Phurpa Lhamo

A team of foresters, armed forces personnel and tshogpas left for various sites in Lunana yesterday following a report of illegal Yartsa Goenbub (Cordyceps Sinensis) collection.

According to a report, around 200 individuals are involved in collecting cordyceps in Lunana illegally.

The officials were flown from Zomlingthang in Punakha in choppers.

According to Lunana Gup, Kaka, Lunaps who went to set camps at collection sites reported spotting illegal collectors in about five different locations.

“Gangzeyphu and   Tshocheyna seem to have more people encroaching into the area because they can come in from Nikachhu. It has been reported that there are around 200 people.”

Gangzeyphu and Tshocheyna are located around six hours’ walking distance from Lunana gewog office.

It is yet to ascertain who the illegal collectors are and from where they have entered Lunana for collection.

The Rules and Regulations for collection or harvesting and marketing of Ophiocordyceps Sinensis states that residents of the high altitude villages who have their thram registered in the gewog administration concerned, people fully dependent on high altitude tsamdros or have registered tsamdros, which are being used for raising yaks, and absentee yak herders, who own yaks and tsamdro but residing in the lower valleys, are eligible for harvesting or collecting cordyceps.

And harvesting will be allowed only within their administrative jurisdiction.

Lunana has around 280 households and a maximum of three individuals from a household can register to collect the cordyceps.

Lunaps are yet to get their permits for collection. Collectors from Sephu, Wangdue are also awaiting collection permits.

Kaka said due to earlier encroachment issues, the agriculture ministry had issued a notification to six neighbouring dzongkhags to not encroach on the collection sites.

Lunaps witnessed a major encroachment issue in 2018. During the incident, there were around 800 individuals who had encroached on collection areas in Lunana from Wangdue.

It took foresters and security personnel at least 15 days to solve the issue.

More encroachers are expected by May when collection permits are issued.

The Cordyceps collection is expected to be particularly bountiful this year. Every four years, Cordyceps harvest improves across the country, which coincidentally falls this year.