Gidawom quarrying case, Bhutan

One of the few officially recorded environmental conflicts in Bhutan, and a partial victory in court for the protesting villagers.


Description

29 villagers from the hamlets of Gidawom and Jamdo took four mining companies to the court over the adverse impacts of quarrying on their community, health, water, and properties. After the 20-month trial that saw more than half a dozen witnesses and expert summoned and judicial investigations, the court asked RSA Private Limited, Taktshang, and Riverview to compensate the eight houses in Gidawom.  The Thimphu dzongkhag court’s Bench II found the companies guilty of causing cracks on the homes of eight households on July 21 in 2014. The verdict points to the need for the companies to adhere to the terms they agreed to earlier but failed to meet them. The villagers have complained that companies were not doing enough for the communities. The court asked the two companies to prevent wastewater from their units flowing into the irrigation channels of the communities.  The verdict asked Taktshang to construct two more tanks to prevent wastewater from flowing into the irrigation channel. RSA Private Ltd will have to direct their water elsewhere. “The muddy and waste water from the two units flow in the irrigation channels of farmers,” said the court verdict.

Basic Data
NameGidawom quarrying case, Bhutan
CountryBhutan
ProvinceThimphu dzongkhag
SiteGidawom and Jamdo communities in Mewang gewog, Thimphu
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Specific CommoditiesCement
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsFour Bhutanese quarrying companies were brought to court by the villagers: RSA Private Limited, Taktshang, Riverview, and Nortak. They are all active in the area. The extraction of Limestone for the production of cement seems to be main activity in the site of about 30 acres.. The 29 villagers from Gidawom and Jamdo communities in Thimphu, who took these four mining companies to the court over the adverse impacts on their community, health, water, and properties, emerged victorious.
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population29 villagers from two hamlets
Start Date2014
End Date06/10/2017
Relevant government actorsIn 2016, the High Court upheld the district court verdict, dismissing the companies’ appeal. In 2017, the Supreme Court also upheld the district court's verdict.

Also relevant, the National Environment Commission Secretariat (NECS).
Environmental justice organisations and other supporters-
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Forms of MobilizationLawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Mine tailing spills
OtherHealth impacts are mentioned but not specified.
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Loss of livelihood
OtherAdverse impacts on the farmers' communities are mentioned but not specified. Cracks on the homes of eight households, due to blasting.
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Application of existing regulations
Development of AlternativesThe companies have been obliged to strictly follow the law, including environmental regulations.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.Local, High and Supreme Courts confirm the verdict. Compensations have to be payed, the law has to be respected. The court decisions and terms of compensation are minutely described in the press reports in the Kuensel (see Sources and Materials). The villagers' demand to shut down the activity was not agreed with by the court. Of the eight households, the worst affected house will receive Nu 285,981 and the least affected will receive Nu 18,036 for the damage.
Sources and Materials
References

Very full report on quarrying and mining in Bhutan, National Council, Socioeconomic_Environmental_Impact_Assessment_of_Mining_and_Quarrying_Activities_in_Bhutan, Febr 2013
[click to view]

Media Links

"Supreme Court upholds Gida mining case judgment" (article from the Kuensel, October 7, 2017) by Tshering Palden
[click to view]

"High Court dismisses Gidawom mining case appeal" (article from the Kuensel, August 5, 2016) by Tshering Palden
[click to view]

"Gida mining companies appeal to High Court" (article from the Kuensel, April 4, 2016) by Tshering Palden
[click to view]

"Gida Verdict: Mining companies guilty" (articles from the Kuensel, the leading Bhutanese newspaper, March 22, 2016) by Tshering Palden
[click to view]

Other Documents

Bhutan's newspaper
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorJ.-F. Gerber
Last update11/08/2018
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