Choki Wangmo

To give high-end experience to visitors once the country opens to tourists, the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) will allow campfires during trekking tours.

This, according to tourism promotion division’s chief Damcho Rinzin, will be based on the condition that the tourists are willing to pay for firewood being carried from the start of the trekking by processing through a permit. “It should also benefit communities to earn from other tourism-related services with lesser impact on the environment.”

“There should be proper monitoring as well,” he said.

Currently, the Trekking Rules and Regulations 1996 and Tourism Rules and Regulations 2017 prohibit bonfire at campsites.

However, a forest officer said that local tourists are allowed to build campfires with an approval letter from the divisional forest offices.

Tourism Rules and Regulations 2017 states: “The use of firewood for cooking is strictly prohibited; the use of campfire shall be governed by the Forest and Nature Conservation Act (FNCA) and its regulations”.

FNCA’s article 10 a (ii) “prohibits setting of fire, except controlled campfires or leaving any fire including a campfire burning in such a manner as to destroy, damage or endanger trees, any forest produce of wildlife”, in government reserved forests.

Damcho Rinzin said that the cases of bonfires involving tourists and tour operators will be forwarded to the Department
of Forests and Park Services to be dealt as per their relevant rules and regulations.

However, a cook with one of the tour operators, Lhapchu, said that allowing campfires might congest the camping sites and hamper good service delivery to tourists. “In a campsite, there will be more than five groups during peak season. Individual groups will need their own campfires and more space to sit around.”

“This won’t help in attracting more visitors. Providing good service is more important. Allowing collection of dead and old trees from the forest is unsustainable,” a porter-pony service provider, Sonam said.