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Updated: 1 hour 35 min ago

Poor internet connection hamper service delivery: Gups

Fri, 09/20/2019 - 16:02

With poor internet services, service delivery is affected in all the all the five gewogs in Trongsa, according to gups.

This was reported during the sixth Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT), which was held recently.

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The seven runners of the world’s toughest calibration run

Fri, 09/20/2019 - 16:01

Dorji Tshewang, 38, was herding yaks in the mountains of Sephu, Wangduephodrang, when his son, a class XI student, told him that there would be a running competition in the mountains.

His son was home on summer break.

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Dengue cases increasing again in P/ling

Fri, 09/20/2019 - 16:00

The number of dengue fever cases that declined at the beginning of this week in Phuentsholing has started to increase again.

Phuentsholing general hospital recorded 54 positive cases yesterday. On September 18, 80 dengue positive cases were recorded from the 128 samples collected. Only seven cases reported on September 15, while 17 cases were reported on September 14.

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Poor reporting of dengue hampered interventions

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 16:10

Lack of accountability in reporting notifiable diseases or syndromes and outbreaks to the national early warning alert and response surveillance (NEWARS) system challenged preventing, controlling and containing the recent dengue outbreak.

According to the district-wise NEWARS reporting status for 2019, about 10 percent of the cases were not reported to the system by the dzongkhags while 20 percent of the reports were delayed.

Among the health facilities in Chukha, Getena and Rinchentse Basic Health Units topped the list of not reporting cases while Phuentsholing hospital delayed in reporting cases.

The chief programme officer with Department of Public Health (DoPH), Rixin Jamtsho, presenting the update of dengue outbreak at the fifth biennial health conference in Tsirang yesterday, said the reporting system needs to be strengthened.

In Phuentsholing, dengue cases were seen from the first week of June but the outbreak was notified only on July 16.

He said that the Vector-borne Disease Control Programme (VDCP) team went to Phuentsholing after the outbreak was reported and no stakeholders were found to be involved in containing the outbreak and the cases kept on rising.

Poor response for awareness and self-protection by public, communication gap within divisions in the health ministry and with relevant sectors at the district level, frequent water shortage in the towns, lack of outbreak preparedness and response plan at district hospitals, and lack of structure advocacy and risk communication plan were some of the other challenges faced.

Officials also found out that there were no designated public health surveillance officer in the district, lack of budget for dengue interventions and outbreak response as other challenges in preventing and containing the dengue fever.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said that the ministry got the information on dengue outbreak in Doksum from other sources, not from NEWARS. “It is not acceptable when we have existing system for public health notification, and we get the information from other sources.”

“Even if we have the system, if people don’t feed in data we cannot prepare for response and that clearly shows in the data,” Lyonpo said

Lyonpo urged the health officials to notify in NEWARS so that the response is immediate.

On the resources, Lyonpo said that the ministry should look at the disaster management fund that sits with finance ministry because disease outbreak is a disaster.

“If we are to keep the budget with the ministry then we will have lots of objections from finance ministry because we cannot predict disaster,” Lyonpo said.  “There is a central disaster fund so the ministry should be able to design system so that it gets activated and resources comes in.”

Bhutan, this year reported the highest number of dengue cases since 2004 with more than 3,000 cases. In 2004, about 2,579 cases were reported followed by 1,101 cases in 2012. No cases were reported in 2014 and 2015.

Health officials said that dengue outbreak is seen not only in Bhutan but in many countries in South-East Asia and other countries. “Dengue cases in the country started declining while all other countries are expected to rise in the next few weeks.”

Compared with other South-East Asian countries, Rixin Jamtsho said that Bhutan has the second highest cases if derived by the percentage of population affected. “Therefore, we really need to look at it and come up with good preventive measures next year.”

Dengue outbreak in Doksum, Trashiyangste was declared contained on September 6 while the fever is decreasing in Phuentsholing.

Rixin Jamtsho said while the same interventions were taken in all the outbreak areas, the outbreak in Doksum was contained earlier than in Phuentsholing because Phuentsholing has a lot of other challenges like cross border issues.

Majority of the dengue cases in Phuentsholing were reported from Jaigoan and Pasakha. About 32 percent of the cases were from Jaigaon, the Indian border town.

In terms of major breeding habitats in Phuentsholing, VDCP surveillance report found that a majority of the aedes vector larva was found in barrel drums and in the dipping pans of refrigerators. Outside the house, majority of the vector larva was found in old tyres and flower pots.

“This is where we should focus when creating awareness,” he said.

As of September 17, a total of 9,000 suspected cases of dengue have been reported. About 3, 309 from 19 dzongkhags tested positive for dengue by rapid test kits, of which 77 percent of the positive cases were from Phuentsholing hospital.

However, the tests done at the private diagnostic centres were not included.

Six patients died of dengue so far including two maternal death.  Phuentsholing hospital has referred 21 patients to JDWNRH so far.

Dechen Tshomo

From the river to the banks

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 16:09

Following the restrictions on immersing statues in the river, more than 200 statues of Lord Vishwakarma from construction sites in Thimphu are lying at the banks of Thimchhu at Babesa.

The forest department on September 16 issued a notification prohibiting immersing statues in the river after the Vishwakarma puja. The National Environment Commission (NEC) also issued a notice restricting disposing of waste, including from ritual into the water bodies.

With words of the notification spreading fast and officials monitoring the riverbanks yesterday, they prevented the statues from landing into the river.

Thromde officials said they would wait for two more days for statues from other construction sites, automobile workshops and industries in the capital to accumulate before deciding on what to do with the statues.

 “We will discuss with the NEC and other implementing agencies to designate an appropriate site to place the statues,” a thromde official said. Thromde officials will also consult Hindu Pandits to find out if immersing the statues were necessary.  “If it is necessary, we will explore ways of immersing into the rivers across the border.”

Meanwhile, in Paro, the festival came to an end with immersion ceremony of statues into the river. Kuensel spotted groups of construction workers immersing statues in the Pachhu at Shaba. Workers were also seen burning waste from the rituals like deflated balloons, papers, plastics and synthetic ribbons in an open dump yard.

According to forestry officials who were on inspection at the site, only the statues were allowed to go into the river as there were no alternative planned for its disposal.

“Without any alternatives in place, we had to decide everything on the spot,” one said.

An official said that to prevent the waste from entering into the river, burning waste was found to be an option.

“If we ask them to dispose of the waste in the landfill, we can’t assure where they would dump it.”

The workers claimed that they couldn’t keep home anything from the rituals, according to an official. A Hindu devotee said that immersing the statue is a part of the festival. “The puja (ritual) will be incomplete without immersing the statue in the river,” he said.

Meanwhile, inspections are underway from Dechencholing to Babesa, along the Wangchhu.

Chimi Dema

HC upholds lower court’s judgment in favour of BoB employee

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 16:08

The High Court (HC) on September 17 upheld the Thimphu district court’s judgment that ordered Bank of Bhutan (BoB) to reinstate their employee, Kesang Wangmo to her former position after the bank compulsorily retired her.

According to the HC order, the judgment passed by the lower court on April 11 this year, which ordered the bank to compensate Nu 22,500 for six months and other benefits for the year she remained unemployed, stands correct.

Kesang Wangmo, 40, was working as an officiating head in the Shared Service Division when she took three months’ maternity leave in March 2017. After the leave, she joined the office but she had to avail extraordinary leave EOL for another six months. It was sanctioned on July 21, 2017 with an undertaking letter for EOL.

The bank compulsorily retired her after she availed three months’ maternity leave and an additional EOL.

When Kesang Wangmo joined office after her EOL, the bank had already recruited another employee. The bank asked her to work for a month with the human resource officer.

She had approached the labour ministry and following an investigation, the ministry asked the bank to reinstate Kesang. However, the bank refused and Kesang appealed to district court.

The district court had also asked the bank to pay Kesang Wangmo her monthly salary, banking allowance, corporate allowance, division’s target, bonus, and performance based variable allowance.

In their appeal to HC, bank’s legal officer stated that the district court’s verdict was unclear on the reinstatement of Kesang. It also stated that the benefits that court has asked bank to pay are entitled to only if the employee is still with the company.

It was also submitted that Kesang had already claimed her retirement benefit, which is why the bank didn’t pay the benefits and requested the court to review on the compensation.

Kesang’s legal submitted that she deserves the benefits including the bonus because she didn’t leave the office, but was forced to resign.

However, the HC dismissed the bank’s appeal and ruled that the bank couldn’t prove their basis to compulsorily retire Kesang Wangmo.

The HC’s verdict also stated that Kesang had availed EOL as per the Labour and Employment Act 2007 and the bank terminated her violating the Act. It stated that the bank also violated the Constitution Section 7, Fundamental Rights.

The HC ruled that it was not Kesang’s fault that she is not currently working with the bank and that she was made to retire compulsory.  “So, the bank must compensate and pay her all the benefits mentioned by the lower court.”

The bank has 10 days to appeal to Supreme Court.

Yangchen C Rinzin

Flawed proposed activities concern local leaders

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 16:07

Gewogs in Thimphu will not have any new construction or activities in the 12 Plan if the planned activities under Common Minimum Infrastructure (CMI) cannot be changed.

Eight gewogs in Thimphu could only have maintenance activities under CMI in the Plan since the planned activities submitted to Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) are only for maintenance and no new plans were included.

Although the 12th Plan focused on decentralisation and gave the local government the power to exercise greater flexibility in planning, budgeting, and release of money, the local leaders were not aware of the new budgetary system.

The 20 dzongkhags were allocated different amounts of grants for the five year- Resource Allocation Formula (RAF) and Common Minimum Infrastructure (CMI). Seventy eight percent of the total grants are allocated based on RAF and 22 percent are allocated based on CMI.

However, during the Thimphu Dzongkhag Tshogdue (DT) on September 17, local leaders raised various issues regarding CMI budget allocation.

Genekha Gup Karma Gyeltshen said, his gewog submitted plans to include new construction activities in the CMI, however due to some loopholes, when the activities reached GNHC the planned activities for the gewogs were all included under maintenance.

The government introduced CMI to reduce differences in jurisdiction’s per capita endowment of basic infrastructure, facilities and to promote and achieve balanced and equitable socio-economic development.

The RAF takes into consideration specific needs and priorities of the dzongkhag, gewogs, and thromdes. CMI has been devised to reduce disparities in the distribution of common public infrastructure and facilities among dzongkhags, gewogs and dzongkhag thromde.

Soe Gup, Kencho Dorjee asked if the government could change the activities and allocate the budget for new construction.

According to the Dzongkhag Tshogdue chairperson Gado, discussions were carried out on the CMI, and they had consulted GNHC.  However, officials confirmed that no changes could be made since the planning officials had already proposed the budget for maintenance.

Officiating planning officer of Thimphu clarified that the guideline of CMI was not categorised into new activities and maintenance, however when consulting with the GNHC officials, it was found out that the dzongkhag proposed all activities for maintenance.

Local leaders raised confusion with regard to CMI. Initially the gewog was allotted with a fixed budget, but later it was found that the CMI budget was already included in the budget, said Mewong Gup, Chencho.

“For instance, Mewang gewog was allotted Nu 19million with all planned activities within the budget. However, when CMI was allotted, the budget allocation had to be redistributed to include the activities under CMI,” he added.

He also said that no awareness was created on the new budgetary system, the reason for various issues caused because of CMI.

Meanwhile, Thimphu dzongda Dorji Tshering said that the budget for the fiscal year has already been allocated and the amount was not huge for CMI. “The budget for the current FY can be used for maintenance since there are road repairing works to complete.”

Acknowledging the mistake, Naro Gup, Wangchuk said that the possibilities of changing the activities can only take place during the midterm review. “However if the activities are urgent, DT can propose a discussion with the officials before starting the fiscal year 2020-21.”

Accordingly, DT endorsed to carry forward a discussion to change the activities under CMI between dzongkhag administration, GNHC, and finance ministry.

Of the total allocation of Nu 50 billion for Local Government (Dzongkhag, Gewogs, and Thromdes A) in the 12 FYP, Nu11 billion is allocated for CMI activities. For eight gewogs of Thimphu, the outlay for CMI for the Plan is Nu 231.93 million, of which Nu 32.56million is for the current fiscal year.

Phub Dem

Picture story

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 16:06

Construction workers in Paro immerse a statue of Lord Vishwakarma in the Pachhu at Shaba. Workers said the ritual is incomplete without immersing the statues in the river. 

Close the yawning gaps in the country’s health system

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 16:05

There is an urgent need to improve NEWARS (National Early Warning, Alert and Response Surveillance) system in the health facilities around the country.

Health officials and practitioners have repeatedly pointed out that there is today a worrying lack of accountability in reporting notifiable disease (disease that is required by law to be reported to the government authorities), syndromes and outbreaks.

Bhutan’s poor NEWARS system was evident recently when we saw the biggest dengue outbreak in the country’s history. It took more than a month for the responsible authorities to notify or alert the nation on the outbreak of the disease. And the health ministry’s response, even after it was alerted, was slow and left a lot to be desired.

NEWARS system must be understood in relation to its implications. We might be proud of our modern health system with all its sophistication, but if we fail to address, prevent and control disease outbreaks, it will be costly both in terms of lives and resources.

As it is, we have not been able to move away from curative care which is by much expensive than preventive care.

The problem is that whenever we highlight such problems, we tend to point fingers and make ourselves scarce. This unavailing culture must stop, here and now. Communication gaps can and must be fixed and the professionals responsible held to account.

Lack of designated public health surveillance officer in the health centres and the issue of inadequate budget cannot pass as excuses anymore. This inherent disease in the system is already proving to be far more costly than the burden of occasional epidemic outbreaks.

The malady seems to stem from the lack of strong and credible leadership at the helm.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said that she got the information about the dengue outbreak in Doksum not from NEWARS but from the media.

More by token, and reassuringly, she said that the health ministry would sit with finance ministry to discuss budget for health disaster.

Well, this is good news. But the sooner this happens between the ministries, the better.

Timely awareness and campaigns can be a lot more effective in preventing or controlling disease outbreaks. This will, like in much else, require money. But what is more important, for even awareness and campaigns to succeed, is an effective and efficient NEWARS system.

It is time the government proved that its strong health manifesto, as it claims is the reason why people voted for DNT, has immediate plans to close the yawning gaps in the country’s health system.

Potato auction slows down due to hoarding

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 16:04

The Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited’s (FCBL) auction yard in Phuentsholing, which would normally be bustling around this time was empty yesterday.

Potatoes from Chapcha and Jabana are yet to arrive at the yard. The arrivals from Phobjikha, Khatokha, Gangtey and Bumthang are also not as much as it used to be at this time of the year.

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Fifth biennial health conference to deliberate on two bills

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 16:03

About 280 health officials from across the country are attending the three-day fifth biennial health conference themed “Enhancing integrated people centered health services,”, which began on Tuesday.

Addressing the conference as the chief guest, finance minister Namgay Tshering said the incidence of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) is increasing in the country. “We have a Gross Domestic Product of a low income country, but disease pattern of a high income.”

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Aestheticism: when artists and thromde do not see eye to eye

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 16:02

It’s that long sewerage line across the Thimchhu.

When the planning of the line was beginning to take shape, not so long ago, the artists at Voluntary Artists Studio, Thimphu (VAST) suggested that it be taken from under the new bridge at Chubachu—that it need not be so uncomfortably conspicuous.

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Outdoor gym equipment in dire need of maintenance

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 16:01

In absence of a proper playground, a favourite playing field for students in Gelephu town is the open-air gymnasium located near the public ground.

Groups of children are seen flocking the area everyday after school.

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Sekha (Autumn collection) bags first product development award

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 16:00

Kencho Wangmo, 36, from Kabisa, Thimphu was declared the winner of the first product development award with her product titled Sekha (Autumn collection) at the closing ceremony of the first product development and design training workshop at the Royal Textile Academy  ( RTA) in Thimphu yesterday.

RTA will sign a contract with Kencho Wangmo to have exclusive rights to purchase the pieces in the collection for a year.

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Lord Vishwakarma statue cannot go into river

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 16:08

Yesterday was celebrated as Vishwakarma Puja or the birth anniversary of Lord Vishwakarma, a special day in the Hindu calendar. This day is observed in reverence to Lord Vishwakarma, the divine architect.

Of late, however, the ritual has come into conflict with Bhutan’s environmental rules and regulations. Environmentalists say that the practice of immersing the statue of Lord Vishwakarma into river, which is part of the ritual, is hazardous to the aquatic ecosystem because of toxic paints.

On the eve of the puja, National Environment Commission (NEC) issued an enforcement notification. This means immersing of the statue of Lord Vishwakarma into river will be prohibited and strictly monitored.

The enforcement notification is in accordance with the initial notification issued on January 16 for information and compliance regarding the dumping of waste in the water bodies.

The notification states that the disposing of waste into the environment was against National Environment Protection Act 2007 (NEPA), Waste Prevention and Management Act of Bhutan 2009, and the water Act of Bhutan 2011.

As per section 5 of the NEPA, a person has the fundamental right to a safe and healthy environment with equal and corresponding duty to protect and promote the environmental well-being of the country.

The notification said that general waste, including construction waste and waste from rituals were indiscriminately disposed of in the water bodies, on the roads, cross-junctions and in public spaces.

The Department of Forests and Park Services has asked all offices under the department to carry out strict monitoring to ensure that idols and other materials are not disposed of into rivers after the puja.

In Thimphu alone, more than 2,500 construction projects are underway. This means about 2,500 statues could be immersed in the Wangchhu by evening today.

Source said the content of substances from the paint used for idols, as they slowly break down in the river, could harm fish and other aquatic organisms by depriving them of oxygen.

Although, traditionally, the idols were made of mud and painted using natural dyes, many now are made using plaster of Paris (PoP) and coated with chemical paints that contain heavy metals and other toxic agents.

In India, research has shown that the paints contain dozes of heavy metals like manganese, lead, mercury and chromium.

The elements could cause tumour in animals such as fish. More by token, heavy metals accumulate in the environment and can lead to long-term problems like sediment contamination and poisoning throughout the food chain.

As an alternative to reduce adverse effects of throwing waste on aquatic organisms, environment officials suggested exploring the use of non-toxic organic paint and natural materials to make idols.

However, the two notifications have not specified where to dispose of the statues. 

Chimi Dema

Ensuring patient’ safety

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 16:07

Bhutanese need not resort to social media to vent their frustrations on poor medical service or alleged mistreatment of patients with the launch of a Grievance Redressal Hotline.

The hotline, 1414, launched along with the Patient Safety Day during the fifth biennial health conference in Tsirang, is expected to help the ministry improve health system, provide better and timely services to the people.

The hotline 1414 is launched to mark the World Patient Safety Day

The World Patient Safety Day to raise awareness about patient safety and encourage global solidarity and action comes at a time when the medical service, hospitals and health professionals are coming under close public scrutiny.

Although not many report incidences, there are talks of poor patient safety, post-operation care and disagreement among doctors about who should be responsible of patients operated by non full-time surgeons.

Health minister Dechen Wangmo said that in the last WHO World Health Assembly, there was a lot of emphasis on patient safety. “Globally there is an understanding that patient safety is being compromised and there is very little awareness and system in place for patient safety.”

The 72nd World Health Assembly in May this year endorsed the establishment of World Patient Safety Day to be observed on September 17 annually.

Director general of the department of medical services, Dr Pandup Tshering, said patient safety means no harm should come to a patient when a patient is seeking treatment in a health centre.

Harm can be in terms of wrong diagnoses, medication errors and sometimes because of the quality of equipment.

If you see globally, he said that there is more incidence of medical errors or harm to the patients from the services they have provided. “That is why international organisation are taking this seriously.” There were no examples of local incidences.

According to WHO, millions of patients are harmed each year due to unsafe health care worldwide resulting in 2.6 million deaths annually in low and middle-income countries. There is no study done in Bhutan although informal complaints are plenty.

“The most detrimental errors are related to diagnosis, prescription and the use of medicines,” it states. “Medication errors alone cost an estimated US$ 42 billion annually. Unsafe surgical care procedures cause complications in up to 25% of patients resulting in 1 million deaths during or immediately after surgery annually.”

For Bhutan, Dr Pandup Tshering said that while the country is observing the day for the first time, it is not something new. “We already have patient safety guideline. We have also been training health workers and creating awareness among health works on importance of patient safety.”

The focus, he said now should be on better quality and efficiency in the health services, which would lead to better patient outcome and satisfaction among patients.

In terms of taking action, he said that there was a system in place. “If people file a complaint to the health ministry, we institute a committee that carries out an independent investigation. Based on the findings of the investigation we take action either against the health official or try to improve the system.”

Dr Pandup Tshering said that the ministry had received complaints on health issues in the past, which were investigated and actions were taken against health professionals.

Bhutan Medical and Health Council, which is an independent body also looks into the complaints besides it’s other mandates. How effective it is remains a question.

Urging health officials to do their best in providing health services, he said that it is important for the health professionals to understand that their duty is to give the best care to patients who visit health facilities.

“We want to assure the public that we are trying our best to make our health facilities safe and more patient-friendly,” he said.

Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said that people use social media to express their grievances. “I don’t blame them because we don’t have an avenue to address these issues. We can address the grievances, one case at a time, but that is not the solution.”

The solution, Lyonpo said was instituting systems in place for long-term sustainability so that the voices of the patients can be heard.

While acknowledging the existence of the Bhutan Medical Health Council, Lyonpo said that when a complaint reaches the council, it is too late.

With the launch of the toll-free hotline, 1414, people can now call and express their grievances or give feedback, which can be good or bad by either being anonymous or giving their details.

“We are giving access to our people to express their grievances or feedback because ultimately we want to fix the system. And then, there will be a clear line of accountability,” Lyonpo said.

1414 will be a part of the quality control division. Lyonpo clarified that this was not to fix health workers but to improve the services.

If a health official or a health facility’s name comes up repeatedly, Lyonpo said, there could be something wrong. A team would be sent to see what is happening at that health facility so then that can put in place programmes to improve. “Currently, we hear only when it is too late.

To mark the Day, feedback boxes have been instituted in the eight health facilities with a dedicated counsellor.

Lyonpo said feedback from the hospitals and the hotline will be analysed every three months and come up with actionable decisions. “We hope that these measures are going to enhance the quality of services and also a certain level of accountability.”

Talking about patient safety, Lyonpo said infectious control is one of the main things and human resources and financial limitations are some of the challenges in infection control.

Lyonpo said that a lot has to do with communication. “We hope this will become a bridge where we can have a conversation, hear what patients’ complaints are.

As part of the observation of the day, the National Memorial Choeten and Buddha point in Thimphu was lit up in orange to celebrate the first Patient Safety Day.

Dechen Tshomo  | Tsirang

Four forestry officials suspended

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 16:06

Four forestry officials, a ranger and three foresters, from Wangduephodrang forest division were suspended after an investigation team from Thimphu found misuse of rural timber and illegal timber extraction.

The case surfaced a few months ago after the agriculture minister received a call from Wangduephodrang on alleged misuse of rural timber for a farmhouse construction in Gaselo.

Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor said the complainant alleged that although complaints were lodged to forest officials in Gaselo and Wangduephodrang, there was no action taken. “I asked the Department of Forest and Park Services to send an investigation team.”

The team found illegal timber extraction in other places like Khotakha, where the rural timber was misused.

According to the minister, the ministry’s legal division is reviewing the legal provisions to confirm whether the case is civil or criminal in nature.

If it is criminal in nature, the case will have to be forwarded to Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and then finally to court. If it is civil, the human resource committee will have to forward to the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) for administrative action.

Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor said that such misuse happened because of flaws in the system. He said that the department of forest is both the regulatory body and the service provider.

“Since both the Khotakha forest office and Chuzomsa checkpost are manned by people under the same agency, there is no way Chuzomsa checkpost officials could verify permits provided by Khotakha forest office.”

He said that ministry is looking at the possibility of splitting the department into two agencies.

Officials from the Department of Forest  earlier denied having any cases in the department related to misuse of rural timber although their human resource committee was looking into the issue.

Tashi Dema

Religion in conflict with environment

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 16:05

Call it bad or perfect timing, on the eve of the Bishwakarma Puja, the department of forest and park services issued a notification to ensure that statues and other materials are not cast into the rivers or waters bodies.

The notification came even as construction sites, thousands of them, workshops and factories were celebrating the divine architect, lord Vishwakarma.  The festival is observed for a better future, safe working condition and the success in the respective fields. The festival ends with mass immersion ceremony of idols into the river.

This part of the ceremony will be strictly monitored to prevent polluting water bodies and aquatic life. As of last night, most people, especially construction workers and contractors, the thikhadars, were not aware of the notification.

There is another notification from the National Environment Commission. It prohibits disposing of waste, including waste from rituals into water bodies.

We have strong environmental regulations, but stronger beliefs why we should protect the environment. Our religion reveres the environment to the extent that each tree, stream or river and hill is believed to be the abode of our protective deities. We respect them and do not disturb their abode. Most believe disturbing them would result natural calamities.

This is fast changing with development and urbanisation. It is now coming into conflict with our environment. The notification, in that sense, is a timely intervention.

We have celebrated Bisahwakarma for years. But it never came into conflict with the environment. This was because the statues were made from clay that easily dissolved in water. The casting was done with natural materials like cane and the paints were natural vegetable dye.

The statues are becoming bigger, but not better. It is not a symbol of worship, but of wealth. Thikadhars convince their owners why theirs should be bigger than their neighbours. Today’s statues use wires to hold the giant limbs of the statue, chemical toxic paints are used in decorating the idols and when cast into the river, and it affects aquatic life.

There are about 2,500 constructions sites in the capital alone. This translates into 2,500 statues in the Thimpchhu excluding those from the automobile workshops, carpentry and industries. It is too much a curse for Thimpchhu.

Waste from religion is already a problem. It is not restricted to Vishwakarma. Most Buddhist rituals end with discarding effigies, food and in today’s sense junk food, clothes and even old crockeries in the open or the river. There is already enough trash in our environment.

Given our commitment to preserving the environment, a lot of initiatives are taken. The initiatives are not new or in conflict with our religion. The Dratshang banned offering of packaged tshogs. Bhutanese never offered junk at lhakhangs and dzongs in the past. It is a new trend. We are going back to the good old traditions.

Vishwakarma is an age-old tradition where statues were made from clay and decorated with vegetable dye. By reverting back to our old tradition, we would more successful in appeasing our gods.

On the safety of workers, strict implementation of safety regulations could save workers more than dancing to loud music and casting idols in the river.

NPAGE to promote gender equality

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 16:04

Although not too blatantly obvious as it is in other societies, traditional Bhutanese aphorisms such as Pho Zhenru Bjinme, Mo Draru Lemi and Zeko Karu Woley, Zamchu Naru Taley are indicative of the existence of fine-drawn gender stereotypes in the Bhutanese society.

National Commission for Women and Children is in the process of developing the National Plan of Action for Gender Equality (NPAGE) 2019-2023, to improve the status of women and provide support and direction towards advancement of gender equality.

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Baunijhora bridge problem continues to irk commuters

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 16:03

Hundreds of vehicles were stranded at Pasakha’s Baunijhora after a flashflood submerged the bridge on the night of September 16.

The bridge opened to traffic at 3pm yesterday.

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