In last one year of my career, I have experienced an inexperienced, walked different miles in jungles and forest and done different types of task to meet the conservation goals and serve the duty. Today, when I reflect upon those works, I see forester in southern Bhutan is different than those in other part of country. Frankly, I don’t have much idea in northern part except my month long internship at Jigme Dorji National Park. Foresters in central region are busy with daily works like allotment of sands, gravel, boulder, marking of trees and patrolling. But, all the works are done with happiness and smiles. The story is otherwise for foresters in south except to those in little developed towns. The same task of allotting non wood forest products, marking of trees and firewood, patrolling and other task are done differently. How different though the rule is same? Why the story is otherwise? What makes foresters in south different?
1. Foresters in south are paramilitary with weapons
Yes, foresters in south are with weapons. You might have only seen weapons like AK and SLR in an arm of army and police during occasions and patrolling. Hardly you see weapons with foresters except if you are from south and in south. With weapons comes fear and responsibility. The fear to get in ambush during patrolling by miscreants, the fear to lose its parts and weapon itself and the fear to harm others during emergency. Patrolling in south is not just a walk along paths to apprehend the culprit like others but also to be cautious and be with weapons walking long distance. There hardly be vehicle patrolling and it happens only during local patrolling. Local patrolling is different than border patrolling. We just see everything is okay in locality during the earlier but the later deals with people other than local. The moment we step the border, we have only 50% of life.
2. Pressure from outside miscreants on resources
The greatest pressure and importantly the greatest fear for the southern forester is the pressure from outside miscreants. The forest along borders is being exploited as I have shared earlier on my post, “The Journey along Borders”. Stumps and logs will be seen frequently when you travel along the border. Illegal fishing is one of the frequent issue that forester face in the country. Southern foresters are not only challenged by fisherman from the country but also from outside. The challenge is multi-fold because those fishermen are trained. We observe them voyaging in tube following the river. In my case, those fishermen voyage in tube following Sunkosh River. We have been often asked by the people if we are to enforced rules only to locality but why not to others. I know it isn’t fair to the people when we see outsiders cherishing our resources when we even restrict to ourselves.
Southern Foresters are challenged with manpower and that is the fact. We are in the border, in fact few kilometers away from junction. We live in very scary places without peace like other foresters. But, that doesn’t mean to go against the system that we are enforced it. That is the fact that we Bhutanese should know before complaining and making statement. A statement like, “enforce rules to outsiders too”. Because you aren’t in our shoe, you won’t understand our nature. Five rangers run a range. Border patrolling is not possible but we do that thinking that we are given with the duty and are our responsibility. I may be wrong if I say some ranges in central region have more staffs than required but here in southern we need more. And, I don’t know who should be responsible to deploy it.
3. Pressure from Elephant: Chasing it the usual duty.
Human wildlife conflict the war between human and wildlife is rising issue of the country despite the mitigation measure. In every east, west, north and south of country, the issue is one of the main causes of unhappiness to the people. Southern foresters are challenged with human elephant conflict. I don’t have much say to other friends in south where the chase of elephant is success but in my case it’s the problem. Last year 2017, we the range staffs have attended 11 incidences of elephant chase. We have sacrifices many nights just to guard the crops of people. We have also chased elephant during days. The experiences weren’t interesting. There are incidences where we have been in face to face with elephant. The gigantic animal has no say and the gun is hopeless when it chases us. By then we realize our heartbeats are on peak. People need crops for their survival. Elephant keeps on raiding. The hatred to animal increases after every crop raids and not attending the situation distress the people. It is the saga of sleepless nights and tasteless food to our southern foresters. And, with regard to climate, I think I need not explain much as we live in place with 65 meters above sea level.
Lastly, the article is neither to differentiate among the foresters nor to demand any additional benefits to southern foresters. It is the fact that we should know and keep in mind. Keeping those in mind and working won’t have problems like shortage of staffs in some places and excess in others. It is also the fact that people should know while commenting and making any kinds of judgments.