Social restriction in traditional forest management systems, and its implications for biodiversity conservation in Bhutan
Author Sonam Wangdi, Nawang Norbu, Sangay Wangchuk and Kinga Thinley
Knowledge about social restrictions in traditional forest management systems and how they were organised within the social setup of the day are limited. With the gradual integration of new scientific forest management policies, traditional forest management systems are either ignored or over-ruled. The objective of the study was to document three of mountains, Sokdum=restriction of killing animals, and Tsadum=restriction of grazing in pastureland) that may have contributed to the conservation of biodiversity in Bhutan prior to 1969. The study was based on interviews of 56 community elders and local leaders who were above 60 years of age in three districts (Bumthang, Lhuntse and Tashi Yangtse). The study revealed that the three restriction systems were not directly enforced for the sustainable management of forests or for the conservation of biodiversity. Instead, their enforcement was primarily driven by a need to pacify local deities and thereby avoid natural disasters such as floods and storms, thus ensuring good agricultural harvests. Sokdum was also a tool to avoid killing of living creatures during the auspicious month of the year. Interestingly, however, the Reedum period corresponds to the growing season (spring to autumn), and Sokdum promotes wildlife conservation through prevention of manmade forest fires during the highly susceptible forest fire season (February–March). Similarly, Tsadum helps ensure regrowth of the grasslands as it corresponds to the regeneration period for grazing lands. We document that restriction systems historically practiced have promoted regeneration and conservation of biodiversity in Bhutan.