Phub Dem | Paro
Known for its healing properties, Bjagay Menchhu in Paro is a hotspot for those who seek a natural cure from soaking in medicinal water.
Legend has it that a vulture (bjagay) with a broken wing was seen dipping its injured wing in the spring water from time to time. After a week, it is said that the wing had completely healed and the bird flew away.
People from across the country with complications such as fractured bones and arthritis, come to the menchhu every day.
The menchhu is located at Jiwphu, about 10 kilometres towards Chelela from Paro. On weekends and holidays, the menchhu is packed with visitors.
In the past, people made makeshift camps at the site, heated stones using wood fires, and used the stones to heat the medicinal water in wooden tubs. People with bone and joint problems soak in the tubs for an extended period, lasting from a week to several months.
The community began tapping the benefits of the menchhu only in 2017. The menchhu received a significant facelift under a project initiated with support from UNDP’s Global Environmental Facility – Small Grants Programme (Gef-Sgp) in collaboration with the government that same year. The project installed solar-powered water heating systems and water heating stoves, which helped reduce the use of firewood.
The project included the establishment of guest rooms, proper bath facilities, and toilets, as well as electricity. The menchhu pond was also fenced to protect the spring water and the wetlands. Other project activities included landscaping and waste management.
Nidup Tshering, a member of the CF who currently manages the menchhu, said that it costs Nu 1500 for a tub and a room per day (eight hours). Up to five members in a family can share the room and the bathhouse.
He said that visitors can use the bathhouse from 8 am to 5pm during summer. “After 5pm, the service is open to day visitors. For day visitors, who don’t stay overnight, the use of one bathhouse for three hours is Nu 1000.”
There are eight tub compartments and rooms.
The menchhu gets more than 15 visitors in a day, which earns about Nu 450,000 a month.
Nidup Tshering said that there were many incidents where people who came barely able to stand can walk on their own after soaking in the menchhu for some days. The tubs remain mostly booked.
He said that the place is ideal for any season and people visit the site throughout the year. “Even doctors and hospitals refer their patients to the menchhu for a soaking treatment.”
Most of the users are victims of accidents with extreme cases of broken bones and injuries.
Chimi, one of the regular visitors at the menchhu, said that she has tried every medication and treatment to cure her broken legs. She could walk only after soaking in the menchhu.
Chundu, a customer from Haa, was suffering from joint pain for a long time. He said that medication and treatments could not cure the pain. “The pain went away after soaking in the menchhu for a week. The water has amazing healing power.”
Benefit to the community
The Bjagay Menchhu community forest has 208 members from Jew and Wochu, under Lungnyi gewog.
The facility is outsourced to a local who has hired a few staff members to provide services like heating the stones, filling and cleaning the tubs in the evening, maintaining the toilet facilities, managing the waste, and running a canteen.
Nu 540,000 goes to the CF annually.
Nidup Tshering said this money will be used to renovate the menchhu and plant trees in the area.
The menchhu has also created employment opportunities for locals. Today, seven youth from the locality are engaged in managing the menchhu.
“During winter and summer breaks, students from nearby areas help manage the menchhu as a part-time job,” Nidup Tshering said.
Sustainable management of the menchhu, he said, is a priority.
Edited by Jigme Wangchuk