Districts of Bhutan

The Kingdom of Bhutan is divided into 20 districts (Dzongkha: dzongkhags). Bhutan is located between the Tibet Autonomous Region of China and India on the eastern slopes of the Himalayas in South Asia.[1]

Dzongkhags are the primary subdivisions of Bhutan. They possess a number of powers and rights under the Constitution of Bhutan, such as regulating commerce, running elections, and creating local governments. The Local Government Act of 2009 established local governments in each of the 20 dzongkhags overseen by the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs.[2] Each dzongkhag has its own elected government with non-legislative executive powers, called a dzongkhag tshogdu (district council). The dzongkhag tshogdu is assisted by the dzongkhag administration headed by a dzongkdag (royal appointees who are the chief executive officer of each dzongkhag).[3] Each dzongkhag also has a dzongkhag court presided over by a dzongkhag drangpon (judge), who is appointed by the Chief Justice of Bhutan on the advice of Royal Judicial Service Council.[4] The dzongkhags, and their residents, are represented in the Parliament of Bhutan, a bicameral legislature consisting of the National Council and the National Assembly. Each dzongkhag has one National Council representative. National Assembly representatives are distributed among the dzongkhags in proportion to their registered voter population as recommended by the Delimitation Commission, provided that "no dzongkhag shall have less than two and more than seven National Assembly constituencies."[5]

As of the 2017 census, Thimphu is the most populous dzongkhag, with 138,736 residents; Gasa is the least populous with 3,952 residents. Thimphu is the most densely populated with 67.1 people per km2 whereas Gasa is the least densely populated with 1.3 people per km2. The largest dzongkhag by land area is Wangdue Phodrang encompassing 4,308 km2, while the smallest is Tsirang, encompassing 639 km2.[6]


Medieval Bhutan was organized into provinces or regions headquartered in dzongs (castles/fortresses) which served as administrative centres for areas around them. The dzongs of Paro, Dagana and Trongsa were headed by penlops (provincial lords/governors) while other dzongs were headed by dzongpons (fortress lords).[7][8] Penlops and dzongpons gained power as the increasingly dysfunctional dual system of government eventually collapsed amid civil war. The victorious Penlop of Trongsa Ugyen Wangchuck gained de jure sovereignty over the entire realm in 1907, marking the establishment of the modern Kingdom of Bhutan and the ascendancy of the House of Wangchuck.[9]:703–770

At the direction of the fourth Druk Gyalpo (Bhutan head of state), Jigme Singye Wangchuk,[10] the process of decentralisation of local administration started in 1981[9]:831 with the formation of a dzongkhag yargye tshogchung ("DYT", district development committee) in each of the newly created dzongkhags.[11]

Four dzongdeys (zones) were established in 1988 and 1989: Zone I, including four western districts, seated at Chhukha; Zone II, including four west-central districts, seated at Damphu; Zone III, including four east-central districts, seated at Geylegphug; and Zone IV, including five eastern districts, seated at Yonphula; to "provide a more efficient distribution of personnel and administrative and technical skills." Dzongdeys acted as the intermediary administrative divisions between the dzongkhag administration and the central government. Although Thimphu dzongkhag and Thimphu thromde (municipality) were within the boundaries of Zone I, they stayed outside the zonal system. By 1991, however, only Eastern dzongdey (Zone IV) was fully functional.[12] Zone I, Zone II and Zone III were "indefinitely" disabled in early 1991. Zone IV also ceased to function in mid-1992.[13] Dzongdeys slowly lost relevance and went defunct as they were not included in the Constitution of Bhutan[3] and the Local Government Act of 2009, which repealed the previous local governments and administrative divisions.[2]

Under the Dzongkhag Yargay Tshogdu Chathrim (District Development Council Act) of 2002, a dzongdag (administrator), assisted by a dzongrab (deputy district collector), carry out administrative activities, while the DYT coordinates all developmental activities within the dzongkhag. Each DYT includes representatives of the municipalities and the towns within the dzongkhag, who elect a chairperson from among themselves. The DYTs also had non-voting members, which included the dzongdag, the dungpa (dungkhag (sub-district) head) (where a dungkhag exists) and the dzongkhag officials from various sectors such as the chief engineer, and the planning, finance, education, agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, and health officers.[14]

The Constitution of 2008 laid basic provisions for an elected dzongkhag tshogdu and dzongkhag courts in each dzongkhag.[3] The Local Government Act of 2009 further codified the election process of dzongkhag tshogdu, the appointment process of dzongkdag, and the role of dzongkhag courts within the judicial system of Bhutan. It also repealed all previous acts and laws regarding local governments, including the Dzongkhag Yargay Tshogdu Chathrim of 2002.[2]

Political structure

Under the Local Government Act of 2009, the dzongkhag tshogdu is the non-legislative executive body of the dzongkhag, composed of the gup (gewog head) and the mangmi (elected representatives of the gewogs) from each gewog (block of villages), and representatives from the thromdes of that dzongkhag. They are empowered to enforce rules on health and public safety, regulate environmental pollution, advertise in regard to environmental aesthetics, regulate broadcast media in accordance with the Information, Communications, and Media Act, regulate gambling, and raise their own funds. They also oversee the dzongdag. A dzongdag, in turn, is responsible for maintaining law and order, and for enforcing the driglam namzha (rules for disciplined behavior).[2]


Name Population
(2017)[upper-alpha 1][6]
Change Land area (km2)[6] Population density[6] Number of
National Assembly
representatives[upper-alpha 2][16]
Bumthang 17,820 16,116 +10.6% 2,717 6.6/km2 2
Chhukha[upper-alpha 3] 68,966 74,387 −7.3% 1,880 36.7/km2 2
Dagana 24,965 18,222 +37.0% 1,723 14.5/km2 2
Gasa 3,952 3,116 +26.8% 3,118 1.3/km2 2
Haa 13,655 11,648 +17.2% 1,905 7.2/km2 2
Lhuentse[upper-alpha 4] 14,437 15,395 −6.2% 1,944 7.4/km2 2
Mongar[upper-alpha 5] 37,150 37,069 +0.2% 2,859 13.0/km2 3
Paro 46,316 36,433 +27.1% 1,293 35.8/km2 2
Pema Gatshel[upper-alpha 6] 23,632 13,864 +70.5% 1,030 22.9/km2 3
Punakha 28,740 17,715 +62.2% 1,110 25.9/km2 2
Samdrup Jongkhar[upper-alpha 7] 35,079 39,961 −12.2% 1,878 18.7/km2 2
Samtse 62,590 60,100 +4.1% 1,305 48.0/km2 4
Sarpang 46,004 41,549 +10.7% 1,946 23.6/km2 2
Thimphu 138,736 98,676 +40.6% 2,067 67.1/km2 2
Trashigang 45,518 51,134 −11.0% 3,066 14.8/km2 5
Trashi Yangtse[upper-alpha 8] 17,300 17,740 −2.5% 1,438 12.0/km2 2
Trongsa 19,960 13,419 +48.7% 1,807 11.0/km2 2
Tsirang 22,376 18,667 +19.9% 639 35.0/km2 2
Wangdue Phodrang[upper-alpha 9] 42,186 31,135 +35.5% 4,308 9.8/km2 2
Zhemgang 17,763 18,636 −4.7% 2,421 7.3/km2 2
Bhutan 727,145 634,982 +14.5% 38,394 18.9/km2 47

See also



  1. All data is taken from the 2017 Population and Housing Census of Bhutan.
  2. Each dzongkhag is entitled to at least two, but no more than seven National Assembly constituencies. Currently, the number of National Assembly constituencies is 47. Each dzongkhag is also entitled to one National Council constituency.[5]
  3. Also spelled as "Chukha"[17]
  4. Also spelled as "Lhuntse"[18]
  5. Also spelled as "Monggar".[6]
  6. Also spelled as "Pemagatshel"[19]
  7. Also spelled as "Samdrupjongkhar"[20]
  8. Also spelled as "Trashiyangtse"[21]
  9. Also spelled as "Wangduephodrang"[22]


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  2. "Local Government Act of Bhutan 2009" (PDF). Government of Bhutan. 2009-09-11. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2011-01-20.
  3. "The Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan" (pdf). Government of Bhutan. 2008. pp. 39–46. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2019-04-29. Retrieved 2019-06-01.
  4. "Justices of Bhutan". Royal Court of Justice, Bhutan. Archived from the original on 2018-09-24. Retrieved 2019-06-12.
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  8. Ardussi, John; Ura, Karma (Winter 2000). "Population and Governance in the mid-18th Century Bhutan, as Revealed in the Enthronement Record of Thugs-sprul 'Jigs med grags pa I (1725-1761)" (pdf). Journal of Bhutan Studies. 2 (2): 39–84. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2019-07-01. Retrieved 2019-07-01.
  9. Phuntsho, Karma (2013). The History of Bhutan. Random House India. ISBN 8184003110.
  10. Schuelka, Matthew J.; Maxwell, Tom W., eds. (2016). Education in Bhutan: Culture, Schooling and Gross National Happiness (PDF). Springer. p. 61. doi:10.1007/978-981-10-1649-3. ISBN 978-981-10-1647-9. ISSN 1573-5397. LCCN 2016948217. Archived from the original (pdf) on 2019-06-09. Retrieved 2019-06-09.
  11. Inoue, Makoto; Shivakoti, Ganesh P., eds. (2015). Multi-level Forest Governance in Asia: Concepts, Challenges and the Way Forward. SAGE Publications India. p. 120. ISBN 9789351502593.
  12. Savada, Andrea Matles; Harris, George Lawrence; Library of Congress. Federal Research Division (1993). Nepal and Bhutan: country studies (pdf). Washington, D.C.: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. p. 322. LCCN 93012226. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2019-06-07. Retrieved 2019-06-29.
  13. The Far East and Australasia 1998. Europa Publications. p. 159.
  14. "Dzongkhag Yargay Tshogdu Chathrim 2002" (PDF). Government of Bhutan. 2002-07-23. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-03-06. Retrieved 2016-03-03.
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  16. "Constituency List". National Assembly of Bhutan. Archived from the original on 2019-04-02. Retrieved 2019-05-31.
  17. Dorji, Tshering (2018-02-05). "Chukha export tariff revised by 30 Cheltrum a unit". Kuensel. Archived from the original on 2018-09-16. Retrieved 2019-06-19.
  18. Tshomo, Dechen (2018-10-08). "Number of home stays increasing". Kuensel. Archived from the original on 2019-05-16. Retrieved 2019-06-18.
  19. Wangchuk, Kelzang (2018-10-22). "Election results from Pemagatshel". Kuensel. Archived from the original on 2019-04-07. Retrieved 2019-06-18.
  20. "Samdrupjongkhar police arrests three for alleged murder". Kuensel. 2019-06-13. Archived from the original on 2019-06-14. Retrieved 2019-06-18.
  21. Tshedup, Younten (2019-02-05). "A tough year for Trashigang and Trashiyangtse". Kuensel. Archived from the original on 2019-02-07. Retrieved 2019-06-18.
  22. Dema, Tashi (2019-02-27). "Windstorm damages structures in three dzongkhags". Kuensel. Archived from the original on 2019-02-28. Retrieved 2019-06-18.

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