Archery is deeply embedded in our cultural fabric and our national sport. Yet, as we revel in the beauty of this ancient game, it is crucial to confront a stark reality—the perilous nature of archery in its current form.

Every year, no less than 10 archery-related accidents are recorded at the national referral hospital in Thimphu. These incidents, often involving compound hunting bows, can be fatal. As proud custodians of our national sport, it is our collective responsibility to address this pressing issue and ensure the safety of both archers and spectators.

The charm of Bhutanese archery lies not only in the precision of aim but also in the traditional rituals that accompany each shot. However, these rituals, when taken to extremes like blocking targets and dodging arrows, pose a significant threat. As a foreign journalist keenly observed, our archery fields have become arenas of “threats and abuse, ranging from the ridiculous to the obscene,” accompanied by the simmering anger of the archers.

To preserve the essence of our national sport while prioritising safety, it is imperative to bring about meaningful change. It involves enhancing safety facilities and enforcing stricter rules for archers at the iconic Changlimithang archery range in the heart of the city. While this may contribute to a comparatively safer environment, it cannot completely eliminate the inherent risk of fatal accidents.

Hence, a more radical solution beckons—the relocation of archery ranges beyond the city precinct. By moving the archery grounds to safer locations, we not only protect the lives of those directly involved in the sport but also ensure the safety of bystanders and passersby.

Why, one might ask, is this relocation necessary? The answer lies in the danger posed by the sport, especially when played with compound hunting bows. These bows, designed for hunting, carry a level of force that transforms a simple sporting activity into a potential hazard. Relocating the archery ranges to less populated areas mitigates the risk of stray arrows causing harm to unintended targets.

The move to safer locations does not entail a sacrifice of tradition or cultural significance. On the contrary, it opens up new possibilities for the evolution of Bhutanese archery. A safer environment encourages a more relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere, fostering a sense of camaraderie among archers and spectators alike. The spirit of the game can thrive without the shadow of imminent danger.

Archery deserves not only pride but also a commitment to safety. To preserve the sanctity of our national sport, we must embrace change and relocate archery ranges to safer spaces. This transition ensures that the sport retains its cultural essence while eliminating the unnecessary risks that threaten the well-being of our archers and the public.

We must embark on the journey towards a safer, more enjoyable archery experience—a transformation that aligns with the spirit of our nation, where tradition and safety harmoniously coexist.