Empowering Bhutan’s Heritage: A Step Towards Sustainable Development

In a bid to safeguard and enhance the cultural legacy of Bhutan, the Department of Culture and Dzongkha Development (DCDD) has embarked on an ambitious journey. Over the next five years, a concerted effort will be made to bolster the management of four vital heritage sites: Jambay Lhakhang and Tamzhing Lhakhang in Bumthang, Trong village in Zhemgang, and one of the sacred neys.

These sites, steeped in historical and cultural significance, have been carefully selected by the DCDD. Recognizing the urgency and importance of this endeavor, the UNESCO/Korean Fund-in-Trust Project has stepped in to lend its support.

Yesterday, in a momentous occasion in Thimphu, the DCDD, in collaboration with UNESCO/Korean Funds-in-Trust, launched the UNESCO/Korean Fund-in-Trust Project “South Asian Heritage Sites Management Initiative”. This initiative not only aims to fortify heritage site management in Bhutan and Nepal but also seeks to promote sustainable development in the region.

A substantial allocation of USD 600,000 has been earmarked for Bhutan and Nepal over the next five years, alongside technical assistance. This funding will be instrumental in realizing the project’s objectives, which extend beyond mere preservation to encompass documentation, conservation, and management of these revered sites.

Yeshi Samdrup, the Chief Architect of DCDD’s Heritage Sites and Archaeology Division, highlighted a distinctive aspect of the project—community involvement. He emphasized that local voices and perspectives will be central to the formulation and execution of heritage management plans. This inclusive approach not only enriches our understanding of these sites but also empowers communities to take pride in their heritage.

By integrating cultural heritage management into broader development plans, the project aims to promote sustainable tourism and job creation. This approach is deemed crucial for fostering a sense of ownership among local communities, ensuring the long-term sustainability of heritage conservation efforts.

The project will adhere to national guidelines outlined in the Cultural Heritage Bill of 2016 and the World Heritage Sites Guidelines. Workshops will be conducted to equip stakeholders with the necessary skills for effective protection and management of heritage sites. Additionally, in the final year of the project, a sub-regional management initiatives workshop will be organized.

The significance of this initiative was underscored by Sonam Wangyel, the Home and Cultural Affairs Secretary, who highlighted Bhutan’s longstanding collaboration with UNESCO in safeguarding heritage sites. Kil Bai Lee, representing the Republic of Korea (ROK)-UNESCO Fund-in-Trust Cooperation at the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, expressed optimism that this project would foster international cooperation and elevate Bhutan’s heritage sites onto the global stage.

Moreover, this project aligns seamlessly with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 11.4, which emphasizes safeguarding the world’s cultural heritage, and SDG 8.9, aimed at promoting sustainable tourism.

As Bhutan takes strides towards preserving its rich cultural tapestry, this collaborative effort signifies a commitment to honoring the past while paving the way for a sustainable future. With community involvement at its core, this initiative holds the promise of not just conserving heritage but also nurturing a deeper sense of pride and ownership among the people of Bhutan.

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