China Tightens Border Controls, Strangling Livelihoods in Remote Lapchi

In a remote corner of Lapchibasi, nestled near the border with China, lies the grazing area of Chauri gai, a lifeline for the local residents of Lapchi. For five long years, the pastoral community of Bigu Rural Municipality-1 Lapchi has been deprived of accessing this crucial resource, essential for their livelihoods. The situation has only worsened since China’s recent clampdown on border crossings, leaving the Lapchi residents stranded and struggling to survive.

Traditionally, during the winter months through to the rainy season, Lapchi shepherds would lead their cattle to graze in the lush pastures of the Yak Chauri. However, with the recent restrictions imposed by Chinese security personnel, the once freely accessed grazing area has become off-limits to the locals. The Chinese authorities now demand an official pass for crossing the border, citing security concerns, effectively cutting off Lapchi residents from their vital source of sustenance.

The situation escalated when China reopened the unofficial border last year, albeit briefly, allowing limited trade activities. However, the respite was short-lived as the border was swiftly shut down again, leaving Lapchi residents without access to essential goods. The closure has left the community entirely dependent on local markets for their survival, exacerbating their already dire circumstances.

Sherpas from Lapchibasi lament the loss of their traditional grazing lands and the inability to sell yak calves and ghee, crucial sources of income for their families. The closure of the border has forced Lapchi residents to resort to costly and unreliable methods to procure basic necessities, such as airlifting rice via helicopter, further straining their already limited resources.

The plight of Lapchi has not gone unnoticed, with Chief District Officer Tuwaraj Pokharel acknowledging the urgency of the situation. Pokharel revealed that he has requested sample passes from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to facilitate border crossings for Lapchi residents. With no immigration office in Lapchi, the distribution of official passes is seen as a crucial step towards easing the hardships faced by the border community.

For the residents of Lapchi, the official passes offer a glimmer of hope in an otherwise bleak landscape. With access to their grazing lands and the Chinese market restored, they envision a return to normalcy and the revitalization of their once-thriving community. As they await the delivery of these passes, Lapchi residents cling to the hope that their voices will be heard, and their plight alleviated, before it’s too late.


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