The festival is expected to conserve and preserve the pristine nature

Festival: The three-day annual rhododendron festival began yesterday at the Royal Botanical Park in Lamperi profoundly known as the rhododendron garden.

Meto Pelri Tshogpa, a community based organisation, came together once again to showcase their culture, food and beverages. The tshogpa consists of Kawang, Chang, Toeb and Dagala gewog, Dechentsemo Central School, Thinleygang PS, Phuntsho PS and Nature Recreation and Ecotourism Division (NRED) of the department of forest and park services.

Labour minister Ngeema Sangay Tshempo, at the inaugural yesterday, stressed the importance of the Lamperi park being a recreational place for people living in nearby dzongkhags especially Thimphu.

“The urbanites are not aware of the recreational facilities available in the park. We hope that through this festival, the park will be seen as a perfect place to enjoy and appreciate nature,” he said

Lyonpo also said that the botanical park is the first recreational park in the country, which fulfills the mandate of keeping the nation under 60 percent forest cover and achieving one of the four pillars of Gross National Happiness.

The festival is divided into three villages – culture and entertainment village, education and awareness village and, food and beverages village along with other attractions such as horse riding, bird watching, camping facilities, stalls gifts and souvenirs, and guided walk through the 125 acres of the park.

Meto Pelri Tshogpa’s chairman Sonam Dorji said the objective of the festival is to conserve and promote the preservation of the pristine environment.

“As a country that is known for its rich flora and fauna, we have to uphold the responsibility to provide the same for our future generations,” Sonam Dorji said. “The festival will not only promote environmental conservation but also ecotourism.”

Sangay Thinley, 61, from Toeb gewog from Punakha, is showcasing his talent of tshar zo (bamboo products), which are displayed at the stall.

Participating for the fourth time, Sangay Thinley is now confident that all of his products will be sold at the festival.

Students of the Dechentsemo Central School are also showcasing their products, which consists of recycled home decorations made of plastics and art paintings on cloth pieces.

A student of the school, Pema Wangmo, 16, said through their recycled products, they want to convey and educate visitors on the waste management and renewable energy.

About 46 species of rhododendron have been recorded in the country including four that are endemic to Bhutan. The Royal Botanical Park alone has more than 29 native species or rhododendron.

Rhododendrons are found across the sub-tropical climate zone to the high altitude temperate zone ranging from 800 metres (m) to 5,200m elevation in the country. They vary from small creeping shrubs to tall trees, which can grow up to the heights of 20m or even more.

Today, rhododendrons are widely used in offerings, medicines, incense, religious products and other ethnobotanical practices.

The park is about half and hour drive from Thimphu. There are a total of 18 parks in the country.

The festival is organised by the NRED and Tourism Council of Bhutan.

Thinley Zangmo