Gungtong: An Initial Assessment of the Implication of Abandoned Houses in Bhutan

Mr Sangay Wangchuk1,2, Dr Jennifer Bond1, Dr Rik Thwaites1, Professor Max Finlayson1

1Charles Sturt University, Albury-Wodonga, Australia, 2Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment Research, Lamai Goempa, Bhutan

Rapid rural-urban migration in Bhutan has been identified as a national issue and is leading to the total abandonment of a family house, termed as Gungtong in Bhutan. Bhutan’s internal migration rate is at approximately 39%, largely consisting of the age group of 25-29 years putting Bhutan’s internal migration rate as one of the highest in South Asia. Though the 2017 Population and Housing Census of Bhutan reported: moving with families; employment; and education as the three important reasons for migration, one widely claimed explanation for rural-urban migration, in case of Bhutan, is human-wildlife conflict. This claim is supported only by anecdotal reports rather than a deeper analysis of the situation. However, Bhutanese media has been claiming it as the primary driver of rural-urban migration in Bhutan. Cases of Gungtong are increasingly reported across Bhutan and is currently one of the most pressing social issues faced by Bhutan. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in two districts of Bhutan, Trashiyangtse and Tsirang. Preliminary findings reveal that the increasing incidences of human-wildlife conflict are the result of Gungtong rather than the driver of migration. This calls for a much deeper analysis to determine the links between the human-wildlife conflicts and Gungtong in Bhutan.


Biography

Mr Sangay Wangchuk is a researcher at the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment Research in Bhutan and currently a Ph.D. student at the School of Environmental Science in Charles Sturt University, Australia. Studying the drivers, social and ecological implications of abandoned houses in Bhutan for Ph.D. project.

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