The news that the Bhutan Indigenous Games and Sports Association (BIGSA) is exploring places and ways to relocate the archery ranges at Changlimithang is well-received by the Thimphu residents.

It is imperative that swift action follows the decision.

Thimphu has around 20 archery ranges between Dechencholing and Khasadrapchu—maybe even more. Some of them, the ones that are near the roads and human settlements will have to be relocated too so that games do not pose danger to the residents and commuters.

A BIGSA official was quoted saying: “We understand the problems at Changlimithang. So far, we looked for the appropriate land to move it, but getting acres of land is challenging.

 “After acquiring the land, we have to do many side works, which is expensive. BIGSA will ensure additional safety facilities and strict rules for the archers at Changlimithang.”

The argument is that there are more than enough private archery ranges in the capital that can host any level of local and national tournaments—the challenge of BIGSA not being able to locate or procure land to relocate Changlimithang archery ranges should not stand in the way of its decision to move the ranges away to a safer location.

Granted that BIGSA has been intermittently providing training archers on safety measures, the threat is ever-present when, because it is deeply rooted in tradition, archers are almost always under the influence of alcohol. Carelessness and lack of stringent rules make archery a dangerous sport.

According to records, an average of no less than 10 accidents related to archery are referred to the national referral hospital every year. When compound hunting bows are involved, accidents can have been death-dealing.

Because archery is our national game, it deserves a special place in the heart of every Bhutanese. But there is an urgent need to make it safe for both archers and spectators. Stunts like blocking the target and dodging arrows can certainly go. Bhutanese archery can be just as enjoyable and engaging without a “barrage of threats and abuse, ranging from the ridiculous to the obscene” as a foreign journalist observed—and angry archers.  

Adding safety facilities and implementing stricter rules for the archers at Changlimithang may help build a comparatively safer environment—in the heart of the city—but the danger of fatal accidents is always there. No substitute or improvement will do; the archery ranges must be moved away, beyond the city precinct.