A Stink­ing Stench And An Alpine RumpuS

Business Bhutan - - Editorial - YESHEY DORJI

Over few hun­dred miles apart – one bang in the cen­ter of the cap­i­tal city Thim­phu, an­other at the ex­treme fringes of the coun­try’s north­ern bor­der – two stinks have ap­par­ently been fo­ment­ing for some time. I wasn’t aware un­til very re­cently. The Stink­ing Stench: The foul stench of raw sewage is un­mis­tak­able as you pass the Sec­re­tariat of theMin­istry of Works and Hu­man Set­tle­ment (MoWHS). Quite ev­i­dently, the build­ing that houses the Min­istry and De­part­ments that set out build­ing codes and con­struc­tion and de­sign stan­dards has a leak­age in their sewage sys­tem. You can see the raw sewage fill­ing the drainage sys­tem be­low the build­ing. Such ir­re­spon­si­bil­ity is not only pa­thetic, it’s de­mor­al­iz­ing in a na­tion that prides it­self on en­vi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship. The Alpine Rumpus: Now, this stink has the po­ten­tial to turn deadly. It needs im­me­di­ate at­ten­tion and I hope that the gov­ern­ment will look into the prob­lem with wis­dom and fore­sight. Un­for­tu­nately this is an elec­tion year, and I sus­pect that the politi­cians are likely to flaunt the cause as some­thing of a po­lit­i­cal op­por­tu­nity rather than as a prob­lem that needs solv­ing. The is­sue sur­rounds the cu­ri­ously formed, crinkly, half-worm-half-grass odd­ity known as Cordy­ceps sinen­sis.The most ex­pen­sive among the tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicines (TCM) is all set to turn a trail blazer – one that his­tory is likely to quote as the event that marked the be­gin­ning of pro­vin­cial con­flict in the coun­try. An in­tense dis­cord has ap­par­ently been brew­ing for the past few years among the high­landers – the in­hab­i­tants of the high al­ti­tude Ge­wogs of Lu­nana, Se­phu, Laya etc. Cen­tral to the dis­cord is the right of har­vest of the highly priced Cordy­ceps sinen­sis, or Yartsa Guen­boop. Dur­ing my re­cent trip to Lu­nana, I was wit­ness to a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial and a Ge­wong Tsogpa of Lu­nana. Ap­par­ently, there is a rule that says that only Lu­naps can har­vest Yartsa Guen­boop within the ter­ri­to­rial bound­aries of Lu­nana Gewog. Sim­i­larly, Lu­naps can­not go and tres­pass into other Ge­wogs. I am not sure where there is fair­ness in this strangely di­vi­sive rule – but the prob­lem is that peo­ple are un­will­ing to ad­here to these con­di­tions. It seems that the Se­phups and the Layaps are “poach­ing” into Lu­nana ter­ri­tory. Lu­naps are not tak­ing it ly­ing down – they are gang­ing up to chase away the plun­der­ing neigh­bors. While Layaps are smart and move away when chased (only to come back hours later un­der the cover of dark­ness and stealth), the Se­phups are in no mood to lis­ten. They stand their ground and in­sist that they have a right to har­vest a com­mon, nat­u­rally grown bounty that be­longs to the whole na­tion and the peo­ple of Bhutan – not merely to the Lu­naps. Upon in­sist­ing that they leave, the Se­phups are said to have threat­ened that when this is all over, they will take a sim­i­lar stand: that Lu­naps will not be able to ac­cess Se­phup ter­ri­tory, or there will be mur­der and slaugh­ter. The Lu­naps of north­ern re­gions of Lu­nana must exit through Nikachhu for their daily es­sen­tials, and Nikachhu is un­der Se­phu Gewog. KUENSEL of 28th May, 2018 re­ported that the BHSL chopper made 10 sor­ties to the har­vest­ing ar­eas on 27th May, 2018 alone to defuse the dan­ger­ous at­mos­phere that was brew­ing among the high­landers. That day, I was still in the har­vest­ing ar­eas in Lu­nana, but I have no idea if the gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials from Thim­phu man­aged to chase away the Se­phups. But of one thing I am sure: This is not a bound­ary dis­pute. It is about the right of own­er­ship of a mys­ti­cal odd­ity whose po­tency has the magic to cure hair loss and to cor­rect erec­tile dys­func­tion. Be­fore the har­vest­ing and col­lec­tion of Yartsa Guen­boop was le­gal­ized in 2004, I was among the very, very few who ad­vo­cated in writ­ing the need for the le­gal­iza­tion of Cordy­ceps col­lec­tion. I did so be­cause dur­ing those days, Bhutanese col­lec­tors were be­ing pe­nal­ized and fined and jailed for col­lect­ing the worms, while the Ti­betans across the bor­der plun­dered the bounty with­out let or hin­drance, in the process mak­ing mil­lions from its sale. Lit­tle did I know that years later, le­gal Cordy­ceps col­lec­tion could re­sult in the coun­try’s first case of pro­vin­cial con­flict. Time is now for the Gov­ern­ment to re­think the pol­icy. Clearly, there is a real dan­ger that this could es­ca­late into some­thing that the coun­try does not need – least of all on our north­ern bor­ders.

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

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