Villagers of Phyang demand the cancellation of 1200 kanals of land allotted to Wangchuk. They also claim his projects harm the environment
Sonam Wangchuk caught the imagination of the nation after a character based on him, Phunsuk Wangdu, became popular following the release of the Aamir Khan-starrer 3 Idiots in 2009.
However, it seems the mask is off from his much-publicised fast for the protection for Ladakh’s fragile ecology. While on the one hand, he is speaking about securing Ladakh’s ecology under the sixth schedule, in reality, he is facing protests from villagers for taking government land and not delivering a project for two years under pretexts.
Villagers of Phyang also allege that his famous Ice Stupa artificial glacier project is harming the ecology with its excessive use of plastic.
Residents of Phyang village had written a letter to the Chairman and Chief Executive Councillor of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh, for the cancellation of land allocated to Wangchuk’s Himalayan Institute of Alternatives Ladakh (HIAL).
In the letter, a copy of which is available with The New Indian, the villagers of Phyang, including members of the Buddhist and Muslim communities, called for the cancellation of 1200 kanals of land allotted to HIAL for setting up an Alternate University.
“The NOC for the land has been provided on the condition that the HIAL would complete university construction within two years of land allotment. Since the lapse of two years (sic), there is no trace of initiating the works, nor did HIAL conduct any meeting or consultation with the Board of Members after HIAL got the NOC from the villagers,” the letter stated.
The villagers, while demanding the cancellation of the land allotment to Wangchuk, also said that “HIAL has played negatively with the sentiments of innocent villagers in Phyang village by making false promises and enticing (them) just for the sake of getting a NOC for allotment of land”.
The office of Nambardar of Phyang also wrote a letter recommending the cancellation of 1200 kanals of land allocated to Wangchuk.
“It is felt that 1200 kanals is quite enough for establishing the institution. It is learnt that he (Wangchuk) is still running from pillar to post for acquiring additional land for the said purpose, for which villages have strong objections, as only a small amount of land is left which we (villagers) require for central purposes in the near future,” office of Nambardar, Phyang, wrote to LAHDC.
In 2020, the office of the Deputy Commissioner /CEO LAHDC also sent a notice to Wangchuk for failing to deposit the amount agreed for 1076 kanals and 1 marla of land allotted to him for the construction of HIAL.
In recent times, Wangchuk has been working on the Ice Stupa artificial glacier project to solve Ladakh’s water crisis. However, it seems not everyone is happy with Wangchuk’s project. The villagers in Leh have alleged that the mountains are being littered with plastic waste due to Wangchuk’s project.
Residents of Phyang village expressed environmental concerns with images showing a large number of plastics being used in the making of these ice stupas, which freeze water during the winter in the form of 50m high towers.
Despite the possible advantages of these high towers or ice stupas, villagers are concerned about the high usage of plastic in the project. Villagers allege that plastic pipes, tents, and bottles are found in many parts.
They also said that while Wangchuk claims to fight to save the environment, his projects harm it.
Reports also claimed that Wanchuk’s method of diverting water for ice stupas also affected the region’s water table.
The development raises the question: Is Sonam Wangchuk, a darling to a particular section of the elite, using ecology to gain more benefits from the government while at the same time misleading the villagers?