Some local government leaders insist they can prove that a permanent camp was set up and rules violated

Tourism: Despite the dzongkhag verification team ruling out a permanent campsite at Bumdra, above Taktshang in Paro, some local leaders still insist that there existed a permanent campsite that could have been dismantled prior to the team’s visit.

The Dzongkhag Tshogdu chairman Lamgong gup Phub Tshering said that if need be, he can still prove the existence of a permanent campsite where the tents were furnished with wooden beds.

“For all these facilities, the trees were felled from a nearby area, which I can prove if they want,” he said, adding that there are due processes to be followed to use any forest resources.

The campsite, he said, existed more than a year ago and that he raised the issue after receiving several complains from people.

“For now I’m happy that the campsite has been removed,” he said, adding that such practices could set a wrong precedence. “Today it’s above Taksthang, tomorrow it could be near some other important monument.”

Gup Phub Tshering said the dzongkhag verification team visited the site three days after the issue was reported in the media. “It was announced that a verification team would be there leaving ample time for the permanent campsite to be removed.”

On why he did not accompany the verification team, gup Phub Tshering clarified that he was informed late and had an important meeting to attend. “The information came only in the evening while the team was leaving the next morning,” he said.

The gup also clarified that as a local government leader, he raised the issue in the larger interest of the nation and particularly for the people of Paro.

He still reasoned that when a permanent campsite is set up, the overall purpose of community tourism is defeated. Besides, he said the area also serves as an important grazing land and if the Bumdra lam had allocated the land or leased it to the trekking company, then no due processes were followed for this either.

Some local government members said that the letter from Bumdra lam to Tsento gup clearly states that the land near the drupchu has been allocated to the company as the latter had provided community services to the lhakhang.

This, according to some members created monopoly of business that could impact social equity and justice.

Gup Phub Tshering said allocation of land is a royal prerogative and if leased, proper procedures need to be followed. “As clearly mentioned in the letter, the land was allocated to the trekking company without following the due process,” he said. “If it was not permanent, why do the company need to seek approval from the Bumdra lam?”

Some local leaders also expressed concerns over the impact the permanent campsite could have on the drupchu in Bumdra that flows to Taktshang.  As a significant drupchu, local leaders said it must be protected.

Following allegations on a permanent campsite at Bumdra, a verification team from Paro dzongkhag administration visited the campsite on September 10. The verification team reported that no permanent campsite has been set up nor was the land leased to the trekking company as alleged. The team also reported that there was enough space for others to camp as well.

Tsento gup Chencho who accompanied the verification team said he is not sure if a permanent campsite existed but there were some wooden beds. “There were about four tents of which one was for dining,” he said.

Gup Chencho also said that there were two nomadic tents, one serving as a kitchen to be used by all guests while the other one was empty. “We’re told there is no way they can afford to have a permanent campsite and that tents were pitched as and when they have guests,” he said.

Kinga Dema