Conflict: Despite having their own land and house, Sangay Tshering, 52, and his wife Pem Lham of Amochu village in Khamoed gewog have been staying in a rented house at Tashithang, on the Punakha-Gasa highway for more than a year.

The couple, unable to bear the rampant attacks on their crops by wild animals anymore, left their village. The village’s only irrigation source, which was located three hours away, had also been washed away. The two were the only people living in Amochu village.

The village which is around 7km away from the nearest road point at Tashithang has two households with at least 18 people as per census records. But most have left for the towns.

With their children working and living in other parts of the country, the couple were left alone in one of the remotest villages of Khamoed gewog.

“As we were left alone, wild attacks on our animals and crops started to turn more aggressive and scary each year,” said Sangay. The couple used to own 15 horses and many cows. But they lost nine horses and more than 30 cows to wild animals.

“The little crops we manage to grow were destroyed even before harvest,” Sangay said. “We spot many types of wild animals in Amochu like leopards, wild boars, bears and deer.”

Today the couple is dependent on their remaining six horses. They have to pay a monthly house rent of Nu 1,200.

Sangay Tshering said that when the irrigation source was washed away and the wild animal attacks increased, they approached the gewog and dzongkhag several times to request a land exchange away from Gasa so that they can resettle elsewhere. The initial request was made three years ago, Sangay recollects.

The officials came and conducted an investigation of the situation in Amochu three years ago. The couple are still waiting for a response.

“We have proposed for a land exchange as it would be expensive to construct an irrigation channel from a source that is too far and a farm road of 7km for a village of two households,” said Sangay.

Meanwhile, official sources said Khamoed gewog and the dzongkhag administration  reported the issue to the agriculture ministry when it was initially brought to their notice. The ministry’s technical team conducted a thorough investigation and visited the area three times.

Following which a report was compiled and forwarded to the land commission two years ago. But the land commission during a committee meeting did not approve the land exchange proposal citing it is not in line with the Land Act.

The former local leaders of Khamoed once again raised the issue at the mid-term review asking the government to reconsider the proposal.

Dawa Gyelmo | Wangdue