Chencho Dema

Punakha The Phochhu and the Mochhu, their tranquil currents weaving a scenic tapestry along the iconic Punakha Dzong, converge with grace to give birth to the Punatshangchhu. A sight that invites admiration from afar, yet conceals the lurking peril that only the locals truly know.

Beneath the veneer of calmness, an annual reminder of the rivers’ latent unfolds with distressing regularity – drowning incidents, a recurring tragedy. Each year, a case of drowning etches itself into the narrative – a grim reality that the locals have come to recognise with a heavy heart.

Recently, on the morning of August 12, the Punatshangchhu claimed another young life. A 12-year-old student was swept away by the river. Another child of about the same age narrowly escaped the fate.

In 2022 alone, three souls succumbed to the rivers’ depths. A de-suup, aged 24, was washed away while trying to rescue a friend from the clutches of Mochhu’s waters on May 14. Similarly, a 36-year-old man met a tragic fate on May 26.

In 2021, a young monk from Punakha Dratshang lost his life beneath the Phochhu suspension bridge. The deceased had gone under the Phochhu suspension bridge with his friends during tea break to wash his head.

From 2017 till 2021 till April, Punakha recorded eight cases of drowning of which seven were male and one female.

The bodies of a woman and a man who drowned in 2020 have not been recovered till date.

Authorities caution residents and students against approaching the riverbanks, especially during the monsoon. Police patrol the banks, shooing away children whose curiosity could lead to tragedy. Their presence extends to schools and local communities, advocating for caution and vigilance.

Despite these endeavours, however, more needs to be done.

Sonam, a resident of Punakha said, “Safety should be advocated to children in particular; the most obvious way to do so is at school.”