It probably started in late 60s when the government, extremely short of human resources, employed anyone who had some years of schooling. These people started a new life in a new place.
Villagers that left the countryside for a life in the city were those taken by city relatives as domestic help or to look after orchards beyond the municipal boundaries or for schooling. Some had left to live with their children working for the government or in the private sector.
This gradual influx, while filling urban centres with people from every corner of the country, has resulted in empty houses in the countryside.
In the urban centres it has meant pressure on basic amenities like housing and water supply. In the villages it has affected rural development activities.
Take for example Bidung, a village in Trashigang with about 440 households. Of this number more than 80 houses have no one living in it and some have been vacant for over 20 years, say gewog clerk, Kinga Wangdi.
"It is a problem when there is a need for labour contribution as there should be a representative from every household. Only those villagers who are in the village keep working," he said.
He said that a resolution was drawn up by the Dzongkhag Yargay Tshogdu two years ago that the households who did not contribute labour should pay Nu. 1,000 to make up for the unwanted absence. "But that remained just on paper and was never implemented," he said.
It also created inconvenience when collecting various taxes and insurance premium from public.
Karsang, a village tshogpa, said that some of the vacant houses and the land were almost covered by trees and bushes. This had led to the increase in the number of wild animals encroaching cultivated areas.
"Although some have leased out their land to those in the village, most of it, especially steep unfavourable ones remain fallow," he said, adding that a few of the houses had been occupied by extension officers. Some of the houses had also fallen apart without proper renovation.
Meanwhile, families back in the village had, on several occasions, raised the issue that it was not fair that they keep contributing labour and taxes while those who left the village escaped both.
"Even we have our children in town but we feel it is our responsibility to take care of our phazhing (ancestral land)," said farmer Tshering Phuntsho. "We associate our identity with our village but what is the use if you are not going to take care of your own village," he said. "If a person is meant to succeed, he can do it anywhere."
Tshogpa Karsang said that the village would be a better place if people came back and took care of their possessions. "The government should come up with strategies to bring them back," he said. "Leaving ones roots is not a good example for the future generation."