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Community Leaders Along the Trans Bhutan Trail: Hearing from the Gups

Over the past few months, Bhutan had been successful in mitigating the risks and preventing the transmission of COVID-19. Until August 11, there was zero community spread. While the Bhutanese international borders were closed, domestically there was some semblance of normal life. In this context, much of the physical work revitalizing the Trans Bhutan Trail (TBT) rapidly took off. The TBT team worked alongside gups (village cluster leaders) in gewogs (village clusters) throughout the country to construct the trail. A conscious decision was made to distribute the work across the 28 Gewogs in order to maximize opportunities for local people to benefit from trail development. It really has helped local economies during difficult times; over 550 people have been employed doing trail work. Gups expressed gratitude for this initiative, seeing the value of the historic preservation of this ancient trail. Looking forward to the immense potential of the TBT, local communities share their vision for the Trans Bhutan Trail.

Gups’ vision for the Trans Bhutan Trail

“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”

– Dop Sahri Gup.

“Once the project gets kicked off, there will be more Bhutanese trekkers on the trail and we are expecting international trekkers and tourist coming 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 let us maintain a strong bond with coming generations”

– Limbukha Gup

“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. The Police who have duty in Chakzam are also using this trail when going to duty and while returning back to their homes rather than using the motor roads. Also, the civil servants in Tashigang hike the trail during weekends with their friends and family”

– Samkhar Gup

“TBT project have benefited our community in many ways, but especially to welcome the tourism sector.  We are eagerly waiting and hoping this pandemic gets over soon; so that we can go back to our normal day to day 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 with this initiative by TBT team we now have our brand new Sheri Zam! People have started using it for so many purposes like trekking and animal passage. The more people who start walking on that trail will even deter wild animals coming to our villages!”

– Ngatsang Gup

In the midst of completing trail construction, the TBT team is already overwhelmed by the positive responses that are being received from Gewog Gups and other interested people. This trail work is going to be a masterpiece! Especially when educational programs begin; not only students, but all Bhutanese and non-Bhutanese can learn about the history of Bhutan along the trail. Thank you to all the gups who have shared their aspirations and experiences with the TBT team.

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