Tshachu (hot spring) are known for its curative properties are spread across many dzongkhags, like Gasa, Punakha, Gelephu, Zhemgang, etc.
One such tshachu where hundreds of people flock to is the Chubu Tshachu in Toewang gewog in Punakha. With no road access to the tshachu, people use horses and mules for transportation. The hiring charge is Nu 300 per horse, of that amount Nu 50 is collected as tax towards the community that preserves and maintains the hot spring.
There are 34 households in the community, out of which 10 households have 28 horses among them. The tax collected is used for community development, like road construction and for annual rituals. During tshachu season, they earn Nu 2,000 per day whereas during off seasons they earn around Nu 500 in a day.
Due to the increasing number of visitors every year, the community is now concerned about the state of the hot spring. A Community Tshogpa of Toewang gewog, Phub Rinzin, said, “It is good to know that Chubu Tshachu is a famous tshachu, but we fear that the tshachu will deteriorate.”
He added that the things at the tshachu was running smoothly when the number of visitors was less and manageable. “The environment was clean, toilet sanitation was good, the heat intensity of water was good, but now due to an increase in the number of visitors every year everything is changed,” Phub Rinzin said.
These days the community is facing a difficult task of maintaining good sanitation and hygiene. The littering and dumping of garbage is another big problem that they face.
As for the low heat intensity of water, Phub Rinzing said, “With more number of people, we have had to widen the bathtubs which lead to a decrease in the heat intensity of the water. Maybe in 5 to 6 years from now we might loss the heat intensity of the water completely,” he added.
Since 2011 the number of visitors has drastically increased. Chubu Tshachu has to accommodate 150 to 160 people at a time.
“There are a lot of challenges we are facing. It is also hard to convince people to cooperate with us. But still we are trying to manage everything and to keep as it was before,” the community tshogpa said.
A family who visited Chubu Tshachu this year, said there was no space to pitch their tent, and therefore, they stayed in guesthouse paying Nu 70 per night.
“The heat of the water seems to decrease year by year. Before we could hardly stay in the water for 5 minutes, but now nothing happens even when we soak for a long duration. This shows the change in the heat of the water,” said a 73 year old woman.
Meanwhile, Phub Rinzin said he has plans to ask the dzongkhag for a land on lease so that more guest houses with proper toilets can be built in an environmentally friendly way.