Are We a Thinking Society? – Yeshey Dorji

Article Column

The self-appointed guardians of compassion and empathy – the religious and the righteous – will have you believe that the purpose behind imposing a ban on selling meat during the holy month (we are currently into one) is to reduce the slaughter of animals. Alas! They achieve just the opposite – it causes thousands of animals to be slaughtered days and weeks before their time. The meat lovers are coerced into buying a whole month’s stock of meat in advance! So what? The religious vultures are too ashamed to admit their folly. The rule stands – while rationalism takes a beating. This world is being taken over by the pseudo-religious!

A learned friend tells me that the term Goongtong is now passé – he says that the catch-phrase should now be Yuetong. According to him, it is no longer village homes that are being abandoned and left empty – in his view, the situation has deteriorated to such an extent that whole villages are now being emptied of human habitation. Wildlife predation is at the root of this problem.

But the authorities fail to see it that way. In recent times, there have been reports of elephants marching through human habitat – in some cases even close to urban centers. In one incident, an elephant crushed a villager to death – by trampling.  You cannot believe this – but the authorities called the cause of death a “human-wildlife conflict”! A hulking behemoth saunters in and crushes the helpless farmer to death. Pray, explain to me, how does a cowering farmer mount a “conflict” against a hulking colossus?

The popular belief is that the country’s Ministry/Department of Agriculture has the highest number of doctorates and researchers. And yet, recent reports in the media point to the fact that the forestry and agriculture sectors remain the most neglected and untended.

Dr. Phuntsho Namgyel is a forestry expert and analyst. In his recent article in the Kuensel dated 26th January, 2019 (http://www.kuenselonline.com/saving-bhutans-forest/), he actually opines that our forest is overstocked, that there is no cause for us to be proud of the fact that we have 83.90% forest coverage. In his opinion, this supposedly abundant natural resource is more of a burden than good. He in fact thinks that we should cut down our trees, if we are to save our forests.

Dr. Phuntsho points out that in 2015, we exported wood products worth Nu. 0.35 billion. As against that, we imported wood worth Nu. 2.60 billion. For a country with 1,001 million m3 of timber reserve, it is irresponsible to import so much wood, while our own are left to rot away.

Could it be that our doctorate researchers and experts in the Ministry/Department of Agriculture left the forests alone with the belief that trees are good for the environment and that it contributes to carbon sequestration? Were/are they clueless about the negative effects of overstocked forests – both for the environment as well as for the health of the forests? Why was such an important and abundantly available national resource allowed to go to waste? What kind of experts are they that they are unaware of the cause and effect of overstocked forests – on wildlife, on ground water stock, on the overall ecosystem?

Then there is this perennial stray dogs problem that we are simply unable to solve. The only solution to the problem that we have been able to come up with so far is: advise the visitors to the country to bring along earplugs. The DXers Magazine published by Gus Browning Enterprises of Cordova, SC, USA gives a graphic description of the stray dogs problem experienced by the radio amateur Gus Browning during Paro Tsechu in 1965. This means that this problem existing during and even before 1965, has been allowed to fester, even compound, since then.

At some point the Bhutanese society needs to start thinking – thus far there is no indication that we are a thinking society.

The writer is an ardent blogger and the Charter Member of the Rotary Club of Thimphu.

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