Kidheykhar, Mongar. It is 4pm. A group of farmers are busy weeding. They break for tea.
The farm’s owner, Chimi Dema serves tea as Laichang. One prefers to drink locally-brewed ara to tea.
In 2011, to reduce alcohol consumption and its implications in the community, it was decided that tea would be served instead of alcohol. This began from the three gewogs of Shermuhung, Ngatshang, and Chaskhar.
Every household in Mongar is allowed to use only three bottles of alcohol during a religious ceremony and important occasions. Efforts are made to serve tea and juices instead.
Chimi Dema said that not many drink alcohol these days. “Most prefer tea.”
Alcohol losing popularity in rural parts of the country?
Since the start of the community initiative, the number of household members taking alcohol in Mongar decreased almost by 50 percent.
There were more than 5,100 people consuming alcohol in 2011 in Mongar. The number has reduced to 2,776 today. This is according to the record with the dzongkhag health sector. The number of alcohol liver disease decreased from 173 in 2011 to 156 in 2018. Deaths due to alcohol reduced almost by 50 percent after the community initiative.
The gewog administrations are involved in a series of awareness programmes related to alcohol use. People dependent on alcohol are advised and encouraged to undergo detoxification.
Dzongkhag’s health officer, Tshering Dorji, said that the community initiative helped reduce the consumption of alcohol in the dzongkhag. “Challenges remain, however, what with easy availability and affordability.”
He said that there was a need to limit bar licence in towns and rural areas for the initiative to succeed.
Mongar Gup Tenzin Wangchuk said that the initiative had the potential to reduce alcohol consumption nationwide.
Nima | Mongar