Wangduephodrang dzong rises from the ashes of the June 2012 fire mishap stronger and more resilient than it ever was, officials said.

The Wangduephodrang dzong reconstruction project (WDRP) officials said reconstruction is on schedule and more stronger with modern technologies such as fire hydrants, service tunnels, and seismic isolation technology installed.

Officials also said that more than 30 local and international experts gathered in Wangdue and deliberated for days on how to make it the best and strongest structure with modern strengthening features while keeping the traditional appearance.

The project’s engineer, Dorji, said the dzong was to be constructed from the Dochey (courtyard stone slabs) level, on the existing wall foundation without any modern interventions.

“However, during the execution of work, it was found that most of the old foundation walls were unstable, bulging or destroyed by the fire, so they had to be demolished and reconstructed from the foundation level,” he said. “It was also decided that the incorporation of base isolation foundation and other seismic resilience design were to be implemented into the dzong construction especially the Utse structure.”

Dorji said that the base isolation foundation, a Swiss technology, is the first one in the region.

He said that the utse has sliding bearings at the corners, centre of the walls and the elastomer bearings adjacent to the corners separating the main structure from its base.

The bearings would absorb the shock from the ground during earthquakes and keep the utse safe.

Dorji said that a Swiss expert was hired as a consultant, while they did all the groundwork. “We consulted him whenever we had doubts in the initial stage.”

He said that using the technology was new knowledge for the engineers. “We’re happy that we’d do it.”

The utse, officials say, will be complete by April next year.

The dzong at Choekhorthangkha will be the first one to have an underground service tunnel. The tunnel has numerous entrances and exits are big enough for two persons to walk at a time. Besides using it for emergencies, it is used for electricity, telephone and Internet lines, water pipes, and sewer lines.

The construction of the service tunnel, dukhang, and drasha (the monks’ residence) will begin in the next fiscal year.

The officiating project director, Tshering Phuntsho, said that the project has, as of August end, used about Nu 400 million or 46 percent of its total Nu 1 billion budget.

The project today has 350 workers. The woodworks are done in Samthang, Punakha. A head carpenter is assisted by 70 carpenters of varying skill levels, and 130 masons.

The new dzong will have an additional temple in the attic of the kuenrey (Main temple hall), which earlier was converted to residences for monks of Punakha whenever they visited the dzong. Kagyu Sethreng temple is dedicated to the masters of Drukpa Kagyu and the past Je Khenpos.

The first courtyard, which is completed one-third, excluding the entrance to the courtyard, will be complete by June next year.

The reconstruction project has seen mounting support in terms of voluntary labour contribution and serving tokha or lunch.

About 4,300 individuals contributed 4,150 man-days of work.

So far sponsors have served 133 tokha to the workers at the site, each tokha costs between Nu 30,000, for a plain vegetarian meal, and Nu 50,000 for a meal with meat items.

“We’d restrict people offering tokha to only weekends as workers were getting disturbed. Every Saturday, the project office spares about half a dozen men to prepare tokha,” Tshering Phuntsho said.

The two-storey kuenrey was completed before the Zhabdrung Kuchoe and was consecrated on April 20, 2016, coinciding with 400 years of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal’s arrival to Bhutan.

Dorji said that the reconstruction of the 374-year old dzong was to be completed by June 2018 during the initial stage of planning. “With all the new interventions set in place, the Wangduephodrang dzong is scheduled to complete at the end of 2021.”

Tshering Palden