Members of eight households of Phosorong chiwog in Mongar have appealed to the regional forest office and Mongar gewog administration, asking the gewog and forest office to either remove the fencing of a water catchment area or provide them with a land substitute.

This move comes after more than 300 acres of land was fenced in Mongar gewog to conserve water catchment area in their locality in 2016.

The members of eight households alleged that a forestry official and the former tshogpa fenced their private land and state land without any notice or discussion with them.

The members of the eight households were from Bargoenpa, Khayshingpang, Gushing Wang, Lupang, Benangzor, and Phosorong villages.

They alleged that the former tshogpa and forestry official coordinated the fencing work along with water beneficiaries from Redaza and Jamchoeling villages. The gewog supported with the fund.

Farmer Kinzang Tshering, 40, of Lupang village, said although a water source lies in an area about 10 minutes walk from his house, villagers from Redaza village benefit from the source since it is fenced.

He claimed that even a small plot of land belonging to him was fenced. “I don’t know how they decided to fence my land without any approval from me.”

Another farmer, Sonam Zangmo, from Phosorong village said her land is also included in the fenced area. “I am worried my land will be turned into state land.”

Another villager, Tshewang, 60, from Gushing Wang chiwog, said they knew about the fencing only when the works were complete.

“Now we don’t have proper grazing area for our cattle. We do not even have a place to collect firewood and leaf litter,” he said.

A villager, Choney Wangmo, said although she had her private water pipeline and tank in the fenced area, Redaza water group stopped the water supply for about three days claiming the water belongs to them. “I was forced to join the group after paying a fee of Nu 12,464.”

For Jigme Choden whose two acres land fall in the fenced area, she could not do anything with her land.

“The gewog should either relocate the fencing poles or substitute my land,” she said.

The former tshogpa Tashi Dorji, however, denied his involvement but said the water source benefits about 80 households.

The forest ranger, Pema Rinzin, said the gewog administration allowed the fencing for the water source at Phosorong chiwog and provided infrastructures like poles and daily wages.

He said he would hold meetings with the public and decide on the appeal of the eight households. “If the landholders want a land replacement, forestry division will provide forest clearance with immediate effect.”

Mongar Gup Tenzin Wangchuk said the farmers have not raised any issue or complained to the gewog. “But the gewog will coordinate a meeting with the members of the eight households on the issue and resolve it.”

He said the gewog is also discussing with relevant stakeholders like dzongkhag agriculture officer, forestry and land record officer to provide the land substitute.

Tashi Phuntsho | Mongar