Yesterday, the nation woke up to see twenty families homeless and lost their entire lifelong hard-earned properties in damage. Many families lose their properties and even lives are lost every year to fire disasters. The most frequent cause of the fire is blamed on an electrical short circuit, and the story ends there.

The Electricity Act of Bhutan, 2001 aims to promote a safe and reliable supply of electricity throughout the country. The Safety Regulation, 2008 requires electrically safe “design, construction, operation and maintenance of electric power plants and equipment”. The Bhutan Electricity Authority (BEA) is mandated to ensure a thorough investigation of any serious incidents arising out of electricity. However, there are no reports of such an investigation.

Further, the regulation mandates BEA either on its own or in collaboration with licensees to “raise public awareness, campaigns, workshops on the hazards associated with the operation of the electric power plant, risks inherent in the transmission, distribution, and use of electrical energy electrical equipment in public or private premises or homes to the general public. There are just a handful of materials to educate the general public on safety issues, and no mass public awareness is seen being conducted by BEA.

In 2016, BEA also framed regulations on “Internal House Wiring Regulations” to “facilitate the safe installations, operation, and maintenance of internal house wiring to ensure that these do not endanger life, health, and property, whilst fulfilling the intended functions.” This regulation mandates that “any owner and users who installed the electrical system before the regulation came into force.

The regulation shall comply with the provisions within two years of adopting the regulations. As per this regulation, the “electrical wiring follows the standards required by Bhutan Building Rules 2002 including materials, equipment, and installations, and “ only electricians certified by the competent authority shall execute all works involving internal house wiring, repair or installation of electrical connections.”

BEA is mandated to enforce these regulations, including fines and penalties. But there are hardly any records of enforcement of these regulations, even within the capital city. There are hundreds of makeshift houses or temporary houses in the capital which may only increase with the rapid increase in living standards in the capital where these makeshift places or temporary houses are an alternative to survive in this challenging exorbitantly expensive city. This also means, more people are prone to such disasters.

While the regulations require that wiring must be carried out by a certified electrician. With limited skilled Bhutanese, many reports are too expensive for most homeowners to hire them. There is a need to carry out mass awareness on safe wiring particularly installation within the houses like makeshift to avoid such disasters in the future. There is also a need to explore insurance schemes in such cases by making the insurance premiums affordable for lower-income people across the country, including those living in these kinds of houses, colonies, and makeshift houses. It is important to determine the cause of such disasters and put in appropriate remedies, including fixing accountability if there is a failure to observe due diligence by any party.

It is an open secret most of the electrical equipment including extension cords sold in our market with brand names like Anchor, are often fake and do not meet the standards it claims to have. Whose responsibility to ensure that such equipment is safe to use at home? Safety must come first. 


Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.