For safety reasons, the dzongkhag administration has disallowed prayer flags starting yesterday 

Safety: Stringing of prayer flags by the Mebartsho Lake in Bumthang is now prohibited to ensure the safety of visitors following the recent fatal incident at the burning lake.

The prohibition is one of the immediate measures the dzongkhag administration has taken for the safety of visitors at the lake, where five people have to date died after a fatal fall in the lake.

“Prayer flags henceforth is prohibited in Mebartsho for safety reasons,” dzongdag Phub Tshering said. “Guides are unable to see where their guests are going because the prayer flags obstruct the view.

He said visitors have to climb down to the banks of the lake for better sight. The dzongkhag administration will monitor the lake every month and this regulation on the prayer flags came into effect yesterday after a notice was circulated to all.

Cultural officer, Kelzang Jamtsho said the notification has been sent to gewogs, regional offices and thromde instructing each organization to abide by the new regulation. The home ministry and the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) were also informed.

“The stringing of prayer flags was proscribed because it is environmentally degrading and risky to visitors,” Kelzang Jamtsho said.

The existing prayer flags by the lake will also be removed soon, following which the dzongkhag administration would replace the frail wooden bridge across the lake.

“The wooden bridge would also be immediately replaced with a new one because it’s is too risky for the visitors,” the dzongdag said.

Other measures such as railings will take time to materialize though. Dzongdag Phub Tshering said he would be travelling to Thimphu to discuss the issue with the TCB and the home ministry. TCB, according to the dzongdag, has agreed to fund some activities at the Mebartsho.

However, the dzongkhag administration is also confronted with the challenge of balancing safety aspects with religious sentiments.

“It is difficult to balance because what if something happens after the construction begins by the lake,” Phub Tshering said, adding that doing anything more for safety measures would require breaking and drilling rocks, which could perturb the deities.

Jakar rabdhey umze, Sangey Tenzin however said such negative effects of disturbing religious sites could be averted with prayers and offerings.

“As far as I know, it must be safe for construction works with due appropriate offerings to the local deities,” Sangay Tenzin said.

The lack of ownership of the lake among the agencies involved such as the dzongkhag administration, the TCB, the home ministry or the dratshang, has become another issue.

Currently, no one looks after the lake and there is no one to guide and educate visitors about the different nyes (sacred sites) of Mebartsho.

“There isn’t even anyone to make basic daily offerings in the mornings,” Sangay Tenzin said.

The absence of a caretaker has also encouraged some visitors to take a dip in the lake. Recently, a video of two tourists swimming in the lake has gone viral on social media.

Although no one has raised it, the dzongkhag’s rabdhey seems keen to take ownership of the lake.

“The rabdhey would gladly look after the lake if authorities instructed but no one has proposed it to us yet,” Sangay Tenzin said.

Should it happen, the rabdhey could station a monk during the daytime to make daily offerings and to guide visitors.

“Once there is a koenyer, he would guide and educate visitors on the lake’s sacred history as well as advice them from visiting hazardous points,” Sangay Tenzin said.

Tempa Wangdi, Bumthang