The country requires standard spellings for the names of dzongkhags, gewogs and chiwogs. Standardised spellings are important today as incorrect spellings can have legal implications.

Moreover, geographic nomenclatures are the first point of reference used for spatial location and they form an integral part of personal identity by defining where we were born, live, have lived, and from where our ancestors have come from.

While various agencies may have the authority to discharge their mandates in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws, each agency coming up with their own set of spellings for names of places, which are commonly used, have potential to create confusion as time passes by.

The issue of different spellings of our dzongkhags, gewogs and villages has been going on for years. In the recent past, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) and the Delimitation Commission published a list of their own spellings for names of gewogs and chiwogs. We recall the efforts made by the home ministry in the past requiring standard spellings of the 20 dzongkhags, some of which are still spelt differently. For example “Mongar and Monggar, and Chukha and Chhukha”.

Further complication arises with gewogs, chiwogs, and village names. Some have complained that the names of their villages and chiwogs have become strange.

A person didn’t realise he was reading an article of his own village until he saw the photo of his village in the same article as his village was strangely spelt.

The National Council during the recent session has also sought the government’s intervention to work towards harmonisation of names and spellings of gewogs, chiwogs and villages. The home ministry in its reply to the National Council has acknowledged that ‘changes in names and spellings have created certain degree of confusion and inconveniences with the usage’.

In the meantime, the National Land Commission (NLC) published the first Atlas of Bhutan on June 23 this year. It is a very important document for the country. As the custodian of land, the NLC also has a pivotal role in standardisation of the spellings of the names of places in view of land records and maps, surveys, thrams and transactions.

At a glance, while comparing the list of dzongkhags and gewogs issued vide ECB Notification on Release of the Revised Atlas of the Local Government Demkhongs of May 11, 2016, and the recent NLC Atlas, three dzongkhags and 101 gewogs are spelt differently.

Therefore, there is an urgent need of coordination of the relevant agencies to resolve the issue and harmonise the spellings once for all.