Yangchen C Rinzin 

The Department of Culture (DoC) has refused to issue a clearance to Tourism Council of Bhutan for a campsite at Phajoding monastery on the grounds that it was against the protection of cultural elements.

According to DoC, the proposed location of the campsite, which was right next to the Phajoding lhakhang, could violate the sanctity of lhakhang.

The site falls under the protection zone as per the Cultural Heritage Bill of Bhutan 2016. It also falls under watershed area of Motithang.

The campsite was part of Phajoding trail enhancement project designed under the tourism stimulus plan. The plan was prepared to help engage those in the tourism industry affected by Covid-19 pandemic.

The campsite was proposed to be constructed in the third phase of the project.

Phase I, which includes enhancement of trails to Phajoding, is almost complete. Gazebo, canopy and other facilities would be constructed in phase II.

A total of 30 laid-off tourist guides were involved for more than one month in the Nu 6.8 million projects.

Project manager, Sherub Dorji, said that the initial plan was to come up with campsite and handover to the Guides’ Association of Bhutan to operate. “We respect DoC’s reservation. We’re now exploring other locations.”

He said that the campsite was located next to tsamkhang/dupkhang. The plan to open a café there was also shot down.

The idea was to attract domestic tourists given current pandemic situation.

The project included the campsite development since there are no campsite facilities at Phajoding. While many return because of lack of campsite, there have been several cases where people got lost on their way back.

“Most of the preferred area where people camp is not feasible and is an open camping area. The aim was also to ensure waste management,” Sherub Dorji said.

The deadline for the project is the end of December.

A DoC official said: “While we support the campsite idea to help unemployed, our priority is to protect the sanctity of the lhakhang. Our concern is that campsite would increase waste and create noise pollution.”