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Updated: 25 min 2 sec ago

Power shutdown in Trongsa, Bumthang affects commuters

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 14:28

Electricity: Hundreds of vehicles queued at the Bhutan Oil Corporation (BOC) in Trongsa to fuel since Saturday morning in absence of electricity to run the pumps.

The BOC neither had manual pumps nor a generator leaving drivers frustrated and helpless.

Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC) had shut down the power in Trongsa and Bumthang since 8am last Friday to carry out maintenance work at Koshala in Trongsa. It was restored at 9:30pm on Friday but went off again from Saturday morning as maintenance works were scheduled till 6pm yesterday.

Among the vehicles were also passenger buses that came to Trongsa, as they could not fuel in Bumthang since there was no electricity yesterday. Two tankers carrying diesel and petrol arrived in Trongsa at around 1pm. The BOC then managed to fuel the vehicles by using measuring cans and taking fuel directly from the tanker only after which the vehicles could move towards their respective destinations.

On Saturday, people waited till 11pm in their cars or sat near BOC expecting electricity anytime.

They expected the electricity at 6pm, 8pm, 9pm and 10pm as told by BPC officials over phone when people inquired.

People, who were waiting to fuel up their cars at the BOC said it was difficult without electricity throughout the day and night.

A Trongsa resident said that he was supposed to move to Zhemgang on Saturday but was stranded as his vehicle ran out of fuel. He waited from the morning till 11pm on Saturday after he was informed that there would be no electricity that night.

He said the BOC should also have a manual pump or a generator as back up during such situations. “They can’t keep the people stranded in such situation,” he said, adding that there may be some people travelling for important work.

Some drivers suggested taking fuel out of the reservoir manually and pouring it into the cars while others requested for fuel that was kept for emergency purposes.

BOC officials in Trongsa said they did not have a generator while the manual pump was out of service.

However, there was still no electricity in Trongsa and Bumthang as of 8pm yesterday.

Nima Wangdi |Trongsa

Oral transmission on Prajnaparamita in Paro

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 14:28

Religion: His Eminence Drupwang Sangay Nyenpa Rinpoche will administer an oral transmission (Jaklung) of Prajnaparamita, the ‘Perfection of Wisdom’ from March 1 to 7 in Paro town.

Prajnaparamita is the teachings of Lord Buddha, which is believed to have been revealed by the great Buddhist philosopher, Nagarjuna from the Naga world (Lu yul).

Prajnaparamita in Tibetan is called ‘Bhum,’ which literally means one hundred thousands pages of sutra. The 12-volume Prajnaparamita consists of one hundred thousand pages of the Buddha’s teachings on the essence of emptiness and the perfected way of seeing the nature of reality.

Prajnaparamita is the extensive version while the medium is called Nyethri or twenty thousand pages, and the briefest version is the Gyatongpa or eight thousand pages.

From two aspects of Buddha’s teaching: Tantra and sutra, Prajanaparamita is the sutra aspect of teachings that explains the state beyond duality and ignorance.

Zhenphen Jangsem Tshogpa will be organising the transmission near Paro town where the annual Moenlam Chhenmo is organised.

Rinzing Wangmo Dukpa, a member of the tshogpa said that receiving the oral transmission of Prajnaparamita allows one to connect to the lineage of the practitioner of Prajanapramita and that it would also enable the actualisation of the practice.

In the afternoon, the rinpoche will preside over the oral transmission of the Thirty Seven Practices of the Bodhisattvas (Gyalsey Laglen), which is a set of instructions on how to follow the Bodhisattva path.

Gyalse Tokme Zangpo, a highly learned scholar and a writer, wrote the Thirty Seven Practices of the Bodhisattvas.

On March 7, His Eminence Sangay Nyenpa Rinpoche will give an empowerment on the Karling Zhethro, which is a practice of a hundred deities that represent purified elements of the body and mind.

Revealed by Terton Karma Lingpa, the Karling Zhethro text talks about 42 peaceful (Zhe) and 52 wrathful (Thro) deities, who are believed to manifest to those who have passed away and are in the intermediate state (Bardo).

If practiced well, these deities would appear and one will be able to mingle with them and ultimately be freed from the Bardo state said Rinzing Wangmo Dukpa.

His Eminence Drukwang Sangay Nyenpa Rinpoche was born in 1964 near Paro Taktsang and was recognised as the 10th Sangay Nyenpa Rinpoche by the 16th Karmapa His Holiness Rangjung Rigpe Dorje.

His first reincarnation was Sangay Nyempa, Tashi Paljor who was a disciple of the 7th Karmapa Choedak Gyatsho and the teacher of the 8th Karmapa Mikyo Dorje.

Rinpoche studied philosophy, tantrayana, sutrayana, liturgy and meditation for eighteen years at the Nalanda Institute in Rumtek under the spiritual guidance of the 12th Karmapa and obtained the title of Acharya. He is also a student of His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

Among many dharma projects that Rinpoche initiated he has restored his traditional seat in Kham, Tibet and founded a shedra in Pharping near Kathmandu in Nepal.

Today Rinpoche often travels to countries in Asia and Europe to give teachings.

The oral transmission and empowerment programme is aimed at commemorating the first Birth Anniversary of The Gyalsey and His Majesty The King’s Birth Anniversary today, and to bring harmony and prosperity to the nation, and Buddha Dharma.

Tenzin Namgyel

The People’s King

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 14:25

As Drukyul celebrates the Birth Anniversary of His Majesty The Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, today, all Bhutanese will pray for the good health and long life of His Majesty.

Our Monarchs are the sokshings of Drukyul. It’s only through the wisdom, divinity and selfless service of our Kings that the country continues to enjoy peace, prosperity, and sovereignty.

Many elders today can attest to the momentous changes the country has experienced under the selfless service of our Kings.

The unprecedented peace, harmony and progress achieved in the last decade can be attributed to His Majesty’s unwavering resolution to serve His people.

As the People’s King, His Majesty introduced democracy in 2008 and empowered the people. Since then, a tremendous transition has taken place. Many narrate stories of a time when even government office clerks were feared and difficult to approach. Today, even ministers are not spared from being questioned and are held accountable by the people.

Democracy is taking firm root in the country under the guidance of His Majesty. We have witnessed two rounds of successful elections for both the central and local governments.

Drukyul today is passing through the best of times with His Majesty The King on the Golden Throne committed to the wellbeing of every Bhutanese and the country, with His Majesty The Great Fourth Druk Gyalpo always there to guide and inspire, and with the future assured in HRH The Gyalsey, along with capable elected officials running the government.

Drukyul is living the prophecy made by His Majesty The Great Fourth Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 2006: “I am confident that a very bright and great future lies ahead for Bhutan with the leadership of a new King and a democratic system of government that is best suited for our country, as enshrined under the Constitution. I have every confidence that there will be unprecedented progress and prosperity for the nation in the reign of our Fifth King.”

We pray for our Beloved Druk Gyalpo’s long reign and good health for all times to come.

PM meets with new ADB resident representative

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 14:24

Meeting: Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay met resident representative/country director designate of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Kanokpan Lao-Araya, and director general of the South Asia department, ADB Hun Kim, yesterday, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Hun Kim explained that opportunities in Bhutan for ADB is expanding and hence the ADB office in Thimphu has been upgraded from a Representative Office to a full-country operation, hence, the introduction for Kanokpan Lao-Araya.

Lyonchoen welcomed Kanokpan Lao-Araya and thanked the ADB for their investment in Bhutan’s socioeconomic developmental sectors. Lyonchoen added that ADB is the biggest multi-lateral partner for Bhutan and that Bhutan has benefited in terms of connectivity and infrastructural developments.

Kanokpan Lao-Araya expressed her commitment towards working as a bridge between Bhutan and the ADB.

Earlier in the day, she also presented her credentials to the foreign minister Damcho Dorji.

Kanokpan Lao-Araya, a Thai national, is ADB’s second resident representative to Bhutan.

Bhutan formally joined the Asian Development Bank in 1982.

Staff reporter

Recruitment of matrons and wardens begin

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 14:24

Education: In a move to reduce the workload on teachers, dzongkhag education offices across the country have started recruiting matrons and wardens for schools in their respective areas.

This follows the national education conference’s endorsement to recruit around 200 matrons and wardens. Currently teachers have been fulfilling the role of matrons and wardens in addition to their academic responsibilities.

The recruited wardens and matrons will also assume mess hall and student health responsibilities.

Mongar chief dzongkhag education officer Ugyen Thinley said that Lhuentse and Mongar have recruited 14 men and 14 women for the posts. Among the 28 people recruited, 18 will be placed in different schools in Mongar and 10 will be sent to schools in Lhuentse. “They will have to report to their respective schools by February 20,” Ugyen Thinley said.

For now, the matrons and wardens will be placed in lower, middle and higher secondary schools with boarding facilities. Central, autonomous and non-central schools will also be provided with matron and wardens but on a case-by-case basis.

Samtse has also recruited six matrons and six wardens. “They will be reporting to their respective schools by the end of this month,” Samtse chief education officer Karma Sonam Chophel said.

Chukha has recruited six matrons and wardens. Samdrupjongkhar and Pemagatshel recruited in total 26 people for matron and warden. Ten of the 26 were for Samdrupjongkhar and 16 are for schools in Pemagatshel.

“The matrons and wardens have already reported to their respective schools on February 15 after orientation,” Samdrupjongkhar deputy chief education officer Ngawang Tshering said.

While applicants who have passed class XII are being accepted for the two posts, preference is being given to university graduates.

The dzongkhags are also working on recruiting supporting staff such as administrative officers, lab technicians and store in-charges.

Ugyen Thinley said that while there are also primary schools with boarding facilities, the ministry hasn’t clarified whether these schools are entitled to matrons and wardens.

Mongar has five primary schools offering boarding facilities.

Tempa Wangdi

An exhibition portraying the Buddhist hell realms

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 14:23

Art: Fusing traditional and contemporary techniques, Yeshi Palden, a graduate from the National Institute of Zorig Chusum (NIZC), is displaying his artwork at the Nehru-Wangchuck Cultural Centre (NWCC) in Thimphu.

Probably the first of its kind, Yeshi Palden’s artworks display the 18 types of Buddhist hell realms that are usually narrated in religious scriptures and seen in traditional paintings in monasteries.

The paintings depict the horrifying reality of the hell realms. Some of the paintings portray how a sinful person is burned on coal only to be revived again until the bad karma has been washed off. Another painting portrays a person that is kept in the snow for a long time until one suffers from blisters appearing on the whole body, only to be burst and reappear again until the sins have been purified.

Sitting in front of a huge painting depicting The Wheel of Life (a painting of a mandala representing the Buddhist view of the universe), Yeshi Palden painfully colours every detail and figure in the painting.

The 26-year-old painter graduated from NIZC two years ago, after which he sharpened his artistic skills with a teacher from the institute. It was when he was receiving initiations on the preliminary practices (ngondro) from a Buddhist master that he realised there was a lack of visual representation of the Buddhist hell realms to people especially the younger generation that don’t have time to practice the dharma.

Through these paintings, I hope people will get to see and realise the repercussions of the sins they commit in their present lives, Yeshi Palden said.

“We live in an age where people are leading such busy lives that they hardly get time to practice the dharma. I hope through these paintings, they will get to understand more about the dharma,” Yeshi Palden said.

Through the exhibition, Yeshi Palden aims to pave a path for traditional artists that don’t get such opportunities to exhibit their artistic talents.

The paintings are not for sale but Yeshi Palden hopes to make a living out of his artwork in the future.

The exhibition titled “Hell – Wheel of Life” started from February 17 and closes on February 27.

Thinley Zangmo

Illegal transfer of players hampers growth of football

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 14:21

Football: Football in Bhutan is far from becoming professional given the limited resources and talent pool available. While the local games are improving, lack of proper system is hampering the growth of the sport.

In a recent football controversy, the illegal transfer of players from one club to another has created much hype in the sport. Breaching of contracts by some of the players has spurred confusion among the clubs.

Two of the most popular players Chencho Gyeltshen and Hari Gurung’s decision to move from Thimphu FC to Thimphu City FC and Transport United respectively are examples.

In a letter to the Bhutan Football Federation (BFF), Thimphu FC general secretary Yiwang Pindarica said that there has been a breach of contract between the player and Thimphu Football Club. “After signing a contract with Thimphu FC last year, the players have even starting playing for another club while still under contract with Thimphu FC.”

Chencho Gyeltshen who earlier had a contract with a Thai Club was then transferred to a Bangladeshi Club. After the completion of his contract in Bangladesh, Thimphu City FC signed the striker for the new season in Thimphu.

However, the move is being seen by Thimphu FC as a breach of contract and in the letter to the federation, Yiwang Pindarica requested the BFF’s intervention. Chencho who played in the national league for Thimphu FC  had signed a contract with the club that expires on December 17 this year.

Similarly, the national goalie’s move to the recently upgraded club Transport United was also seen as a breach of contract that Hari had with Thimphu FC. Hari had signed a contract with the club until December 19.

An official from Transport United said that it was Hari who came forward and wanted to play for the new club. United’s list that included Hari as a player was not objected to by the federation, the official added.

Beginning last year the federation in accordance with the AFC regulation, has introduced the BFF Club Licensing Regulation procedure to establish a reliable and credible league with a minimum standard for participating clubs.

Including the rest of the sporting criteria, the regulation also demands a written contract between the club and the players to qualify to participate in the league.

BFF officials said that Thimphu FC failed to submit the documents before the deadline, which is why Hari’s move to another club was entertained.

Yiwang Pindarica said: “No one at the federation took in the matter before deadline, therefore, I was not able to submit it on time. There was a miscommunication between the federation and the club. I had the list with me and carried it everyday to BFF asking for help but the person in charge was out of station and when he came back he told me its too late.”

Meanwhile, federation officials said that since Chencho’s international transfer certificate is now with Thimphu City, he can legally play for the club in the on-going Thimphu league. While in Hari’s case, officials said that they have requested both the clubs (Transport United and Thimphu FC) to sort it out among themselves.

Another Thimphu FC player, Kencho Tobgay, has also moved to Druk Stars FC before the completion of his contract term.

Yiwang Pindarica said that clubs should be responsible for the player and take the best interest of their players. “Unless there is an autonomous body safe guarding the player, the player cannot represent himself,” she said.   “A player also cannot just walk into the club. This is un-sportsman like behaviour and without closing the previous contracts, word of mouth cannot be taken here as an assurance.”

Younten Tshedup 

Think tank recommends implementation of BBIN agreement

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 14:21

BBIN: Even as it remains uncertain whether or not Bhutan’s Parliament will ratify a motor vehicle agreement involving Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN), experts and government officials from the sub-region have called for immediate implementation of the ambitious road connectivity plan.

The calls were made during a two-day BBIN conference organised by Kolkata-based think tank CUTS International from February 16 to 17 in the capital city of West Bengal. Overall, participants agreed that the agreement should be implemented despite the challenges.

Implementation of the agreement has been delayed as Bhutan has not yet ratified the agreement although it was inked more than one and a half years ago in June 2015. India, Bangladesh and Nepal have ratified the agreement, and are expected to go ahead with the plan by repackaging the agreement as BIN without Bhutan.

However, the Bhutanese government is determined to be part of this sub-regional group despite objections from the opposition and the National Council.

Information and communications secretary Dasho Karma Penjor and his predecessor Dasho Kinley Dorji took part in the conference. The secretary informed Kuensel that the other member countries asked him about Bhutan’s position on the motor vehicle agreement.

“We expressed Bhutan’s concerns with respect to the culture and environment,” he said. He said the agreement will be put to a vote in a joint sitting of the upcoming summer Parliament session.

According to a press release from CUTS International, Dasho Karma W Penjor informed the conference that “the political will in Bhutan was in favour of ratifying the pact”. He stated that steps were undertaken to demystify the various provisions of the agreement among different stakeholders in Bhutan.

The pact aims to allow seamless movement of vehicles across the four countries’ borders. The details of the rollout, including country specific restrictions on entry of vehicles, will be decided at a later stage in the protocols.

The National Assembly’s legislative committee chairperson MP Ritu Raj Chhetri said the agreement will provide platforms for negotiations in other areas of cooperation among the member countries. “It will open opportunities for economic development,” he said.

Supporters of the agreement believe that the agreement will accelerate economic development and integration in the sub-region. The region is one of the least integrated and connected regions of the world and intra-regional trade is around five percent of the total trade of South Asian countries.

The think tank believes that the connectivity agreement can be a game changer especially for land-linked countries like Nepal, Bhutan and states in North-East India. However, for effective implementation, it has to address a number of challenges to set the wheel rolling.

Two of the key challenges include lack of facilitating infrastructure coupled with lack of financial capacity of the countries to support development of infrastructure and harmonisation of procedures for transits. In addition, there are also significant challenges pertaining to land acquisition, concerns of transport operators, gender concerns, and differences in the mindsets of people.

The National Council has rejected the agreement, citing environment concerns and lack of road and infrastructure capacity to handle huge volumes of cargo and passengers.

Pushing the agreement through Parliament is not the final hurdle for the government. Unlike in the other three countries, Bhutan’s Parliament must also ratify protocols that will prescribe the details on the implementation part. The protocols are currently being drafted.

“The need of the hour is to get over the ‘big country and small country syndrome’, move forward and implement the agreement, which will have tremendous implication for growth and development of BBIN,” stated the think tank.

Speaking at the conference, India’s deputy secretary of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highway, AD James, said some of the initiatives that the government of India is presently undertaking to facilitate effective implementation of the agreement include expansion of road networks, development of logistical hubs with state of art facilities along major economic corridors.

Former governor of the Bangladesh Bank and professor of Dhaka University, Atiur Rahman, emphasised the need to develop regional financial institutions and chalk out other strategies such as public-private partnership models to facilitate funding for developing facilitating infrastructures.

The joint secretary of Bangladesh’s Ministry of Commerce Badrul Hassan Babul, underlined the need for greater trade facilitation among countries in the BBIN region through the MVA.

The joint secretary of India’s Department of Commerce, Bhupinder Singh Bhalla, emphasised the need to look beyond economic benefits and consider the important role that motor vehicle agreement will play in mainstreaming development for the land linked states in North-East India. He said the agreement will give easier access to the maritime ports in Bangladesh.

The Indian Commissioner for Customs and Export Promotion, Sandeep Kumar, pointed out that the region can save USD 2 billion by developing land ports and an electronic cargo tracking system but issues like land acquisition, access to electricity and IT tools severely limits the options.

The US Consul General in Kolkata, Craig Hall, said there is a need for enhancing intra-regional trade among countries in the South and Southeast Asian countries by sharing resources and removing various trade barriers.

The executive director of the think tank, Bipul Chatterjee, said that the agreement can yield concrete benefits for the common man. He mentioned that the pact is not only significant in terms of improvement of land ports but also from the point of view of development of economic corridors which is indispensable for trade facilitation.

CUTS International will be implementing a project over a period of two and a half years to not only explain the benefits of the agreement but to also help in addressing the concerns at the grassroots level that might act as a barrier against attaining the objectives of the regional pact.

MB Subba

Trucks, geology to blame for poor Panbang-Nganglam highway conditions

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 17:08

Roads: Preliminary findings of the 55km Panbang to Nganglam highway has found that heavy trucks and geological factors are the two reasons for the road disintegrating, according to the expert team that carried out the investigation.

The investigation, which was carried out from February 13 to 15 also showed that quality was not compromised as per a laboratory test and that the contractors constructed and paved the road as per the required design and specifications.

A team of experts from Department of Roads (DoR) conducted the investigation after Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay called for it. The highway despite being blacktopped less than two years ago is already pockmarked with potholes and cracks have developed at different points.

The DoR chief engineer based in Trongsa, Taujay Chedup said heavy vehicles carried loads in excess of the carrying capacity of the road, which is 16 metric tonnes.

“The findings showed the trucks carry almost 20 metric tonnes including the truck’s weight, and 10 wheelers carry almost 30 metric tonnes,” Taujay Chedup said. “The loads were not controlled and trucks started ferrying even before the highway was completed.”

More than 300 trucks use the highway daily in addition to medium and light vehicles. The load of the trucks are now being monitored.

Taujay Chedup said it was also found that certain areas were geographically marshy and contained high levels of moisture especially between the 25km to 47km points from the Nganglam side. He pointed out that potholes and cracks had appeared in these marshy areas.

“Since these areas face the north zone, it receives less sunlight and it could be worse in summer,” he added. “The area was still wet even during the field investigation.”

The road from the Panbang side, between 12km to 25km points was damaged but was repaired. The team did not hold anyone responsible for the damage as the investigation is solely a technical one.

The final report will be submitted to the works and human settlement ministry soon.

However, the investigation team recommended that the damaged part could be reconstructed with different specifications to suit the geography.

Meanwhile, Taujay Chedup added that a second investigation will have to be carried out in the summer as the results can vary between the seasons.

Funded by the Asian Development Bank, the construction of the highway was completed in May 2015 from the Nganglam side and in October from the Panbang side.

Yangchen C Rinzin |  Samdrupjongkhar

Traffic restrictions on Wangdue bridge

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 17:07

… following a bearing and two metal plates coming out of place

Infrastructure: A bearing placed between the deck and the concrete embankment on the north end of the Wangdue bridge has come out since the afternoon of February 18.

The bearing allows for slight horizontal movements of the bridge and plays no role in bearing loads. It is a component of the bridge that provides a resting surface between the bridge’s piers and the bridge’s deck.

Following the discovery, heavy vehicles carrying loads are being directed to use the Punakha route while only light vehicles and heavy vehicles without load are being permitted onto the Wangdue bridge.

Officials with the Department of Roads (DoR) in Lobesa said it was initially spotted by a road engineer who was measuring the newly paved road below Wangdue Dzong on February 18. After seeing a piece of metal below the bridge, the engineer investigated and found that one of two plates and a bearing had come out.

Two DoR engineers and three workers have been working on the bridge since the evening of February 18. By afternoon yesterday, a team of six engineers from Thimphu had joined them to reinsert the bearing and investigate why it came out in the first place.

DoR officials managed to reinsert the bearing on the evening of February 18 and they were using a hydraulic jack to lift the bridge yesterday. The bearing is only around four inches in diameter.

The bridge was lifted 30mm with the hydraulic jack to place the plate and bearing properly, DoR engineers said. “We are expecting it to be restored by tomorrow,” said works and human settlement secretary, Phuntsho Wangdi.

“The bearing could have come out due to repeated vibration caused by too many heavy vehicles plying back and forth on that particular bridge for years,” he said.

The secretary said there is no safety risk. DoR engineers from Lobesa and Thimphu are working together to place back the bearing, he said.

With heavy vehicles being diverted some expressed worry that the bridge might have developed cracks. DoR officials dismissed the information.

The Wangdue bridge was built in 2002 with financial support from the Swiss government. Swiss engineers designed the bridge.

Dawa Gyelmo, | Wangdue

Sampheling farmers to take up quinoa farming

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 17:06

Agriculture: It was a proud moment for Sukh Bahadur Rai from Allay in Sampheling gewog, Chukha, when he got an opportunity to share his experience of growing quinoa with officials gathered last week.

As a successful farmer that grows quinoa in the village, he is not only going to have a bumper harvest this time but will also motivate others in the village to grow the crop.

This was revealed during the farmer’s field day held in the village on February 17.

The 48-year-old farmer said he will be harvesting the crop for the second time this year. “The first harvest was in 2015.”

He said he grew the crop on a small plot of land then and harvested 18kgs. “This year, I will harvest more than 150kg quinoa,” he said. He grew it in 40 decimals of land.

Meanwhile, quinoa is a new nutrient rich cereal introduced in 2015 in the country.

The adaptation trials were also initiated in 2015 with two varieties and six new varieties were again introduced in 2016. Compared to rice, maize, and wheat, quinoa has higher nutrients such as protein, lysine, fats, fiber, and calories.

The report with the Research and Development Centre for Organic Agriculture (RDC-OC) in Yusipang, Thimphu, mentions that the primary objective of introducing quinoa was to diversify the cropping system, adapt this versatile crop to growing environments as a climate resilient crop and to enhance the food and nutritional security of the Bhutanese people.

For the rapid promotion of this nutritious cereal, the Department of Agriculture has also accorded quinoa a commodity status at par with rice and maize.

In 2015 and 2016, over 1,000 farmers cultivated quinoa on an estimated 40 acres and cultivated in 20 dzongkhags.

Quinoa coordinator from the development centre in Yusipang, Tirtha Katwal ,said that they are expanding quinoa cultivation to 120 acres this year. “Today’s field day is to showcase a success story.”

He said the centre has plans to encourage farmers to grow on a large scale.

Centre officials also said that farmers could grow for self-consumption, as the cereal is highly nutritious and later take it as commercial farming.

Chukha dzongdag, Pemba Wangchuk, who attended the field day in Allay told farmers to try quinoa farming.

“It appears it is growing well here,” he said, adding that quinoa nutrients would be good for children’s growth.

He told farmers to grow the crop in small quantities initially and as the commercial market expands, people can grow in large quantities.

Among the villagers that gathered to listen to Sukh Bahadur Rai’s success story, there were also a few who are also growing quinoa.

Renuka Chhetri from Kothiline in Sampheling also cultivated quinoa for the second time this year.

“I harvested 30kg this year,” she said. “The harvest is good.”

Renuka Chhetri said she would grow more. “The harvest was not good in 2015, as it was a dry season that year.”

Uma Devi Chhetri and Damber Kumari Sharma are also planning to grow more this season.

People from Merak and Sakteng also grow this nutritious cereal.

Quinoa fetches Nu 100 per kg in the market.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Fighting Noncommunicable diseases

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 17:04

Noncommunicable diseases (NCD) is one of growing challenges facing the country today. As the country develops, more people will suffer from lifestyle diseases that are already major killers; diseases of affluence cause more than 60 percent of deaths in the country. What is worrying is that even as we have five-year multi-sectoral action plans, the threat is growing.

NCDs have indeed become global health concern. That’s why the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2010 called for a high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the prevention and treatment of NCDs.

Urgent actions must be taken. The danger is that our plans have a way of becoming paper tigers, gathering dust on the shelves of government offices. This happening, a large number of potentially productive people will be rendered useless by NCDs, impacting society and our healthcare system.

Bhutanese are more vulnerable to NCDs because of our deep cultural relations with alcohol, doma and fat-rich food, among others. We are, by and large, a laid back people with an alarmingly unconcerned attitude towards personal health. According to health officials, more than 90 percent of Thimphu’s population is exposed to at least one risk factor of NCDs. What this tells us is that, in the near future, the urban population will be the greatest burden on the country’s economy.

The country spends more than Nu 180 million every year to refer abroad patients with advanced NCD. The burden on the health system will only increase if we do not explore and adopt efficient and effective production and consumption of health and healthcare system.

The Multi-sectoral National Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (2015-2020) that was approved by the 80th Lhengye Zhungtshog in 2015 is a critically important document that will help attain the highest standard of physical, mental and social wellbeing for all Bhutanese. We should be able to, guided by this document, adopt healthy lifestyles and reduce exposure to risk factors that contribute to NCDs.

Policy and the strategic framework must be translated into action.

Agriculture minister on tour of eastern dzongkhags

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 17:03

Agriculture: Agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji launched numerous farming activities during his ongoing tour of the eastern dzongkhags that began on February 12.

Lyonpo inaugurated the Domkhar Land Development Programme at Tshenkhar gewog in Lhuentse. About 46 acres of land will be developed for easy mechanisation and the programme will benefit 65 households.

He also talked about the nutritional benefits of eggs and encouraged farmers to rear at least three poultry birds each. “Birds will be supplied free of cost to interested farmers,” he said.

As part of his tour, numerous farm mechanisation demonstrations were held in the dzongkhags.

Lyonpo launched the Commercial Agriculture and Resilient Livelihoods Enhancement Programme (CARLEP) website during his visit to the Agricultural Regional Development Centre in Wengkhar.

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji also met with dzongdags of the six eastern dzongkhags along with other dzongkhag officials including agriculture and livestock officers during the regional programme implementation committee meeting of CARLEP in Mongar.

The minister asked the dzongkhag administrations to identify fallow land in their respective dzongkhags and collaborate with the Farm Machinery Corporation Ltd to reuse them.

He also talked on the importance of waste management and encouraged education for the people on waste management through awareness programmes and campaigns, especially on 9th of every month.

On the way to Trashiyangtse, he visited the Khamdang Dairy Farm in Kencholing. The farm is owned by a graduate youth who has a jersey cow and six Karan Fries with eight calves.

The minister also met with school teachers in the dzongkhags and talked about the importance of nutrition security and asked them to institute a system of three eggs a child a week.

Lyonpo also attended the opening session of the Lhuentse dzongkhag tshogdu.

He will be on tour till March 12.

Staff Reporter

Zhemgang fire

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 17:01

Volunteers help to construct two temporary sheds for the two families who lost their homes to a fire on February 18 in Trong Heritage village in Zhemgang. Volunteers include dzongkhag officials, police personnel, Desuups, members of the Dratshang, and scouts, among others. (Photo courtesy: Lyonpo Lekey Dorji)

Bhutanese among 50 Most Impactful Green Leaders awardees

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 17:01

Award: The executive director of the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN), Dr Kinley Tenzin, was honoured as one of the “50 Most Impactful Green Leaders” during the sixth edition of The World CSR Day held at Taj Lands End, Mumbai, India on February 18.

Global Green Future Summit and Leadership Awards endorsed the award.

According to a press release, 50 global leaders that are passionate and committed to bringing social change were recognised with the award in light of their extraordinary work and achievements.

The award recipients where chosen from a pool of global green leaders.

“The criteria for the award were energy conservation and efficiency, waste reduction, recycling and responsible disposal, exemplary leadership, assistance and substantial support in response to one or more environmental emergencies and effective leadership and participation in creating awareness on environmental issues in humanitarian action,” states the press release.

Dr Kinley Tenzin began his career as an assistant forest research officer at the Research and Development Centre, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests in 1998. In 2003, he was appointed as a forest research programme officer. He also served as the national counterpart to an international project funded by Boku University, Austria, the same university from where he obtained his PHD degree in 2008.

Staff reporter 

BBS a step closer towards becoming a public service broadcaster

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 17:00

Media: The Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) has submitted to the Gross National Happiness Commission a draft national broadcasting policy that seeks to transform the Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) into “a true public service broadcaster”.

The policy is expected to make BBS independent of the government with a clear mandate to work in the public interest. As BBS is a state-owned media house, questions about the extent to which BBS is independent of the government in terms both of management and content are frequently asked.

The country lacks a clear law in reference to state-owned media establishments.

BBS and Kuensel Corporation Ltd have been functioning as state-owned enterprises (SOEs), whose mandate normally is to make a profit. BBS employees however believes that the main mandate of the organisation should be to inform the nation.

Kuensel Corporation Ltd on the other hand, is a listed company with the government holding 51 percent of the company’s total shares, while the public holds the remaining. Kuensel Corporation Ltd stopped receiving government subsidy since 1998.

The government during the Parliament session in December 2014 announced that BBS would be a public service broadcaster. Since then, the national broadcaster has been looking forward to its new status.

Approval of the policy will pave the way for enactment of a new legislation or a PSB Charter, adoption of which will to transform BBS into a PSB.

The draft policy states that the “independence of BBS shall be formally guaranteed”. Formal recognition of BBS as a public service broadcaster will be reflected through changes in the appointment of a chief executive officer and the powers of its governing body and the way in which the public service broadcaster’s funding is provided.

As part of the guarantee of independence, BBS shall report to and receive its funding approval from Parliament rather than the Ministry of Finance.

The company currently meets about 50 percent of its recurring expenses from advertisements. But becoming a public service broadcaster would entail public funding for both current and capital expenses.

The policy states that budget for BBS should be proposed by its management and approved by Parliament in consultation with the government. However, the policy proposes that the finance ministry ensures that the budget is allocated in a practical way to BBS.

As a part of its mandate, BBS will be required to carry a certain amount of public service announcements for free, for example three to five percent of airtime. A clear procedure for allocating this time fairly and appropriately will be put in place.

Clear limits will be placed on the overall amount of funding that BBS may obtain from commercial sources. For instance, the maximum amount of time that may be devoted to advertising should be in the range of 15-20 percent.

The rest of the funding for BBS shall be provided via public sources and consideration will be given to alternative sources. They may include taxes on hydropower and public companies.

In the past, BBS’s coverage of activities has been criticised by the government and the corporation itself has come under the scrutiny of the National Assembly. Some MPs think that BBS should toe the government’s line because the company receives its funds from the finance ministry.

It is construed that as a public service broadcaster, BBS will be accountable to the state, not the government.

The policy states that the development of the broadcast media, as with all development sectors, should be done in a manner that gives effect to the values and principles of GNH. There are concerns that the development of the broadcasting sector has been driven more by commercial and political interests than GNH and public interest considerations.

As for an example of the mandates of a broadcaster, broadcasters have public interest obligations during disasters.

“The independence of the broadcast media is still not guaranteed to the level warranted by either the Constitution or international laws,” states the draft policy. However, it states diversity in the broadcasting sector does not mean simply increasing the number of available channels but that it can be promoted in other ways as well.

This policy is intended to provide a vision to guide the development of the broadcast media sector in Bhutan for the near future. It also seeks to clarify the roles of different institutional players, including the MoIC, Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) and the Media Council.

BBS shall provide direct coverage of the two Houses of Parliament and their committees, rather than having a different provider disseminate this programming, albeit subject to an obligation to provide access to this coverage to commercial and community broadcasters. This has come even as Parliament plans to set up its own TV channel.

Meanwhile, transformation of BBS to a public service broadcaster will pave the way for a private TV channel in the country. Once the government allows a private TV channel, BBS as a public service broadcaster is expected to receive only public announcements that are not commercial in nature.

The policy states that it remains unclear whether a commercial television station will be sustainable in the Bhutanese market. But the policy also recognises that there would be considerable advantages to having a local private competitor to BBS if a private channel was sustainable.

If approved, the policy will allow the licensing of one private, commercial television channel. “In due course, and once commercial viability issues have been assessed, consideration will be given to introducing a second channel,” it states.

BBS was delinked from the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) in 1992. Its employees think the company does not have a clear-cut identity either as a public broadcasting corporation or SOE.

Becoming a public service broadcaster, BBS believes it will help it become a neutral broadcasting channel, as they will be independent of government agencies and business houses. Media houses often come under pressure from advertisers to carry positive stories of the advertiser.

MB Subba

City falls in their maiden continental commitment

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 17:00

Football: Thimphu City’s prospects to compete in the AFC Cup playoffs ended when the Citizens were handed a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Club Valencia from the Maldives last week at the national stadium in Malé.

The pressure started to build from the get go for the visitors. Goalie Ngawang Jamphel was probably the busiest man on the team waving off  some crucial Maldivian strikes.

Passang Tshering introduced two new players to his first-eleven. As expected Chencho Gyeltshen was the man put in charge to terrorise Valencia’s defence along with Tshering Wangdi. Youngster Orgyen Wangchuk Tshering also featured alongside national skipper Karma Shedrup Tshering.

City adapted a 3-5-2 formation with Jigme T Dorji, Karun Gurung and Chencho in the backline. Skipper Tshering Dorji was supported by the cousin duo of Orgyen and Shedrup in the middle.

As wing-backs, the versatile duo of Biren Basnet and Nima Wangdi could have pulled off some surprises from either of the flanks. However, things didn’t turn out for City as planned.

The idea was to score and score early in the game. The new formation didn’t work out well for the Citizens. Long-balls flew in throughout the match for City. However with the lack of accuracy in the passes it failed to find Chencho and Tshering in the front.

On the other hand, Valencia had figured out the game within minutes of the first whistle. While City had the altitude advantage in the first leg in Thimphu, Valencia had the upper hand in the scorching heat of Malé.

Valencia’s confidence was vivid in the way they maintained possession of the ball. The short passes and skilful dribbling from the islanders contributed to the draining of City’s vigour.

However, the first-leg stalemate continued throughout a goalless first half. With the pressure building on the visitors, City did make a few opportunities to test the Maldivian goalie. City could have scored the first goal had Karma Shedrup got an early touch on the cross that was delivered from Chencho Gyeltshen in the 32nd minute.

Valencia’s Nigerian players had a commanding role during the game. Striker West made several attempts to break the deadlock but could not get past Ngawang Jamphel at the post. On several occasions, the duo of Ngawang and Nima Wangdi saved City’s face from conceding an early goal.

The first goal of the match came from substitute Hamdhaan Ibrahim in the 78th minute, which could have possibly been avoided had the City held their defensive positions intact. The goal came from a counterattack after City failed to capitalise on a corner kick.

Nigerian midfielder, Prince Chinonye, doubled Valencia’s lead in the 84th minute. Striker Ahmed Rilwan after miss-footing the lone defender Chencho inside the box, wrapped up the victory for the home team.

Had City played with their usual formation and maintained more of the ball possession and condensed their long-balls, the visitors could have had a chance to advance in the next round.

Nevertheless, the Citizens played their first continental match with composure and proficiently. Had they won the first leg at the Changlimithang Stadium, the overall scenario and the final score sheet after the second leg could have been a different story.

Younten Tshedup

The Potential to make farmers happy

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 17:00

“Farmers” are the least GNH happy

“Agriculture is not just an industry for Bhutan but also an important source of culture in Bhutan. If the power of agriculture were to decrease, so would the power of country”. These are words of wisdom from His Majesty The Fourth King that JICA received and has cherished. In line with the importance of agriculture in Bhutan, JICA has continued to cooperate with the Government of Bhutan in the field of agriculture since 1964. In such a setting, one astonishing fact came to light after implementing the 2015 GNH Survey conducted by the Centre for Bhutan Studies & GNH Research(CBS) with assistance from JICA. Farmers were found to be the least happy among other occupational groups.

JICA Horticulture Project

Conversely, one of JICA’s most successful projects, “The Horticulture Research and Development Project (HRDP-JICA)” came to our mind. HRDP-JICA was a technical cooperation project (2010-2015) between the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests and JICA led by chief advisor Tomiyasu, coordinator Sasaki and other Japanese experts. The overall goal of the project was to make horticulture more popular as a source of income in six eastern dzongkhags. The main focuses of the project were to identify horticulture farming practices and crops in each target area and to strengthen the technical training system. The implementation approach was based on the technical transfer approach through the practice of learning-through-working together on the basis of mutual understanding and trust.

Farmers were trained thoroughly in horticulture starting from pit digging to post-harvest techniques. At the same time, farmers were also encouraged to transfer their skills and knowledge to other farmers. This approach helped in making a big difference compared to the conventional distribution of seeds, tools and manuals to farmers. In recognition of its success, His Majesty The King awarded the National Order of Merit Gold to Lhap Dorji, the program director at the Renewable Natural Resources Research and Development Centre, Wengkhar, and Tomiyasu.

Impact Survey from the Perspective of GNH

In order to find tips and solutions from HRDP-JICA for the alleviation of farmers’ unhappiness, CBS and JICA spearheaded a special GNH survey in November 2016 to evaluate the impact of the project on the GNH index (9 domains and 33 indicators).

This was the first memorable study on assessment of a project’s impact based on GNH that is the overriding philosophy which should guide all development activities.  Like the 2015 GNH Survey, analysis at indicator level was made by comparing the headcount of people enjoying sufficiency in 33 indicators between the beneficiary (47 households) and the non-beneficiary (196 households) groups in Mongar.

Significant Differences in GNH indicators 

It has been only 3-4 years since most of the beneficiary farmers joined the project and orchards are at the early stage of fruiting. However, the project has made significant impact on the following indicators.

First, in the Living Standard domain, significantly positive impacts were found in household per capita income and asset ownership. Second, in the Community Vitality domain, beneficiaries were found to be better in community relationships which included trust towards neighbours and a sense of belonging.

Further, social support and the frequency of socialisation were found to be substantially higher among the project beneficiaries. Third, in the Psychological Wellbeing and Health domains, there were statistically significant impacts on mental health and negative emotions (a low frequency of occurrence of negative emotions).

Findings showed that 97.9 percent of beneficiaries had ‘normal mental wellbeing’ compared to 87.8 percent of the non-beneficiaries. On the other hand, in the Time Use domain, the proportion of people who achieved sufficiency in both the work and sleep indicators was lower in the beneficiary group.

The threshold for sufficiency was set at less than eight hours for work and more than eight hours for sleep. It is also true that horticulture activities require a lot of time and energy. Overall, improvements in community relationships and the psychological wellbeing indicator were noteworthy considering the results of the 2015 GNH Survey which showed a concerning decline in these indicators over the last five years.

3 Psychological Needs for Farmers

The study also evaluated the impact of the project on farmers’ motivation level following the Self-determination theory (SDT). SDT is grounded in the humanistic psychological and theoretical perspective stating that human beings have an inherent need to develop, grow and reach their full potential when conditions are favourable. SDT identifies three basic psychological needs for all individuals: the need for competence, autonomy and relatedness. Results showed that the percentages of people who “agree” to the project’s positive impact on these three psychological needs was about 99 percent (competence), 98 percent (autonomy) and 94 percent (relatedness). The project’s impact on all the three psychological needs was overwhelming.

Tips for Farmers’ happiness

Chief advisor Tomiyasu, who has worked for over 15 years in Bhutan, believes there are two requirements for a project to be successful. First, there should be a trustworthy relationship among the people involved. Based on mutual trust and unquestionable technique, careful hands-on practice trainings led to 753 farmers planting 14,549 orchard trees. As a consequence, the products of HRDP-JICA became well known as the “Wengkhar Brand” – a token of trust.

Second, horticulture should have the potential to draw the attention of youths to it as an attractive occupation. When farmers can cultivate and see fruits overspreading their lands, people can gain not only income but also confidence and pride from the aspect of psychological wellbeing. He always encouraged Bhutanese youths to involve in the project, showing signs of attractive aura in horticulture. We believe this dedicated attitude, that cultivates trust among people and guides horticulture as an attractive occupation, satisfied the 3 psychological needs for farmers, and contributed to improvements of GNH indicators like community relationships, mental health condition and negative emotions beyond the scope of income.

JICA continues to cooperate in order to spread these “Fruits of Happiness” for the enhancement of GNH in Bhutan.

Source: Fruits of Happiness – Impacts of Horticulture Project on Gross National Happiness in Mongar, Bhutan – (CBS)

Contributed by Sho Takano (Deputy Representative, JICA Bhutan) and Jigme Phuntso (Researcher, CBS)

Shingkhar-Gorgan road clearance under review

Sat, 02/18/2017 - 13:44

Environment: A proposed highway that generated a lot of debate in recent years, the Shingkhar-Gorgan highway, has reached a critical stage today.

The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) for the environment clearance is currently being reviewed by the National Environment Commission secretariat.

The road sparked much controversy as conservationists vehemently opposed the proposal as the road cuts through the core area of Phrumsengla park.

The Phrumsengla National Park issued the forest clearance under the directive of the  director general of the forest department to the roads department who then applied for the environment clearance.

At a Meet the Press session in June last year, Cabinet ministers said that construction of the road has already begun. Works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden said: “While the works have started from Pelphu in Lhuentse, works on a 10km stretch from Shingkhar in Bumthang would begin soon.”

Other ministers agreed that the road runs through the core area of the park and that there could be certain damage to the park.

Kuensel learnt that the forest department has stated the road would run through the multipurpose or buffer zone and not the core area.

However, the government had said that it runs through the core area of the park.

The works and human settlement minister’s argument is that 70km of the present road runs through the park area. Of that 50km of the present road falls in the core area. Of the 32km of the proposed highway that will be in the park area, the agriculture minister who is from Lhuentse said, only 18km will be in the core area.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said preliminary studies indicated that the road will be under less snow cover, shorter in distance, and more comfortable to drive on.

However, those opposing the road construction said it will pass through poor geology, disturb the pristine ecology, and since it passes over the Singmala pass, which is claimed to be higher than the Phrumsengla pass, using it would be a safety risk during winters.

Once the Shingkhar-Gorgan road is complete the old road is expected to become a park road.

The government has so far argued that although there are adverse impacts on the environment the economic advantage for the people of the poorest dzongkhag in country also needs to be considered.

The NECS is expected to submit the EIA with their comments to the works and human settlement ministry before March 7.

Tshering Palden

Telcos under pressure with increasing demand for data

Sat, 02/18/2017 - 13:41

ICT: Data is now more popular than voice minutes, changing the way Bhutanese communicate today. The shift in the demand for more data than the voice network has created an additional challenge for the two cellular operators in the country.

In a recent survey report from the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA), the data network performance of the two telcos were found be under satisfactory.

The overall performance of the voice network of both the telcos according to the report was found to be better than that of their data network.

The report stated that TashiCell’s data network performance was worst in the months of May and June. However, the network showed significant improvement in the following months.

TashiCell managing director, Tashi Tshering, said that poor data network in the two months was mainly because of the introduction of the 4G LTE facility.

“We launched the 4G LTE service in April and the data was taken from May and June. During that time after the launch May and June was the worst period of our network because of the migration from 3G to 4G,” said Tashi Tshering. “There were so many issues during that time, we were working on fixing the issue. That’s why we had a bad network during that period.”

Tashi Tshering said that although the telco’s data network had improved considerably today, the operator is working to enhance the network further. “Although our data network is way above the required standard, we are working to further improve our network and to provide the best we can to our customers.”

Bhutan Telecom on the other hand continued to struggle with its data network during the survey period (April to August). According to the report, no significant improvement was observed in the telco’s performance rather it is deteriorating.

An official from Bhutan Telecom said that the poor data performance was mainly as a result of congestion due to the exponential growth of data users. “The ever growing number of data users per se is due to BT’s affordable tariffs and coverage,” said one of the officials.

He said that to address the problem in places like Olakha and Dechencholing areas as reported in the survey, the telco has upgraded and put in additional 3G equipment. In Taba, Bhutan Telecom has installed additional 3G sites in upper Taba and also installed additional 3G and 4G stations in Pamtsho.

To improve the service quality and decongest the 3G networks, Bhutan Telecom has implemented the 4G LTE on a full throttle basis. The official said that the initiative would in turn improve the voice network.  For the voice network, the telco is adding extra 2G Base Transceiver Stations (BTS).

The official said that at times there are some call drops in certain locations caused due to various factors such as power failure, fluctuations in radio and technical faults, among others. And also as a BTS in a location has maximum and minimum capacities, there will be congestion if users exceed the maximum capacity due to floating users, he added.

BT today has around 424,000 subscribers. TashiCell on the other hand has almost half BT’s total subscribers. Tashi Tshering said that the people’s notion on higher users corresponding to weaker network is not true.

He said that with a larger customer base, telcos can generate larger revenue resulting in more investment on infrastructure and equipment to improve the network. “Currently for both TashiCell and Bhutan Telecom the subscriber base is too small,” said Tashi Tshering. “Technology has huge capability. Even if we have 1 million subscribers in Thimphu alone, we should be able to cater to all these people. The more we have we can actually do better.”

As a cellular network operator in Bhutan, Tashi Tshering said the biggest challenge is having a small customer base. Now with the transition of cellular choice from voice to data, TashiCell is working towards enhancing its data network and establishing an ecosystem suitable for such demands.

“Until last year, our business was purely voice based. Now it is almost 50-50 and soon data is going to take over voice. Since last month we are getting more revenue from data than voice and slowly a major chunk of our revenue will come from data,” he said, adding that the operator has to now reconfigure its network to make it suitable for data services.

This year TashiCell has a capital outlay of about Nu 600 million in the pipeline to be invested for network improvement. The telco is also seeing an increasing number of subscribers at the rate of 20 percent annually.

Younten Tshedup