Chencho Dema | Punakha

The residents of Lunana in Gasa are undertaking an ambitious endeavour to construct their winter homes at Chhubesa in Punakha. This 25-acre khimsa kidu land is poised to undergo a rapid transformation.

As of now, Tshering Dorji stands as the lone homeowner, having completed a single one-storey house back in March. The Chhubesa Kidu Settlement spans an area of approximately 2,500 acres and sits about two kilometres away from Goentshephu Lhakhang in Punakha. From Punakha proper, the drive to Chhubesa takes approximately two hours along a farm track.

Perched at an altitude of 3,400 metres above sea level, Lunana experiences extremely harsh winters. For centuries, the Lunaps, as the residents are called, have journeyed to lower areas in search of food and pastures for their horses.

In 2019, to provide warm winter homes for the Lunaps during their winter travels, 192 households were allocated the khimsa kidu land in Goenshari. Each household was granted a 13-decimal land. Since then, the area has been connected to a road, ensuring improved accessibility. Moreover, the settlement now boasts reliable drinking water and electricity, thanks to the efforts of Bhutan Power Corporation and a De-suung National Service Water Project team. 

These initiatives were carried out at a cost of Nu 3.45 million, with funding provided by BPC in 2022.

Tashi Dhendup, Senior Planning Officer of Gasa Dzongkhag Administration, confirmed that the basic amenities at Chhubesa have been completed, with a budget allocation of Nu 5.9 million. These include the construction of a 1.2-kilometre approach road with earthen drains, the installation of retaining walls, and the implementation of Hume pipes. All these activities were accomplished during the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

Kaka, the Lunana Gup, expressed the villagers’ enthusiasm for the upcoming construction. Many residents have faced challenges during winter, struggling to find rental homes. While some can afford to pay, others face financial constraints. Additionally, the horses from Lunana grazing and encroaching upon crops in Punakha and Wangdue have proven to be problematic.

During the DT session, the need for a school at Chhubesa was also addressed. Kinley, the Chief Education Officer of Gasa Dzongkhag Administration, said that plans are in place to construct temporary low-cost classrooms in the event that Chhubesa becomes a settled area. The aim is to provide short-term programmes in February and March, compensating for the two months lost due to the harsh winter. 

Currently, Lunana only has seven months of instructional hours compared to other schools across the nation that have nine months.

Regarding the construction of these temporary classrooms, Kinley said that the process would commence soon. The proposal will likely be included in the 13th Five-Year Plan, with construction aligning with the timeline of the residential housing projects. The concept is to utilise IT classes, as students in Lunana are provided with laptops, reducing the need to transport textbooks and stationery.

Lunana Primary School has 74 students, along with six teachers. There are three extended classrooms in Thanza and two in Mendrelthang, with a total of 11 teachers and three support staff. Lunana PS accommodates students from pre-primary to Class VI, with the Class VI graduates being placed at Bjishong Central School in Gasa.