Sunday, July 22, 2012

Rebuilding Wangdue Phodrang Dzong III

-->The need to build a new Dzong for Wangdue Phodrang Dzongkhag comes at a time when the country can ill afford it. It is terrible timing. The RMA Governor was unequivocal in his warning, over national TV less than a week back, that if we do not improve things in the next 7-8 months, our very sovereignty may be at stake. That is the gravity of our situation. He ought to know, after all, the man is the head of our Central Bank and he has information that we do not. Let us heed him before it is too late.

For once, let us stop being the typical Bhutanese - the perennial Azha Passa.

The DPT government is not responsible for our current economic woes. It has been fomenting for the past many decades. So, we cannot fix blame on the DPT government for the Rupee crunch, which is principally caused, not by the sudden depletion of our Rupee reserves, but by the huge and widening trade imbalance between India and ourselves. But the real truth that is now emerging is that we not only have a severe Rupee crunch, but even worst, we also are faced with a severe Ngultrums crunch.

That said, the prudent management of the country’s finances during their tenure is the responsibility of the government. At a time when we need to tighten our belts and rein in wasteful and avoidable spending, it is important for the government to look at hard numbers and have the courage and determination to override misplaced emotions, for the sake of the country and for their own credibility as a responsible government.

There simply is no reason why the Dzong must be rebuilt on the same location where it stood. I have already said in my earlier posts that the Dzong could not be saved for one simple reason: due to inaccessibility of the location.

Because of the difficulty of the location, knowledgeable people opine that the Dzong is going to cost us close to Nu.2.00 billions and not Nu.1.00 billion as was being projected in the papers. I spoke to some architects and engineers and they tell me that if the same Dzong were to be built at a less difficult location, the cost can be cut down by about 40%. That translates to a savings of Nu.800.00 million. In addition, I am told that the Dzong can be built in half the time.

I spoke to one senior official who is from Wangdue and he agrees that the new Dzong should be built on the location extending from the Telecom compound going back all the way to the old town that has been relocated to Bajothang. In his opinion, there is enough space to fit the Dzong comfortably and still have open space to provide for firefighting paraphernalia. He felt that the ruins were looking very impressive.

One conservationist I spoke to was vehement, as I am, that pulling down the ruins of the old Dzong to rebuild a new one in its place would be nothing short of an insult to our cultural sensitivity. In the words of the person, “it is going to cause a complete disconnect between our forefathers and ourselves”. According to this person, leaving the ruins of the Dzong as it is would be to show respect to them. If at all, the person felt that we should rebuild the Dzong using the same foundations and the stonewalls that still stand, which the person felt will still be strong enough to support the structure of the new Dzong.

Another engineer I spoke to says that the removal of the debris will cost us few hundred million and will take upwards of a year to clean the place up.

One senior citizen I spoke to said that the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong’s location was predestined by “Ngam-koe” but he said that the fact that it has been burnt down completely and the fact that nothing could save it meant that the Dzong’s “Ngam-koe” was over. Ngamkoe zosop wongni imdrey. According to him, everything is predestined - humans cannot alter it or interfere with it.

One expatriate I spoke to reiterated that Bhutan must not accept other nations to rebuild the Dzong for us because, in his opinion, a Dzong is an edifice of Bhutanese culture and heritage. He felt that no one but the Bhutanese must build the Dzong, however difficult or however costly. Bhutan must not accept aid money to rebuild the Dzong.

One person I spoke to had this very interesting thing to say about culture. He said that culture is something that must constantly evolve to suite the changing times. So must religion. To support his point, he said; “look inside the Patangs worn by our current breed of Lyonpos, Dashos, MPs, Drangpons etc. You will find that inside that elaborately carved and decorated scabbard, you will find that most, if not all, do not have the shinning steel blade that they are supposed to contain. The reason is that the Patang is now merely a formality and not a necessity that it used to be during the ancient times. It no longer serves the purpose it use to but it still has to be worn because it is part of the dress code of persons holding certain positions. In these modern times when efficiency and freedom of mobility is important, a weighty Patang by your side is more of a hindrance thus, people have shed the steel blade to make it more comfortable to wear the Patang”.

The last point I want to make is that spending so much on a Dzong for Wangdue Phodrang Dzongkhag is being irresponsible to people in other Dzongkhags. The only way the government can spend so much on the reconstruction of the Dzong is by curtailing spending on critical services and developmental activities in other Dzongkhags.

The government cannot short-change people from other Dzongkhags because it lacks the courage to look at things objectively and do what is necessary. Neither can it shrug off responsibility by saying that pressure was brought to bear on them. Particularly during these times of financial crises that the country is going through, the government must exercise their power and responsibility entrusted them by the majority of the people of Bhutan - to do things for the best interest of the country and not be misguided by some misplaced sense of righteousness, or the need to look good in the eyes of the people.

The reconstruction of the Dzong is going to add to our woes. Let us be sensible about this.



  1. Aue Yeshi,

    Before I write anything, I would like to thank you for bringing all those insightful articles on your blog. I liked every thing you brought on your blog and have in some way become so addict with your blog.

    Now that You have shed your profound thoughts on reconstruction of Wangdi Dzong, I find there is no reason for me to deviate an inch from what you have expressed. "leave the ruins to live" is all I can say too.

    I think Fire has already done the damage and those walls, that withstood the wrath of fire deserves to stand tall for times to come. Let those ruins tell the history!

    It would be my genuine plea not to do any further damage to those standing walls. I would like our leaders to be more sensible as you said, both economically and culturally.......

    Thank you for enlightening me with your profound thoughts...I totally agree with you.......

  2. I’ve been looking forward to your third part and it has been worth the wait. Your profound and in some ways practical justifications to not have the dzong built in the same site makes a lot of sense. For sentimental reasons, I too feel that the majestic remains of the dzong should be left as it is. Like one of your commenters Peldhen said above...`leave the ruins to live’. However, as I’ve expressed before, there should be a referendum on this initiated from Wangdue. It is very important for the people of Wangdue to be involved in this decision so that they don’t feel that they were denied a democratic choice for genuine reasons or for reasons expressed in your last para. To do this, they need to hold a referendum as I don’t see any other appropriate way for them to voice their choice. The rest of the nation could step in thereafter. Needless to say it's easier said than done - the floating of a referendum.

  3. Dear Yeshey,
    I am happy to note that you have brought out a dimension which is worth pursuing. But I also agree that the people of Sha Da Gey should have a say. Maybe the govt should make presentations to Wangdue Geogs and do a refrendum.
    I await your next post as they are apolitical and comes from your heart.

  4. Hi All,

    Thank you for reading and commenting on my post.

    It would be an understatement to say that I am worried about what commitments are being made and what plans are underway, with respect to the reconstruction of Wangdue Dzong.

    Typically, no one wants to raise this issue. Most, if not all Bhutanese, seem happy to remain aloof and noncommittal. They have made the right noises, shown the right expressions on TV cameras and now they are all resigned to sliding back into their normal lackadaisical selves.

    I think the idea of a referendum is good but why is it necessary?

    Is there a disagreement that pulling down the ruins of the Dzong is tantamount to being insensitive to our culture and heritage?

    Is there a disagreement that the Dzong is going to cost us close to Nu. 2.00 billion?

    Is there a disagreement that the country is going to some serious financial crisis and that we are not in any position to spend that kind of money for the moment?

    Is there a disagreement that reconstructing the Dzong at a different location will be cheaper, can be done in half the time and will be lot more secure?

    Is there a disagreement that spending Nu.2.00 billion on the Dzong’s reconstruction will not impact on developmental activities in other Dzongkhags?

    Is there a disagreement that the government needs all the money it can get, to carry out more meaningful activities in other Dzongkhags?

    How many of us are aware that there are 3 other Dzongs that are at differing stages of being constructed - other than Wangdue - in Samchi, Sarpang and Pemagatshel? Can you imagine what kind of money is involved?

    I believe that we have elected a select group of people whom we have determined to be intelligent. We have to now call upon them to be reasonable and do what is best for the country.

    Saying sorry years later will be too late. They have a challenging situation in their hands. It is these times, difficult times, that offer them the opportunity to prove that they are worth the trust the Bhutanese people have placed on their intelligence and their competence.

    The government has to understand that they need to be judicious, given the precarious financial condition that is currently prevailing. They have to understand that spending so much on one Dzong for one Dzongkhag will deprive other Dzongkhags of many, many critical services that they are in need of. That will be very, very irresponsible and people of other Dzongkhags are going to question them, when the government tells them that there is paucity of funds.

  5. it even looks like reconstruction of Taktsang was a mistake?!
    I would still love to see Wangdi Dzong rise again on the same spot for sound reasons that i won't elaborate.
    But, it was nice going through your piece. I am aware of your justifications ever since you first highlighted the issue(few weeks back).

  6. Sonam,

    Please elaborate those sound reasons. I would like to hear it. Perhaps I am missing out on somethings and if I am, I am willing to change my views.

  7. Yeshey, it is actually to prevent disagreements or discord that I suggest a referendum should take place initiated from Wangdue. One main reason, because we are now a democracy so we have to move in the democratic way. If the Dzong is built in the same place, no rumblings will be expected, but if it is built in a different location then there may be problems.

  8. Now i feel if i made a wrong judgement:). I would stand by with your well-calculated assumptions on why we shouldn't rebuild the Dzong on the same spot but personally, the place where old Dzong stood beats any strategic location for the people of Wangdue. Despite, rebuild we must, why cant we do it on the same place and restore the glory than peep at those ruins many years laters and regret. Look at the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong, Zongar Dzong, etc. Furthermore, relocation of the Dzong would have to undergo aptitude tests through various politicians which would only create unnwanted furore.
    You have bravely tried to justify our budget deficiency and the reconstruction at opposite ends to which i agree. What i humbly begged to differ with you was your subtle claims of relocating a great Dzong just because we don't have healthy budgets.That is fair enough. PErsonally i believe there are countless reasons why Dzong were built at a particular location. I wish if we can only uphold those reasons and try to stand up against(by reconstructing) even if it was the fury of Nature's wrath.