While stray arrows continue to threaten lives, the range still operates in defiance of the Thromde’s orders to shut shop
An archery range in the capital located at Doetshana, Zilukha has turned out to be of extreme risk for some residents whose settlement falls in the direction of the arrows. This has also caused arguments between the archery range manager and a few residents.
Ever since the archery range located about half a kilometer from the main road was built following an approval from the Thimphu Thromde office in July last year, stray arrows have hit roofs of few residents while some arrows have dangerously landed in kitchen gardens and orchards.
Residents said the stray arrows could kill people, damage properties such as vehicles, cause traffic congestion, damage water pipes and ruin the road conditions.
Stray arrows threaten community life
A few residents that The Bhutanese talked to said the first incident occurred earlier this year when two stray arrows hit the premises of a household and one of them hit the roof of a house. “There are countless incidences where arrows have landed in our orchards but we came to know only when it hit our roof,” a resident said.
One of the many residents said “someone will definitely be killed by such stray arrows if action is not taken immediately.
Although the archery range approval was accorded by the Thromde as a community bacho for the Zilukha area, it was developed through personal investment on government land by Phub Dorji, a community resident. “He came to us with a proposal, approved and signed by the community, so we endorsed it,” a city official said.
In a letter dated 26 February, 2013, representatives of ten households in the community through their community representative Chimi Tshering appealed to the Thromde office for immediate action following which the office directed the archery range ‘manager’ Phub Dorji to beef-up safety measures.
However, stray arrows kept flying-in following which the Thromde office issued a notification to close down the archery range in a letter dated 6 March, 2013 after the Thrompon visited the site. It stated that all structures at the archery range be dismantled or removed and failing to do so would be dealt with stern action. Despite the notice, archery matches have been held and a tournament is currently being played.
A stray arrow is still on the roof of a house that fell victim earlier. “This arrow came in after the closure notice was issued by Thromde,” the house owner said. A Thromde official who visited the site yesterday said the matter will be discussed with the administration and stern action will be taken if necessary.
Archery range manager denies risk
The range developer Phub Dorji said he built it with prior approval from the community and the Thromde in good faith as the community lacked an archery range or any recreational facility. “Almost all archery ranges across the country are not completely safe,” he said.
He said authorities have visited the site, assessed the feasibility and checked if the area passed all the criteria required by the archery federation to develop an archery range. He said among other safety measures amateurs and people practicing archery has been barred from using the range.
Phub Dorji said he hasn’t seen the Thromde’s notice to close down the archery range except for a warning to increase safety measures.
Complaints of commercial activities at the range
Some residents said while they are under constant risks, a single person is benefitting from the archery range.
“Phub Dorji has set up food stalls and collects fees from archers for personal gains,” a resident said.
On this Phub Dorji said the structure and toilet at the archery ground was built with approval from authorities. “No fees are charged to community residents who play at the range but I am bound to charge the outsiders Nu 30 per archer considering the investment I have made,” he added.
Phub Dorji said if the authority orders him to close down the range, “I will need to collect the expenses incurred while developing it either from the authority or the community members who claim to be affected.”He claimed to have invested about Nu 0.5mn in developing the archery range.
Thromde currently analyzing the situation
Thromde officials have visited the site several times in the past but will be taking action after their visit yesterday. “This time the situation seems to be serious because stray arrows have hit houses even after the office notified the range manager to put safety measures in place,” T N Kararia of Thimphu Thromde said.
He also said it is important to revisit the laws and guidelines to prevent future incidences which can be done only by working together with relevant agencies such as the Bhutan Archery Federation and Bhutan Olympic Committee among many others.
Thimphu Thrompon Kinley Dorji said public safety is of utmost importance and the archery range manager has ensured that. Asked if actions will be taken for not paying heed to the closure notice, he said the matter will be discussed with relevant parties before taking any further action.
“If he is not able to run it safely, then we have no choice but to close down,” the Thrompon said.
On the other hand, the Thrompon said it was important to look at other aspects as archery is the national game and the Thromde encourages its promotion. “Because of economic development and increased infrastructure, many of our archery ranges have disappeared over the years. We support initiatives to develop ranges but not at the cost of such incidences,” he said.
A national issue
The Zilukha archery range incident is one of the many such issues across the country. Between 1986 and July last year, there have been 15 archery accident cases reported by the media, of which six were fatal.
With the virtue of being a national sport, archery ranges have been allowed in odd places across the capital city such as ‘next to people’s houses’, ‘sandwiching roads and paths or along edges of the roads’.
According to BBF rules, the size of an archery range should be 200 meters long and 20 meters wide, leaving a safe distance of 25 meters behind each target area. Archer safety wall of at least 8 feet long and 7 feet high should be erected on both sides of the range and proper signboards be erected to warn the public.
However, even the most seeded archer occasionally send arrows flying through the air outside the range.On many occasions, some stray arrows accidentally released into the air while drawing the high-resilient bowstrings have hit street lamps and trees far from the archery range. On some occasions, people have been hit with it and a few even killed.
In an earlier incidence in 2010, a stray arrow from the archery range located below Jamyang Resort travelled more than 200 meters, broke a window pane and hit the sofa set inside a living room where a woman was watching TV.