The need to avail a clearance from the community for new ventures is a good policy of involving the people at the grassroots in decision-making. They could prevent projects, big or small, if they feel it is going to hamper the community, their crops, property or even livelihood.
The policy of getting the clearance, however, has also become a bottleneck for people trying to venture into new businesses. The Paro case where a trout framing had to wait for three years to start is a good example. It is not new. It happened in the past where communities blocked projects for several reasons. The mining sector is one area where the proponent and community always come into conflict.
It is also not always that the whole community feels the same on a decision. Quite often, one or two community members can also stop a project. And many feel it is for reasons other than the negative impact on the community. They know projects can be stalled if the whole community is not giving the go ahead.
The frequency to encounter such problems is likely to increase. The government is emphasising on import substitution on all products that can be grown or produced at home. Meat is one item that is in great demand and not sufficiently produced in the country. To substitute import of meat, Bhutanese will have to open up fishery, poultry, and piggery and there will be communities where the businesses are proposed.
If businesses are going to impact communities in more ways than just their religious sentiments, we will have to look into it.
Pisciculture is a new concept in Bhutan. We catch fish illegally or buy from local illegal fishermen if not from the meat vendors. There is a huge demand for local fish like trout and rainbow trout that are caught illegally. Bhutanese are not fish eaters. But it is considered special. Fishing is restricted and therefore the demand for local fishes. The best bet is buying from farms if they are rearing local species always associated to be special and the meat for the sick and the old.
The belief that pisciculture is going to anger local deities or bring natural calamities should change. Local deities could be angered if we vandalise choetens for their zungs or desecrate lhakhangs for antiques. The same applies to other meat, beef and pork. Religion as a sentimental issue is a hindrance to the progress of economic growth in the area of meat farming. And when the focus is on import substitution, it is going to impede the local industry.
To put into context, the import of meat is on the rise all the time. Bhutan imported meat worth Nu 1.13 billion in 2019, up from Nu 971 million the previous year. It is an increase of 10 percent in terms of quantity. Even during a pandemic when borders are sealed and import restricted, the demand for meat is huge.
It is better to let interested people get into the meat business and refrain from buying or eating if one feels bad about killing or eating.