An abandoned house stands at the edge of Maduwa village in Kangpara gewog, Trashigang. Made of bamboo, the roof of the house could come down crumbling any moment.

Creepers invade the half-open wooden windows into the house. A rusted lock, which could be disintegrated with a slight touch, guards this ancient house of the once elite farmer in the village.

This is one of the many abandoned houses in the gewog.

There are 89 empty houses (Gungtongs) in the gewog today. Some of the houses in the gewog have been abandoned for more than two decades now.

Another two-storey house above the farm road towards Pasaphu chiwog has remained uninhabited for almost 25 years.

The house, according to the locals, was once considered a symbol of hard work. Now the house is covered with thick bushes and large trees around gives it an eerie feel.

“It’s a pity that this house won’t come back to its former glory now,” the Pasphu-Pedung chiwog tshogpa, Wangda, said. “The planks must be all decayed. It is uninhabitable anymore.”

Gungtong in Kangpara is a major concern.

The gewog mangmi, Sangay Tenzin, said that during times of labour contribution (woola) those residing in the villages refuse to come forward saying those who have left do not contribute.

“Because those people who have left do not contribute to the development of the gewog, people here are reluctant to come forward for woola,” he said. “The gewog has to convince the people or sometimes even threaten and impose fine on them if they don’t cooperate.”

The mangmi said that gungtong in the gewog is mainly a result of human-wildlife conflict and children opting to settle in the urban centres. “What we now fear is that there are not many young people in the villages. Most of them are either studying or working outside the village,” he said.

Sangay Tenzin said that the gewog is working closely with the dzongkhag to address the gungtong issue and has also conducted a survey on the number of guntongs recently. “Our lands are becoming fallow and productivity is decreasing. If we want to see more development in the gewog, we need to bring our people back.”

A businessman from Pasaphu, Sangay Wangdi, said that local leaders are in contact with some of the people who have abandoned the village. “They send small amounts whenever there is a requirement made by the village head,” he said. “But sending money and being here in person are two different things. Anyone can send money and ask someone to get the work done. The bond that our community has is fading.”

Younten Tshedup | Kangpara