you don’t bother to help and treat your own rightful birthplace and fellow-villagers? Can you really serve the Tsa-Wa-Sum when you do not heed to protecting your birthplace?

I know that you work dutifully for yourself and your family. But you know what? Our responsibility is more than that, and that’s called natural responsibility, as has been always reiterated by our beloved Kings.

Or, are you scared of speaking up against those big mining companies? Why should you be? Coz Pemagatshel is your birthplace, and you should love your birthplace unashamedly. Come what may, it’s birthright to protect it.

Or, are you trying to avoid it? But how could you avoid the tears of someone, something very close to you? How could you avoid the place where most of your upbringing was spent? How could you avoid the place that gave you your sense of belonging and identity?

By avoiding and remaining silent, you’re only supporting the cruelty and injustice. The truth is that the Blissful Land of the Lotus is suffering not coz of the mining, but from cruel deafness (from you).

I must explain to you, the mining has brought more harms than serving it purpose of utilizing the reserve for economic development of your dzongkhag and optimization of revenue to the government. The mining’s incessant noise, dust, running trucks and uproarious machines have mired the health and living condition of innocent local peasants, your own fellow-villagers.

Their only source of livelihood, crops and vegetables, was affected. Suffocated by the dust and loud noise, everyday they experience unlikely prickly bitter hot weather. The lush green environment was degrading, irreparably.

Well, statistics don’t lie! The mining sector’s contribution to the nation’s economy is at a mere two percent. Pemagatshel received mining activity since 1983, but quite ironically, your dzongkhag still has second highest level of poverty. Only a handful of individuals have been benefited.

Your dzongkhag longs for your embrace and hug. She needs immediate nursing and treatment from you. After all, only you can nurse her, protect her.

Dear Pemagatshelpas, there’s no task too difficult, no distance too far. It’s only matter of priority and how much you care for your root. If you want to be real happy and proud, you have to go back, to be feeling, to be facing.

You should unite together and raise your voice against the mining or ask the government to end such cancerous mining operation in your dzongkhag. Break the silence and make all the appropriate noises - loud and with conviction. The Blissful Land of the Lotus will still be a better place.

Yours charo
Riku Dhan Subba

P.S. You cannot serve the country if you cannot be loyal to your root.

Khotakpa Gypsum Mining; Picture by Tashi Penjor
A mining in Pemagatshel


  1. Sir,

    I dont know from which angle should I pay my respects to you, for informing the Nation. It should have been so nice, if this blog was addressed to the nation of to Druk Sater, not to the Pemagathselpas. I am one citizen from a gewog under it and a has my farm house about 7 KMS south of Gypsum, at Tsebar.

    I had inhaled the dusty air, seen the crops fail, cut off the dried orange tree, rode on the broken road, hiked on the trailer of the truck and heard the blasting at 12:00 PM and 5 PM. The pemagatshelpas has the same, and at Chiwog level, gewog level and at Dzongkhag level the ill effect of the gypsum mining were deliberated. But, no fruitful outcome has come from it. The appeal reached the deaf ear.

    It is not the citizen, that have remained silent. They raised their voice. But, we can put a stone on the road, unlike in other countries, to stop mining.

    Therefore, it is a corporate social responsibility that the Company should take it. Just by sprinkling water on the road is not enough.

    Of all, what i pray for this blog, is to reach our concern authorities at the TOP. We Pemagatshelpas has walked our last mile, in telling the government, about its ill affect. Otherwise, the New Dzong will need another relocation, due to its ell effect, and the Planners, Engineers and the environmentalist should look into this, as a SERIOUS submission made by you la.


    1. Dear Dorji Sir,thank you for the information. Indeed, I am happy to know this fact from you. I hope, one day, the government would really address the problem of mining in Bhutan.

  2. many projects in the name of serving the government and the locality has least benefited the public but the environmental disaster is heinous......

    1. It is very true. Quite sad, this is happening in Bhutan.

  3. Dear Riku sir,

    I am very pleased while go through your writing and I am really triggered to do something about it so that these words can be heard by the authority. I am simply a student, doing my degree oversea but I still care my home (Pemagatshel). Like Dorji sir said, I was very aware of blasting at 12:00 and 17:00 everyday though I lived a day walk from the mining place and felt other impacts too. When I was young, I just heard a rumor that local people had raised their voices against the activity and effects they are bearing (cannot be so sure about it) but just to remain unheard or ignored. I also discussed about this topic with my colleagues here that there are no proper compensation for the Dzongkhag, no benefits for the people of Pemagatshel, nor any kind of discussion on this issue for the future betterment. Anyhow, I hope these words might awaken the concerned authorities and most importantly it might remind the local people to reinforce their voices.

    Best regards
    Dorji Wangchuk
    (Student at University of New England)

    1. Exactly why I wrote this post here. I want to see the people of Pemagatshel come together and reinforce their voices. I am happy to hear from, Dorji.

  4. First of all I would really like to thank Mr. Riku Dhan Subha for reminding all those educated and qualified individuals from Pemagatshel to wake up and stand up for the people of Pemagatshel Dzongkhag. It really means a lot to me to come from individuals like you sir, because you doesn't owe anything to this Dzongkhag. Once again thank you for bringing this issue to light. This issue has been in my head for long because I live just over a five kilometres from the mining area. I can see the ugly scenes of mining operations and the barren land created by years of bombing and digging from my window. It pains me to see such an ugly scenes and let that become uglier with constant growling of machine throughout the day.
    The ill effects that are associated with the gypsum mining is so adverse that we need to take action now. If I am not wrong, I heard the lease contract with Druk Satair expires in 2018 and they will have to renew the contract to do the mining operation. So I feel there is a chance for we the Pemagatshelpas to put an end to this degrading activity.

    Hope this issue gets heard by my fellow Pemagatshelpas and are willing to join hand in solving.

    1. Dear Ngawang, I hope the people of Pemagatshel would join their hands address the problem. Thanks for the comment!

  5. If you want to stop their business, its just like your boss warn you to quit your present job. Think twice before you comeup with such complain to authority for other business, let the people of that dzongkhag complain.

    1. Interesting thought you got, and you could be right. Still then, thanks for the comment.

  6. Very thought provoking article. People should know about this. Contact us facebook post.

  7. Its one thing to drive our economy and uplift the lives of the locality and quite another to have our environment intact for our future generation. I am really confused. At times I feel, its Bhutanese way of saying preserve environment wherever there is minimum accessibility and utility and exploit it the other day when we have adequate resources to do so.

  8. The findings from the WHO in relation to human well being, the destruction and degradation of ecosystem are immense, which is alarming. The consequences of these unsustainable disturbances and exploitation has resulted loss to life and properties across the globe.
    As pointed out by the WHO, E&HW, if the human activity continues with the same pace of exploration with ecosystem for its desire for socio economic development/growth, the ecosystem will reach a point where it will not at all be reversible, which will cause huge consequences. The time to take corrective intervention for building better planet for living is crucial & it will be late if not now. We have observed many consequences of disturbances and imbalance disturbances to the ecosystem which have severity of impacts to many of us and mostly, those who are poor. The gap between rich and poor will widen with current situation & our MDG and national goal achievement will be at stake. ( A reflection from WHO for kind information)

  9. Respected Riku sir,
    I have been taking you as one of my best persons who inspired to be good and hardworking since the day you have ingested the knowledge of MOIC in my college untill two days.I personally, deeply wanted to pay my homage and respect for all you have done for me,and for all as a whole.
    Secondly, despite the talks on the importance of safeguarding pristine environment, people still was remained tongue-tied cloving their tongues in the roof of the mouth. The fact might be numerous:people were afraid and reluctant on punishment?
    People were uneducated?
    People were benefitted? Etc.,
    Howsoever, the reason may not have been vivid,yet people could see the complications....
    So, it just turned out to be the duty of youth to combat such issues through voice and ideas..
    Once and for all, thanks to Riku sir.

  10. If there are environmental disturbance as stated, I feel it is the role of people to inform the local government. The discussion can be deliberated in Dzongkhag Tshogdu which would decide whether to approach the respective agency and ministry. Additionally, the other option is to approach Dzongkhag Environment Officer, which I am sure the official monitors and submits report to NEC.

  11. Dear Mr. Subba
    I am very gland that u sparked controversy on this issue which i feel is very timely. As u said, the intellectuals of pema gatshel should be ashamed for turning themselves blind and deaf towards the thing that inflicts so muh of pain to their motherland. However, i am very hopeful that this issue raised by u would evoke a sense of responsibility in them, and we would see them fighting for their right...

  12. I too felt it has caused and will be causing great imaacts negatively on large!
    Its time to join and do something!

  13. Dear Sir,

    Thank You so much for rising this issue. I am not from Pemagatshel and I have never been there even once. It is really disheartening as the Bhutanese and environment lover. It is really a great issue, concern is not only for the people of Pemagatshel but it should be all the people of the Kingdom of Bhutan. Every person should be concerned about the environmental degradation. First, being the sincere citizen of Bhutan and secondly, the harm of the environmental degradation is never geographical. The imbalance of nature at one region will hamper and hinder the connected region. Most importantly, the merits of the mining from Pemagatshel is equally distributed in the country in one or another way. And it is very unfair to leave the problems and obstacles to be challenged by the Pemagatshelpa only at the bad times. One Nation, One People! We should join our hand together through thick and thin.

    The development is very necessary but the developmental work should not sacrifice the right of peaceful and tranquil life of people. The development program must be people centric and people should be the end, not mere sacrifice. The mining work has polluted the air, making the eerie sound and the damaged roads, but let us be farsighted and think about the terrible condition of the place for our younger generations. It will be severe and difficult for even survival with the other complementary disorder along with the forest and land degradation.

    Bhutan has been peaceful and harmonious, but at times the people's backwardness too till date. It is our mother earth, our country, it is our environment, and it is our home. We have the natural inherited right to defend the mother earth. It is very sad that the voice of our innocent villager and victim of the uproar and the degradation is unheard. It is very sad fact that democratic Bhutan does not hear the voice of the people. And I am very glad that sir brought into light and I hope it will be heard by all the Bhutanese people and raise the voice along with the Pemagatshelpa. Most importantly, I hope the very responsible government of Bhutan will take into kind consideration.

    With Heartfelt Thanks and Biggest Thumps Up for you sir!!!

  14. Nector from “Blissful land of the Lotus” is still flowing in account of Druk Satair, i felt very pity on the mother earth that gives out her flesh to some hungry people, with a simple reason that it is contributing revenues to nation but, basically it is a hub a lucrative business, a economist think that it countries economy activities. Enough is enough, now it high time for the people of pemagatshel to raise the voice not allowing for next extension the lease. Not, only the pollutions, discomfort to people of PG, it has potential for becoming that mining area prone to high risk of disaster. Major landsliding can occurred since, the pemagatshel present dzong area is already classified as high hazard zone by DGM study. Now, the lease period is coming to an end till December 2018 and before govt plan anything, people of PG should do something.

  15. If it wasn't for me marrying my spouse who is from Pema Gatshel, I still would not have known where Pema Gatshel is.
    The entrance gate to Pema Gatshel between Tashigang-Samdrup Jongkhar highway before the current gate is built under the dynamic leadership of current Dasho Dzongdag, many people passing by would have not known that it is a way to Pema Gatshel Dzongkhag.
    The weather condition and the old gate there before made the place look haunted and scary.

  16. Kuzu zangpo la.

    Thank you very much for your concerns la.

    I dont know ...this company is owns by govt or private sector but the land transportation were affected badly.
    The taste of water and the air we breath la.
    Hope this message that you share would heard by everyone who owned .
    Eveything on that place and near that places are becoming a very pissy situation.

  17. Thanks Sir,
    For the write up. You are true only a fraction of people is benifited by this mining but everyone suffers from all those negative externalities ( pollution, road damage , blast and many other ). To be frank poor people of Pemagatshelpa do not get inch of benifit. All the benifit goes to so called Malicks who were able to afford some shares but sadly the common people are never informed or acknolege for the damage.
    Equality is just a fairy tale"

  18. You are filling negativity. Although most are nature lovers, but mining is just as hydroproject being constructed.

    Have you heard of php 1? You need money and development, but you would not see sacrifice?

    There are plenty of roads and houses being built by taking out earth and rocks.

    Just chill, control what you can, advice what you know, dont mislead..

    Not an owner, here but mere a mines manager in of the mining companies.

  19. Thank god u talked sth bullshit, if u have said anything abt alcohol and all......would have bashed ya lol
    P.S I just read first 3 paragraphs