The stray arrow is a major concern. In Thimphu, where there are not less than 20 archery ranges between Dechencholing and Khasadrapchu, mostly near roads or houses, fatal accidents are a contact threat to commuters and residents.

Archery is our national sport. For many, it is a favourite pastime on weekends and holidays. But the problem is the lack of safety.

Recognising that carelessness and lack of stringent rules make archery a dangerous sport, Bhutan Indigenous Games and Sports Association (BIGSA) recently came up with a couple of safety measures for the national sport. However, because the consumption of alcohol is a cultural part of the game, mishaps happen.

It is also involved in training archers on safety measures but unless the ranges are taken far from human settlement, it is unlikely that the threat of stray arrows hitting onlookers and others will be greatly reduced.

No substitute or improvement will do; the archery ranges must be moved away, beyond the city precinct. The news that the Bhutan Indigenous Games and Sports Association (BIGSA) is exploring places and ways to relocate the archery ranges at Changlimithang was received well by the Thimphu residents. This must also happen in all the dzongkhags.

 According to records, an average of no less than 10 accidents related to archery are referred to the national referral hospital every year. When compound hunting bows are involved, accidents can be death-dealing.

As our national game, archery deserves a special place in the heart of every Bhutanese. But there is an urgent need to make it safe for both archers and spectators. Stunts like blocking the target and dodging arrows can easily be disallowed.

Bhutanese archery can be just as enjoyable and engaging without a “barrage of threats and abuse, ranging from the ridiculous to the obscene” as a foreign journalist observed—and angry archers.  

It appears that putting safety measures is not impossible. We aren’t doing it. For example, to instil a sense of responsibility and carefulness among archers, a monetary damages award could be issued which might cover hospital, medical surgery or rehabilitation and other related costs such as lost wages resulting from the injury.

The most sensible solution though is to move the archery ranges away from roadsides and human settlements.