Lack of a clear culture policy or a bill makes it difficult for the department of culture to monitor or address culture-related issues.

At the first national tourism conference in Thimphu last month, Pema Gyalpo, a tourism consultant, asked if it was appropriate for some hotels and resorts to have religious instruments as decorative pieces. He said that some hotels had Dung and Jaling as door handles.

Director General of Department of Culture, Karma Weezir, said that would not be appropriate.

Karma Weezir said that these instruments were worshipped and used for religious ceremonies. Advocacy and awareness would be conducted on such issues in the 12thPlan, he added. “We have it as a special programme where such dos and don’ts and how to address such issues would be included.”

He pointed out that currently there was no culture policy or Act because of which it was difficult to monitor or address such issues. The draft heritage sites bill, which is yet to be submitted and endorsed by the Cabinet, is expected to address such issues.

Sonam Tobgay, a tour operator, said that banning of rafting along Punakha Dzong did not benefit anyone, adding that the activity was one of the unique selling points for tourists in Punakha.

After the ban, marketing was stopped, he said. “When we have tourists going inside the dzong, I don’t see anything wrong in allowing tourists to raft along the dzong.”

The director general said that as an implementing agency, the department respected and honoured the government’s directives. “Because of this ban, if there is an issue, we will have to see what is the way forward.”

He said that after the incident was reported in Punakha, there were many meetings and discussions. A special task force was put in place to look into the issues and to see how the issues would be addressed.

“We are expecting some recommendations from the task force,” he said.

One of the key points in the bill was protecting the cultural landscape, he said. “We are thinking of declaring whole Bhutan as a cultural landscape. We are trying to come up with the management plan for all the important cultural heritage sites.”

Dechen Tshomo