Pasture norms cost dearly in Lunana

Phurpa Lhamo | Gasa

Dawa Gyeltshen recently took back his six horses from a fellow villager in Tshojong chiwog, Lunana. But only after paying Nu 1,800, Nu 300 for a single horse.

The horses had encroached onto the pastureland of another villager and the money was fine for grazing on the pasture.

Earlier, another villager, Sonam Wangchuk went to the same chiwog, furious that his five horses were held for ransom.

“I was not going to accept the horses if they were injured in any way. I talked about this with the gup but he told me to pay for the horses and settle it as other people had done the same,” Sonam Wangchuk said.

Sonam Wangchuk and Dawa Gyeltshen are from Lhedi chiwog, two hours walking distance from Tshojong chiwog.

Holding horses hostage is one of the measures the community employs to ensure adequate pasture for the winter in Lunana.

Lunana Gup Kaka said that it was a norm in the gewog for a long time.

When summer begins, in June, which falls on the 15th day of the fifth month of Bhutanese calendar, Lunaps migrate to higher lands with their livestock. They return home before the Blessed Rainy Day, which falls in mid-September.

While Lunaps have returned home from the higher lands, grazing on the winter pasture grounds in Tshojong will begin in November.

Tshojong tshogpa Dawa Penjor said that such measures ensured the regrowth of the pasture grounds for winter.

He added that with increasing livestock—horses, cattle, and yaks—in Lunana and the lack of pasture, it was a necessary measure.

“When our animals aren’t even grazing our ground, it isn’t right to let other chiwog’s animals do so. When the grazing season (for winter) opens, we don’t charge people from other chiwogs to graze in our pastureland,” he said.

Tshojong has around 300 horses. Due to lack of pasture, at least eight horses die every year.

“This year, it would be difficult to take the animals to the lower areas due to the pandemic,” Dawa Penjor said.

While these are generations-old practice in Lunana, the farmers are irked with people from the same gewog charging each other.

Dawa Gyeltshen (from Lhedi) said that the pasturelands for Lhedi and Tshojong chiwogs were in Nishaling. Nishaling is an hour walk from Lhedi and Tshojong chiwogs.

“These are animals we are talking about. They don’t know about these and they encroach on other lands.”

“By the time we are there, the animals are already taken to Tshojong. They have people monitoring the ground every day,” Dawa Gyeltshen said.

The fines for encroachment range between Nu 100 and Nu 300 for an animal. The charge increases if the animal grazes for a longer period.

Lhedi tshogpa Gyem Tenzin said that there were complaints on the issue. But these concerns haven’t been raised to the dzongkhag tshogdu.

Gasa Thrizin Thinley Wangdi said, “The monthly report states that there is no other issue. If the issue is raised, we might be able to monitor.”

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