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Friday, February 27th, 2015 - 6:26 AM
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A Malady Called Rural-Urban Migration Part II

A-Village-Home-2Abandoned? A goongtong in Tongmijangsa, Trashiyangtse

In recent times, the media – particularly Kuensel, has been reporting on a brand new social malady called Goongtong – the apathetic case of abandoned households in the rural areas of Eastern dzongkhags. Other than arousing a mild sense of curiosity generated by the term itself, the tragedy that is Goontong does seem to have created much flutter among the authorities. If it did, there is no sign of it.

Goongtong is a term derived from the combination of two independent words: “Goong” meaning household, and “Tong” meaning empty: empty household. It is a form of human adaptation necessitated by changing conditions within the sphere of their traditional dwellings.

Unfortunately, it is a change that reflects an act of desperation, the forfeiture of the rights of the humans – to live peacefully and in comfort within the confines of their own habitat. The mass movement of human population from the villages to the urban centers and roadside shanties is the result of a society that is increasingly becoming unthinking and insensitive. It demonstrates the abject failure and utter indifference of the policy makers to be responsive to the changing realities in the remote villages. Clearly, this is proof that policy makers in Thimphu are far removed from the realities of the lot in whose name and cause they profess to make the rules and regulations.

There are a number of other reasons but at the core of it, the problem of Goongtongs is caused mainly by, what the “educated” lot have grandiosely termed, “human-wildlife conflict”. Incredibly, the coinage “human-wildlife conflict” is a complete misnomer and a myth that has helped perpetuate the Goongtong malady. The fact that such a colossal misconception finds ready acceptance among the so-called “educated” lot is simply astounding. Is it possible that the country may be accruing some financial benefits from allowing this fallacy to be perpetuated, at the cost of the poor villagers? If not, how is it possible that the bureaucrats and the lawmakers and the environmentalists are doing nothing to contain this potentially dangerous situation to snowball into a disaster?

For anyone with a heart and a mind, it should be clearly evident that the case is not that of human-wildlife conflict. It does not exist. In fact it is a complete walkover – by the wild animals. They come, they plunder, they vandalise and they walk away – scot-free! If the villagers respond, they are fined and penalised. So where is the conflict? A conflict situation arises when two parties have the freedom and the right to react to other’s acts of aggression. The situation in the villages is that the humans are the passive watchers while the wild animals have a field day. Clanging empty tin cans and nightlong vigils and ingenious means of warding off the wildlife has not helped – leaving the villagers only one way out: to accept defeat and abandon farming as a means of livelihood.

As a result of the unchecked increase in the population of wildlife, an imbalance has been created – primarily because our laws give complete protection to the wildlife.

A good conservation policy aims at maintaining a balance, an equilibrium – because we know that when the balance is tipped in favour of one or the other, chaos follows. That is why there is a term known as “culling”. It cannot be that the humans have begun to encroach into the habitats of the wildlife – not in Bhutan. Records do not suggest such a scenario. In fact the reverse is true – the wildlife is now on the verge of taking over human habitat. They have begun to prey on the crops of the humans – because they represent easy pickings.

The wildlife are picking up a dangerous habit – that of feeding off the crops of the humans. Over time, there is a real danger that they may lose their natural instinct to hunt for food. Instead they may become habitual foragers in the fields of the humans – thereby proliferating the incidences of Goongtongs – mostly in the Eastern part of the country.

The government and the concerned agencies need to revisit its laws and Acts that have so far given complete and total protection to the animals – thereby upsetting the rules of co-habitation between humans and animals. Certain rules and laws may have been necessary during the time they were promulgated. However, we are now dealing with a situation that is no longer the same. All rules must undergo change – to suite a given situation. They must be appropriate.

If annual migrations of rural population out of their homes and villages are to be halted, one of the things we must do is to review and amend the laws that give animals primacy over humans. Let us give the poor villagers a fighting chance. If we don’t, the consequences can be too costly for the country.

 

Contributed by

Yeshey Dorji

Photographer & Blogger

yesheydorji.blogspot.com

[email protected]

The Edenlab has landed (or soon will, in Bhutan)

The world-renowned environmental education UK project is about to take a bow at BhIF

After an impressive run for 14 years in the United Kingdom (UK), Eden Project, the famous environmental education attraction from the UK, is making a foray into Bhutan, landing as Edenlab.

Edenlab, the international creative partner of Eden Project UK – one of the UK’s most popular tourist destinations – will stage interactive, immersive artistic events and installations to promote environmental sustainability and wellbeing during the first-ever Bhutan International Festival scheduled in Thimphu from February 14-23 this year.

Edenlab’s creative producer, John Hendicott, describes the arrival of Edenlab in Bhutan as ‘building a relationship and promoting collaboration and cultural exchange’. “It’s not about participating in an event and disappearing after that. It’s about integration and learning from each other. It’s about sharing and collaborating. It’s about cultural exchange and building a legacy together. That’s what music and arts are all about,” he said.

Edenlab, he said, also envisages Bhutan as a perfect place, because of the shared common goals. “We share a lot of the same ideas about our relationship to nature and sustainability, especially when we think about Bhutan being carbon negative and Bhutan’s commitment to maintain 60 percent of its total land area under forest cover. It’s also about art as an expression and reflection of current values, social and environmental. It’s these things we think are important as well,” he added. “From our time here so far, we’ve also met a lot of creative young people, who seemed very keen to collaborate, and we look forward to doing exactly that during Edenlab’s 10-day visit to Bhutan.”

As Edenlab’s main mission is to inspire behavioural change, Mr Hendicott said, “It’s not just about people coming and seeing our events, but it’s about participation, so that they take something away; a new perspective, greater insight or a new way of relating to the natural world. It should inspire them to reflect on issues that will be critical to our futures. Looking after the planet means looking after each other.”

At an earmarked space during the 10-day Bhutan International Festival, Edenlab will hold engaging public events, such as informative art installations, exploring people’s connection with nature.  Edenlab artist, known as Mileece, will wire up a diverse selection of plants from all over Bhutan to measure their electro-conductivity.  Visitors are then invited to interact with the plants by touching or breathing on them, and the interaction sets off a series of sounds and light responses, demonstrating the sentience of plants, and how our connection with the plants stimulates and therefore changes their conductivity.

“It’s basically the investigation of our relationship with plants. Plants are alive the same way as we are,” explains Mr Hendicott

Another engaging programme is the multi-award winning dance room Spectroscopy (dS) – a high-impact and accessible digital installation.  Fusing rigorous methods from computational physics with state-of-the-art computing, dS uses real-time 3d capture to interpret people as fields, whose movement creates ripples and waves in an invisible sea of energy.

“The results are interactive graphics and soundscapes, all arising in direct response to the motion of dancers’ bodies. People can see how they interact with the molecules in the air,” Mr Hendicott said, describing it as a biology lesson brought alive through arts.

Besides participating in the festival, Mr Hendicott said they are also keen to explore other potential areas for long-term relationships in Bhutan.

Popular musicians representing Edenlab, such as Nick Mulvey, Dizraeli, and Bellatrix, are also expected to host live music events and performances during the festival.

Edenlab will also build two large geodesic domes in the Centenary Park in Thimphu to host Mileece and dance-room Spectroscopy.  Both artists will be holding workshops and talks throughout the festival for anyone who is interested in participating.  The Founder of Eden Project, Sir Tim Smit, is also scheduled to deliver a talk at the TEDx Thimphu during the festival.

 

Contributed by

Namkhai Norbu

Former editor of Bhutan Times

FM to go on “authorised absence”

Breaking News: Foreign Minister Rinzin Dorji will be on “authorised absence” to prevent controversy and conflict of interest when the Office of the Attorney General prosecutes him on behalf of the government.

He will be on authorised absence until the case is resolved.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay will take over the portfolio of Foreign Minister.

      

Freeze on new religious structure constructions

The idea is to focus on existing edifices, given limited manpower and other resources

Circular: Construction of new religious structures, including lhakhangs, temples, choekhangs, tshokhangs, chortens, tshamkhangs and drashas, is frozen for the next two years.

The home ministry issued a circular last month, notifying all ministries, dzongkhags, religious organisations, corporations, private agencies and individuals not to accept applications for new constructions.

The decision was made after the department of culture (DoC) faced difficulties in managing and maintaining the existing religious structures, which are more significant, when compared to the newly constructed ones.

Chief architect with the department, Nagtsho Dorji, said it was necessary for the department to take stock of the needs for new constructions and reconstructions in existing religious structures.

“We have to get a clear idea on how many religious structures need reconstruction,” she said. “Over the years, we’ve seen a rise in new lhakhangs and chorten constructions,” she said.

According to the circular, there was a need to carry out a thorough assessment and review of the existing situation on the requirement of constructing new religious structures.

Ground assessment and review was required, because there are already thousands of religious structures that required huge resources in terms of manpower, time and finance, for maintaining it in terms of renovation and reconstruction of the existing structures.

“The maintenance work has been exacerbated by the earthquake in 2009 and 2011,” the circular stated. “Securing financial support has also been an issue with the dzongkhag as well as the department.”

Nagtsho Dorji said the government funds 90 percent of the constructions.

In the last five years, the department of culture approved construction of 88 new lhakhangs and 22 choekhangs.  Another 69 approvals were given for reconstruction.

“This is a huge number and every application cited “damage by earthquake” as a reason for the reconstruction or renovation,” an official of the heritage conservation division said.

The department does not have a record of the total number of religious structures, but officials estimate that there could be over 2,000 lhakhangs and 10,000 chortens across the country.

While the heritage conservation division encourages renovation, it receives at least six applications a day for renovation of various religious structures.  Officials said the stress is more on heritage point of view and its preservation, which is possible through renovation.

Culture department officials said it was crucial for the department to properly assess and review the need of new religious structures.  It expects that a review will be done in another two years.

However, Nagtsho Dorji said that, if there were any genuine constructions to be carried out, the department would verify and approve them.

The department has also notified all dzongkhags to not  accept any budget proposal for religious structure construction for the financial year 2015-16 and 2016-17.  The finance ministry will also be informed about it.

While freezing new constructions for the time being, the department encourages investments in the maintenance of existing lhakhangs.  The freeze is expected to help secure financial support for maintaining old lhakhangs.

By Nirmala Pokhrel

Govt. sticks to its transfer stand

BDBL’s capacity to provide basic financial services is its unique selling point

Management: The government has not reversed its decision to hand over operation and management of the community centres from Bhutan Post to the Bhutan Development Bank ltd (BDBL).

The opposition party, in a press conference held on January 21, had said that the government should reconsider its decision, on grounds that quality of services offered at the community centres would deteriorate.

Information and communication minister, DN Dhungyel, said that the decision to transfer management stands for the moment.  Lyonpo added that any reversal of decision or not would be made by the cabinet.

The minister met with the finance minister, representatives of Bhutan Post, BDBL, and the Department of Information Technology and Telecom, to discuss modalities of the transfer, yesterday.

It was determined at the meeting that between one to three months will be given to Bhutan Post and BDBL to allow for the management transfer to take place.  During that time, Bhutan Post will continue to provide whatever services are currently offered at the centres.

The minister acknowledged the opposition party’s argument that having BDBL represent other financial institutions, while also managing non-financial services, may present a conflict of interest situation.

The services of other financial institutions like Bank of Bhutan, Bhutan National Bank, the Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan, and the National Pension and Provident Fund, which are currently offered at some community centres, will continue to be provided at the centres after management is transferred.

“There could be conflict of interest in the initial phase, but the very idea of the government to transfer community centres from Bhutan Post to BDBL is to give the basic financial services, which are required by the people,” he said.

Lyonpo pointed out that BDBL is a state-owned enterprise and mandated to reach rural communities.  He said that financial institutions, like Bank of Bhutan and Bhutan National Bank, have to determine their locations based on economic viability.  He added that, if the commercial banks want to introduce their services in more community centres, BDBL would not block the move.

It was also pointed out that rural communities are more in need of financial services currently, rather than a variety of them. “Today we’re talking about having a basic service, not a choice; choice could be given once the basic services are covered,” said lyonpo.

Lyonpo Dhungyel denied that the management transfer is to meet the ruling party’s pledge of a bank in every gewog.  The opposition party had made this argument during their press conference.

Lyonpo said that the primary focus is not on fulfilling the pledge, but to provide the financial services that are required and necessary for the people. “How the government decides to give those services to the people, in line with the norms, is the government’s prerogative,” he said.

The opposition party had also pointed out that, as per the agreement between Bhutan Post and the government, the former would hand over management of community centres back to the government only if business failed “drastically”.

While many reports that the community centres were being underutilised have been published, there were some positive developments occurring.  For one, pensioners were able to reduce significant travel time and costs by collecting their pensions from community centres.

“In general, out of the 187 odd community centres constructed and in operation at the moment, it is viewed, that they aren’t optimally utilised,” said lyonpo Dhungyel.

Other services, like 45 G2C (government to citizen) and G2B (government to business), although demand was limited to only between 4-5 of these services, printing, scanning, photocopying, among others, are also available at the centres.

“BDBL may not be comfortably doing all those things that were done by Bhutan Post but it won’t be impossible for them to do it as well,” said lyonpo Dhungyel.  He acknowledged that Bhutan Post had made improvements for the community centres, and that it was not because Bhutan Post had failed in its task that a management transfer is taking place.  He said that it was because the government is of the view that BDBL will do a more efficient job as it would be providing critical financial services that people are more in need of.

Lyonpo also pointed out that Bhutan Post would now not have to divert resources to the community centres, and rather focus on its core businesses.

The minister also said that Bhutan Post would be refunded for the costs it had incurred above the subsidies provided by the government.  Bhutan Post was provided Nu 28M to run the centres between 2012-16.  In a recent letter to this newspaper, the agency pointed out that this subsidy ran out mid-way last year, and it spent an extra Nu 12M for the operation of the centres.

It has not yet been decided for how long BDBL will operate and manage the community centres once it takes over. Lyonpo Dhungyel said that this would be worked out once modalities for the management transfer are finalised.

 

By Gyalsten K Dorji

DPT asks court to dismiss sedition allegations

The party maintains it won’t execute bah

Court: Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’s (DPT) representative said the defendant Dasho Paljor J Dorji failed to substantiate any of the allegations against the party during his rebuttal to its libel suit, yesterday.

“He is simply repeating the charges levelled against DPT by one party in its electoral campaign and certain section of media,” the party’s representative, MP Ugyen Wangdi, said.

He also submitted that some allegations were not at all relevant to the case.

He said all of the highly political and malicious allegations were totally baseless while many were completely irrelevant to the case.

He said the plaintiff has conscientiously been cautious in their submissions regarding the ‘most hurtful and grievous accusation’ of usurping the Royal prerogative of land kidu and the “preposterous”  charge of sedition.

“We cannot but feel that the act of publicly raising such a dangerously divisive issue, is in itself, seditious,” he said.

MP Ugyen Wangdi said the defendant has cast aspersions on the judiciary by airing his suspicion that the court would be “deciding more on the basis of individual judge’s prejudices than the law of defamation” when and if it happens.

“This is direct insult to the honourable court and the judicial system, we ask the court to take appropriate action,” Ugyen Wangdi said.

DPT says it has not reproduced any of its submissions related to accusations of usurping Royal prerogative of land kidu and sedition calling them irrelevant to the case and citing ‘unthinkable negative consequences’.  He asked the court to dismiss these submissions.

MP Ugyen Wangdi also submitted that the court ask the Royal Civil Service Commission, and National Environment Commission, for which the defendant is an advisor, to take suitable administrative actions against Dasho Paljor J Dorji for violating the public service code of conduct.

The party would not execute the 75M bah (legal undertaking) but is still prepared to withdraw the case if the defendant submits an apology that his comment was not meant to accuse the party of committing acts of robbery.

Meanwhile, the defendant’s lawyer, Younten Dorji, said his client does not want to apologise.

“If a person of his stature could be silenced for using his constitutional right of freedom of speech, then what would become of the common people,” he said.

He said that DPT’s refusal to execute bah indicates the party is guilty of the allegations.

The next hearing is on February 12.

By Tshering Palden

First Bhutan International Festival from Feb. 14-23

BHIF: Bhutan International Festival, the first of its kind, will be held in Thimphu from February 14 to 23.  The 10-day festival will celebrate Bhutanese music, culture and arts.

The festival will be organised also to commemorate the 35th birth anniversary of His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the 60th birth anniversary of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, and the ‘Visit Bhutan Year 2015’.

The festival will enable local artists and musicians to collaborate with international counterparts.

The event is expected to help boost the tourism industry, and to promote Bhutan as an exciting travel destination.

Punam Rai, arts coordinator of BhIF, said that the festival was to showcase local talent.

“The festival will celebrate arts and its components, such as photography, films, music, food,” said photography curator Upasana Dahal. “It will build a cross-cultural collaboration among artists, and create and finance new opportunities in the realm of creative arts.  It will also showcase Bhutan at its most magical state, and provide a new platform for artistic expression.”

About 50 international artists and musicians will perform during the festival that will include five major events – art festival, Thimphu international music festival, Bhutan international film festival, Bhutan international marathon, and Bhutan international food festival.

The festival will be a non-profit event.  The organisers are expecting to make the event self-sustaining through multiple fund-raising activities.  The organisers also hope to make the festival an annual event to position Bhutan as a creative heavyweight.

The idea of the festival was suggested by James Fitzgerald, a New York-based businessman and entrepreneur, and the founder and chairman of Bhutan Ventures.  James Fitzgerald then recruited Justin Wickham, a former documentary producer from the UK, who is the director of BBC Television and the founder and executive director of non-profit education group Learning Planet, based in Nepal and India.  They then began to seek partners and sponsors for the festival.

The coordinators of the festival comprise different individuals working through their own personal initiatives.  The promoter of the festival will, however, be Dragon Festival, which will be established as a non-profit organisation in Bhutan.

By Younten Tshedup

Traffic safety, first and last

Ap Sha is a strict taxi driver now.  He will not let mothers with infants sit in the front seat of his taxi.  He is adamant that his passengers are buckled up.  At zebra crossings, he slows down and lets pedestrians cross.

After attending the daylong session on road safety, the Thimphu-based cabbie is aware of road safety rules.  It was not his first time attending such training.  He didn’t follow because nobody followed.  The penalties, in monetary terms, which officials told him they would impose, scared the hell out of him.

By the end of the month, the road safety authority will have trained about a thousand taxi and student drivers.  This is an annual event, but is becoming more relevant as our roads get more congested by the day.  The lack of traffic sense among Bhutanese motorists is a well-known and much-discussed fact.

With increasing number of vehicles, better traffic sense and courteous drivers can solve a part of the problem.  The training should expand to other drivers, including those who drive bigger cars.  It is not that those driving bigger cars have better sense.

The number of drivers is increasing but not the number, who know how to drive.  Traffic can be managed effectively to an extent with new technology, like advanced traffic control system, which the government is studying.  But a lot will depend on the one behind the wheel.  If rules are not followed and violators are not penalised, even the most sophisticated technology won’t help.

Today, if it is a mess along the busy streets, not many are aware of rights at roundabouts and T-junctions.  Stop signs and zebra crossings have been around for decades; who follows the rule is there for all to see.  Quite often a driver, slowing down at zebra crossing, will be honked at or eyeballed by the one behind him.

Authorities are still skeptical about introducing traffic lights.  The absence of traffic lights in the country attracts attention and visitors appreciate it.  The hand movement of the traffic police directing the traffic makes a good subject for curious tourists, but there is pressure on his arms.  Times have changed and so has the number of vehicles.  If electric controls can smoothen traffic flow, the policeman may be relieved for other duties.

What is more relevant is the need for more and more educated (driving) drivers.  If that is lacking, implementation of stricter rules could help.  We make good rules, but they remain only on paper.  A good example is the seat belt rule.  It would be interesting to know if authorities themselves follow it.

Drivers, like Ap Sha, will feel the pinch if they are levied hefty fines after being trained.  They will understand it is safe, both for health and wealth, if rules are in place and followed.

Increasing number of farmland being left fallow

unnamedUmsang village

Agriculture: With increasing wild life attacks on their crops, the villagers of Umsang in Chumey, Bumthang have been turning away from farming.

Wild life attacks on crops is a major cause for giving up farming according to the villagers.

“Cultivation is difficult for women, who make up most of the population is the village and wild life attacks on crops made farming worse for us,” Namgang Dema from Umsang said.

Therefore, the village moved to yathra weaving for income.

“As an alternative source of income, the villagers here are also trying to adopt modern dairy farming,” Namgang Dema said.

According to Phurjoen tshogpa, Phunstho Wangchuk, over 40 acres of farmland in Umsang has been fallow for years.

“Even here in Thromed, over 40-50 acres of farmland is left fallow,” Phuntsho Wangchuk said, adding that only the lands around the settlement are cultivated while the far-flung ones are left barren today.

Thromed might be cultivating only around 15 acres, he said. “Similarly, most farmlands in other villages in Phurjoen are also fallow because of wild life attacks on crops,” Phuntsho Wangchuk said.

Farm lands in other chiwogs in Chumey like Chungphel have also been fallow for years now.

“Over 60 percent of the farm lands are being left fallow even in Chungphel,” Chungphel tshogpa, Phuntsho said.

Only around 10 households of the total 40 actually cultivate over two acres of their land holding of five-six acres he said. The remaining households weave yathra and maintain kitchen gardens, the tshogpa said.

According to Chumey gup, Tandin Phurba only 40 percent of the farmland in the gewog is cultivated while most remain fallow every year.

Save for Chokhor gewog where over 80 percent of the farmland is cultivated, even in Ura and Tang, majority of the farmlands are left fallow.

“While other factors like labour shortage is one reason for increasing fallow land, damage on crops from the wild life is the bigger cause,” Ura mangmi, Karma Wangdi said, adding only around 40-45 percent of the landholdings are cultivated today. Only around 30-40 percent of the farmland is cultivated every year in Tang, according to Khangrub tshogpa, Tshering Dorji.

“Let alone crops like potato, wheat and buckwheat, it is hard to even scramble fodders from the fields because of wildlife,” Tshering Dorji said.

As a result, cultivation in Tang has dropped by double, he said.

Phuntsho Wangchuk said that without a proper solution to the human wildlife conflict, Bhutan’s trade deficit would keep widening.

“Since fallow lands are increasing by the year, it will only push Bhutan’s import bar higher,” Phuntsho Wangchuk said, adding that Bhutan’s national pursuit of self-reliance might slip away unless a solution is found.

The dzongkhag is also working on resolving the issue of fallow land caused by wildlife damage. Dzongkhag agriculture officer (DAO), Gaylong said the dzongkhag is promoting electric fencing.

“Electric fencing must be able to resolve the human wildlife conflict to a certain degree since it is effective and affordable,” Gaylong said.

Around 156 acres of farmland of 60 households in Ura were given electric fencing recently. Six acres of farmland in Tangsibi was also enclosed with electric fence.

The DAO however said that farmers might have to buy the electric fence since the government cannot finance it.

“The dzongkhag will provide technical back up for budget layout, estimate and installation of the electric fence if farmers are interested,” Gaylong said.

To encourage more cultivation, gewogs like Chokhor and Ura are also considering supplying electric fencing to the villages. “The gewog is collecting a report to assess on the number of villagers interested to install electric fencing around their farmlands,” Chokhor gup, Sangla said.

By Tempa Wangdi, Chumey

Commercial cultivation of bamboo yet to take off in Radhi

DSC01289Almost every household in Radhi grow bamboos

Resources: When villagers of Radhi first started planting bamboo to fight land degradation about seven years ago, no one had the slightest idea of the income it would generate in the years to come.

Today, almost every household cultivates bamboo in their back yards and fields. It all started in 2006 through the agriculture ministry’s sustainable land management project, which initiated the plantation.

A bamboo pole costs Nu 100 while its rhizome fetches about Nu 75 in the market. However, villagers are yet to start commercial cultivation of bamboo in the gewog.

Radhi gup, Jigmi Namgyal said villagers are not willing to form groups to start commercial plantation.

“Most people don’t understand the benefits of forming a group to start bamboo plantation. People are happy growing and selling bamboo independently,” he said. “The gewog doesn’t have any plans to start mass plantation either.”

Pema Dorji, a villager, said commercial cultivation of bamboo would first require a stable market, which he said was still a challenge for them.

“There isn’t a stable market for bamboos in Trashigang. More over, there are not many construction activities happening in Rangjung and Trashigang town at present,” he said. “In fact, we are happy with whatever we can earn from bamboo.”

Dekiling tshogpa, Ngawang Tshering, said the income from the sale of bamboo has dropped in the past 18 months.

Although he would earn at least Nu 10,000 yearly from the sale of bamboo, he was not able to sell a single bamboo pole, last year.

“A couple of years back, we would make good income even when the price stood at Nu 75 for a pole. The price has escalated today but the income has also dwindled,” he said.

With more and more villagers growing bamboo and demand dwindling, he said not many were able to earn much in the last two years.

“We don’t see too many contractors looking for bamboo these days. When the demand is fluctuating, it may not be wise to go for mass plantation,” he added.

On the other hand, Radhi mangmi, Pema Wangchuk said that although the sale of bamboo had slightly dropped, the benefits of growing bamboo should not be ignored.

“Today, we don’t have to procure barb wires for fencing works and the issue of land degradation has improved a lot,” he said. “The income from bamboo is complimentary. The demand for bamboo is bound to pick up when constructions begin with time,” he said.

Meanwhile, last year, a group was formed to take up bamboo development, sugarcane, napier grass and tree plantations in over seven acres of a landslide prone area.

Jigmi Namgyal said the group has planted about 400 bamboos and some 2,000 trees among other plantations. After the land becomes stable in another two to three years, the group will start commercial cultivation.

By Tshering Wangdi, Trashigang