Despite a threat of penalties, the practice remains rampant on farms in Trashigang

Agriculture: The use of illegal electric fencing in Trashigang is still rampant despite the dzongkhag administration issuing circulars to remove live electric fencing, according to local leaders in the dzongkhag.

Villagers resort to such practices to keep wild animals off their maize and paddy fields.  Worried over the lives being lost, the issue was again raised during the recent dzongkhag tshogdu (DT).

Shongphu gup, Kinzang Wangdi said that, every year, cases of electrocution were reported.  Villagers secretly use the wires at night and remove them before dawn so that no one is aware of the practice.

“The government doesn’t provide the approved electric fencing, and villagers go for the illegal ones, because they’re cheaper,” he said. “It’s high time that the concerned authorities do something about it.”

Bhutan Power corporation (BPC) officials said that, as long as villagers used an energiser, a device to control the electricity voltage, an electric fence wouldn’t be considered illegal.

BPC regional manager, Kunzang Dorjee, said that any one found using live electric wires for fencing would be charged penalties ranging from Nu 1,000 to Nu 5,000 based on the severity of the case.

“It would also be followed by disconnection of the line. After the penalty is paid, the offender must also pay for both the disconnection and reconnection of the line,” he said.

However, the challenge, he said was to catch villagers red-handed and that local leaders should be proactive.

Samkhar gup, Sonam Dorji, said it was not easy for the gewog administration to identify villagers using illegal electric fencing because nobody reported it.

“Even when lives are lost, villagers try to hide the cause of the death,” he said

By looking at the diminishing practice of villagers lighting fires and shouting the whole night to ward off animals, Sonam Dorji said they could be assured that people were using illegal electric fences at night.

“If the government bears 50 percent of the material cost, villagers should be able to contribute the rest,” he said.

Dzongkhag agriculture officer, DC Bhandari, said a gewog should put up proposals to the department and they would provide technical support.

“While we look at the possibility to arrange project funding, some gewogs also use their gewog development grants,” he said.

He also recommended villagers to form groups and contribute to buy the materials.  This way, each villager would be spending a very reasonable amount for the fencing works.

However, Bidung mangmi, Sonam Phuntsho, said that some of the villagers might not be able to contribute money for the fencing and energisers.

“Forget about the contribution, there are people who don’t have enough to eat three meals a day,” he said. “And fencing only a portion of a gewog would only lead to wild animals causing more destruction in other areas.”

By Tshering Wangdi, Trashigang