Rural land tax collection for Gelephu gewog completed on December 31 but the gewog administration could not collect rural land tax from land with vegetation overgrowth for the last two years.

Gewog officials say land not cleared off the overgrowth has become an issue for a long time.

Besides being a hideout for youth, the overgrowth is an easy hideout for wild animals, especially elephants.

Gewog mangmi, Chandra Bahadur Gurung, said Gelephu had to encounter wild elephants problem because of uncleared and inhabitated land.

“Land owners have refused to acknowledge the several reminders and awareness we made through media about the impact of leaving their land uncleared,” he said.

The mangmi said it is time the gewog administration got serious and start submitting the list of landowners who have failed to pay land tax for more than three years.

“While it is difficult to contact landowners residing away from the gewog, their uncleared land becomes a problem for neighbouring settlement,” he said.

Chandra Bahadur Gurung said the gewog did not discuss about it yet but if the non-compliance continues, they would have no option but to submit reports on pending taxes. “According to Land Act, not paying land tax for more than three years will result in converting the land into government land.”

According to section 224 of the Land Act 2007, if a land tax is not paid for three consecutive years, the local authority shall serve a notice to the landowner at the end of the third year to pay the tax with arrears.

Gewog officials said they collected taxes only after the landowners sought clearance from the chiwog tshogpa stating that the owner had cleared the area.

Pelrithang khatoed tshogpa, KN Khatiwara, said there are about10 to 15 acres of land near the gewog centre covered in thick vegetation overgrowth. “There was no action from the landowner despite several reminders. I’ve not given clearance unless they clear the bush.”

He added that most of the areas with thick vegetation are those that belong to people residing away from the dzongkhag and rarely care about the property. “Most land belongs to rich and influential people.”

Gewog officials also said that landowners do not pay the rural land tax because the amount is less. People are liable to pay Nu 12 for an acre of dry land and Nu 24 for an acre of wetland.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang