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Updated: 1 hour 46 min ago

Conference discusses RAA’s role in achieving 12th Plan targets

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 17:07

Auditing major projects, minimising unnecessary expenditure, and enhancing collaboration, among others, are Royal Audit Authority’s (RAA) key focus for the successful implementation of 12th Plan.

At the RAA’s conference last week, GNHC officials said that for donor-assisted projects, it was important to conduct audit at the project management unit (PMU) level for effective results. “Projects without PMU need to be audited based on the requirement of individual donor and limit auditing to two times during the entire project duration.”

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T/gang and T/yangste report multiple roadblocks 

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 17:06

Heavy rains for almost a week have triggered landslides and closed three highways and about six gewog centre roads to traffic in Trashigang and Trashiyangtse.

Officials at the Department of Roads’ (DoR) regional office in Trashigang said that the Trashigang to Mongar highway has blocks at multiple places and a major roadblock has occurred at a place located about 10.2km away from Chagzam.

Three highways and six GC roads are closed to traffic

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Lhagyel wins Lamsoel Zurgoen

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 17:04

Lhagyel won the traditional archery tournament in Wangdue on Sunday.

Sixteen teams from Punakha, Gasa and Wangdue took part in the 14-day tournament.

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No doctors at Haa hospital

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 16:29

The people of Haa boast of the best hospitals among the dzongkhags. But the new hospital has failed to live up to the expectation of the people without a doctor to attend to their needs.

Aum Kinley, a resident of Haa shared her experience of having to call doctors from the military hospital when her daughter gave birth. “There is no specialist although we have a well-structured hospital. There is no use of having such a big hospital if we have no doctors or specialists.”

Like Kinley, there are many who share their frustration and are dissatisfied with the services. Residents said they still prefer the military hospital because of better services and specialist there. A resident of Haa town  said, “Thimphu is too far for emergency cases, thus we prefer the military hospital.”

However, according to District health officer (DHO) Samten, the hospital is run by a senior clinical officer only recently. “The hospital had been comfortable until June with three doctors- one on contract and two regular doctors,” he said.

The two doctors are currently pursuing postgraduate medicine at the Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan (KGUMSB).  Samten said the doctor on contract is on leave and was planning to resign for health reasons.

However, the dzongkhag has not approved the request, since the hospital is in dire need of a doctor.

The dzongkhag administration requested the health ministry for two doctors, which the ministry agreed in principle to send one within this month. “We are expecting a senior doctor earliest by July end or starting August,” said Samten.

The hospital, he said had been running comfortably without doctors because the senior clinical officer was as good as  young graduate doctors. “He was an officiating doctor at Bali BHU, and is competent.”

The Outpatient Department (OPD) was facing challenges. Initially, a doctor did ward round and the other two would look after the general patient. “The medical reports and processes are delayed now and patients have to wait extra hours. I think that is why people are complaining,” said Samten.

The hospital has facilities like ultrasound machine, dental surgeon, X-rays, laboratories, mother and childcare, and nearly 60 other health professionals. There is no ear nose and throat (ENT) services. The hospital requires two technicians for the service and is still waiting for it.  

The 20-bedded hospital is inclusive of all the facilities- ward services such as delivery, paediatric, separate male and female ward, isolation rooms, and postnatal care rooms. “There are adequate human resources and facilities. Besides lack of doctors, Haa has the best hospital,” DHO, samten said.

The hospital was inaugurated on May, 12 last year. The project cost the government Nu 135 million. Meanwhile, Bali Basic Health Unit (BHU) grade I was upgraded to Haa Traditional Medicinal hospital.

Bali BHU was an essential healthcare centre to the people of Haa for decades before the hospital was constructed.

Phub Dem  | Haa

More highway restrooms in the plan

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 16:27

Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) is working on improving the banking services and toilet facilities for tourists.

According to TCB’s exit survey 2018, dissatisfaction with banking services, communication and toilet facilities were among the main complaints from tourists who visited Bhutan last year.

The survey found that about 12 percent of international and 10 percent of regional tourists said that they were dissatisfied with the banking system, including exchange, point of sale, and ATM services. About 10 percent of international and five percent of regional tourists said they were dissatisfied with internet and telephone services.

TCB’s director-general, Dorji Dradhul, said that the secretariat discussed improving the banking services for tourists with the prime minister during the AM with PM programme.

Tourists want improved credit card facilities or point of sale (POS) services.  The services, he said, weren’t found in many places and the few that are there did not work.

“Improving these services will benefit the locals as well,” he said.

Currently, international tourists pay USD 250 a day which covers accommodation, food and transportation. So, a majority of them do not carry cash with them. 

“If they want to spend on souvenirs then they cannot because of the shortcomings in these facilities,” Dorji Dradhul said.

He said that the TCB requested the prime minister following which the Prime minister’s office wrote to the Royal Monetary Authority to look into it to improve and add more such facilities.

TCB is also planning toilet facilities along the highways.

Close to 3 percent of international visitors said they were dissatisfied with the in-country amenities; about 7.18 percent of international visitors, 1.59 percent more than regional tourists were dissatisfied with toilet facilities in the country.

Dorji Dradhul said that for the flagship programme, TCB worked out the requirement of restroom every 30 to 40 kilometres along the highways. “In total, it comes to about 30 to 40 restrooms. We are discussing with the stakeholders.”

The priority was the toilet facilities, he said. 

TCB had two rounds of meetings with the Bhutan Toilet and other stakeholders, including the Department of Roads.

He said that unlike the one at Tamchoe, the new toilets would be constructed simple with basic facilities. “We are planning to do it within a year.”

However, management could be a problem, he said. For Tamcho, the management is outsourced to Bhutan Toilet; the one at Dochula is managed by the TCB. The restrooms constructed by the TCB at Chudzom and Hongtsho are managed by the gewog people.

“We are also planning on the management of toilets, which is one of the main challenges,” he said.

Dechen Tshomo

Picture story

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 16:26

The Speaker of National Assembly graced the opening of Ratzawog bailey bridge yesterday. The bridge will benefit the villages of Tangkhakha, Zill,Lokhache, and Radzawog, Wangduephodrang.

Heavy rains block roads in eastern Bhutan

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 16:25

Heavy rainfall on July 11 caused several roadblocks in Samdrupjongkhar and Pemagatshel damaging or washing away gewog roads and farm roads in the two dzongkhags.

However, the roadblock above Narphung, about 64km from Samdrupjongkhar to Trashigang was cleared around 2:40pm yesterday. The roadblock occurred on the night of July 13.

Block between Pemagatshel town and Mikuri

“There is high chance of the road getting blocked again, as there is continuous rain and falling boulders. It is also risky to travel along the highway,” a commuter said.

Meanwhile, the Nganglam- Gyalpoizhing and Nganglam- Pemagatshel highways are still closed, as there are several blocks between Kerong and Gyalpoizhing and Tshobali and Pemagatshel.

Officials said it has been about four days since the road was closed for traffic and the heavy rainfall on July 11 caused the roadblocks, adding that they had cleared the roadblocks until Kerong from Nganglam.

Officials said there are about eight major roadblocks between Kerong and Gyalpoizhing as the base of road has been washed away. “We are carrying out the clearing works, but continuous rainfall and falling boulders are hampering the works.”

“Although, we are carrying out the clearings works, we cannot say how long it would take to clear the blocks because the bad weather condition is affecting the works and it is also risky for the labourers at the site,” an official said.

Meanwhile, the Nganglam- Pemagatshel highway is likely to remain closed for more than a week.

Officials said although they are carrying out clearing works, it would take more than a week to clear the blocks because the base of the road has been washed away at several stretches between Mikuri and Pemagatshel.

Heavy rainfall has also caused damages to several gewog road and farm roadblocks in the two dzongkhags. Gewog officials said that they had immediately deployed machines to clear the blocks. “It is challenging to clear the blocks as it gets blocked again the next day because of the continuous rainfall,” said an official.

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar

Bumdeling gup detained for alleged rape of minor

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 16:23

Police in Trashiyangtse detained the gup (local leader) of Bumdeling gewog for an alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl on the night of July 3.

The girl’s father, who is a tshogpa in the gewog, reported the matter to police on July 10 and the gup was arrested on July 12

According to sources, the minor was alone when the incident took place, as the parents were away to collect cordyceps.

The girl’s father alleged that the gup, knowing that his daughter was alone, visited his house at the night and took her upstairs to install Wechat in new phone brought by gup for minor.

The minor shared about the incident to her grandmother, who informed the parents after they returned from the mountains, as the mother fell ill. The father then reported the matter to police and health officials.

Sources in Trashiyangtse said the gup went to the village to investigate a farm road.

It was learnt that village elders and parents tried to resolve the issue mutually but couldn’t because it was reported to police and the crime is a felony.

Staff reporter

For help related to woman and child, call NCWC’s toll free service @ 1098

Misinforming the people?

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 16:17

Besides causing some disgruntlements, the government’s decision to pay higher allowances to teachers and clinical health workers has not, as claimed, made much impact. At least not in terms of retention or in coercing those who are on extra ordinary leave to return to work.

The government announced that because of the revised salary and allowances, thromde offices are flooded with requests from teachers wanting to cancel their leave and return to work. Except for a case or two, thromde and dzongkhag education officers have not received any such requests. It is too early to see the implications.

This miscommunication or misinformation,  is however, not the first time. The prime minister’s state of the nation report stated that the government provided a laptop and a printer each to five private media houses last year when only the procurement process was completed for the equipment.

Either the bureaucrats are providing wrong information to the government or the government is exaggerating the facts. Either ways, the people are being misinformed.

Our civil and public servants have been reminded to step up to their responsibilities and to work closely with the government of the day. As custodians of facts and figures, misleading the government with wrong information is a grave concern. The government, who has as much access to the facts, cannot make claims to justify or support its decisions.

We are seeing these developments at a time when we are worrying about misinformation spread online through social media platforms. If government agencies and leaders misinform the people, they lose credibility. Providing people with correct information on priorities, programmes and activities contributes to government legitimacy.

The media will play its role of verifying the claims and to tell the truth, but what these recent cases show is the lack of coordination and communication in our officialdom.  The12th Plan stresses on the triple ‘C’ mechanism of coordination, collaboration and consolidation. Communication is critical in ensuring these triple Cs happen seamlessly. While institutional culture often shapes a government’s approach to communication, often, governments do not realise that communication, within the government and with the people is part of their job and crucial to their functioning.

How they communicate matters as much as what they communicate. The recent spat between the government and the opposition is one such example where an opportunity to inform people with correct information so that they could take informed decisions was lost.

Nikachhu project progressing well

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 16:17

If the progress of the 118MW Nikachhu Hydro Project is any indication, the country should think of going for smaller hydroelectric projects.

While mega projects like the Punatsangchhus are embroiled in delays, the Nikachhu project is progressing well with about 38 percent of the work already completed as of June.

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Application for intellectual property rights increases

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 16:16

Despite challenges in awareness and use of intellectual property (IP) assets in the country, overall application for registration of IP increased this year. 

According to the department of intellectual property’s (DoIP) annual magazine 2019, as of 2018, a total of 18,150 trademark applications were filed with the department, an increase of 1,212 compared with that of 2017. 

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Vehicle Quota -Will the bane finally be banned?

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 16:14

Many have opined, but none have dared to solve the touchy issue of vehicle quota privilege that has led to enormous financial losses to the Government in taxes, not to mention other associated negative impacts such as unsustainable importation of vehicles leading to traffic congestion, increase in accidents, increase in fossil fuel consumption etc. This is a privilege known and understood by all as legalized evil that can be likened to tobacco and alcohol that continues to be tolerated. It is tolerated because the private sectors do not have much say on it to influence the decision of the government. The beneficiaries composed of senior civil servants, high level bureaucrats and politicians always have   bestowed this privilege upon themselves for decades.

The present Government’s recent statement to take down the vehicle quota system has come as a shocking surprise after their election pledge to extend the facility to every household and also promises of enhancing the value to Nu.1.3 million. This decision is expected to invite  lots of flaks from the public, political parties and the opposition, and only deservedly so as the decision will renege on their own pledge. For those who have looked upon DNT’s pledge to increase the value of vehicle quota to buy bigger cars, the volte-face will come as sheer disappointment.

But for all their shortcomings, we would be the wiser to forgive them if they really put their money where their mouth is, vis-à-vis remove the Vehicle Quota System.  This is not an easy decision for any Government. Hundreds of civil servants and another hundred elected members and constitutional position holders  who enjoy  this privilege are expected to be displeased with the move. Today the quota is traded blatantly without any qualms in the social media. The recent audit reports of estimated tax revenue losses of over Nu. 3 billion in 5 years. Are we talking about having missed on the opportunity to build ourselves a state-of-art healthcare facility with our own money because those in the decision making positions in the past did not dare or care. Someone with courage needs to do the dirty job at great risk. So let us not grudge the current Government for putting an end to the vehicle quota system after having benefited from it. Let us encourage and welcome this bold move by the Government.

But could this decision be undone in the future. What if this is again used as a campaign tool by another political party during the next election?  How do we ensure this evil is buried once and for all? Will the absence of vehicle quota be used as an excuse by the next Government to gift themselves Nu. 5 million grant for purchase of vehicle? While doing away with the quota, the Government must also ensure the decision is irrevocable in the future through institution of irreversible legislative measures. To those who will miss out on tax benefit, the removal of vehicle quota might mean settling for a small inconspicuous car. But we should all be happier, for the revenue recouped could mean better roads, good schools, better healthcare facilities, better irrigation facilities for our farmers etc. This move by the Government might yet be the biggest achievement of all elected governments that will be appreciated by all future generations.

 Pema Tashi,

Thimphu

Rainstorm damage maize and cardamom in S. Jongkhar and Pemagatsel

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 16:12

The recent rainstorm that struck eastern Bhutan for about a week damaged more than 100 acres of maize and cardamom plants in Samdrupjongkhar and Pemagatshel.

The disaster management sectors of the respective dzongkhags are carrying out assessments and compiling reports.

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Paro FC thrash BFF Academy 6-0

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 16:11

Paro FC thrashed Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) Academy team 6-0 in the ongoing Bank of Bhutan (BoB) Premier League at the Changlimithang stadium yesterday.

While both teams started the game on a strong note, it was Paro FC who had more possession and had a few potential attempts in the initial minutes of the match.

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Focus point

Sat, 07/13/2019 - 15:31

Education ministry yet to see pay hike’s impact

Sat, 07/13/2019 - 15:30

Except for a case or two, thromde and dzongkhag education officers have not received any requests from teachers to cancel their extraordinary leave (EOL) and resignations.

During the press conference on July 6, foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji, in response to the Opposition’s post-parliament comments on the pay revision, said that the thromde office is flooded with teachers and health workers who have availed EOL rushing back to join work.

“This is because we’ve raised the salary and incentives,” lyonpo said at the press conference.  “The quality of teachers and health is poor right now because they did not get the attention they deserve and I was one of them, we’re trying to undo what they’ve done.”

Lyonpo said that although the decision to raise the salary in these two important sectors was appreciated by both local and international media, it would take a while to see the impact on quality at home.

However, Lyonpo claimed that the government is already seeing the impact on retention where many people are resuming service and those who have decided to resign are returning to their jobs.

“We’re already seeing that the pay hike has renewed interest to join these two professions and it’s hard to explain when people ask how it will improve the quality of health and education,” Lyonpo said. “However, we would require one or two years to see if it brought about any positive impact.”

Thromdes and dzongkhag education officers Kuensel talked to said that besides some rumours, there is nothing concrete to show that the teachers are willing to return from the EOL or have shown any indication of cancelling their resignations or EOLs.

Many said there is excitement among teachers about the recent pay hike but it is all hearsay that those studying abroad are trying to return after completion of EOL. While few dzongkhag officials shared that some teachers have already put up their resignations recently indicating that they won’t be returning after completing the EOL.

There are however, few instances such as in Pemagatshel where one of the teachers recently cancelled his resignation after the revised salary was approved but another teacher applied for resignation.

Another teacher applied for resignation in Bumthang recently while a teacher couple cancelled the EOL for unknown reasons. In Dagana, a couple teacher resigned because they got through the civil service examination.

Samtse saw two teachers already returning to work from EOL while one teacher from Chukha has requested to cancel the EOL although it is uncertain if the reason was the pay hike.

Many said that those who already planning to apply for EOL are still considering to take the leave and shared that the impact, if any, of the pay hike would be seen after six months or before the new academic session.

This is because the teachers are usually encouraged to apply for EOL or resignation before the beginning or end of an academic session.

A few teachers Kuensel talked to living in Australia shared that although there are talks that they would return, two couples there shared that they have put up their resignations.

The government endorsed teaching allowances ranging from 35-55 percent based on the number of years served. The Pay Commission had recommended revision of teaching allowance as lump sum amount of 20 percent of the new basic pay for all position levels irrespective of the number of years served.

An additional allowance was also endorsed based on Bhutan Professional Standards for Teachers (BPST). The additional allowance recommended is 10 percent for those categorised as proficient, 15 percent for accomplished, and 20 percent for distinguished.

 

Yangchen C Rinzin 

Govt. to rationalise power subsidy

Sat, 07/13/2019 - 15:27

With the three-year tariff cycle ending last month, the government has instructed the Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC) and Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC) to maintain status quo on the existing domestic power tariff.

Both the power utility companies, DGPC and BPC have proposed for a domestic electricity tariff revision for the next three years beginning July 1 this year.

The Bhutan Electricity Authority (BEA) has also conducted public hearings and reviewed the proposals submitted by the two companies.

Economic affairs minister, Loknath Sharma said the ministry is in the process of working out a fair tariff for the benefit of all stakeholders.

Power tariff is usually determined using the cost plus model, which is a cost-based pricing strategy for selling products.In cost plus model, all costs related to materials, labour and overhead are added on top of a markup percentage or profit to determine the selling price.

However, in terms of electricity pricing in the country, the domestic power tariff policy and tariff determination rules and regulation were put in place to ensure fairness and transparency. It ensures that unnecessary and unreasonable costs incurred by the power utility companies are not passed down to the consumers.

Since DGPC is taking care of the operational hydropower plants, it is bearing the cost of generating electricity. Subsequently, it sells electricity to BPC, a utility company responsible for transmission.

This means that the DGPC would determine a generating cost in accordance with the tariff determination rules and regulations. This is the rate that is passed down to the BPC, who will charge the consumers.

DGPC, in its tariff revision proposal has proposed for a generation cost of Nu 1.70 per unit (KWh) of electricity. This is determined based on the total cost of the existing hydropower plants of Basochhu, Kurichhu, Chukha and Tala and the average annual generation. This cost also takes into account the cost of debt financing the DGPC caters to, its cost of equity and returns.

While the BPC formulates its tariff based on similar methodology, it categorises its consumers based on electricity consumption such as the light voltage (LV), medium voltage (MV) and high voltage (HV).

The current tariff for LV block I is Nu 1.28, Nu 2.68 for block II and Nu 3.53 for block III. The actual cost of supply to the LV consumers is Nu 5.81 per unit of electricity, which is the unsubsidised cost. Since the government gets a royalty energy of 15 percent from the whatever the hydropower plants generate, the government uses this amount to subsidise the cost.

 

Subsidy

Often labeled as ‘free electricity,’ the power is not free because the government bears the generation cost from its royalty energy, in the form of subsidy.

For instance, the BPC actually charges LV consumers Nu 5.81 per unit of electricity but because of the subsidy, the consumers in LV block are charged less than Nu 3.5. For the free 100 units of electricity for the rural Block I consumers, BPC charges the government the actual cost of supply (Nu 5.81 a unit).

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said the ministry is yet to work out the allocation of subsidy. “Until then we have asked the power companies to maintain status quo,” he said.

After the ministry finalises different options, he said it would be submitted to the government.

He said he is optimistic that the government would not lift the existing subsidies. “But we have definitely rationalised the subsidy component,” he said.

The government, he said is already looking at electric appliances, bio fuel and improved wood stove as alternative to Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG), which is unsustainable.

While the ministry will keep all the options open, he said the tariff determination should be looked at from both sides. He explained that the local power intensive industries should benefit given the country’s power generation potential since it is the only comparative advantage for Bhutanese industries in the export market.

However, Lyonpo also reminded that the country has to import power from India during lean winter months, the cost of which is often high.

Lyonpo also added that the ministry would look into the grievances of the Association of Bhutanese Industries.

“As much as the government wants to provide affordable electricity to its local consumers, we must understand that even with the commissioning of Mangdechhu, we still have to import power,” he said.

By next month, Lyonpo said that the government would be able finalise the power tariff for the next three years.

 

Tshering Dorji

Government allows outbound trucks to carry overload

Sat, 07/13/2019 - 15:26

Commercial trucks ferrying riverbed materials (RBM) to Bangladesh and India are found carrying more than what is specified by the manufacturer on the registration certificate (bluebook).

The whole export business in the bordering dzongkhags came to standstill after the Anti-Corruption Corporation (ACC) issued a notification to strictly implement the carrying capacity rule specified in the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) Act.

As per section 68 of the RSTA Act a vehicle can carry loads as per the gross vehicle weight (GVW) specified for the vehicle. Following concerns raised by transporters, the cabinet revised the GVW after the issue was discussed in the parliament.

However, the revision was not received well by truckers and exporters in the boulder business. They later resorted to the previous practice of carrying excess load.

According to some exporters in Gelephu, they received an “unofficial” authorisation from the government to resume business as usual.

“Because of all the challenges involved while strictly following the GVW rule, the government gave us an option,” said an exporter.

Foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji, during a recent press conference said that ACC’s notification on overload was applicable only within the country. “As long as the trucks are plying within Bhutan, you should not carry above the certain weight.”

The minister said that the carrying capacity of trucks in Bhutan has not changed in accordance with the change in India. “In India they revised the carrying weight and this has not been done in Bhutan,” he said.

However, the government had revised the loading capacity of trucks across the country in tandem with the increase that the government of India enforced last year.

Lyonpo added that although the trucks carry more than the carrying capacity in Bhutan, as long as the trucks are carrying the weight in accordance with the law in India, it should be allowed. “It’s okay because you are plying in India and it doesn’t affect us,” he said, adding that the Bhutanese law cannot apply in India.

“If we do not do this, these truckers will be affected. But now we have to change and amend the regulations in line with the changes in India. This would take time and waiting is not an option as it is business for thousands of people,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said the government has asked ACC to allow all outbound trucks carrying overloads to pass.

The opposition, however, claimed that it was illegal to legitimise something, which the law doesn’t allow.

Opposition Leader, Pema Gyamtsho (PhD) in an earlier press conference said that the law is clear. “As far as transportation is concerned, the RSTA Act should prevail.” He said that the opposition was not aware if the government had given any sort of unofficial authorisation to the exporters.

He said that the whole boulder trade is plagued with irregularities. “First they started the boulder business without any regulations and procedures in place. It was like putting the cart before the horse,” he said.

Pema Gyamtsho said that as per the previous forest rules and regulations, no machinery was allowed in surface collection. “In 2017, the forest rules and regulations were amended and the forest department was allowed to issue the permit. That’s how Toorsa was opened,” he said. “In the name of surface collection, they have deployed several machines. This is nothing less than mining and surface collection is not even supposed to be commercial. Anything commercial has to be mining.”

Drametse Ngatshang MP, Ugyen Wangdi, said, “On the legality, if at all the government has given unofficial authorisation to fall back to previous way of exporting, we don’t think it is a good thing.”

He said that as a responsible nation, we have to respect the law of the neighboring countries. “If they are against overloading, how can we encourage our people to carry beyond carrying capacity,” he said. “We have to respect and abide by the law and to bypass the law, it is wrong.”

Younten Tshedup

Water woes continue in Samdrupjongkhar thromde

Sat, 07/13/2019 - 15:25

Residents of Samdrupjongkhar thromde are still struggling with an acute water shortage.

For the past few weeks, residents of upper (toed) and middle (bar) thromde did not receive water supply as the thromde’s main diversion damn was washed away and the water pump at Pinchina was damaged by the recent heavy rainfall.

A resident, Dorji Wangchuk, said he fetches water from a pond near the automobile workshops, about a kilometer from his home. “It is challenging because we have to stay in queue as everyone comes to fetch water from a pond.”

He said the issue needs to be taken seriously in summer. “Whom do we rely on if the thromde administration is not able to supply water?” Dorji Wangchuk said.

Another resident, Sangay Tshomo, said the water problem in the thromde had improved compared to the past.

She said the problem occurs during monsoon because landslides wash away the pipelines. “There are high chances for the situation to worsen if the thromde does not come up with permanent measures.”

Karma Wangdi, 48, said people are suffering today because the planning and technical systems among others are all copied from other countries. “This should be done within our capability.”

He said the survey should be carried out in summer when the water volume is high, as it will help understand what kinds of measures to take to protect the pipelines.

 

What is thromde doing?

Officials from the thromde’s water section are carrying out maintenance and repairing works day and night.

Thromde’s executive secretary, Tougay Choedup, said residents of upper and middle thromde areas are facing water problem because the water pump house at Pinchina was damaged and diversion dam at Rikhechu was washed away. There is no water problem in lower thromde as they were supplied from the bore well.

He said thromde officials are working to restore the water pump and have connected pipelines to the Pinchina reservoir from Rikhechu.

Thromde administration has spent about Nu 30,000 for repairing and maintenance works.

Water is also supplied through tankers whenever required for washing purpose, as it is not treated water.

Tougay Choedup said although the pipelines and supporting pillars among others are old, they supply water carrying out maintenance and repairing works because of the upcoming distribution line or network project worth USD 1.22M.

He said that the project would start this year as the thromde administration is in the process of finalising the tender. “The water shortage in the thromde will be addressed once the project is completed.”

He said thromde also tried to explore two bore wells near the automobile workshops and State Mining Corporation Ltd office for LAP 2 and LAP 3. “We didn’t get water even after digging more than 250 metres deep. We spent Nu 800,000 on this.”

 

Kelzang Wangchuk| Samdrupjongkhar

The monsoon and us

Sat, 07/13/2019 - 15:23

The seasonal monsoon trough is lying over the Himalayan range. This means there is more rain, heavy in some parts, in the next few days.

Forecast from the national hydrology and meteorology centre is reliable now. With improved technology and expertise, the forecast has to be taken seriously. This is because with heavy rains in the last few days, there had been damage to infrastructure, particularly to our roads.

In Phuentsholing, people and their properties are evacuated to higher grounds as incessant rain caused the Omchhu to swell and threaten lives and damage to property. Authorities and commuters are sharing images and updates of several roadblocks across the country.

In short it is wiser to be cautious for the next few days, perhaps the next few months as monsoon peaks.

We are located in the fragile part of the young Himalayas. This make us prone to disasters like floods and landslides caused by a slight change in the monsoon pattern. We are suddenly dealing with an excess of water from the shortage we experienced about a month ago.

Fortunately, with advanced communication technology, we are more aware than we were before. A roadblock or a landslide is immediately communicated through the media including social media, which in this case is more effective and quicker in disseminating information. For once, social media like Facebook is playing a positive role.

Besides the several roadblocks and flash floods, we have not reported any casualties. Our disaster preparedness has also improved and all eyes are on the possible dangers of the change in weather or seasonal surprises.

We are spared from massive flooding or lost to lives and property that is happening in our neighbouring Indian states. Compared with that, our roadblocks are only mild irritants. Except for a few hours of impatient wait on the road, barring a few bad situations, we have not experienced massive disruptions to life.

The best preparedness is being cautious. There is no harm in postponing a journey for a day if the road conditions are bad. Precious lives will be saved if we pay heed to the warnings and forecast. The monsoon has only started. None of us can predict the wrath of nature even if we can forecast rainfall.

There is also no harm in being cautious because we are different now. A roadblock in the past meant that commuters were held up two or three nights. There was no way of checking the condition of roads in advance or our forecast was as unreliable as the monsoon.

We are better now. We will not be deprived of essentials including fuel. We have better machinery to clear roadblocks or alternatives. There is no reason to compete with the weather conditions.

Meanwhile, the monsoon is also cursed for exposing, literally, the blunders in our planning system. Whether it is poor drainages in the towns or farm roads giving away to the first heavy rain, the monsoon exposes it all.

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