Highlanders feel tsamdro compensation is unfair

From the time he can remember, Karma Wangdi and family, has been enjoying a decent life from tsamdro (pastureland) that is registered under his thram (land holding certificate).

Like most of the highlanders in Merak gewog in Trashigang, tsamdro for Karma Wangdi and his family is more than just grassland.

Like a caring father, the 34-year-old has taken the pains to fence the 68 acres of tasmdro.

“I have spent some of the best moments of my life in these areas. Also, I lost many of my cattle which were dear to in these areas,” he said.

It’s been a bittersweet moment for Karma Wangdi when he was compensated for his tsamdro on May 10.

“If we go by the law, maybe these lands were never ours. I should be happy and thankful to get paid for something I didn’t own in the first place,” he said.

However, he said he cannot bring himself to let go of something that has been dear to his family for decades. “After receiving this compensation, it means we no longer have rights to our own tsamdro.”

On May 10, a team from dzongkhag livestock sector in Trashigang paid the tsamdro compensation to the people of Merak. Some 87 households holding tsamdro were compensated with Nu 200 per acre of tsamdro that they had under their thram. A total of Nu 8.18 million (M) was compensated for 40,910.5 acres of tsamdro in the gewog.

Another highlander, Rinchen Dorji, said that he was happy to receive the money, but at the same time, he is concerned. “These tsamdros are all we have. The food we eat and the clothes we wear, everything comes from these lands,” he said.

The 31-year-old, however, is optimistic that the government will allow them to use the land as reflected in the Land Act 2007 since his family is directly dependent on tsamdro.

“More than anything, His Majesty The King during his visit here, assured us that we don’t have to worry. This was a huge relief for the community,” he said.

Many people, who came to receive the compensation, said that the money was more like an award for them.

According to section 240 of the Land Act 2007, an individual household or a community owning livestock shall be eligible to lease the reverted tsamdro, which have been converted to government reserved forests land, for use as tsamdro.

Section 243 of the Act also states that the highlanders who are directly dependent on tsamdro may retain their tsamdro rights under lease irrespective of possession of livestock and their herd size.

However, officials from the dzongkhag livestock sector said that according to a notification from the National Land Commission Secretariat (NLCS) dated December 27, 2016, since the cash compensation payments for tsamdro is in progress, the leasing of tsamdro as per section 236 of the Land Act 2007 can’t be implemented nationwide immediately.

“Therefore, as an interim measure, people who own cattle shall use tsamdro based on rights reflected in their old thram record until the leasehold system is implemented,” an official said.

The official also explained that farmers can continue using the tsamdro as they are currently using until a revised lease rate and a leasehold system has been implemented.

Officials said that the guidelines of the revised lease rates are under review by the agriculture ministry and the NLCS.

Meanwhile, with the completion of compensation in Merak gewog, the tsamdro compensation for 15 gewogs in Trashigang has been completed.

A total of Nu 22.79M was dispensed as compensation.

Younten Tshedup | Merak 

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