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The alacrity with which change is coming is amazing. It is, also, deeply worrying. Our urban and rural landscapes have gone through dramatic changes in a short span of time. Over the decades, our value systems have evolved, threatening the very survival of our identity. We may have succeeded in preserving the façades of the society, but losing the soul that defines us as Bhutanese could be an expensive affair.

Our farmers are increasingly leaving their village homes and coming to urban centres. Goongtong is a serious issue of the day. Crop loss due to increasing human-wildlife conflicts is among the leading challenges that drive our farmers to towns and cities. For many farmers depending on farmlands has become difficult.

The challenges that we confront today will only grow if appropriate interventions are not employed while we have time in our hands. It is time we asked ourselves some deep searching questions. We ought to view our dwindling presence, particularly in the highlands, with serious concern.

Highlanders are our sentinels in the north. It is important that they remain there. What this will require is taking development to their doorsteps. Agriculture, health facilities, and school are services we that could put in place to hold our highlanders back. Recently, highlanders of Merak in Trashigang implored livestock department intervene urgently. In many highland communities, yak- and sheep-rearing culture has visibly declined. This means soon our highlanders will have lost their traditional textile-making skills, making their lives in the highlands even more difficult. In the long run, upshots from such developments in society could have unhappy implications.

Maybe for the young people in the far-off communities urban lifestyle with dazzling array of modern amenities is irresistible. The challenge we face today is making our rural lifestyles attractive and viable so that people do not want to leave their homes. If highlanders are of the view that providing them with fine-breed animals will encourage them to stay behind, maybe it is time we heard them and saw how their needs are fulfilled. We need to encourage them to stay where they are.

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