Boundary: The people of Rinchenzor in Norbugang gewog say there is a need for proper boundary demarcation between Panbang in Zhemgang and the gewog.
Located more than 20km from the dungkhag of Nganglam, Norbugang gewog shares a border with Panbang dungkhag along the Nganglam-Panbang highway.
Rinchenzor is the last village near the border.
The surrounding forest along the two borders is known for its abundance of non-wood forest products especially the medicinal herb called “peepla.” With about 70 households in the village, almost 30 villagers have formed a cooperative with other gewogs to collect the herb for auction in Nganglam.
But herb collection has not been easy with the boundary issue. Villagers claimed they are often restricted by forest officials from collecting peepla on grounds that they had crossed over the boundary to Panbang.
Tshogpa Khando explained that forest officials either restrict them from entering or ask them to return to their village.
“We’ve been collecting peepla for decades but until 2008 it was collected illegally,” he said. “Later the collection was legalised as a Kidu since it was an income but now the border issue is affecting villagers.”
The herbs are auctioned in Nganglam and can fetch more than Nu 100,000 a year. From October to November, Nu 5,000 can be earned a week.
The tshogpa added it was not the first time people had raised the boundary issue and the need to resolve it during zomdus and tshogdes.
“There is really a need for prompt inspection and demarcation of the boundary because this is an income for us,” he said.
He pointed out that the boundary with Norbugang is from Chekar dang, a river, but officials say that it is from Tokaphoong, which is near Rinchenzor village.
Besides harvest of peepla, logging is also affected, villagers claimed. Khando said even after the trees were marked by their dungkhag forest officials within their boundary, restrictions were imposed by people from the other side.
“They once seized our power chain and we had to pay a fine of Nu 5,000,” he said. He added that the shifting of community forest area is also stalled by the boundary issue.
While a complaint has been filed with the gewog office, a response is still awaited.
Meanwhile, Gup Karma Rabten said the issue has already been raised in a dzongkhag tshogdu, and that it will be forwarded to the dungkhag and dzongkhag for investigation.
“We might have to wait until the response from the dzongkhag comes in,” he said.
Yangchen C Rinzin | Nganglam