Bhutan Indigenous Games and Sports Association (BIGSA) found that the archery ranges in most of the dzongkhags are not built as per the safety measures provisioned in the Traditional Archery Rules and Regulations.

BIGSA conducted archery safety measures training and dzongkhag Bacho inspection in 2015 with the aim to minimise archery-related accidents. Inspection and safety training was organised until 2017 and covered 18 dzongkhags.

Technical Officer with BIGSA, Pema Dawa, who facilitated the inspection and safety training, said that there were only countable number of archery ranges built with safety measures. “Most of the ranges are constructed close to residential area, at the junction of roads, and near the highways.”

According to BIGSA’s rules and regulations, the dimension or archery field should include a minimum of 20 metres safe distance behind each target area excluding the space for spectators.

“No public thoroughfares of any kind including parking of vehicles should be allowed within archery field. If the provision for spectators is required, the width of the area should be increased to minimum of 40 metres,” says the regulation. It also says that the archery range should have safety barrier or wall of at least two metres high and long. “Wall of at least six meters high added with two-meter-high wire mesh on top with smallest possible eyes should be erected behind each target. The minimum width of the wall should be 10 meters.”

It requires archery ranges located in urban or highly populated areas to be fenced.

In September last year, three men were struck by arrow in Trashigang.  One of the victims, a 23-year-old boy from Merak, was not even near the target when an arrow hit him.

Pema Dawa said that most of the archery-related accidents occurred during local tournaments in villages.

“Archers are careless and play under the influence of alcohol. The archers playing for the first time are at high risk. Many pick up archery without proper techniques and training,” he said.

The safety training taught participants how to draw a bow and to perform Dhacham (dance) but did not include any sessions on First Aid tips. More than 600 participants attended the training.

Research officer with BIGSA, Tashi Dorji, said that the association in collaboration with Thromdes and National Land Commission started registering the archery ranges built on state-owned land. “A few ranges were dismantled after we received complaints from the residents.”

There are around three archery ranges in Thimphu, one in Samtse and another in Samdrupjongkhar that were constructed and operated after the association’s inspection in the country.

However the association could not conduct follow up inspection on the ranges that were not built with safety measures.