Thinley Namgay 

In the next five years, the Department of Culture and Dzongkha Development (DCDD) will enhance local capacity to ensure better management of four critical heritage sites: Jambay Lhakhang and Tamzhing Lhakhang in Bumthang, Trong village in Zhemgang, and one of the sacred neys.

These places were selected by the DCDD considering their historical and cultural significance. The UNESCO/Korean Fund-in-Trust Project will assist the initiative.

DCDD, in collaboration with UNESCO/Korean Funds-in-Trust, launched the UNESCO/Korean Fund-in-Trust Project “South Asian Heritage Sites Management Initiative” yesterday in Thimphu.

The project intends to strengthen the heritage sites management in South Asia, particularly focusing on Bhutan and Nepal.

USD 600,000 has been allocated for Bhutan and Nepal for five years in addition to technical assistance.

Besides the preservation of cultural heritage, it is also expected to promote sustainable development in the region.

The expected outcomes include improved documentation, conservation, and management of heritage sites, contributing to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to heritage protection and sustainable economic growth.

UNESCO will help prepare and implement management plans for key heritage sites.

DCDD’s Heritage Sites and Archaeology Division’s Chief Architect, Yeshi Samdrup, said that one of the peculiar aspects of the project is that the community will be involved, ensuring that local voices and perspectives are integral to the heritage management plans.

By empowering local authorities and communities, he said the project seeks to integrate cultural heritage management into broader development plans, promoting sustainable tourism and job creation.

“This inclusive approach not only enriches our understanding of these sites but also empowers communities to take pride in their heritage and actively participate in its preservation,” Yeshi Samdrup said.

This approach is viewed as a critical step for fostering a sense of ownership and ensuring the long-term sustainability of heritage conservation efforts.

The management plans will be prepared in accordance with the national guidelines outlined in the Cultural Heritage Bill of 2016 and the World Heritage Sites Guidelines.

Under the project, workshops will be conducted to ensure the effective protection and management of heritage sites. In the final year of the project, DCDD will organise a sub-regional management initiatives workshop.

The Home and Cultural Affairs Secretary, Sonam Wangyel, who was the guest of honor yesterday, said Bhutan has been collaborating with UNESCO to protect and create awareness of heritage sites since 2014. “UNESCO also supported framing the Culture Heritage Bill of 2016.”

Kil Bai Lee, from the Republic of Korea (ROK)-UNESCO Fund-in-Trust Cooperation at the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, said the project will foster international cooperation and Bhutan’s heritage sites will gain global attention.

The project also aligns with the SDGs, particularly SDG 11.4, which emphasises safeguarding the world’s cultural heritage, and SDG 8.9, aimed at promoting sustainable tourism.