Chencho Dema

PUNAKHA — The age-old predicament of stray cattle commandeering roads in Punakha has escalated into a burgeoning crisis in recent weeks.

The menacing presence of wandering bovines and even equines on thoroughfares has cast a shadow of peril over road safety, compelling drivers to perform sudden evasive manoeuvers and emergency braking to avoid potentially catastrophic collisions, often culminating in harrowing accidents.

Punakha has found itself ensnared in a disquieting tableau of chaos and jeopardy. A throng of morning commuters, the diligent workforce en route to their daily toils, and school-bound children have become unwitting participants in a treacherous game of road roulette, their paths intersecting with these errant animals.

Residents, grappling with mounting apprehension, illuminate the pressing gravity of the situation. These brazen creatures, aside from their direct threat to human safety, have also cast a pall over sanitation, exacerbating the community’s hygiene challenges.

“It is not merely an inconvenience; it is a jeopardisation of our lives,” says a concerned Changyuel resident. Inhabitants bemoan the perpetual anxiety that haunts their every transit, tethered to the disconcerting prospect of collisions or personal harm inflicted by these untamed beasts.

Ugyen Tshering, Senior dzongrab, says measures have been undertaken to instill awareness among the populace to secure their livestock but to no avail. “The conundrum has been a fixture in our deliberations, discussed at length during previous dzongkhag tshogdu sessions, interspersed with notifications from the local office, and meetings with cattle proprietors.”

Among the proposed remedies, the translocation of these meandering creatures to Goenshari, an idyllic sanctuary for grazing, emerged as a potential panacea.

“The predicament now lies not only in the disruption of the tranquility of our region but also in the despoilment of cherished sites such as the dzong, where these creatures tread upon our blooms and foliage,” says Ugyen Tshering.

While the warmer months bear witness to the unwelcome intrusion of cattle onto roadways, the encroachment of Lunana and Laya horses during the winter months compounds the problem.

Said one distressed driver: “Our roads, already narrow, buckle under the weight of free-ranging cattle. The menace is far graver than one could fathom.”

To stem this tide, punitive measures have been formalised: a daily fine of Nu 1,000 awaits those who unleash their animals near the dzong and gewog offices, with potential auctions or custody transfer to the Tshethar Tshogpa.