Nima Wangdi 

In a desperate measure to ward off elephants, the Gelephu gewog administration asked the land owners to clear the forest on their plots.

The forests have become a popular haven for the pachyderms recently claiming lives and destroying properties in parts of the gewog.

The gewog administration’s notification issued recently stated that it would not accept land taxes if the plots are not cleared and the clearance acquired from respective village tshogpas.

Gelephu Gup Prem Prasad Katel said that this issue had been long overdue because all measures so far failed.

He said the residents are complaining that the problem is worsening because the fallow lands with thick bushes become hiding places for elephants.

He said that the gewog doesn’t even know who owns which plot as people constantly keep on selling their plots. “Not accepting land tax can also be applied to only those who are residing in the gewog and who don’t pay taxes online.”

“We could somehow monitor those who did not clear their plots by not accepting land tax if they had not cleared their lands. Now everyone pays taxes online,” he said.

There are government reserve forests nearby.

Residents said that the gewog cannot trace all land owners and that those who are living in the gewog have to bear the brunt of it.

The gup said that besides the elephant problem, the gewog is also facing cattle rustling problems. Two cattle were killed in a forest and were sold two weeks ago. “Another two could be saved a few days before but the perpetrators escaped.”

There will be a public meeting today in the gewog to discuss the problem.

Samtenling gewog also faces a similar problem. Gewog administration is planning to issue a notification soon asking people to clear their land by November.

Samtenling Gup Kumer Monger said the gewog will prepare a list of land owners who fail to clear within the given time. It will be submitted to the National Land Commission if they could do anything about the fallow land.

He said the gewog tried various measures, all of which failed. “The fallow and forested areas are contributing to the problem.”

In an earlier interview, the Chief Forestry Officer of the Divisional Forest Office in Sarpang said that the people have been cautioned to avoid walking during dawn, dusk and late nights in the areas frequented by the elephants.

The divisional forestry office has also recommended all private landowners to clear bushes on their land, which elephants could use as cover.