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Bhutan's Daily Newspaper
Updated: 19 min 14 sec ago

Picture story

Mon, 07/22/2019 - 16:22

Tashi Tshokey brought home a bronze medal in the men’s sports physique at the South Asian Championship in Nepal (Picture: Bodybuilding Association Facebook page)

Gangtey Lodge ranked one of the best hotels

Mon, 07/22/2019 - 16:21

Readers of a New York based travel magazine Travel + Leisure has ranked Gangtey Lodge in Phobjikha, Wangdue 5th among the top 15 resort hotels in Asia and 26th among the top 100 hotels in the world.

The readers ranked the hotel based on its facilities, location, service, food, and overall value.

It was learnt that features and amenities such as suites that reflected the rich cultural heritage of Bhutan, an in-suite spa, traditional Bhutanese hot stone baths were considered while rating the scores.

The lodge offers Buddhist meditation classes, breakfast and blessings at the Gangtey Monastery, archery and darts with a team of experts, and hikes to the unobstructed 360-degree views atop Lawala Pass.

Additionally, all guest rooms command sweeping views of the valley below and of the Gangtey Goenpa, or monastery, just about five minutes walk away.

Heated hand cut stone floors and deep bathtubs next to wood burning stoves complete the sense of luxury and coziness, the magazine states. The main lodge subtly captures the vibrancy of Bhutanese artwork and monastic design, complimented by the murals and carvings by local artists and masons reflecting images and landscapes from the valley.

Staff Reporter

Developing Zhemgang

Mon, 07/22/2019 - 16:20

As long as public space is provided, the issue of Sarpang replacing Zhemgang as a beneficiary of the tourism flagship programme will not go away.

More than the issue of one dzongkhag benefiting or the other losing, there are other interests underneath the current debate. If not handled with care, it could turn ugly.

Keeping legality aside, as the budgetary process awaits legal interpretation; the issue needs to be looked from a broader perspective. Politicizing an already poor dzongkhag will not help its people or their representatives. It is also not in the interest of the government to sideline a dzongkhag and favour another.

Zhemgang is one of the poorest dzongkhag in the country. It needs development and should be on the priority list of the government, past, present and future. For that matter, since 2008, Zhemgang should have received the highest attention.

Has it?

It has now. Unfortunately not the way people wanted. The dzongkhag or its people will not benefit by politicians fighting over a decision. Nor will they by firing up people or their representatives. It can only derail the development process.

The government is adamant on its decision to not include the dzongkhag in the flagship programme. They are convinced that Zhemgang would benefit and develop even without the flag. And they are challenging doubters to blame them if Zhemgang is left out.

Zhemgang is allocated the highest budget, Nu 1.003 billion, excluding the gewog budget among the dzongkhags. There is a huge potential in tourism. It is a hotspot for nature lovers, especially birdwatcher. Then there are scope in horticulture and agriculture given its geographical location. Even without special programme, these potentials need to be tapped.

Besides, it is not guaranteed that dzongkhags under the tourism flagship programme will develop better or faster than others. What have we done so far since the decision of bringing dzongkhags under the programme was made?

There are circumstantial evidences that the dzongkhag is neglected because some projects like the Chamkharchhu and the talks of a college were dropped. There could be genuine reasons for dropping them, but firing up people or instigating them will not help develop the dzongkhag.

Zhemgang will develop in the next four years, especially in the tourism sector. There is pressure on the government. The chairperson of the Tourism Council Board, the foreign minster, has taken the accountability if Zhemgang is left out.

At the moment, what we could do is let the government do its job. If it is illegal, Zhemgang will replace Sarpang. It will receive the benefits of being under the programme, if not, they have better budget allocated. It is only fair to give the government time and support to implement their plans.

What we need to do is roll out the plans and not get embroiled in a war of words. The government has invited the opposition for dialogue. It is a good invitation to convince each other. We have already lost one year of the 12th Plan. We cannot delay our plans and programmes for issues that can be resolved and are in our control.

13 STI/STD cases reported every day

Mon, 07/22/2019 - 16:19

Every year, an average of 5,000 sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are reported to health centres across the country, health officials said.

This calculates to about 13 STI cases every day.

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The Wind of Karma: Story with a familiar theme

Mon, 07/22/2019 - 16:18

It was not gale blustering through the roof, threatening to level every damned thing on its way to the ground. Karma Lhatrul Dorji Rinpoche’s The Wind of Karma entered the Lugar Theatre in Thimphu rather quietly with a certain dignity, as if in deference, nay, fear of Samsaric retribution. For the law of karma is eternal. Nemesis lurks; you reap what you sow.  As Nina Hagen put it, the world changes in constant flux and so there is always karma to be taken care of.

It is not hard to imagine the idea in the head of the filmmaker whose life and training focused entirely on understanding the ways of the humanity. Some find great success without much effort. For others, well-being (physical and mental) is eternally illusive. From a Buddhist perspective, everything is governed by Karma.

“I must say that it’s all due to karma and I want to share about how karma works in the life of sentient beings through this movie,” said Karma Lhatrul Dorji Rinpoche. The film has, by and large, succeeded in portraying or bringing out this theme. We see that the Karma is an endless process and when the wind of Karma blows, depending upon our deeds, no one can stop it. Success, failure, pain and misery have Karmic connections.

The movie is in two different parts. In the first part, Karma Choechong is born as a rich man while Tshering Zangmo’s life is marked by endless domestic violence. Their love, however, is short-lived. In second part, Tshering Zangmo is born to a wealthy family and Karma Choechong into servitude. Due to Karmic connections, they again fall in love again, but their love story does not last.

The theme may not be unfamiliar, but the film stands out in many respects. Justly perhaps, the film won four awards at the 18th Bhutan National Film Awards this year.

Thinley Namgay

Nurturing the entrepreneurs to start up!

Mon, 07/22/2019 - 16:15

The start up centre in Changzamtog, Thimphu can be easily passed off as any other government office.

Products of some of the startups

But a closer look inside shows that the structure that dwarfs the other structures around is a home to the creative and the innovative.  It is in a way a hub for the cottage and small industries, a sector that has started getting attention from the policy makers. The centre, which today has about 30 entrepreneurs, the first cohort for the centre, symbolises the potentials and challenges of cottage and small industries.

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First Bhutan weightlifting championship held at Thimphu

Mon, 07/22/2019 - 16:13

Lifting a combined weight of 200 kg, Cheki Gyeltshen won the senior men’s category in the first weight lifting championship organised in Thimphu on July 20.

Close on heels was Kinley Gyeltshen who lifted 190 kg and Tshering Dorji was third lifting 185 kg in the same category.

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Focus point

Sat, 07/20/2019 - 14:14

Thimphu thromde wins right to acquire TCC’s land at Lungtenzapma

Sat, 07/20/2019 - 14:13

The curtain has fallen on the long-drawn case between the Thimphu thromde and the Tashi Commercial Corporation (TCC). The thromde has won.

It can now acquire, based on need, the two plots near the Lungtenzampa bridge from TCC, the rightful owner.

The case started in 2013 on the ownership of one of the plots, I-22. Thromde claimed it as government land and wanted to convert it into a taxi parking. TCC resisted and the Supreme Court ruled that the plot belonged to TCC.

The problem didn’t end with the decision. Thromde refused to hand over the physical possession and restricted construction in the plot stating it is in the Green Zone where constructions are theoretically restricted.   

TCC sued the thromde again, this time on the criteria of the land.

Thromde argued that the grand master plan, the Thimphu Structural Plan 2002-2007 had identified the land for planned development of the capital city. The larger bench of the high court ruled that based on Thimphu Structure Plan and Urban design proposal for core area, TCC plots I-22 and L-1 were in G2 (Green Zone) precinct even before the ownership of the two plots were contested in the court of law.

The judgement on the case will not end the issue. TCC is aggrieved by the decision.

TCC can appeal to the Supreme Court. If it does, within 10 working days, the case will prolong. TCC is aggrieved because the High Court included the adjacent plot L-1 (Tashi Cell building and tower area) in its judgment when the case to the Court was only on the precinct of plot i-22, a TCC official said after the judgement on July 18.

TCC is questioning the master plan. They are arguing that the architects of the plans submitted in the “Forward,” of the plan document, that some proposals are on private land parcels, but these are totally dependent on dialogues and the consent of the property owners.

“The Thimphu Structural Plan was adopted with changes by the Cabinet. With such changes in place, alleged G2 land (I-22) was maintained as Urban Core. The action taken by thromde, based on the documents which they rely to make their case, totally disregarded the Master Plan and submitted draft plan perceiving it as the approved plan and the HC admitted such evidence.”

TCC officials said they have no confidence in the authenticity of the plan documents the thromde purported as the approved or final version and presented to court. “We were not given access to documents despite repeated requests,” said officials. “Does the denial of access to the documents mean that thromde might have apparently doctored the documents to suit its position? In such case, any private individual can become victim of such decision of the authority.”

TCC is also challenging the issue of their plot being in Green Zone. “Thromde never brought up the issue of the plots being in G2 when the ownership was contested. Had they been confident about the precinct, why did they have to fight the legal battle to gain ownership when they knew they could exercise the principle of eminent domain?”

TCC is referring to the recently opened multi-storey car parking above TCC’s land to argue that the thromde is not restricted by the precinct classification system. “They constructed the multi-story car parking in what was indeed a G2 precinct in the documents it presented to the Court as plan documents.”

Aggrieved by the decision, the biggest business house in the country is asking “relevant authority to audit how accurately it (thromde) had been implementing its plans on the core area based on the Thimphu Structural Plan.


Core urban problem?

Notwithstanding what happens after the appeal, should TCC do so, compensating TCC for its property on the land in question is going to be another problem.

The land at the entrance of the core city is earmarked as the city gateway, one of the many proposed plans to extensively redevelop the urban core and transform the Urban Core into  “cosy and attractive urban setting.”

From what TCC officials indicate, nothing looks cosy.

“Compensating for the land is the bare minimum,” said a TCC official. The thromde or government will have to compensate for relocating Tashi InfoComm Limited (TCIL) or TashiCell, a subsidiary company of the Tashi Group.

Tashi Group outbid three joint ventures to operate the first private mobile service in the country with a Nu. 777 million (USD 17.32 million) offer in 2006.

The company is already doing the math. But the concern is the telecommunications and network infrastructure. “There could be unforeseen loss to TICL. There will be ineffable cost of service disruption both for mobile and internet network for the whole of Bhutan,” said an official.

Ugyen Penjor 

Is the economy overheating again?

Sat, 07/20/2019 - 14:13

More than four years since the temporary measures on loan and import restrictions were lifted in 2014, the country’s domestic credit has swelled by more than Nu 60B.

Financial institutions in the country lent Nu 124B in the domestic market as of March this year. The economy saw domestic credit increase by almost Nu 20B in a span of 12 months (between March last year and March this year). This is according to the figures from the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA), excluding credit from the National Pension and Provident Fund.

While it is estimated that the financial inclusion initiatives and enhancement of access to finance is expected to fuel domestic credit in the medium term by Nu 50B, credit growth has a direct impact on the current account deficit because Bhutan is highly import-dependent.

This means that a large portion of any credit extended by the financial sector translates into imports and subsequent pressures on the current account.

It was a lending spree, particularly in building and construction that ignited the rupee crisis a few years ago because most of the credit translated into imports, shedding the country’s rupee reserve as well as hurting the current account balance. This was followed by loan and import restrictions on housing, vehicles and furniture.

This move had controlled imports and credit growth, going by the statistical bulletin of the RMA and trade statistics. Consequently, the country rupee reserve also began to improve.

However, if figures are any indication, a similar rupee crunch is emerging. Between December 2014 and March this year, the total domestic credit increased from Nu 68.9B to Nu 124B.

An aggressive growth in building and construction is stark in the RMA’s monthly statistical bulletins. It almost doubled in four years, from Nu 16B in December 2014 to Nu 30B in March this year.

Service and tourism loans, which mainly comprise of hotel construction has more than tripled from close to Nu 9B in 2014 to almost Nu 30B as of March this year.

This means that hotels, building and construction dominate the domestic credit, with half of the total credit concentration. What compounds this situation further is that these sectors have recorded the highest non-performing loan (NPL). Further, service and tourism sector has about Nu 4B worth of bad debts last year.

This could be attributed to a surge in hotel construction over the years and rigorous competition for occupancy.

Transport loan has also nearly quadrupled from Nu 2.3B in 2014 to almost Nu 7B in March this year. This explains the increase in number of vehicles from about 74,000 to 103,814 today. Increase number of vehicle is also associated with surge in fuel import and import of spare parts and accessories, which adds to the import bill.

It could be deduced that credit in the import driven sectors that directly translates into consumption has more than doubled in a span of over four years.

Credit growth in the manufacturing sector, which has the potential to create jobs and augment domestic production, is not encouraging. From about Nu 10.2B in 2014, it has increased to about Nu 14.8B in March this year, up by only Nu 4.6B.

This could best explain the domestic production leading to trade deficit and unemployment status of the economy.

Loan for agriculture, the sector which employs more than half of the country’s work force, has reached Nu 6.1B, up from Nu 2.6B in 2014. Loan towards trade and commerce has increased from Nu 13.5B to Nu 17.6B between the same period.

A banker Kuensel talked to said domestic credit is correlated to economic growth. However, in case of Bhutan, credit growth has been substantial in consumption and import driven sectors.

The direct impact of this, he said, could fall on the rupee reserve.

However, the current government has plans to recoup Nu 10B through tax reforms and bring CSIs at the core of economic diversification. The Prime Minister also said that he is scanning through the polices to bring about reforms in the financial sector.  

Reserve management

Rupee is a foreign currency that must be either earned or borrowed. The Rupee crisis in 2012, according to experts is the result of reserve mismanagement at a time of economic overheating.

When the country was reeling under the rupee crises in 2012, there was a time when the INR reserve fell to Rs 1.5B and the country had to borrow INR at higher interest rates from Indian Banks.

The government then was holding onto convertible currency reserve until it was compelled to sell USD to replenish the INR stock.

A similar economic situation and need for the rupee still persists, except for the construction of three-mega hydropower project in one go. The last government managed the reserve and kept the rupee ship afloat.

Sources at the finance ministry said that INR stock is kept manageable today because about 30 percent of grant and loan coming in the form of USD is exchanged into INR at source.

However, experts caution that this is not a sustainable solution. The country has limited options because whatever rupee was earned from hydropower and export is not even adequate to fund the import. This means that because of the trade deficit, the country’s rupee cashflow is negative.

This situation, according to a source will continue until the trade balance is corrected. To do so, the country has to export more and import less from India. After the Mangdechhu comes on line, the government expects a surplus and that a situation might come when the country does not have to convert CC into INR.

The difference is that the first government sold CC at one go while the second government did so in bits and pieces.

Tshering Dorji

Landfill overflowing before expected time

Sat, 07/20/2019 - 14:12

Wrappers, pet bottles, jute sacks, a damaged low-chair, jerry cans, lumps of sacks and plastic masses are strewn all over the place.

The open landfill site at Riserboo is located at Mendrelgang, about 17 kilometres away from Damphu town. Even though the area including the mounting waste is drenched, flies swarm around the waste disposal site.

At Damphu, the municipal truck driver stops and honks- a call for people to dump their waste. After some rounds of the town, the truck is filled and starts towards the landfill.

Wastes are then dumped. However, the landfill site, which was supposed to last for about 18 more years, had to be extended last year.

Executive engineer with Damphu municipality, Tshewang Tenzin said that the landfill design was estimated to last about 30 years when it was identified about 12 years ago.

Owing to the increasing production of waste and population, he said that an extension wall costing about Nu 936,000 was constructed last year.

“The landfill must have outlived its estimated years because of the vigorous mass cleaning campaign initiatives that the dzongkhag took since 2016.”

He said that every month cleaning campaigns were conducted even in gewogs. Each gewog has collection centres.

Environment officer, Dorji Wangdi, said that as and when the gewogs required garbage truck, it was provided. “Sometimes, more wastes were collected and so the truck is sent twice or more in a month.”

The first waste disposal site according to the municipal was identified for its isolated location and minimum impact.

Mendrelgang’s gup, Yeshi, said that no formal complaint was received so far. “However, people have been complaining verbally about the location of the disposal site. Especially, on rainy days, they complain of the seepage from the landfill affecting the spring water.”

People also complain about dogs in the waste disposal site, he said. “They say that instead of Lhakhangs, stupas or chortens, the landfill site is situated atop.”

He said that nothing has been done to address such issues so far.

One of the residents, Tsheten, said that waste is a global concern and that it was only growing. “However, we need to have better mechanisms to address the issues. Otherwise it could have devastating impact on the environment.”

Tshewang Tenzin said that the extension wall built should last for another 10 years but with the trend of the growing waste, he is not sure.

Rinchen Zangmo | Tsirang

Transforming cottage and small scale industries

Sat, 07/20/2019 - 14:12

The Bhutan Economic Forum for Innovative Transformation (BEFIT) conference has ended, but the journey towards catalysing CSIs begins.

A take away from the three-day conference is that Bhutan’s GNH-led philosophy of development is an appendage to place CSIs at the heart of an inclusive economy. Sustainable development is the global language today, as leaders and firms around the world are becoming socially conscious and investing to address global issues.

For Bhutan, it is a reaffirmation that the deliberate path our leaders chose is not wrong. We must now capitalize on this to explore partnership, technology and capital to attract foreign interest and investment in the CSI sector. Impact and sustainable investment, experts say is the future for financing and it is what Bhutan needs.

Our entrepreneurs and CSIs must unleash their potential with a sense of urgency. It is CSIs, particularly the social-consciousness-driven enterprises that can eliminate social issues such as unemployment and poverty in a sustainable manner. Because of its impact on the lives of the poor across the globe, small industries are emerging as formidable competitors to greed-based large-scale enterprises.

However, for the CSIs to catalyse the economic progress, it needs limbs to stand and move. To establish a strong CSI ecosystem, government must create and build conducive environment, regulations and infrastructure. Institutions, particularly banks must place their trust on our entrepreneurs. Each citizen could play a role in creating a feasible market. A simple conviction of replacing imported goods with local in our shopping carts can help our entrepreneurs grow.

But the reality is that our policies have become unpredictable with governments changing every five years. There is a serious lack of trust between the financial institutions and businesses, and people complain of exorbitant pricing of local goods. We need to fix this missing links to up-scale production and consolidate ideas, which entrepreneurs say in more daunting.

Many agencies are engaged in supporting startups in various forms. This has helped the germination of ideas into businesses. We have seen from the national CSI expo that products are emerging. Locally produced goods like soaps, noodles, chocolates, biscuits, souvenirs, toys, construction materials, herbal food and drinks, packaging materials, mobile Apps needs up-scaling. This is where intervention from agencies is crucial but lacking.

What is consoling is that the BEFIT has brought together all the stakeholders. A discourse has started. Domestic financing platforms like crowd funding and CSI bank have been launched. Policies have been revised. This is a good start. We must now shift gear before it remains a mere rhetoric.

As we continue our journey to diversify, there are two common things in all the startups, there is a social aspect to every business and the aspiration to expand, which is spurned by lack of capital, both human and financial. The government and other stakeholders must now position their radar towards the second phase of business cycle.

This is felt as a major reform that can leverage the CSI potential.

Biodemocracy, balancing political and ecological democracy 

Sat, 07/20/2019 - 14:11

For many participants, who attended the daylong conference on biodemocracy and resilience in Thimphu yesterday, biodemocracy was a new term.

Most of the 111 participants were new faces, comprising mostly of teachers.

It was the chief guest, Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel, who defined biodemocracy as a balance between political and ecological democracy.

He said the conference would deepen democracy, as it would discuss about harmonious coexistence. “We have been talking about human democracy but through this conference, we would learn about how to live in harmony with ecology.”

According to the Speaker, Article 5 of the Constitution emphasises on the protection of the natural environment, conservation of the rich biodiversity and prevention of all forms of ecological degradation including noise, visual and physical pollution through the adoption and support of environment friendly practices and policies. “The conference is expected to play a vital role in translating the laws and provisions in place for ecological conservation.”

Executive director for the centre for local governance and research (CLG), Tharchen, said biodemocracy is about the responsibility of all politically fulfilling citizens to respect the environment.

Nitasha Kaul (PhD) from the University of Westminster, London, who is co-organising the conference with CLG said that as a small high altitude country rich in natural resources but surrounded by fast urbanising, often environmentally unsustainable resource hungry and populous neighbours, Bhutan needs to find its best balance between a fragile natural ecosystem and a democratising GNH welfare state that functions in the digital era.

“Like any other country in the contemporary world, it is a tough challenge to find the right balance between economic and livelihood opportunities and a socioeconomic trajectory that combines sustainable organisation of space and resources in order to build resilient cities, communities and ecosystems,” she said.

She said that in the first decade of democracy– which itself was the result of a unique and beautiful transition led by an enlightened monarchy – Bhutanese thinkers and policymakers, as well as politicians, students, and other engaged citizens think of finding the best balance between creating employment, rural livelihood generation, fostering private sector growth, while maintaining biological and social ecosystem sustainability.

“This is what I see as biodemocracy as being a conceptual realisation that allows us to think of the political and the ecological as not separate or opposed but a part of the same narrative of what it means to have a GNH country that the world looks up to,” Nitasha Kaul said.

The chief executive officer of Thimphu Tech Park, Dr Tshering Cigay, presented a paper on conservation in the age of fourth industrial revolution and spoke on the conservation challenges because of changes in technology but emphasised on technological tools conservationists could use to conserve the environment.

Tashi Dema 

Dengue and Chikungunya outbreak in P/ling and Samtse

Sat, 07/20/2019 - 14:10

Phuentsholing General Hospital has reported of more than 100 cases of dengue fever until yesterday this month.

The hospital saw most of the cases this week. Due to increased number of patients, the hospital had to keep extra trollies outside the emergency rooms to cater to those who couldn’t avail the beds. The number of cases dropped by the end of the week.

Chief medical officer, Dr Thinley Pelzang said that preventive measure of thermal fogging started about five days ago. “We want to advise people to avoid mosquito bites,” the doctor said.

He said people should keep their surroundings clean and cover breeding sites.

Phuentsholing has consistently seen dengue fever cases in the last five years. The highest was reported in 2016 with 857 positive cases but no casualties were reported. It was the year Phuentsholing received heavy rainfall.

Dr Thinley Pelzang said dengue fever outbreak spreads more after heavy and continuous rain due to stagnant water.

“However, exact causes are unknown,” he said, adding it could also be because of the close proximity with the border areas. “There are thousands of people moving.”

Dengue fever symptoms show up three to 14 days after a mosquito bite. Mild and high fever, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, joint pains, and rashes are some of the dengue symptoms.

The hospital has also reported three cases of Chikungunya virus.

“The Royal Centre for Disease Control has confirmed of it,” Dr Thinley Pelzang said.

Meanwhile, Chikungunya outbreak was also reported in Samtse. About four cases have been reported.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Finding true Bhutanese narrative

Sat, 07/20/2019 - 14:10

Kuenden Boutique Hotel, Debsi, Thimphu: Silence amplifies the austerity of the room. It is a hot day that makes work and thinking laborious after lunch.

A group of curriculum developers and writers are working on a framework that will inform and guide the writers of History textbooks for Classes VII to XII.

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Spouses of armed force personnel to learn to prepare Kuwaiti cuisine

Sat, 07/20/2019 - 14:08

As part of Project Hope activities, the spouse of Kuwait’s Charge d’ affaires to Bhutan, Abeer H.E.H Marafie, would help develop baking and cooking skills among the spouses of armed force personnel at the Vocational Skills Development Centre (VSDC) in Thimphu.

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MPs should do more homework: Speaker

Sat, 07/20/2019 - 14:07

With the conclusion of the first two sessions of parliament, the need for some parliamentarians to participate in the deliberations was visibly felt given the requirement of fair representation of all the constituencies.

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Dementia cases on the rise 

Sat, 07/20/2019 - 14:06

While anxiety and depression remain the most reported mental disorders in the country, hospitals have lately started seeing dementia cases.

Dementia, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) is a syndrome, usually of a chronic or progressive nature, caused by a variety of brain illnesses that affect memory, thinking, behaviour and ability to perform everyday activities.

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Poor potato yield worries farmers in Yangner

Sat, 07/20/2019 - 14:06

It is potato-harvesting time for the farmers of Yangner in Trashigang. However, unlike last year, the farmers are not happy with the yield this time.

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Road widening works damage irrigation canal

Sat, 07/20/2019 - 14:05

Road widening works few kilometers before reaching Trongsa from Bjeezam had damaged an irrigation canal forcing residents to leave their paddy fields fallow.

Kinley Gyem from Sembji owns the paddy fields.

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