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Updated: 2 hours 11 min ago

LG members to resign in the last week of October

Sat, 09/25/2021 - 12:28

3,637 aspiring local leaders have registered for FLT

MB Subba 

The second local governments (LGs) will complete their terms in the last week of October.

The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) is preparing for the third gewog elections, which will be held on schedule with Covid-19 safety protocols. The LGs, as per the Election Act, should be reconstituted within 90 days from the date of their dissolution.

ECB’s secretariat director, Phub Dorji, said that all the local leaders would resign together and that a notification towards that end would be issued. “All local government members will resign in the last week of October,” he said, without revealing the date.

He said that the standard operating procedure (SOP) that was implemented in the recent parliamentary bye-elections and thromde elections would be followed.   

Officials and close observers say that more aspiring local leaders are expected to take part in the upcoming LG elections than in the previous elections. One of the factors that are expected to increase the number of aspiring local leaders is the migration of many people to their villages amid the pandemic.

According to ECB, 3,637 aspiring local leaders, 724 of whom are female, have registered for the functional literacy test (FLT) that will be held on October 1.

An aspiring LG candidate must pass the FLT conducted by the ECB.

Executive director of the Center for Local Governance and Research (CLGR), Tharchen, said that incentives of local leaders are good enough to attract more educated and capable candidates than in the past elections.

“The pandemic is good for LG elections as we see many educated people back in the villages,” he said. He said that unlike in the past almost every chiwog is expected to have a candidate for the posts of gup and mangmi.

In most of the gewogs, two to three chiwogs nominated an aspiring gup in the past elections due to the lack of candidates.

Tharchen, who has carried out researches on the country’s local governments in the CLGR, said that compulsory quarantine protocol in southern dzongkhags and at the international border are expected to increase voter turnout as people would be discouraged to move to southern dzongkhags and go on pilgrimage in India during the winter months.

Tharchen said that it was also important for the ECB to create convenient mobile pooling booths and facilitate an easy postal ballot facility to increase voter turnout as the voter turnout in the past LG elections had been low.

The voter turnout in the second local government (LG) election in 2016 was 55.8 percent, which was a slight decrease from 56.23 percent in the first LG election.

Most of the dzongkhags have concluded their last dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) sessions of the second LG. However, a few dzongkhags, including Tsirang, are yet to conduct their last session.

Yalang gup and DT chairperson of Trashiyangtse, Chosum Wangdi, said that he was waiting for notification from the government on the completion of the term and the upcoming elections.

He said that LG members in his dzongkhag would complete their five-year term on October 29. LG’s five-year term commences from the first sitting of the local government session.

The gup also said that the number of candidates for LG posts was expected to increase. “I’m hearing that all the five chiwogs of my gewog will have candidates for the post of gup, which is good,” he said.

A gup said that a lot had been achieved in the past 10 years of elected local government in terms of development and that the main job of the future local governments would generally entail maintenance of the existing infrastructure.

He said that the future gewog governments should focus on joint projects that would benefit two or more gewogs in addition to the gewog-level projects.

Observers say that the number of young and educated voters has increased over the past five years and that it is likely to have some impact in terms of who will be elected in the upcoming elections.

The CLGR executive director said that the upcoming local governments must exercise the authority and functions given by the LG Act to reduce corruption and enhance budget utilisation. “Currently, LG members have not been able to exercise even 50 percent of their roles and functions as required by LG Act,” he said.

He said that the LG must prioritise investment of block grants in income and employment generating activities.

LGs today exercise greater flexibility in planning, budgeting and release of budgets. About 50 percent of the national budget is provided to local governments as block grants.

There are 205 gewogs and 1,044 chiwogs in the country. Elections of dzongkhag thromde thueme of dzongkhag towns would also be held along with the gewog elections.

The third thromde election in Samdrupjongkhar will also be held along with the gewog elections as the tenure of the present thromde tshogde will end in October, according to officials. Samdrupjongkhar thromde election was delayed in the first election due to the lack of candidates.

The ECB has notified that informal campaigning before the announcement of the election date is prohibited, saying that some of the aspiring candidates are carrying out informal election campaigning.

The commission notified that such campaignings would violate electoral laws and shall be dealt as per the electoral laws.

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LDCs call for more climate finance 

Sat, 09/25/2021 - 12:28

Staff Reporter 

UN Climate Change published a report last week highlighting the level of ambition of national climate plans from around the world. Following the report, the Least Development Countries (LDC) called for deep emission cuts and scaled-up climate finance.

The National Determined Contributions (NDC) synthesis report published last week, report on NDCs from all 191 Parties to the Paris Agreement, including the 86 new or updated NCDs communicated by 113 Parties.

NDCs are the efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The Paris Agreement–a legally binding international treaty on climate change–requires each party to prepare, outline and communicate their NDCs.

A press release from the LDCs group stated that while the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change mentioned that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will require the 2030 greenhouse gas emissions level to be a 45 percent reduction from the 2010 level, existing NDCs will instead lead the world to a 16.3 percent increase.

Chairperson of the LDCs group, Sonam P Wangdi, also secretary of the National Environment Commission, said that there remains a frightening gap between the current trajectory of global emissions, the emissions reductions planned, and the emissions reductions needed to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

He said: “Deeper emission cuts are urgently needed. This will require a swift, just transition away from fossil fuels and rapid changes across all aspects of society.”

According to the report published on September 17 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, climate finance in 2019 increased by 1.3 Billion from  USD 79.6 Billion in 2018.

However, the press release from the LCD group stated that climate finance mobilised by developing countries remains far short of commitments made.

Reports from United Nations Environment Programme show that adaptation costs in developing countries reach an estimate of USD 70 Billion annually.

International Institute for Environment and Development stated that the costs for LDCs to implement their climate action plans is close to USD 93.7 Billion every year.

Sonam P Wangdi said that over a decade ago, developed countries committed to mobilise USD 100 Billion in climate finance annually “but we are yet to see that delivered.”

He said: “Developed countries delivering on their decade-old commitment for climate finance to support vulnerable countries to adapt to climate change impacts, build resilience, address the loss and damage it causes, and leapfrog to low-carbon development pathways will be critical for building trust and accelerating the global response to climate change.”

Speaking at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on September 20, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering asserted the importance of supporting countries that are already affected on one hand and the need to assist and sustain countries that have made successful conservation efforts so far.

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Trucks ferrying boulders from Gelephu barred from plying via Meghalaya, India

Sat, 09/25/2021 - 12:27

Nima | Gelephu

Thirty-three trucks carrying boulders from Gelephu were stranded at the Assam-Meghalaya border in India for three weeks after being barred from entering Meghalaya on August 26.

The stranded vehicles offloaded their consignments on September 20 after waiting for more than 20 days.

Exporters said the boulders were sold at discounted rates, which did not even cover the expenses. They said they had to bear retention charges, which increased by the day and incurred losses in the millions.

They said exporters in Meghalaya stopped trucks carrying boulders from Bhutan before reaching Nakugaon in Bangladesh with the help of officials on duty along the Indian highways. 

According to exporters from Gelephu, the stopping of their trucks was a measure taken to prevent boulder export competition to Bangladesh, as boulders from Bhutan are sold at cheaper rates compared to boulders and aggregates from Meghalaya.

It is said that boulders from Bhutan were better quality than those exported from north-eastern India. 

Seven of 16 active boulder exporters exported boulders to Bangladesh until the trucks carrying boulders were stopped in August.

Boulder export from Gelephu had just picked up again after being idle for more than two years until the end of 2020. Transporters from India were allowed to carry boulders from Bhutan to facilitate export in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

An exporter, Chencho Gyeltshen, said that transporters from India take a 70 percent benefit from the boulder export to India, while Bhutanese exporters have only been able to secure a 30 percent benefit from the trade.

“Boulder export has turned into a political game. Exporters from Meghalaya sell their boulders to Bangladesh too. When our boulders hit the Bangladeshi market, their sales drop. We don’t know what they have conveyed to their government,” he said.

He added that it was difficult for the boulder trucks from Bhutan to pass Meghalaya, even after deploying transporters from India for export.

“Ours is an international trade and three nations have signed an agreement. However, only Bhutanese consignments are not allowed. We don’t know their real intentions behind this action,” Chencho Gyeltshen said.

Another exporter, Raju Upreti, said that trucks carrying boulders from Gelephu were stranded along the Indian highway, about 38 kilometers away from Dibru Reserve Forest in Meghalaya in early August.

He said an RCC bridge along NH-127B was found unsafe for heavy vehicles to ply. “The notification was issued on July 30, but exporters and transporters were not informed. Even the customs port at Dadhgari, India, was not notified.”

According to the exporter, all procedures of export were duly followed. “We were informed only after the vehicles reached the place in question and were stranded. The exporters tried to request help from the relevant authority but were unsuccessful.”

He said that after halting the vehicles for more than 10 days, transporters dumped the materials in Assam without any other option.

An alternative route to ply through the old route NH-51 was arranged by the Indian transporters until the RCC Bridge along NH-127b is repaired. A few consignments were sent on trial runs and successfully reached their destination.

Raju Upreti added that the local authority in Meghalaya withheld the second consignment of 33 trucks. “Importers from Bangladesh say that Meghalaya exporters still send overloaded Indian trucks. The quality of materials is inferior compared to ours. The main reason behind all these hindrances is that the boulder export from Meghalaya gets affected.”

Exporters said that there were several business prospects for the counterparts in Meghalaya to pursue in future. There were records of boulders and aggregates exported to Meghalaya in the past.

“Meghalaya exports coal and minerals to Bhutan. It is important that we support each other’s causes,” said an exporter.

Programme officer with Bhutan Export Association (BEA), Guru Wangchuk, said BEA is continually following up with the Ministry of Economic Affairs regarding an additional route for Gelephu region.

He said the current transit route through Meghalaya has not benefited the exporters. “Lhakimari or Sonarhut, if approved by the government of India, would be a better route for Gelephu exporters.”

He added that exporters were not able to continue their trade because the route to Bangladesh via Meghalaya is blocked for road widening and various other reasons.

“Exporters from Gelephu use a trade route via Tura district and the route was stopped for Bhutanese exporters because of road widening,” Guru Wangchuk said. “Bhutanese trucks were then diverted to Trikikila bypass but the trucks carrying boulders from Bhutan were stopped at Trikikila Bridge because of a crack in the bridge.”

However, exporters from Gelephu observed that the bridge is open to overloaded trucks and other heavy consignments, but closed only for Bhutanese consignments.

“The crack on the bridge has been there since at least 2018,” said Chencho Gyeltshen.

BEA has written to the deputy commissioner in Meghalaya, as well as the president of the North East Federation of International Trade regarding the road issues.

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Dairy farmers start first yoghurt production firm in Dagana

Sat, 09/25/2021 - 12:26

Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

With the support of the dzongkhag livestock sector, Tashiding Gonor Thoenkey Detsen in Dagana has ventured into commercial plain yoghurt production, which is the first of its kind in the dzongkhag.

Dagana’s deputy chief livestock officer, Pema Wangchuk, said that the 19-member dairy group was formed in 2014 to meet market demand for local milk, butter, and cheese.

He said a milk-collecting centre was established for the dairy group with the financial support of Nu 1.5 million (M) from the gewog budget.  “The dzongkhag provided dairy equipment such as display freezers and milk churning percolators.”

The group also received dairy product processing equipment like yoghurt incubators, milk analysers, cup sealer machines, thermometers, yoghurt crates, and yoghurt cups worth Nu 1.10 M to produce yoghurt from the dzongkhag economic development sector.

Members were trained for three days before launching the products. 

“The group has the capacity to produce 500 cups of yoghurt daily, which will require about 125 litres of milk. The yoghurt will be supplied to three schools for the day feeding programme, and to the local market within the dzongkhag,” Pema Wangchuk said.

According to him, the yoghurt is high in protein, calcium, and vitamins, and these can offer protection for bones, teeth, and help to prevent digestive problems. “Low-fat yoghurt can be a good source of protein for those pursuing weight loss, and may boost the immune system,” he said. 

Dagana dzongdag Duba, who inaugurated the firm, said that it would have direct benefits for farmers, students, and local consumers. “Farmers will have a ready market for the sale of milk, students will get fresh yogurt twice a week at a concessional rate, and local consumers will get yoghurt at a reasonable price.”

A cup of yoghurt (150ml) costs Nu 20 for the school feeding programme and Nu 25 for the public.

Once production is optimised, there are plans to export the products to other dzongkhags.

There are plans with the dzongkhag to open similar ventures in Gozhi and Kana gewogs.

The sales outlet is located below the Tashiding-Dagapela highway.

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Let Climate Change not slide this time

Sat, 09/25/2021 - 12:26

The National Determined Contributions (NDC) synthesis report, published last week, reports on NDCs from all 191 Parties to the Paris Agreement. NDCs are the efforts by each State to cut national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. 

The Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change, requires each State to prepare, outline and communicate its NDCs. 

While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change mentions that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will require the 2030 greenhouse gas emissions level to be a 45 percent reduction from the 2010 level, existing NDCs will instead lead the world to a 16.3 percent increase. 

A frightening gap between the current trajectory of global emissions, the emissions reductions planned, and the emissions reductions needed to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, international experts say. 

The emissions cuts need to be bigger, deeper. 

Bhutan’s second NDC outlines our raised climate ambition and reiterates our commitment to remain carbon neutral. It charts a path to enhance its mitigation targets and actions through sectoral Low Emission Development Strategies (LEDS) and National REDD+ Strategy and Action Plan 2020. But we have problems in hand. 

Despite the pandemic, the import of vehicles increased by five percent last year to 112,058 vehicles in December 2020 from 106,681 in December 2019. The concentration of vehicles has crossed beyond the urban areas into the rural pristine villages.  Unless we arrest this dangerous trend soon, the carbon budget we have would run out in the next few decades. 

The electric vehicle movement has remained at the pilot project phase. Besides, the chronic problems at Punatsangchhu hydropower project I (PHPA I) delaying its completion, a clearance issue has stalled a mega solar project in Shingkhar, Bumthang. 

We are experiencing acute shortage of drinking water in many villages across the country. Our perennial springs are drying. Insects, birds and wild animals are finding new homes in colder areas, posing new challenges to conservation and livelihoods of the localities. 

We have larger and frequent landslides, flash floods, and crop damage due to extreme weather events. The countermeasures must be taken swiftly, funds have to come now. 

According to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, climate finance in 2019 increased by 1.3 Billion from  USD 79.6 Billion in 2018. However, the climate finance mobilised by developing countries remains far short of commitments made. 

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering made Bhutan’s stand clear. The international community needs to recognise the importance of supporting countries that are already affected on one hand and the need to assist and sustain the countries that have made successful conservation efforts so far on the other. 

The United Nations Climate Change Conference scheduled to take place in Glasgow, the UK this November is where the developed countries must honour commitments they made a decade ago. 

We can forge ahead only through our collective efforts. Left to a few, no matter how strong their will, the cause will suffer irreparably. 

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Sexual harassment or attempt to rape

Sat, 09/25/2021 - 12:25

The recent report of sexual harassment has caused serious concerns among many employees in the various sectors whether government, private, corporate, or other forms of workplaces.  This is one of the first but will not be the last. It is time employers in the country strengthened workplaces to protect vulnerable employees and mechanisms to report any sort of harassment. 

In Bhutan, the Labour and Employment Act (LEA) 2007 governs the private and corporate sector while Civil Service Act, 2010 (CSA) governs the civil service. Section 16 to 19 of LEA prohibits all forms of sexual harassment and defines sexual harassment as “making an unwelcome sexual advance or an unwelcome request for sexual favours to the other person; or engaging in any other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to the other person.”   The penalty for sexual harassment is a criminal offence attracting a petty misdemeanour and fine up to 3,000 days in based on minimum national wage.

Similarly, Section 38 (g) of the CSA states that a civil servant shall not “engage in sexual harassment which is further emphasized under Rule 3.3.14 of Bhutan Civil Service Rules, 2018 and defines sexual harassment as an “unwelcome verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature that affects working conditions or creates a hostile work environment.”  Section 205 of Penal Code of Bhutan (PCB) makes sexual harassment a criminal offence and defines it as “unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal abuse of sexual nature.” But the penalty is only “petty misdemeanour” which means the maximum of less than one year.

However, the current penalties, both administrative and criminal, are inadequate and there is complete lack of mechanisms to adequately compensate victims and take care of them including counselling services in the country. 

UN Women reported that in 2020, globally, an estimated 736 million women reported some form of sexual violence of which few than 40 percent of victims sought help and less than 10 percent sought the help of police. These are mostly in the least developed countries. 

To address sexual harassment and violence, International Labour Organization (ILO) in June 2019 adopted the Violence and Harassment Convention to “set out a common framework to prevent and address violence and harassment, based on an inclusive, integrated and gender-responsive approach.”

ILO further said sexual harassment can therefore encompass a range of behaviours and practices of a sexual nature, such as unwanted sexual comments or advances, jokes, displaying pictures or posters objectifying women, physical contact or sexual assault.” Research revealed that “sexual harassment has a direct effect on employers and the global economy” as it affects productivity, increase employee turnover, low morale, and legal costs stemming from sexual harassment.” 

In closer reading, the Bhutan Power Corporation case states that “when she woke up and saw the director, he allegedly held her from behind.” She “pleaded with him and told him she needed to go to the toilet, he ordered her to shut her mouth.” This seems to be more than harassment.

Possibly, it was an attempt to rape, because she was threatened and if she did not wake up, he could have raped her.

Reports also suggested BPC refused to lodge the complaint due to their internal rules and she was also discouraged from reporting to the police.  Since both sexual harassment and attempt to rape are criminal offences, failure to report to law enforcement agencies is also a criminal offence under the PCB.  

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.

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SC closes curtain on Samdrupjongkhar Zangdopelri case

Sat, 09/25/2021 - 12:24

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar

The Supreme Court (SC) upheld the High Court’s judgement on Zangdopelri land dispute in Samdrupjongkhar on September 20.

It also ordered the plaintiff and defendant to enforce the district court’s judgment on the case within three months.

Samdrupjongkhar thromde appealed to the SC after the High Court’s larger bench ordered them to compensate Nu 27,987,842.19 to the caretaker of the Zangdopelri in the heart of Samdrupjongkhar town, Thinley Dorji.

Thinley Dorji was the main coordinator during the Zangdopelri construction and had taken care of the properties.

The dispute started after the National Land Commission directed Thinley Dorji to surrender the Zangdopelri land to the thromde as the land did not belong to him.

He then filed a case against the thromde in 2015.

The court judgment ordered Thinley Dorji to surrender the land with the Zangdopelri and two double-storied buildings to the thromde administration.

The compensation was as per Thinley Dorji’s claims for the expenses incurred while constructing the Zangdopelri, two buildings, walls, a butter lamp house, and land tax.

Thinley Dorji had also appealed to the SC as he was also not satisfied with the judgement when the court ordered him to hand over the properties to the thromde because he had been taking care of it for so long.

Thromde’s legal officer, Tshering Chophel, said the thromde administration as a local authority was following due process of the law and wanted to verify the actual owner of the land.

He said the thromde never wanted the land or had any interest to own it. “We are also not the competent authority to pay the compensation. We are just following the order as an implementing agency.”

He said the Zangdopelri was built as per the special culture committee and the then Kidu lyonpo’s (home minister) order in the 1980s for public purposes and not to benefit a private individual or entity.

According to Tshering Chophel, the order also stated that the Zangdopelri will be handed over to the government after construction. “Thinley Dorji was asked to supervise the construction and there was nothing mentioned about giving him the land ownership. We don’t know why he didn’t hand over the Zangdopelri to the government.”

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Eat well: YBN

Sat, 09/25/2021 - 12:24

Staff Reporter 

The Youth Bhutan Network (YBN) sensitised 150 Class X students of Changzamtog Middle Secondary School (CMSS) and adolescents in Thimphu about the importance of eating “correctly” for one’s health and the environment’s on the International Youth Day on September 21.

This year’s International Youth Day theme was “Transforming Food System: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health”.

According to the Youth Centre Division, Department of Youth and Sports (DYS) of the education ministry, the initiative’s objective was to have older youth talk to the adolescents using the peer approach to give them some variety from the usual method of teachers teaching them and becoming a part of an academic assessment.

The students were sensitised on food sources, major nutrients from foods, eating habits, unhealthy diets, junk foods, food packaging or labelling, its impact on the health and environment, food waste, and how to reduce food waste.

The participants pledged to reduce food waste, eat less junk foods, encourage their friends to cut down on consumption of junk foods, and reduce the use of plastic.

The programme would be followed up by activities to track the eating habits of adolescents to design and implement interventions accordingly.

The event also saw the signing of MoU between the YBN and CMSS as an agreement to continue their partnership in addressing adolescent’s and young people’s concerns.

The YBN intends to continue the sensitisation to all the students in a phased manner before the end of the academic year.

The event was attended by two members from the Youth Peer Education Network (Y-PEER),Bhutan Sharing and Loving Youth Group, and two groups from the YBN.

The YBN is a platform for Youth-led Groups to network and work together, established in 2015 with the support of UNICEF and DYS and has 12 youth groups.

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Understanding Carbon and Climate Change Mitigation

Sat, 09/25/2021 - 12:23

Carbon Stock

The amount of carbon absorbed from the atmosphere and currently stored in the forest in the form of biomass and soil organic carbon is carbon stock.  As per the National Forest Inventory, the total carbon stock of Bhutan is about 645 million tonnes of carbon in the form of biomass carbon and soil organic carbon (SOC). The protection of the existing forest area will prevent releasing 645 million tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere. 

Carbon Sequestration 

Forest carbon sequestration is the process of absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by forest vegetation annually. This sequestered carbon is stored in the forest in living biomass, litter and soil and contributes to the accumulation of carbon stock. As per the National Foret Inventory (NFI) report and as reported in the third national Communication (TNC) of Bhutan to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Bhutan’s forests sequester 9.4 million tonnes of CO2 at the rate of 3.4 tonnes of CO2 per ha of forests. The carbon is sequestered through the process of growth of forest, conservation of existing forest, increasing the forest area through plantations and improving the forest growth through sustainable management of forests. For eg. If there are no disturbances in the forests such as removal of trees or forest fires, then forests of Bhutan sequestering 9.4 million tonnes of CO2, will be stored in the Carbon stock, thus increasing the stock. Sequestration rates were determined based on the national data (NFI) and national biomass equations for the first time.

Carbon Emission 

Forest carbon emission is the process of release of carbon dioxide from the forest and other sectors. The activities such as the conversion of forest land into non-forest land (deforestation), harvesting of timber and forest fires release carbon dioxide in the forest sector. As per the TNC of Bhutan to the UNFCCC, the total emissions from all sectors (Energy, Industrial Processes and Product Use (IPPU), Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) & Waste) for Bhutan was 3.81 million tonnes of CO2e in 2015. (All Green Houses Gases are ultimately converted and reported as CO2 equivalent, so is reported as CO2e). 

Carbon Neutrality and Carbon Negative

Carbon neutrality means that the amount of carbon sequestration from the atmosphere and carbon emission into the atmosphere are equal. If the amount of carbon sequestered is more than the carbon emitted, then the country is a carbon negative. In 2015, our total carbon emission was 3.81 million tonnes of CO2e annually and forest sequestered 9.4 million tonnes of CO2. This makes Bhutan carbon negative with -5.6 million tonnes of CO2 sequestration in 2015 and this is known as the remaining carbon budget for Bhutan. 

Carbon Emission and Sequestration baselines under the REDD+ mechanism

Under the UNFCCC mechanism, developing countries are encouraged to reduce CO2 emissions from forests and increase sequestration of CO2 from the atmosphere under the mechanism known as REDD+ (Reducing emission from Deforestation and forest Degradation and role of conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable forest management and enhancement of forests carbon stock). The REDD+ is a result-based mechanism, where developing countries are expected to be compensated for reducing emissions and increase sequestration. Under this mechanism, Bhutan has developed the baseline for emission from forest sector through deforestation (which is the loss of forests land to developmental activities) known as Forest Reference Emission Level (FREL), and sequestration of CO2 which is Forest Reference Level (FRL). The FREL & FRL of Bhutan was submitted to UNFCCC, which was assessed technically by experts of UNFCCC and is now available online in UNFCCC. FREL and FRL were submitted to strengthen Bhutan’s position and commitment under its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) by revalidating the forest cover, instituting a system to quantify and monitor carbon stocks and establishing a benchmark for tracking its performances in terms of forest conservation and management. The baseline for emission from forests of Bhutan is 505,837 tonnes of CO2e, while the net sequestration capacity is 8,539,085 tonnes of CO2 (8.5 million tonnes = 9.4 million tonnes – emissions through harvesting of timber and forest fires. Therefore, 8.5 million tonnes is the net sequestration capacity). 

These baseline references will be applicable if Bhutan decides to participate in the result-based payment under the international REDD+ mechanism. For Bhutan to be eligible for the payment, the emission (FREL) should be below 505,837 tonnes CO2 and the sequestration should be more than 8,539,085 tonnes CO2 per annum as the payment is only for emission reduction from the FREL or additional sequestration from the FRL baseline (additionality). Therefore, for every area of deforestation under the FREL, an equivalent area of forest will need to be re-planted to compensate for the sequestration under the FRL. 

Carbon Neutrality and Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement (PA) is a legally binding international treaty on climate change adopted in 2015, where countries who signed the agreement, pledged to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. Towards achieving this target, countries should ensure measures to reduce their emissions, increase carbon sequestration and become carbon neutral through their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies (LT-LEDS). Bhutan is also a party to Paris Agreement and pledged to remain carbon neutral in 2009, with further commitment through the first and second NDC to the UNFCCC. 

Opportunities for remaining Carbon Neutral

In line with the Paris Agreement conditions, we are in a better position as we are already carbon neutral (in fact negative). However, records (1st national communication, second national communication and current third national communication as well as the FREL and FRL of Bhutan) shows an increasing trend of emissions from all sectors (Energy, Industrial Processes and Product Use (IPPU), Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) & Waste), including the forestry sector (due to loss of forest lands, forest fires, increasing harvesting of timbers). Therefore, opportunities are there to maintain the current carbon budget and keep on remaining carbon negative, fulfilling carbon-neutral pledge and NDC. 

The opportunities are of two ways: Firstly, conserve and manage the forests of Bhutan to ensure sequestration capacity is maintained. Forests are the cornerstone of the carbon neutrality pledge and therefore, protection and sustainable management of forests should be first priority. Forests destruction will mean forests will become a source of CO2. For instance, as per the FREL and FRL of Bhutan study, one hectare of forest stores about 624 tonnes of CO2. If this forest is deforested, all of this CO2 will be released into the atmosphere. On the contrary, one hectare of new plantation absorbs only about 3.4 tonnes of CO2 per year and would take about 183 years to replenish the 624 tonnes of CO2 stored in the existing forests. One hectare of forests protected and managed also means sequestration of 3.4 tonnes of CO2 per year. The FREL and FRL report also show emission of 0.04 tonnes of CO2 for every cubic foot (cft) of timber harvested. Therefore, we have opportunities to invest in conserving and sustainably managing the forests and also ensuring every cft of timber harvested is utilized to the full potential (reduce wood waste). Forest loss can be prevented by ensuring minimum disturbances to the forests while carrying out any developmental activities. Having a good forest cover not only reduce emissions and increase sequestration of CO2 (known as mitigation of climate change), it can also be a safety cushion against the impacts of climate change such as floods, landslides, windstorms and loss of crops, which is known as adaptation towards climate change. Additionally, forests provide various ecosystem services, which are not accounted for such as regulation of water flow, which is used downstream for hydropower generation, drinking water and/or irrigation. The valuation study done by the Department of Forests and Park Services shows an annual contribution of more than 1 billion USD by the forests of Bhutan in the form of various ecosystem services. This is the used value of ecosystem services benefitting the Bhutanese, whereas the potential value could be more than 15 billion USD as reported by other studies. 

The second opportunity is the reduction of emissions from other sectors. There are investments around clean and green technologies with researches in full swing to develop technologies to reduce emissions. Bhutan can also benefit from these processes and these opportunities should be availed (although might be expensive at the start but that’s the trend and future and if we stay back, we will be left behind). We can with few things like replacing the cookstoves in the schools with clean stoves (electrical or solar stoves) or install solar panels for heating purposes in schools. The recently submitted 2nd NDC of Bhutan to UNFCCC as part of the Paris Agreement details the various measures in line with reducing the emissions. There are a number of strategies developed by different sectors but yet to be implemented due to lack of financial means. Therefore, before it is too late, there is an opportunity for a coordinated effort to secure financing as well as technological resources, and Bhutan can benefit from this process.   

Contributed by 

Dr Jigme Tenzin, Thimphu

The views expressed are of the individual’s opinion and not of the agency.

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Confidence in health workers key in sailing through Covid storm

Sat, 09/25/2021 - 12:23

Doctor who treated the first Covid-19 patient shares his experience

Younten Tshedup

March 5, 2020. It was a usual day at the national referral hospital in Thimphu. Dr Guru P Dhakal went homeafter attending to his patients.

At 1:30am, a phone call startled him out of sleep. He knew something was amiss. Unless an emergency occurred, the 54-year-old gastroenterologist would not be bothered past midnight. 

The hospital’s medical superintendent dropped the phone after a hurried conversation. 

“We have our first Covid-19 case and the patient has multiple pre-existing medical conditions. How should we go about managing him?” inquired the medical superintendent. 

Dr Dhakal had the answers. He told the superintendent to start with the usual antibiotics, aware of the complications. “We did not discuss any further management until the next morning when we convened a meeting to discuss the case.” 

Flashes of news clips and videos of people dying from coronavirus and doctors in China succumbing to the infection became vivid for the gastroenterologist. “Although the hospital was prepared to handle Covid cases, we did not anticipate our first cases to appear this early given the precautions the government had put in place.”

Next morning, Dr Dhakal said that as an infectious disease, Covid-19 case management fell on the Department of Medicine in absence of an infectious disease specialist. “We knew it would be our department that had to manage the positive patient but we had not decided who would go first.”

As the head of the medicine department, Dr Dhakal volunteered to manage the American patient himself. “As the HoD it was ethically not correct for me to ask someone else to attend the patient. Moreover, it was an opportunity for me to serve the nation when needed the most.” 

Not an easy task   

It was quite an experience for Dr Dhakal despite 29 years of experience under his coat. “Before I went to the isolation ward, I was scared because we had heard so many things about coronavirus,” he said.“I couldn’t tell my wife that I was going inside the Covid isolation ward. I later called her after we put the patient at the new isolation facility.” 

Dr Dhakal said that the initial apprehension and fear disappeared as he started treating the patient, donning the strenuous personal protective equipment (PPE) and the coverall gear. “We are all trained to do this. Knowing that Bhutan has one of the best quality PPEs available, and that if we use them properly, the risk of contracting the virus is very low. This gave me more confidence.”

Dr Dhakal was also tasked to inform the patient that he had tested positive for Covid-19, a disease that was wreaking havoc across the globe. “As I entered the isolation ward, the patient was gasping for breath and was not able to complete his sentences as we spoke. His condition was very bad.” 

To add to the difficulties, the initially identified Covid-19 ward at the old mother and child hospital was not the most ideal facility to keep patients and treat them. “The large hall was wide open and it was freezing cold at that time of the year.”

Dr Dhakal said that as the team was struggling to manage the patient, His Majesty The King had commanded the newly constructed eye hospital at the JDWNRH campus to be turned into a Covid-19 hospital. “This was a huge blessing for all of us there.” 

After much struggle, men and machines were installed at the new isolation ward that had an intensive care unit (ICU) facility. However, the patient showed no signs of improvement. Finally, on the fifth day after testing positive for the virus, he was put on a ventilator.

After a few days, the patient was airlifted from Paro international airport to his country, America. 


A collective success     

Despite limited manpower and uncertainties surrounding the pandemic, Dr Dhakal said that the team of doctors, nurses, and other support staff successfully managed the first Covid-19 positive case in the country. 

 “We had a very wonderful team. Nurses did not shy away from doing extra hours of duty and doctors were equally involved in assisting the nurses. The cleaners without any fear did their job and the support from our colleagues outside was reassuring.”

The gastroenterologist said that with no specific guideline to treat Covid-19 patients, they were mostly treating just the symptoms. “If one medicine was recommended today, it did not work the next day, and some new medicine would be recommended.” 

While the team was struggling inside the isolation ward, the hospital management was equally worked out as none of the hoteliers were willing to volunteer their facilities as quarantine centres for the health staff managing positive patients.   

Dr Dhakal said that after the American patient was airlifted, his team was put up in the old hospital ward where they slept on the floor. “Because the structure was old, the bathroom was leaking, the lone heater was not heating the room enough.”

A few days later, one of the hotels in Thimphu agreed to house the health workers at their facility.    


Improved for better 

More than 18 months after having dealt with the first-ever Covid-19 patient, Dr Dhakal said that things have improved. “Hospital staff are no longer scared of going inside the Covid ward and treating patients. This is because we have become more systematic today and we all know what we should do when a new patient comes in.”

He added that health workers are confident in managing patients as facilities have improved and drugs and equipment have become readily available. “The guidelines are much clearer now and many other things have also improved for the better.”    

In the event of a major outbreak in the country following a possible third wave of the pandemic in India, Dr Dhakal said that the health system in the country is prepared. “We have trained all our doctors on Covid management and have also identified adequate facilities to accommodate patients should there be an outbreak.” 

“Most importantly, it is the confidence we have in our health workers that gives us the assurance that Bhutan will do better than the majority of the countries in handling this pandemic.”

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Raising resilient children, one banner at a time

Sat, 09/25/2021 - 12:22

Jigme Wangchuk

Mental illness is not, never has been, and never will be a choice,” Said Natalie Esarey, a Thought Catalog journalist, in an article titled Mental Illness Is Not A Choice — But Recovery Is. “In the same way that no one would wake up one day and choose to have cancer or diabetes, no one would wake up and decide they wanted to be depressed, anxious, bipolar, schizophrenic, suffer from an eating disorder … But no matter which way you shape or turn the hell that is being mentally ill—one thing remains. And that is this; it is NOT a choice.”

On Tuesday, September 21, the Media Club of Yangchenphug Higher Secondary School in Thimphu was organising a banner competition themed “Develop Mental Toughness—‘Your Mental Health, Your Priority’”.

Close to 40 banners on cyber security and mental resilience were put up on the wall. Some were artfully hung between the massive prayer wheels at the school’s lhakhang. Information and designs were put together so masterfully that judges had a hard time choosing the best among the banners. Such meeting and marriage of creativity and exuberance!

But the best was yet to come. Each student who walked the audience from outside and their peers through the banners did it with passion and confidence rarely seen in high school students that their own teachers were left amazed and inspired. You could see the approving smile and pride beaming on the face of Yesh B Ghalley, the school’s principal.

Bhutan is witnessing a rapid rise of conflict among children and their parents which gives rise to stress. These conflicts, psychiatrist Dr D K Nirola in his article in Kuensel titled Parents-children conflict: A reflection, “are leading to various behaviour issues in children and young adults. Youth are seen to be frustrated, depressed, anxious and at times outrightly violent against themselves.”

In his analysis, young people in the country seem to be increasingly losing psychological resilience. “They don’t seem to be able to accept anything which is beyond their liking. They seem to be all the time rebellious against parents, teachers and society at large.  We are facing a big challenge of frustrated and angry new generation.”

A psychological anthropological study could come in handy. But even as we recognise the need for such a crucial research, we seem to not have the capacity to initiate or undertake the task. A study has found that even though some measures are put in place to battle mental illness, suicide is already among the six biggest killers in the country. According to Suicide Prevention in Bhutan — A Five-Year Action Plan 2018-2023, for every 1.5 deaths by suicide there is one suicide attempt recorded.

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Since the Ministry of Health began recording deaths by suicide in 2013, there has been an average of 73 suicides cases per year, or six suicide death a month. And Bhutan’s 12 per 100,000 completed suicide rate is higher than the global average of 11.4 percent per 100,000 population per year. More than 56 percent of suicide occurs among 18-35 year old, the most productive age group.

Showing the visitors around, Deepa Rai of XII Arts C, said: “Such events are very important to help us open up and talk about our stress and mental well-being.”

Deepa’s friend Tsheyang Choden of XII Science D agrees. She said that early interventions are critically necessary: “Schools should have more experienced counsellors. We might have any number of counsellors but if they can’t address the needs of the children, all our efforts to fight the growing mental health issues in the count could go in vain. At a time when parents and teachers prioritise children’s academic excellence and achievements above all else, we need to build a strong support system to raise resilient children.”

Stress can come when families are always on the go. With rapid development and change, Bhutanese families are increasingly living busier and overscheduled lives. In such environments, mental health experts say that children and teens need to develop strengths, should be equipped with skills to cope and recover from hardships. Resilience in this sense is being prepared to face the challenges on the wayto bounce back and sail through.

“Schools should have mental health class, the lack of which I feel is giving rise to an alarming number of mental cases in the country,” said XII Commerce B student, Sonam Yoezer. “Children, youth in the main, could otherwise become less and less resilient. And that is both a sad and serious social malady.”

For Tandin Samphel of XII Science C, organising the programme itself helped them release their stress and tension.

“Breaking the taboo associated with mental health is critically important, now more than ever when children and adults alike are exposed to and bombarded with so much information,” said Karma Tashi of XII Science B. “There is a need for us, particularly children, to build resilience to navigate through the complex maze of pressure and expectations. Parents, teachers and elders have a huge role to play.”

When the last bell tolls and children scuttle out of class to catch their bus home, Drawn from Natalie Esarey’s 2017 article, the theme of the banner brings us back to the powerful statement: Mental Illness Is Not A Choice — But Recovery Is. What this means is that recovery could sometimes take time but there should always be a conscious decision to fight and not be a victim of mental illness.

And there, a school can do so much more to guide, educate and raise resilient children.

“That’s exactly what we are trying to do here today in our small ways,” says Kusum Latha Sharma, head of the school’s media department.

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Vendors in zones hope business picks up

Sat, 09/25/2021 - 12:20

Yangyel Lhaden  

It was not what they expected after authorities  convinced them. While  vegetable vendors in the zones are filling up gradually, vendors say business is far from what they expected.

Thimphu Thromde constructed eight minor and six medium vegetable markets around the thromde starting from Dangrina in the north to the IT park in the south.

Vendors said people are not aware of the vegetable outlets and wants the  thromde to market the sheds by installing  signboards and advertise the markets, as many people do not know about it which could be the reason for poor customer turn out.

Of the 17 counters in a medium vegetable market in Changidaphu only four are occupied by three vegetable vendors and a meat vendor.

A vegetable vendor in Changidaphu said she was running on loss. Her counter is half-filled with a few varieties of vegetables and some home made pickles. She said that she stopped restocking since there were no  customers.

Another vendor in Changidaphu said that she got into vending vegetables to support her family after she got separated from her husband. “ My only hope is with time the business would pick up.”

Monthly rents for vegetable counters in Changidaphu is Nu 1,600 whereas medium vegetable markets in other zones are between Nu 3,300 and Nu 3,700. Thimphu Thromde reduced the rent in Changidaphu as the construction of Changidaphu road is hampering business.


Vendors have begun to cut down on display and stock

Location matters: Shops find no reason to open where customers can’t and don’t come

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A meat vendor, Anub Kumar said he was requesting thromde to reduce his rent as well. “ I don’t get rent concession. I pay Nu 20,213.”

A vendor in a minor vegetable market in Langjopakha has turned his vegetable counter into a storeroom and is vending from a private slot. A vendor, Pema Yuden in Langjopakha said she would sell for a year and would close her shop  if the business did not pick up.

Vendors in the Taba medium vegetable market have started to dry vegetables that are at risk of  getting spoilt. A vendor in Taba said they couldnot even sell half the amount of vegetables which was why we have started drying vegetables instead of dumping them.

Yeshi Dorji, a former worker with a tourism company said he was thankful to thromde for giving a chance for laid-off workers like him to venture into new business. “Business is challenging. I can hardly meet the cost price today but I know when pandemic is over the business will pick up.”

A vendor in the Zilukha minor vegetable market has given up his slot.

A vendor in a minor vegetable market in Dangrina said she regrets giving up her spot in the Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM). She said her slot at the CFM was given to a new vendor. “Most people in Dangrina have a kitchen garden and seldom buy vegetables.”

She said considering the location thromde could lower the rent in Dangrina like in Changidaphu. The rent in Dangrina’s vegetable market is Nu 4,022.

Two CFM vendors are also vending from a minor vegetable market in Chang Ziri. Tshering Yangdon vending from Chang Ziri said that she was told that vendors in the zones coud sell fruits, vegetables, and meat.  She bought a freezer.

She said she was not allowed to sell meat without a licence. “I paid Nu 25,000 for the freezer. I should be at least allowed to sell frozen meat.”

Tshering Yangdon, a vendor in Chang Ziri said people preferred to do weekly shopping from the CFM and only came to the zone markets when they were in short supply of certain vegetables during the week.

However, the business is good in medium Lungtenphug zone market where there are 15 counters – 13 vegetable counters, a meat counter, and a sales outlet of Bhutan Livestock Development.

A vendor in Lungtenphug said their only problem was the lack of parking space.

Vendors at the Olakha temporary vegetable market which was shifted to zone market in Jungshina vegetable market was unhappy when they first started business in Jungshina, but today, the vendors said their business is slowly picking up.

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Apple growers turn to Bhutan Agro as export options grow slim

Thu, 09/23/2021 - 15:14

Chhimi Dema 

Finding it difficult to sell their apples and with lower export prices this year, farmers are selling apples to Bhutan Agro Industries Limited (BAIL) at Nu 20 per kilogramme (kg).

Although the company buys apples from farmers every year, they had to buy more this year to create a market for the farmers.

Over a period beginning in August through September 20, Bhutan Agro has purchased 432 metric tonnes (MT) of apples out of a targeted figure of 519MT.

General manager of Bhutan Agro’s support department for farmers, Kezang Tshering, said the purchase this year will exceed their target.

He said farmers are bringing both export quality and ‘reject’ apples, which do not meet export quality, for sale this year. “We are planning to buy 200MT more than the set target.”

Kezang Tshering said that the company has a social mandate and will buy produce if farmers bring it for sale.

In 2020, BAIL’s annual purchase target was 800MT, but they could only buy 205MT due to low apple production that year.

Most of the apples are used to produce juice or mixed fruit jam.

Farmer Sonam, 60, from Dawakha in Paro, said that before, the farm sold only the “reject” apples to Bhutan Agro. “The apples that we are selling today are second-grade apples that we usually export to India.”

He brought 45 sacks of apples that weighed 30 to 50kg.

Sonam said Nu 20 a kg is selling the produce at a loss, but it is better to have a market than to let the apples spoil and go to waste at home.

Another farmer from Dawakha, Kinley, said that he would fetch about Nu 140,000 from Bhutan Agro for the approximately 7,000kg of apples he brought to sell.

“From one sack of apples, I might earn a profit of Nu 50,” he said, adding that the earnings a year ago was more than Nu 200,000 for 7,000kg.

Kinley said the export price this year is not good. He explained, “While exporting, we have to buy crates for packaging and bear the transportation cost. Those amount to extra expense and losses.”

About a year ago, a box of apples for export earned more than Nu 1,500, whereas today it might earn Nu 600 to Nu 900.

Rather than bearing the export cost, he said, it has been more profitable to sell to Bhutan Agro.

Some of the farmers sold good quality apples using social media and brought “reject” apples to Bhutan Agro.

According to the Agriculture Statistics 2020, a total of 4,056MT of apples was produced last year. Paro and Thimphu produced 88 percent of the total production. Paro produced 2,790MT of apples, while Thimphu produced 767MT.

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BHSL manufactures turbines

Thu, 09/23/2021 - 15:13

The manufacturing plant is fully equipped with local expertise

Nima | Gelephu

Bhutan Hydropower Service Limited (BHSL) in Jigmeling, Sarpang has started manufacturing runners ( turbines) for the hydropower plants in the country and also for the hydropower projects in India and Turkey.

The hydropower service centre is currently manufacturing two Pelton runners for the Tala hydropower plant, of which one would be ready by the end of this year. It takes almost one year to manufacture a turbines.

BHSL manufactured two different types of turbines to date.

Hydropower projects in the country imported hydro-mechanical equipment in the past incurring huge transportation and other costs.

Construction of hydropower projects is expected to be faster with BHSL having a fully equipped manufacturing plant, manned by local engineers and experts.

Interim CEO of the company, Pelden Drukpa, said that manufacturing of runners started in 2018 and dispatched a turbine for Basochhu hydropower plant in Wangdue in 2020.

“In the past, all these services were imported. We’re happy that we can do it ourselves now. We’re retaining money within the country,” he said.

He added that the equipment would be cheaper and of better quality, as the machines of the plant are operated by Computerised Numerical Control (CNC) system – a computerised manufacturing process.

A cost of one turbine comes around Nu 100 million.

“We also have skilled manpower and welders qualified for all levels. The hydro components would be cheaper and supplied on time which would not affect the hydropower generation of the plants. We’re also able to build competency,” said Pelden Drukpa.

BHSL initially sought expertise from GE, one of its shareholders, in manufacturing the runners. Today, the company has its own team managing the plant.

BHSL started manufacturing runners for hydropower plants, four years after its establishment in 2014. The hydropower service centre also plans to manufacture other hydro-mechanical components.

Officials from BHSL said that the company is hopeful that they would get orders from the North-Eastern region.

BHSL could reclaim over 45 runners in a year and it takes at least three months to make one depending on the size of the runners.

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Thruebab day reflections

Thu, 09/23/2021 - 15:12

Thruebab, known popularly as Blessed Rainy Day, is upon us.

It is one of the important cultural events or festivals in Bhutan, celebrated with much fanfare and flourish in the eastern parts of the country. The celebration marks the end of monsoon. It is believed that on this day, blessings fall on earth’s waters.

That’s why in many parts of the Himalayas, thruebab is observed as a bathing and cleansing festival because of the healing powers of the water on this day when the sun enters the domain of Virgo and shines directly on the star Rishi for a week, which is believed to cleanse the impurities of water. 

However, because most celebrations in Bhutan can’t happen without alcohol, celebrations like thruebab can sometimes be dangerous. Archery is an integral part of any celebration. Games such as archery, khuru and degor so become fatal because of carelessness and too much drinks.  

Events and festivals give us our unique identity. We must celebrate them, but we must also be responsible while observing such events.

Travelling is never good while under the influence of alcohol. Playing games as part of the celebration is important but mindless consumption of alcohol can be dangerous. Such celebrations basically are supposed to be a close family event. And it is always better this way.

In such uncertain times as we live in today, the celebration itself can be a problematic affair. Large gatherings of people are not recommended because of the fast-spreading Covid-19 virus. While the celebrations must go on, we must always remind ourselves that adhering to the standing Covid protocols is critically important.

Let the blessed water give us strength and new opportunities. Let us find more reasons to celebrate our cultures and customs, but we must ensure that the festival and the celebrations do not become the reason for tragedies and sorrows.

Alcohol consumption is already one of the biggest health issues in the country. We spend millions every year in treating alcohol-related diseases. And the numbers continue to rise. Precious lives are lost needlessly.

On this festival day so, travel safe and enjoy the day with your loved ones so that we can celebrate such happy days for many more years to come in our lives.

Water scarcity worsens in Tsirangtoed 

Thu, 09/23/2021 - 15:11

Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

Without interventions to solve drinking water shortages for several years, Tsirangtoed residents say that their water woes have further worsened in the past year. 

According to residents, they get water once every three days, making it difficult to maintain cleanliness and sanitation. “It’s become particularly challenging because we require extra cleanliness during the current pandemic,” one said.  

With no new water sources in the gewog, about 180 households in Tsirangtoed are sharing water with the neighbouring gewog Phuentenchhu. Water taps remain dry most of the time, so people have resorted to collecting rainwater in containers for domestic use. 

Tsirangtoed resident Gangaram Sharma, 69, said that because water sources are drying up in Phuentenchhu as well, people have cut off Tsirangtoed’s water pipelines. The local leaders, he said, had to get involved and mediate to solve the disputes over water. “We need a water meter system to resolve the issue.” 

“Most of us have abandoned agricultural land. Without water, it’s too challenging and nothing grows,” said Gangaram Sharma, who claims that in the past, the gewog produced top quality rice. 

Lhakhang caretaker Sonam Tshering said that water scarcity has become acute in recent days, and it will be difficult to conduct events such as rituals and festivals in the community. 

A restaurateur near Tsirangtoed Central School said that he stores water in tanks. 

The shortage has particularly affected 60 households living adjacent to Tsirangtoed Central School.

Tsirangtoed Central School’s principal Yeshi said that the school is managing the water supply to the school with two alternate water lines: an old line from Phuentenchhu, and a new line from Semjong. 

However, he said that during the monsoon season, when the pipes break, the situation worsens.  “But we are managing for now.”

Tsirangtoed Gup Nar Bahdhur Rai acknowledged that water scarcity has been an existing issue in the gewog. However, as part of the Water Flagship Programme-approved project to connect over 180 households to a reliable drinking water supply in the gewog, a survey to locate water sources should be completed within the next three weeks. 

“We plan to resolve the issue as soon as possible,” the gup said. 

The water supply project is also expected to benefit residents of the Semjong and Phuentenchhu gewogs. 

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Advocacy workshop on Codex 

Thu, 09/23/2021 - 15:10

Phurpa Lhamo | Punakha

For formulations of international standards for the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) and to improve the capacity of the national experts to contribute to the national codex structure, a three-day training for over 35 individuals from various organisations began in Punakha September 20.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and WHO established the Codex Alimentarius or ‘Food Code’ in 1963 to develop harmonised international food standards that protect consumer health and promote fair practices in food trade.

Bhutan became a member state of the CAC in 1999.

Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority’s (BAFRA) director general, Tashi Samdup, said that CAC has various committees and BAFRA alone cannot contribute to the committees during the formulation of international food standards and related texts. “Therefore, the contribution from our local experts is extremely essential.”

Codex Advocacy Workshop  “Achieving leadership in the codex process” is one of the activities of the Codex Trust Fund phase two project, which began in 2019.

According to Codex Bhutan focal officer, Kubir N Bhattarai, a project between 2003 and 2013 also engaged participants from developing countries in Codex meeting.

He added that while the participants formulated international standards, the internal codex structure within Bhutan was still lacking. “Through the trust fund, our aim is to build the structure of the national codex structure. So one important thing is capacity building of all stakeholders and experts from relevant agencies because we want to involve them in Codex.”

Kubir N Bhattarai said that it is also important for Bhutan to contribute to the international standards to ensure that Bhutan’s concerns are raised. “Why is it important for us is now global trade is happening. So Codex’s basic standard is food safety and if we don’t meet that standard it will be difficult to ensure food safety inside the country, and it could pose difficulties in exporting  products because our products will not meet the standard of the international market.”

The workshop is part of Codex Trust Fund tripartite project for Bhutan, India and Nepal, with the goal to strengthen the function of National Codex Structures through effective engagement of all stakeholders in Codex activities and standard-setting process.

Kubir N Bhattarai said that through the current project, a Procedural Manual for the Codex Bhutan, which would guide the national codex structure, was also made.

BAFRA, he said, is in the process of developing a portal for the dissemination of information on Codex. “Third part of the project is establishing a codex office within BAFRA. Right now we do have Codex office but is manned by one or two. But we have established codex Bhutan secretariat.”

The project, funded by FAO and WHO through the Codex Trust Fund, is implemented by BAFRA.

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Solar water heating system benefits public institutions

Thu, 09/23/2021 - 15:09

Yangyel Lhaden

A 1,000 litre solar water heating system (SWHS) installed in 2018 at Bjishong Central School (BCS) in Gasa gave boarding students the luxury of bathing with hot water.

Until then, students had to bathe in cold water. 

A teacher at the school, Sonam Dukpa, said the health and hygiene of students were compromised during the winter months. “In Gasa, the temperature drops starting in October, and we cannot even wash our hands, the water is so cold.”

He said the school used to provide hot water for students when the student population was smaller. 

The SWHS in Bjishong School was installed as a part of the ‘Promotion of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficient Technologies in the Building Sector’ project.

Funded by the Austrian Development Agency, the project installed seven SWHS in public institutions in 2018 to produce the equivalent of 3 megawatt (MW) of energy by 2025, as targeted in The Alternative Renewable Energy Policy 2013.

In a second project phase taking place in 2021, the Department of Renewable Energy (DRE) under the Ministry of Economic Affairs is planning to install 25 SWHS in public institutions, 10 of which are commercial, and 10 residential. 

A DRE official said the SWHS for public institutions will be provided for free, whereas for commercial and residential properties, projects would cover 40 percent of the cost.

Meanwhile, in 2009, the government installed SWHS in a few public institutions.

The DRE official said most of the systems installed in 2009 are not currently functional today, due to a lack of technical knowledge amongst the implementers of the SWHS system, importers and dealers, as well as the users.

Lhakhang Karpo in Haa got a SWHS in 2009 that was operational for about six years. 

A student and coordinator of the SWHS in Lhakhang Karpo, Kinlay Dorji, said they did not know how to operate and maintain it.

He said the SWHS was very beneficial and the lhakhang is waiting for a new SWHS through the project, as its electricity bill during winter can amount to approximately Nu 100,000 with the use of 14 standard electric water heaters or geysers. “I received training on the operation and maintenance of SWHS from the project. It will not fail this time.”

A DRE official said in 2018, seven SWHS from 2009 were refurbished.

Jakar Higher Secondary School principal Ngawang Jamtsho said that as solar energy is dependent on weather, the school has also installed 14 geysers. 

He said currently only the boys’ hostel has a SWHS, and the school has applied for a second SWHS for the girls’ hostel.



A DRE official said even though Bhutan is a net carbon sink, its energy consumption produces the carbon dioxide in the largest quantities compared to other greenhouse gases, with annual emissions reaching 260.31 gigagrams (Gg). Most of these emissions come from burning firewood for heating purposes. 

He said the negative environmental impact of SWHS is very limited because the manufacturing and production of solar thermals does not involve dealing with hazardous substances, and the systems are easy to recycle.

He stated that the use of SWHS is a step in the right direction to achieve energy security, because Bhutan is excessively dependent on a single resource of energy, namely, hydropower. 

However, he said there are barriers in promoting SWHS, due to an absence of policy and strategy for adoption of renewable energy in Bhutan, and a lack of confidence in renewable technologies. 

The official said the main objective of the SWHS project is to promote renewable technologies and energy efficiencies to address the issues confronting the promotion of SWHS.

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First woman boxer opens boxing studio for inclusive boxing

Thu, 09/23/2021 - 15:07

Thinley Namgay

Driven by her passion for boxing, Tandin Lhamo, 23, from Dagana, who is a student of Royal Thimphu College, opened a boxing studio in Thimphu recently.

As the first woman boxer in the country, she joined the Bhutan Boxing Federation in 2015 and participated in various national and international tournaments.

She won bronze medals from the South Asian Games and the first Indramaya Memorial Boxing Tournament in Nepal in  2019.

Sharing how she faced difficulty of living up to the expectations of her trainers and while undergoing training with male boxers since it is a male-dominated sport, Tandin Lhamo said her objective for opening the studio is to make boxing inclusive and encourage women to take up the sports.

“Boxing is a part of self-defence and it builds self-confidence,” she said. “Boxing makes me independent.”

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Tandin Lhamo aspires to impart her skills to her enthusiasts and ensure they are physically and mentally fit. She also wants to generate employment for youth and inspire women.

She has 40 clients, mostly women, who undergo coaching for four hours daily in the evenings.

The second year college student pursuing Bachelor in Business Administration said she had to manage time for both studies and coaching. “But my studies would enhance my business in the long run.”

She said she dedicated all her time and energy to boxing. “I want to inspire young individuals and provide a platform to train and become successful boxers under my guidance.”

Besides boxing, Tandin is also into marathons and cycling, which she said compliments her boxing career.

According to her, boxing is fun, fulfilling and rewarding. “You will get beaten and lose your first sparring session. Your shoulders, body, and everything will hurt. You’ll be bruised and battered but you will enjoy it.”

Tandin Lhamo said it is important for parents to support their children’s dreams. “Children have different ambitions.”

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Clash of the champions for the glory

Thu, 09/23/2021 - 15:06

The league ends on October 2

Thinley Namgay  

As the ongoing BoB Bhutan Premier League enters its final week of the season, the race to the top is between two former champions — Thimphu City FC (defending) and Paro FC. 

With 42 points, the Cityzens are on the top of the table, a point ahead of the Tigers, as of yesterday. While Thimphu City have one final game to play, Paro FC have two.  

Observers say the match on October 2 at Woochu Sports Arena in Paro would decide the victors of the tournament. The Tigers will host Cityzens in the final game of the season in Paro. The two teams shared a point each (1-1) when they last met in June.

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In the meantime, the Tigers will take on Gelephu FC in their home ground today. Despite the home advantage, should Paro FC lose against the visitors, they will still be in the race for the championship. However, Paro FC would then have to win against Thimphu City on October 2. A draw or win for Thimphu FC will be enough to retain the championship. 

Paro FC’s head coach, Puspalal Sharma said: “For now, we are focused on our game against Gelephu FC. However, we are definite that we are going for the big match against Thimphu City FC, and it would be an all-out battle for both the teams.”

He said that the draw between Thimphu City and Transport United was an opportunity for his team and that he was expecting a win against Gelephu. “If Paro defeats Gelephu, my team just has to manage a draw against City.” 

The winner and runners-up of the season will be awarded a cash prize of Nu 2 million (M) and Nu 0.8M, respectively.

City’s Skipper, Tshering Dorji, said that the team has time to prepare for the final game. “We will be fully prepared.” 

Transport United is in third place with 38 points, followed by High Quality with 34 points. 

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