Revitalization of east-west trails underway

Environment

Trans Bhutan Trail (TBT) along with gups has initiated the revitalization of trails from East-West which covers a total length of 430km from Haa to Trashigang. The project was initiated by Bhutan Canada Foundation based on a 2017 trail survey conducted by the Tourism Council of Bhutan. The trail experts from Canada were provided seed funding for the project. TBT will restore and reconnect the centuries old historic East-West Path that runs across central Bhutan.

The team from TBT works alongside gups in the gewogs to construct trails in the country. The development of the trails has helped local economies during the pandemic and over 550 people have been employed for the trail work.

Senior project director, Dasho Sonam Rinchen said TBT is not only about the trails. “It is also about the significance and history the trails have to offer in terms of establishment of Bhutan as a nation. The trail provides a unique, accessible alternative for both domestic and international tourists who wish to journey across central Bhutan.”

A TBT official talking to Business Bhutan said the first phase is based on GPS Survey of 430 km from Haa to Trashigang where the restoration of old trails in nine Dzongkhags and 28 Gewogs will be carried out. “Currently, 90% of the restoration work is completed.”

Moreover, in the second phase will be looking at the blazing of trails and way finding with sign posts. “The final phase will be dealt with the construction of campsites, rest rooms, water supplies and more,” he said adding that the trail will provide connection for local communities and educational opportunities for youth.

The initial seed funding for the project was done by Bhutan Canada Foundation and the restoration budget was sanctioned by the Royal Government of Bhutan with over Nu 20mn.

Most of the revitalization is being carried on historic ancient trails. And looking at the immense potential of the TBT, local communities share their vision for the TBT, said Dop Sahri Gup from Paro. “TBT not only maintains the old trail but, also engages local community in building opportunities in different ways. The project will help bring international tourism to the front line and also provide educational opportunities to the younger generations telling stories of how our fore fathers once used to walk on that trail and its importance.”

Gup from Limbukha Punakha said, “Once the project kicks off here, there will be more Bhutanese trekkers on the trail and we are expecting international trekkers and tourists to our village when the pandemic gets over.”

“Our villagers will have interaction with international tourists and we can likely promote and sell our local products.  The TBT project has benefited my village people with employment opportunities and in future it will help us maintain strong bonds with coming generations,” he added.

Meanwhile, Samkhar Gup from Trashigang said, “My villagers have already started using the old trail which is revived by the TBT team and we are really grateful for such initiative. The villagers from Yangner and Gongthung are using this trail to go to Trashigang when they need to buy goods which are not available in village shops.” He added that the police who have duty in Chakzam also use the trail when going for duty and while returning to their homes rather than using the motor roads. “Also, the civil servants in Trashigang hike the trail during weekends with their friends and family”

Ngatsang Gup from Monggar said the TBT project has benefited the community in many ways, especially the tourism sector. “We are eagerly waiting and hoping that when this pandemic gets over we can go back to our normal daily routine of life. The team has helped in restoration of the old Bridge named Sheri Zam which is in between Drametse and Ngatsang village.”

The bridge was very old, but the TBT initiative has restored the bridge and people have started using it for many purposes like trekking and animal passage, he added.

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