Every time someone gets hit by an arrow at an archery range, there is a call for more safety rules. There is an outpouring of support, the media writes about it and then, it is all forgotten.
Last week, a young man lost his life after he got hit on his head with an arrow. The debate is back again. Some are calling for a ban on archery ranges without any safety features, some are calling to end the use of hunting bows in the game while some feel all sports kill people.
The number of cases, 10 on average, referred to the national referral hospital is a cause of concern. The number excludes those treated at other hospitals. We are sure that there are many not so severe cases that go unreported.
While it is true that accidents happen with all sports, archery is a dangerous game. An arrow shot from a compound bow flies at a speed of about 250 feet per second. It pierces the hard wooden target to the extent that we need two fully-grown men to remove it. When it hits a human, the repercussions are severe.
Quite often, archers or spectators are lucky. We hear stories of how dangerously an arrow had missed vital organs by millimetres and how victims survived. We laugh over near-miss stories and get back to playing again.
On the other hand, we also have stories of how stray arrows risk people who are not even involved in the game. Talk to anyone and they will have a near-miss story to share. Arrow hitting window panes, vehicles, animals, the football ground in Changlimithang and many more.
Archery enthusiasts will not stop playing. It is a fun game and the favourite leisure for many. But something has to be done. The latest accident happened in a remote place. There were safety features at the ground. It is written off as an unfortunate accident.
While it could be true, the game is dangerous. We need to look into preventing people from getting injured or killed. For archery played using traditional equipment, there is a rule. All ranges should have safety measures. But a survey the Bhutan Indigenous Games and Sports Association conducted in 2018 found that archery ranges in most of the dzongkhags are not built as per the safety measure provisions.
We do not know what was done thereafter. Many believe that arrows shot from bamboo bows are not as fatal, but this is no consolation. In the meantime, we see more archery ranges being developed all over the country. In fact, it is one facility that has seen the most development while there are not many to engage the young who we are encouraging to play sports.
The debate will resurface when another one succumbs to an arrow hit. What can we do before that?