The three Dzongkhags of Trashiyangtse, Lhuentse and Haa which are all border Dzongkhags have lessons to share.
They were all prepared long way before lockdown, and so they have not faced any serious issues during the 21 days of lockdown. They watched the border areas closely to prevent any movement. Stocked up essentials were sufficient. Moreover, they supplied vegetables and livestock products to other Dzongkhags.
However, they felt the need and importance of stocking up animal feeds as well.
Haa Dzongda, Kinzang Dorji said, “We didn’t know when but we have been preparing for the last four months, so it was not a difficult one. But of course there were few challenges like resolving the issue of a stranded people and supply of livestock feed.”
The Dzongkhag was gearing up for the Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibition and many people from other districts already started gathering and this was little unexpected whereby they had to arrange everything for them, he said.
“The cases from IMTRAT have not given any trouble but I had to calm down people as they had psychological fear. The lockdown happened on time and so the local transmission could be avoided,” he added.
There are lots of thing they have learnt. He said that they need a little better coordination across the country, especially in distributing the surpluses in districts where they are lacking.
“We have made a lot of strategic papers on how to take care of humans but we have forgotten the livestock, poultry and stray dogs. So, I see the need of focusing on this issue as well. Also, we still need to educate people because after sometime it is becoming a matter of rights whereby some started making unreasonable demands,” he said.
Adding to lessons learnt, they are planning to start an agriculture project whereby the lower Haa (Sombaykha Drungkhag) will cultivate and supply vegetables to upper Haa during winter, he added. During lockdown, the vegetables were supplied from upper Haa.
Meanwhile, he said that Haa Dzongkhag shares border with China and India and the yak harder from this side stays face to face with the ones from other side whereby there could be lots of mixing and contacts.
They have been advocating among them, he said, nevertheless, two months prior to lockdown they have quarantined 14 people on their own expense for failing to comply with the rules.
“This has served as deterrence to other people. We have made a system where any yak harder wanting to travel towards the border has to register and be notified, but these 14 people were not yak herders and neither did they register with us. We could arrest them half way and prosecute them for violating the norms,” he said.
Trashiyangtse Dzongda Thuji Tshering said that lockdown was monitored as per the guideline and there were only a few who got stranded. “As far as I know we have not come across any issues as we were prepared with SOP’s in place,” he said.
However, there was little bit of panic since it started out of the blue. All the essential goods and vegetables were delivered with no charges. They have supplied vegetables to nearby districts, he added.
When they started there were few hiccups but they are fully set and they have looked into what has to be improved.
“We have only one fuel depot which serves eight gewogs. From what we have learnt, we have to make an arrangement to make sure that six lower gewogs do not run out of fuel during lockdown in the future”, he said.
Though not a major issue, however, they have to improve their services in delivering gas and fuels in every gewogs and these are the lessons they have learnt and shortfalls they have seen, he added.
Though the Dzongkhag shares the border with Tawang with two main entry points, they have not come across any heinous crime since the closure of border, however, at one time, four people from Tawang crossed one entry point and reached half way, but they were immediately apprehended and were sent back and nothing serious happened.
The Dzongda said that they were fully prepared and both the entry points have police outpost. There are other eight more point of entries which are being manned 24/7.
“We have a win-win situation whereby Tawang is also being strict on this matter and have been guarding their border strictly. As far as possible we are being vigilant all the time,” he said, adding that the same strategy is used along the Trashiyangtse-China border.
Lhuentse Dzongda Jambay Wangchuk said that implementing and monitoring right away was not challenging as they were prepared. However, he said, “We have not thought about stocking up the animal feeds. That was one shortfall from our side. We were at the verge of shortage of animal feeds but the relaxation of lockdown happened right on time.”
He said that Lhuentse Dzongkhag is close to China border and since the closure of international border they have not come across any criminal cases unlike in the southern Dzongkhags.
“There are five highlander families and we have been advocating with them. We have no cases so far, however, we never know and therefore we are being vigilant on this part and we will keep monitoring,” he added.
Highlighting on lesson learnt, he said that people come up with various reasons to move around and in this pretext they feel that there is need to develop certain mechanism. Otherwise, awareness is what is needed the most and stocking up of animal feed is needed, he said.
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