The ban on rafting activities in Punakha that was imposed on August 13 following an accident on the Mochu that led to the death of a person on August 12 was lifted on August 31.

Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) had notified Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO) on August 13 of the temporary ban.

Managing Director of one of the rafting companies, Tandin Dorji, said that on August 31, TCB called a meeting with the two rafting companies in Punakha to notify that the ban was lifted. Punakha Dzongdag Karma Drukpa also joined the meeting.

Tandin Dorji said that only two companies in Punakha had licence for rafting activity and confirmed that companies without licence were not allowed to operate rafting activities. The companies were notified verbally by TCB.

While the ban had been lifted, the companies are still not allowed to raft in front of the Punakha dzong.

Tandin Dorji said that the dzongdag had said it was due to security reasons. “Going inside the dzong was alright, but rafting along the river was not feasible.”

Following the temporary ban on rafting, tour operators voiced concerns over lack of a single authority to monitor and regulate the activities.

Both TCB and dzongdag denied that the ban was imposed.

Dzongdag said that following the accident, the dzongkhag administration only informed TCB to look into the issue.

While the rafting companies have resumed their activities, concerns regarding multiple rafting companies functioning without a license were raised.

Tandin Dorji said that he had written to Ministry of Economic Affairs, TCB, and dzongkhag administrations of Paro and Punakha regarding the concern. The most recent one concerned unlicensed companies operating rafting activities in the country.

He has not received any response so far.

“Besides checking whether companies have rafting licence, they don’t take action even after submitting a written letter to them,” Tandin Dorji said.

He said that according to law, those operating rafting without licence were subject to a fine of Nu 2,000.

“Companies pay fine and continue to operate rafting activities. The question is: what is the purpose of acquiring special licence?” Tandin Dorji said.

Phurpa Lhamo