Today, Kuensel has carried over as news the verdict on the mining disputes at Gida between the adversely affected Communities and four mining companies.
The compensation amount is nominal and should be of no real burden to the companies. The communities may feel aggrieved by the Nu: 745,530:00 compensation versus their claim of over Nu: 5,000,000:00.
The sad fact is that the compensation may not even cover the cost of litigation. It is time that Courts looked into this issue of litigation cost. The guilty party should be made responsible for the cost of legal process. This will have two positive outcome. The victims of aggressions would be encouraged to seek dispute settlement through legal course instead of taking laws into their hands out of sheer frustration. And the aggressors would be more cautious and reasonable if they know that if proved at fault the actual litigation cost must be borne by the guilty party.
I am, however, impressed by the grounds covered by the verdict in terms of constitutional rights, the right to adequate safe drinking water, the right to unpolluted irrigation water for crop cultivation, the enforcement of minimum air pollution and imposition and adherence to safe limits of explosive usage at mining sites. The ruling even incorporated the spiritual well being of the communities. It is a landmark judgement.
What is now most critical is how the relevant Agencies like Geology and Mines Health, and the Environment upon whom the Court has called upon to act, intends to fulfill their official and legal responsibilities.
In the first place, there would not have been the need for affected communities to approach the Court of Law if such agencies had fulfilled their mandates. Thus the doubts against official will of agencies to fulfill mandates.
A Dzongkhag Court functioning under huge constraints of both human resources and administrative clouts is in no position to follow up on its judicial directives. And villagers of a community are in no position to move powerful government agencies especially against well heeled commercial enterprises. If that had been possible, there would be no need to resort to the Court of Law.
Therefore, the problems faced by the Gida community may still continue far into the future. Even then a beginning has been made by the Bench II of Thimphu Dzongkhag Royal Court of Justice to protect commercial interests of mining enterprises as well as the the rights and central essentials of the livelihood that are the foundation of a community wellbeing.
I feel a little social effort from the mining companies can go a long way to make village communities feel safe and less abused. Mining activities are necessary evils that cannot be altogether banned. However, the powerful proprietors of mining companies operating all over the Country need not become the devils for uprooting communities. A responsible government must act to protect communities and at the same time
enhance proper and beneficial exploitation of natural resources.
I wish to express my appreciation to the Dasho Drangpon who has courageously set a historic precedent by this judgement.