By Thinley Namgay 

Lack of access to subsidised timber permits for temple renovations and the ban on building tshamkhang (retreat huts) have made life increasingly difficult for spiritual practitioners in the country.

Dewathang-Gomdar’s  MP Ugyen Dorji said that such processes had put religious institutions with important roles in a tight spot. He claimed that the plight of religious institutions such as dratshang, goenday, choeday, and shedra have to be respected by the government, and find solutions, instead of imposing restrictions and bans.

The government mandates these institutions to buy timber from the Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited (NRDCL). “It is not feasible for choedeys to procure timber from the NRDCL as they are not a lucrative institution.”

Ugyen Dorji reasoned that one of the mechanisms of culture and traditions in Bhutan is a religion which is predominantly Buddhism. “The government should walk the talk to say that Bhutan is a Buddhist country.”

However, the Prime Minister refuted the MP’s concerns stating that no previous policy has been changed under the tenure of this government regarding religious institutions.

The PM said they are allowed to get timber for renovation, and build tshamkhangs under the due process of law.  He said that it was not easy to get timber as expected by the individuals. “Where there is  no road, people are allowed to extract timber from the nearby forest.”

To renovate a new temple, the public has to get approval from the Department of Culture and Dzongkha Development under the Ministry of Home Affairs. To build a new temple, people should follow the directive of the Zhung Dratshang.

Individuals are allowed to build retreat huts or any other structures on their land with permission from the gewog.  “Permission from the land commission is required, if the land belongs to the government or other thram holders,” PM said.