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, Sounds of Sokshing: Revisiting the Contested Provisions of the Land Act 2007

by on November 28, 2011

Coco Carey

28/11/11

1st Blog

 

Dr. Songa Kinga’s article, Sounds of Sokshing: Revisiting the Contested Provisions of the Land Act 2007, poses a “preliminary discussion paper” to aid in the awareness of debates between the state, government, and Bhutanese people. This discussion concerns issues of conflict mainly over sokshing (woodlots); tsamdro (pastures) is mentioned, but isn’t the focus. The conflict arose from the 2007 Land Act the National Assembly enforced. This act imposed, “the deletion of records of sokshing and tsamdro from the private and community land registers called logthrams.” These logthrams hold the categories and sizes of landholdings in which Bhutanese families and communities own. With the deletion of these records, the land belongs to the State, and the State controls land distribution, land use, and the Bhutanese people’s source of cultivation, leaf-litter for manure, and timber. Peasants and rural communities did not accept this act or the logistics behind it; conflict arose out of this failure of acceptance.

Many logistics added to people contesting the act; these logistics are as follows. First, The State failed to justify why sokshing records were deleted. Second, applying for a leasehold was the only way to access sokshing, but the State never provided the applications. Third, after four years of the act being in place, the act’s provisions were still only partially implemented, which made land use unclear. Fourth, the State doesn’t see the land as ever having belonged to the people, even though historically there has been a constant grey area on taxes and private land ownership. Fifth, the State enforces the lease of sokshing for only manure purposes, and implemented the act so sokshing was not used for any other activities. Yet, the people have been using sokshing for manure for centuries, and see themselves, over the State, as protectors and inheritors of sokshing. Peasants protect sokshing more that the state, which is seen in the next point. Sixth, the State claims that it wants to conserve forests with this Land Act by seizing sokshing. But then, the State takes sokshing, turns it into Government Reserved Forests (GRFs), which can then be used by large corporations, and Community Forests (CFs) for timber. The State’s seize of sokshing for large corporation and CFs usage completely contradicts its want to conserve trees.

This article reminded me of Nancy’s colleague, Dr. Mockrin’s, lecture on conservation in urban communities. As we can see from this class and that lecture, people use land constantly. We also see that when the State or government become involved in conserving land for conservation purposes, problems can arise. These problems can include: the failure to take into consideration people’s personal or communal thoughts in regard to the conservation methods being put in place; a grey area on what’s being implemented, what’s allowed, and by whom is allowing what. For example, in this article, the government was not on the same page as the State in terms of the Land Act’s requirements, which led to problems. Kinga went into more detail and analysis of conservation problems regarding sokshing in Bhutan; I highlighted his main discussion points.

I agree with Parliament’s suspension and review of the Land Act in 2009. I honestly think that the National Assembly in Bhutan needed to reevaluate the act earlier though. Conservation was clearly not addressed successfully with the act’s provisions, nor was it even fully implemented, which left many grey areas and confusion.

 

In reading this wonderfully written article, I came up with several questions for the class.

What would be some of your personal suggestions to actually solve conservation issues in Bhutan?

Why do you think the State was seizing sokshing, and then making it available for timber use and corporations rather than conserving sokshing?

What would be your reaction if you were a Bhutanese peasant when the State enforced this act?

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4 Comments
  1. Megan Powell permalink

    I think this article brings up interesting ideas about ownership and rights to land, and broadly, our perspective of how we interact with our environments. In this case there are two different arguments, on the one side, the state argues that the local people have never really officially owned the land – they had never purchased it, never had any official documentation of ownership. To which the locals respond, what constitutes ownership? They argue that they protect, care for, and cultivate the land, and have for a long time, which in some sense does incur ownership. I naturally want to take sides with the locals who I think are really getting the short end of the deal, while the state exploits the land according to its own agenda. On that note, to answer the second question you raised, it seems clear that the state aimed to take advantage of the natural resources for profit — a sad story to say the least.

  2. I think you bring up some very interesting questions. I am especially interested in the last question you ask about how I would react if I were a peasant in Bhutan. I would be angry. Kinga writes that “the Land Act has…been contested by peasants” because “in their perspective, sokshing is a category of land, which they ‘own’ and not a ‘right’ that the state granted them” (2). As Megan claims above, the peasants were the ones caring for the land just to have it scooped up by a government that most likely does not to have the peasants’ concerns in mind.

  3. punam123 permalink

    This article is very interesting because it makes me realize how there is a vast difference in political, social and geographical condition between north and south. In this article, the government takes away the land of the people that they have been using for more then decades. One of the reason is the political reform in Bhutan government as the king transferred most of his administrative powers to the council of cabinet ministers and allowing for impeachment of the King by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly. In addition to this, Bhutan is a developing countries where the infrastructure is not so good. Although the government took away the land, we should also think they might use the land for better use for example, like constructing the road where people can have transportation easier. For that land is needed, if people owned their own land some people might not go for the infrastructure. In addition to this, we must also see their culture. The government seizing the land of the people might be better for the people because people might not take care of the land like they are supposed to and the government making the us of timber for the corporation might be for Bhutan development

  4. punam123 permalink

    i also would like to reference the website where it talks about the land act f 2007 more clearly.
    http://www.bhutanmajestictravel.com/news/2007/the-revised-land-act-of-bhutan-2007.html

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