DT endorsed Nu 1.5M to revive the lake

Chimi Dema | Dagana

The shores indicate that it had been big, if not deep. The distance from the water to the trees around the lake shows it has been receding for a long time. Tsangkha Tsho (lake) is losing its water and worrying residents.

Located in Tsangkha village in Dagana, Tsangkha Tsho once spread over three acres. Locals say that the lake was deep and the main water source for residents of Gelechhu chiwog.

More than half the lake has dried up today. Thick fast-growing grasses have encroached the marshy areas surrounding the shrunken lake. From the pace of the encroachment, it is not long when the lake will completely dry up. Nobody knows what caused the lake to shrink.

According to an elderly resident, Dawa, 79, the lake began drying soon after the locals fenced the lake in to protect it from being defiled or polluted.

Others attribute the cause to the impact of climate change and developmental activities in the vicinity.

Although the sight of the disappearing lake is worrying villagers, Dawa said there was nothing much that they could do to revive it. Villagers had been conducting ritual to appease the Tshomem (the female deity of the lake). “We’re worried if it is an indication of ill fortune or catastrophe in the community,” he said. Few years ago, forest officials and residents of Tsangkha planted trees around the lake to revive it.

The gradual drying of the lake is as mysterious as its appearance.

There are many versions of how the lake came to Tsangkha, but none had been documented. One of the many accounts widely accepted among the locals was the tale that the lake arrived from Tsang province in Tibet.


The Origin

Oral history has it that when Guru Padmasambhava visited Tibet in 822AD to build Samey monastery and subjugated many of the local deities and demons, the Tsangkha Tshomem who did not want to be under Guru Rinpoche’s domination headed to Bhutan and reached Tsangkha.

Later in 876AD, when Guru Rinpoche proceeded towards the land of The Rakshas (demons) via Dagana visiting and meditating at the Tha Namkhai Dzong, located towards the right of the lake, it is said that the Guru had known about presence of the Tshomem.

Tha Namkhai Dzong (The Frontier Sky Fortress) is a meditation cave of Guru Rinpoche, located about a three hour walk from Changchey in Tsirang. One can ascend to the cave crossing the suspension bridge which is adjacent to Wangdue-Tsirang highway.

The oral account has it that Guru Rinpoche then threw three blessed Tormas, the dough and butter sculptures made for religious purposes, towards the lake to subjugate the Tshomem.

“After successfully subjugating the Tshomem, Guru Rinpoche had made her the local deity of the village,” Ap Dawa said.

The village, Tsangkha, according to Ap Dawa, was named after the lake. The manifestations of the three Tormas in the form of stones are still present at the site.

Known as Tsangkha Tshomem Gyem to locals, the Tshomem is hailed as the main protective deity of the chiwog. Dawa says that if villagers appease the deity, they are blessed with good rainfall and bountiful yield. “The place surrounding the lake is different without leeches and snakes when others are not,” he said.

Locals believe that the lake is also known for manifesting in various colours in the event of catastrophe in the country. Dawa said that the lake turned reddish  at one end when the country was hit hard by the global pandemic last year. “It disappeared gradually as the Covid-19 cases in the country went down by the day.”


Revival Plans

Meanwhile, the dzongkhag authority is well aware of the situation. The recent dzongkhag Tshogdu in Dagana endorsed Nu 1.5million (M) to revive and beautify the lake.

Dzongkhag Environment Officer Karma Dorji said they will remove debris and refill the lake. “To prevent affluents from getting into the lake, a proper drainage would also be constructed,” he said. “Plantation on the lake-shed would be carried out as well.”

A footpath for visitors is also planned. Karma Dorji said the lake is drying because of the impact of climate change and developmental activities. Besides solving the water problem, reviving the lake would also revive marine ecosystems and enrich ecological relationships.

Tsangkha gup Tawla said  they would also construct a small structure to shelter stone manifestations of the Tormas. “We’re also hoping to construct a statue of the Tshomem.”

The dzongkhag would also revive  Sherpalakha Tsho and Dungkar Tsho, which is commonly known as Phokhari lake in Goshi gewog. The DT endorsed Nu 3M to revive three lakes.