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.


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.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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