… to merge dzongkhag forestry sector with national parks

LG: Local government leaders in Bumthang say that if the central government makes decisions without their knowledge it undermines the decentralisation process.

They were referring to a decision by the government to merge the dzongkhag forestry sector with the national parks and territories.

Local government leaders during the recent dzongkhag tshogdu said the government had made the decision without consulting with local government officials.

The dzongkhag tshogdu chairperson and Chokhor gup, Sangla, said he came to know about the decision only recently and that the merger had already occurred.

“This practice has created a notion among the people that the local government is not important,” he said.

Local leaders said the government should have at least consulted them. “Maybe the government thought it was unnecessary for the local leaders to know about it,” a local leader said.

Putting it into the context of a Bhutanese saying, Chumey gup, Tandin Phub said bringing this issue to the tshogdu at this time was like unsheathing the knife after the bear had already left.

He said that the decision had already been made and the procedure completed without the knowledge of the local government and therefore there was no point in raising the issue. However, he questioned if the merger would be a success as the dzongkhag forestry sector is an entity that provides services to the people while the parks and territorial divisions are more involved with protection efforts.

Gup Tandin also questioned if the merged organisation will still be able to cater the same services to the people. He said if services provided are not hampered, then there is nothing to complain about.

Currently, the dzongkhag forestry sector provides trainings, awareness workshops, and sensitises communities on rules. It is also responsible for community forest development and private forests.

The territorial and national parks also provide public services like timber marking but they are more involved in protection works like dealing with illegal activities.

Dzongkhag forestry officials during the DT said that they have not received any clear justification from the department yet. “May be we are trying to strengthen public services by increasing manpower in parks and territorial divisions,” said an official.

Chumey mangmi, Kezang, pointed out that the government wants to take services to the people’s doorsteps and now they want to close down some service centres. He said that the dzongkhag forestry sector should have been left as it is.

Some local leaders also said that they had heard government officials say services should be going after the people and not the other way round. By having the dzongkhag forestry sector merged, local leaders said, service provision could be hampered which is in conflict with the approach of having services going after people.

Nima Wangdi | Bumthang