Farmers wait for compensation

While no incidence of elephants raiding crops or causing distress was reported in Sarpang in the past few weeks, local leaders are waiting for compensation from the agriculture ministry.

The Sarpang Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) recommended compensation to the ministry more than a month ago.   “We haven’t heard anything about the compensation the,” DT’s chairman and Gakidling gup Nima Dorji said.

The Sarpang Territorial Division also reported the matter to the ministry.

The DT, during its 5th session held on December 19 last year, resolved to submit a list of recommendations to the agriculture ministry to compensate farmers for the loss of a 41-year old man and crops to elephants and wild animals.

Gelephu Gup Ugyen Wangchuk said DT members felt the need to provide monetary compensation to the bereaved family, which has lost its sole bread earner in an elephant attack in Pemathang.

While many incidences have been reported frequently to the gewogs and dzongkhag about crop raiding and property damage by elephants, this was the first case of wild elephants killing a man in Gelephu last year.  “This is why the DT recommended providing compensation to the deceased family,” Gup Ugyen Wangchuk said.

The deceased, who worked as a driver with the Bank of Bhutan, encountered a herd of elephants after crossing Setikharey and was killed on the spot around 7 pm on December 3 evening.

Gup Ugyen Wangchuk said that the National Forest Policy of Bhutan places great emphasis on balancing between elephant conservation and safeguarding livelihood of local communities. “However, it is not fair when there is no compensation when a human life is lost,” he said adding that people are penalized for killing wild animals.

Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) is listed under schedule I, as totally protected species in the Forest and Nature Conservation Act of Bhutan, 1995.

Gakidling gup Nima Dorji said that the DT also requested the MoAF to consider compensation to farmers who lost their crops and properties to elephants. The local government used to compensate through crop insurance scheme until September 2018. “This scheme was discontinued after the ministry centralized the compensation scheme,” Gup Nima Dorji said.

To compensate any damages caused by elephants, crop insurance scheme, quick response team and elephant conservation committees have been formed in affected gewogs of Gakidling, Samtenling, Shompangkha and Singye.

In 2015, the government provided seed money of Nu 500,000 each to the four gewogs to start gewog elephant conservation committee (GECC) and crop insurance programmes. The seed money, managed by GECC with technical support from divisional forest office, Sarpang, was deposited into a fixed account. It was not to be used for paying compensation.

Only the interest generated from the seed money was deposited into saving deposit account on maturity. Members had to pay an annual premium of Nu 100 against insuring of crops with the GECC. Gup Nima Dorji said that his gewog paid between Nu 40,000 and Nu 50,000 to farmers as compensation through the crop insurance scheme.

“We could not pay any compensation after the ministry had taken back seed money in September last year,” DT’s Thrizin Nima Dorji said.

MoAF’s chief planning officer, Kencho Thinley, said the crop insurance scheme was centralized to streamline the process and make it sustainable. For instance, according to Kencho Thinley, there was a problem of contributing Nu 100 as annual premium from each member or household and providing such compensation was proved to be inefficient.

The ministry is also encouraging farmers to insure crops and livestock.

Meanwhile, the ministry is in the process of mobilizing fund to create a crop and livestock compensation endowment fund. “We need seed money of Nu 1.77B to generate Nu 124 million annually to meet the compensation for crops and livestock,” Kencho Thinley said.

He said that Nu 124M per annum is calculated based on the compensations paid in the past years. “Indeed, we would be comfortable if we could generate Nu 2B as seed money,” he told Kuensel. “We are expecting some investors in the conservation arena to contribute some money to the endowment fund.”

Rinzin Wangchuk | Gelephu

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