Chhimi Dema

Sonam from Trashigang lost his vision at a very young age.  He spends most of his days at home.

“Our friends or family carry us around and it is exhausting for them,” Sonam said.

To make the Royal Botanical Garden at Serbithang inclusive and friendly for all, the National Biodiversity Centre (NBC) launched persons with disability (PWD)-friendly infrastructures on September 15.

In the garden, the footpath from the entrance to the office area has been redeveloped, signboards are interpreted in braille, and construction of an accessible toilet is underway.

An official from NBC said that it was in its vision 2030 to make the garden accessible to all.

NBC plans to make braille interpretation for all texts at the interpretation centre and make more footpaths accessible.

According to the 2017 Population and Housing Census, 2.1 percent of Bhutan’s population, or 15,567 Bhutanese, live with some form of disability.  It is estimated that there are about 200 persons with disabilities in Thimphu.

Sonam said that the new facilities allow them to enjoy nature and experience something new and different.  “This is a gift for us,” he said.

Although there are many parks in the country, Sonam said that many lack facilities for PwDs.

The project was funded by UNDP’s Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme, European Union-Rural Development and Climate Change Response Programme, and Australian Volunteers Programme.

The fund from UNDP was secured by Zhenphen, a group of youth with disability.

The garden was established in 1999 under NBC, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, as an ex-situ plant conservation area and to commemorate the Silver Jubilee Celebration of The Fourth Druk Gyalpo.

It is the first Botanical Garden in Bhutan and has an area of 32 acres.