Importance Of Integrating The Management Of Heritage Sites In Bhutan


“People are at the centre of a management plan. Heritage is an asset and identity rather than a burden,” said Yeshi Samdrup.

(Source: Druk Asia)


By Choki Wangmo Kuensel

The protection of heritage sites and sustenance of cultural landscapes has become a daunting challenge in the face of rapid development, urbanisation, and increased tourism activities in Bhutan.

According to Pema, a senior architect from the Department of Culture (DoC), a management plan is required to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the management partners.  It can also help lay out the procedures needed to undertake protection work.

Definition of ‘Cultural Landscapes’

The World Heritage Convention defines cultural landscapes as the “combined works of nature and man,” a relationship between people and their natural environment.

UNESCO Project officer of World Heritage Centre, Roland Chih-Hung Lin said that the management of cultural landscapes should be well-integrated and an interdisciplinary approach should be adopted.

“It should be associated with people, governance and interaction between man, people and the environment.”

The Cultural Heritage Bill of Bhutan 2016 states: “Bhutan’s uniqueness lies in its cultural landscape where tangible and intangible cultural heritage and nature coexist harmoniously.”

It also declared that Bhutan as a nation, is recognised for its unique cultural landscapes. The bill aims to provide value-based protection of heritage sites in the country. 

Importance of Punakha Dzong (Monastery) for Bhutan

In his address at that fifth workshop on cultural landscape and the sustenance of its significance in Thimphu last week, Home Minister Sherub Gyeltshen highlighted the cultural and historical importance of Punakha Dzong (Monastery).


Photo: Kuensel


The two-day meeting was attended by international representatives, experts and members of the parliament, among others.

Pema said that the dzong would be designated as the heritage building of special importance as it was one of the most important dzongs in the country. “It is also a popular site for tourists.”

The Punakha Dzongda, Karma Drukpa said that the dzong currently faced space problem with increasing visitors, lack of proper facilities for the monks, and risks from natural disasters.

“A value-based approach—balanced historical, architectural, aesthetic, economic values for people is adopted for the sustenance and continuity of the Dzong as one of the most important heritage buildings,” said senior architect with DoC, Yeshi Samdrup.

The plan divided the site into three zones for better management and regulation: the core area is the dzong, the conservation zone is the immediate surroundings of the dzong, the buffer zone which protects the visual integration of the dzong and its surroundings.

“The three zones are further divided into subzones,” said Pema.

A panel discussion based on three themes was held. The panelists identified the need for research and development, architectural information of the site for visitors, and view protection as a key to the sustenance of heritage sites.

Co-ordinating the efforts of the stakeholders

“We need to have coordinated approach from all stakeholders involved,” said one of the panelists.

So far, the home ministry has held consultation at the agency level and a public consultation will follow.

“People are at the centre of a management plan. Heritage is an asset and identity rather than a burden,” said Yeshi Samdrup.

After consultations with stakeholders, the plan will be submitted to the Cabinet for endorsement.

For the 12th five-year plan, five sites—the Punakha Dzong, Taktsang, Kyichu and Jampa Lhakhangs as well as the Semtokha Dzong were chosen as heritage sites.

A book titled “South Asian Cultural Landscape Initiatives” was also launched during the program.


This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.


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