Flowers on the windowsill – a dangerous passion

Potted flowers on verandas and windowsills of tall buildings can kill people in the event of a windstorm or accident

COVER STORY: It’s a bright Sunday of mid-June.  Shoppers and a group of youngsters are strolling along Norzin Lam, Thimphu.  Some hurry down the street, while others leisurely stop and engage in animated talk.  A burst of laughter follows after a few moments.

What these young people don’t realise is the signboard that hangs precariously over their heads.  It looks like it will come down from high up at any time.

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A signboard along the Norzin Lam waiting to fall

And flowerpots that stand on the edge of verandas of Thimphu buildings are dangerously poised.  They could kill people below.  There are hydrangea, daisy and geranium and pansies on the windowsill of one hotel opposite to the clock tower.

The potted flowers, which bloom best at this time of the season, are kept on a loose plank high up on the edges of tall buildings.

Phuntsho Gyalloww, 21, a tour guide, stopped, looked up and said it was good that house owners, who live on the top floors, are fond of flowers. “But they should also know that it’s dangerous and unsafe for people, who live downstairs.”

Gyalloww said that thromde should make stringent rules, when it comes to the aesthetics of the town, especially when it comes to allowing people to keep their potted plants outside their windows. “It could kill people.”

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Flowers perched precariously at the attic of a building in Babesa, Thimphu

But this is not the story of Norzin Lam alone.  Same is the case in Changangkha, Motithang and Babesa.  Almost every window of every building is filled with potted plants.

Thirty-one-year-old Passang Dema of Changangkha said that it’s become a trend for many Bhutanese to keep their potted plants outside their windows, or on the edge of balconies, without giving any second thoughts about safety of people living downstairs.

“Keeping potted flowers on the windows and edge of the balcony is risky,” she said. “What if there’s a strong wind or an earthquake? This could kill people,” said Passang Dema. “Accidents can happen. It’s high time that thromde or other relevant agencies created awareness about it.”

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Potted flowers that line the windowsills of a building in Norzin Lam

A house owner in Babesa, Tshering Zam, is a flower enthusiast.  She likes to decorate her house with potted flowers.  She has many different indoor and outdoor plants that fill her house.  She lives on the building’s fourth floor with her two children, husband and her parents.

“I’ve been keeping the flowers outside the windows and balconies for so many years and no mishaps have occurred so far,” Tshering Zam said. “But I realise that it’s equally important to keep the flowers safe from falling.”

For more than a year, Tshering Zam has been ordering designed planks and boxes, so that the potted flowers are placed well, even along the windows and balconies outside.

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Some innovative stands for potted flowers at RICB colony in Thimphu

“I designed the boxes myself, so that even if we accidentally nudge the pots, they won’t fall,” she said. “It’s worth paying extra money for safety, than having a disaster occur at my doorstep.”

Like Tshering Zam, there are a few others in Olakha, who have designed inbuilt metal boxes on the balcony, so that residents can safely place their potted plants without having to worry about accidents.

Yeshi Wangdi, a thromde official, said that there was no rule that said residents were allowed to keep their potted plants outside their windows or balconies.

“We never thought that such rules are even required or needed, because no accidents have occurred so far,” he said. “House owners should be responsible and not let any accident happen.”

Yeshi Wangdi said that, with so many buildings in Thimphu, such rules may be necessary for the safety of the people. “I urge each of the house owners to keep their potted plants in a safer distance, so that it doesn’t fall from a slight shake and to prevent an accident from happening.”

Although there are no records of anyone being hit from a falling signboard or potted plant from a building, it is important that precautions are taken by house owners and shopkeepers, said Yeshi Wangdi.

By Thinley Zangmo

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