Proposal for more timber shot down

Villagers in Wangdue, who own summer and winter residences, had proposed that they receive timber for both houses 

Subsidy: Villagers of more than six gewogs in Wangdue having two houses will get rural timber allotment for only one house and not two as requested by the dzongkhag tshogdu.

Some villagers have two houses, one as a summer residence and the other for winter.

The forest department announced this decision in its response to parliament after it sought the agriculture ministry’s response following the Wangdue tshogdu’s request during the sixth session of the national assembly.

The response was forwarded to local leaders in Wangdue on December 22.

Gangtey mangmi Gyen Phub said only houses having house number (gung) and land registration number (thram) would be entitled to rural timber allotment.

He said most people of Gangtey, Phobjikha, Bjena, Nyisho and Kazhi have two houses in two gewogs, one for winter and one for summer. Such a practice has existed for decades. But only one of the two houses have gung and thram.

Local leaders said prior to 2011, villagers with two residences were entitled to rural timber subsidy for both houses. It was only after 2011 the forest department introduced an allotment policy and lifted timber subsidy for one house.

Other than timber, the villagers received equal facilities like road, rural water source schemes, electricity and telephone connectivity, said local leaders. However, villagers had to pay full insurance for one of the two houses. For one house, they pay only Nu 250 while the government pays the other half.

When the timber allotment was lifted, people were worried about how they would repair or rebuild the house as purchasing timber is expensive. Local leaders raised the issue several times at the dzongkhag tshogdues. After it was discussed during the recent tshogdue, the issue was forwarded to parliament.

As per the subsidized timber policy 2011, an individual is allowed to avail subsidized timber once in 25 years for new construction. Subsidized timber for repair, renovation and extension of rural house is supplied once every five years. For making shingles, standing trees are supplied once in three to five years depending on the climatic condition of the locality.

Local leaders also raised the issue during the national assembly speaker’s visit to the dzongkhag to consider the proposal. They also said the 25-year period of subsidized timber allotment policy should also be reconsidered. Anything could happen to the house within 25 years, and if houses were required to be rebuilt, people would face problems, local leaders said.

However, some local leaders also said the new allotment rule was created because with development, most people do not use one of the two houses. For example some of the people having two residences in Phobjikha and Nyisho, stay in Phobjikha and visit the house in Nyisho once or twice a year.

They said it is time people should start staying in both houses and have gung and thram, whereby also bear taxation.

Sources said this is as per the policy and also to avoid illegal practices of timber allotment.

Officials said the thram and gung are the basis on which the subsidized timber is granted. But there were cases where several members of the households applied for subsidized timber under the same gung, which was also approved for allotment.

Meanwhile, officials also said gewog and district officials who have authority to scrutinize the application had forwarded without proper scrutiny. This has resulted in multiple applications under the same gung, allotment of excess quantity of timber in contrast to actual requirements.

Dawa Gyelmo, Wangdue

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