Highlanders use technology to survey pastureland

Yangyel Lhaden

What took days earlier, the highlanders of Merak and Sakteng gewogs in Trashigang have been able to accomplish within a short time  using nothing more than their smartphones.

Tsamdro, the mobile application, that was commenced  in July has helped the highlanders of Merak and Sakteng survey their tsamdro or pastureland themselves.

Pastureland in the country is being surveyed for the first time after His Majesty The King granted Tsamdro Use Thram (TUT) to the highlanders.  The survey is piloted in Merak and Sakteng.

On October 19, 2017, the representatives of the highlanders of 32 gewogs under 12 dzongkhags appealed to His Majesty to maintain the status quo of the tsamdro right prior to the revision of Land Act 2007.

Earlier, with the enactment of Land Act 2007, tsamdros and sokshings were reserved as State Reserve Forest.

For the highlanders, tsamdros are their ancestral asset and their livelihoods depend on them.

Sakteng Gup Sangay Dorji said that the people of Sakteng were happy as they were entitled ownership to the land they have been using for generations.

Each household would get three pasturelands for spring, summer and winter based on their traditional area of use. The survey of spring and summer pastureland has been completed.

National Land Commission Secretariat (NLCS) developed the user-friendly application to reduce huge financial expenditure. “The beauty of the application is that the highlanders take active collaboration and participation in mapping their tsamdro,” the press release from NLCS states. NLCS came up with the concept based on the premise that the local inhabitants possess expert knowledge on their local environments and boundaries.

Merak Gup, Lam Rinchen said that NLCS officials trained the people on its use and it took less than 10 minutes to learnt about the application.

A user can press the start button and walk around the tsamdro and pause when they rest and stop when the survey is completed. “It is simple,” he said.

According to the press release, the application could collect data quickly and easily either online or offline using GPS-enabled smartphones in remote locations.

There were numerous issues related to tsamdro in the gewog, Sangay Dorji said.

He said that granting ownership would reduce such issues.  “We even have a map to refer to.”

Earlier, there was little the gewog officials could do about tsamdro issues as it was state land.

Sangay Dorji said that the people migrated to lower valleys and sought resettlement as they did not own pastureland. With TUT entitled, those who did not own yak or sheep were looking forward to raising them, he added.

The tsamdro allocated on TUT cannot be sold, exchanged, gifted, donated and leased. It may be inherited upon obtaining necessary approval from NLCS.

In Merak, the gup said that disputes among people arose when mapping tsamdro but later were settled in a just and fair manner. “Two households were not happy, they wanted to file a case but so far they did not.”

The Tsamdro application will be used to survey other tsamdros in the country.

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