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Updated: 1 hour 33 min ago

De-Suung water project eases water scarcity 

Fri, 09/10/2021 - 11:37

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar

Residents of  Thromde Toed constituency in Samdrupjongkhar thromde can enjoy an uninterrupted drinking water supply after years of acute shortage with the completion of a new project.

The de-suung national service water project that started on June 7 was completed and handed over to the thromde administration on September 8. About 60 de-suups, army and thromde officials executed the project.

Today, residents do not receive enough water from thromde’s water treatment plant and old gravity line at Pinchina, about four kilometres away from the town, because of the old and leaking pipes.

A new 200-bed quarantine facility at Phuntsho Rabtenling industrial park

Residents said since they face water problems frequently, they had to stand in a queue for more than an hour to fetch water from a pond near the industrial area. “It was challenging for us to fetch water even from the pond.”

“We have water problems, and we didn’t receive water at all last time. The problems worsen in the monsoon because water pipes get washed away frequently. However, the water project is expected to solve the matter and benefit us,” said Ugyen Lhamo, a resident.

Another resident, Kinzang Lhaden, 52, said although the thromde tankers supply water, they still have to fetch water from the pond and well because they cannot use water provided by the tanker for cooking and drinking. “We are thankful for the water project.”

With a total budget of Nu 3.343 million, the project constructed 120 cubic metres of reinforced cement concrete (RCC) tank and about 1,500 metres of distribution line. The project would benefit more than 1,500 populations of Tinkilo.

The project aims to help the community provide safe and reliable drinking water and impart new skills and practical knowledge in water management infrastructure to de-suups.

Meanwhile, a 200-bed quarantine facility at Phuntsho Rabtenling industrial park (Motanga) was handed over to the dzongkhag administration on September 8.

About 92 army personnel, 89 de-suups and 51 skilled labourers were involved in the project and completed it within a month. The business community and private sector from the eastern region also supported the project through the monetary contributions.

The eastern Covid-19 task force’s (EC-19TF) chairman, Dasho Pema Chewang, said that since the quarantine facility was to cater for foreign workers, it would be used once the import of the foreign workers was allowed.

He said that it is also to quarantine those coming from other countries because they pose higher-risk due to more exposure. The quarantine facility is expected to benefit the private sector as they have been facing challenges in hiring workers.

The dzongkhag Covid-19 task force is waiting for the national task force (NTF) to approve the charges and regulations of the facility. “The facility would also address the shortage of the quarantine facility.”

“Since it is an interim measure, we are also planning to construct about a 500-bed permanent quarantine facility soon,” Dasho Pema Chewang said.

Edited by Tshering Palden

Wild dogs causing menace in Ridha

Fri, 09/10/2021 - 11:36

Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue

The recent video clip of a cow limping with stomach and rectum injuries that went viral occurred in Ridha village of Dangchu gewog, Wangdue.

While gewog livestock extension official treated the animal for more than two hours, the cow died on September 6.

But villagers of Ridha gewog said it is not an isolated case.

Farmers in Dungdu Nyelsa and Nobding have been losing their cattle to wild animals, mostly to wild dogs for the past few months.

According to the chiwog tshogpa Rinzin, the chiwog alone had lost more than 18 cattle to wild dogs.

He added that the chiwog witnessed more wildlife predation this year.

“There were cases in the past but this year, it has been happening frequently. The attacks started around May this year.”

Tshogpa Rinzin alone lost four cows to wild dogs.

He said that the most recent incident was reported on September 5, where wild dogs attacked two cattle.

“My neighbour lost four calves. Another lost two at a time. The villagers in Ridha have lost at least two animals to the wild dogs here,” tshogpa Rinzin said.

The gewog livestock extension has been treating the animals as soon as it was reported to the gewog. As of September 7, they are treating four cattle.

Dangchu gewog livestock extension officer Dawa Tshering said most animals attacked by wild dogs cannot survive as the wild dogs attacked the rectum and the intestines. “We have received a lot of cases this year.”

In the last two months, 15 cases of animal predation were reported to the livestock extension. “There isn’t much we can do, but we focus on treatment and when the farmers call us, we try to go immediately and attend to the animal.”

Tshogpa Rinzin said farmers even look after the cattle during the day now.

“In the past, most cattle were left on the road freely and left on their own to return home. But now with the wild life conflict, people even herd the cattle.”

The chiwog has about 90 households.

Edited by Tashi Dema

Monkey business in Tango

Fri, 09/10/2021 - 11:35

Chhimi Dema

Monkeys – Assam Macaque and Grey Langur – are a big problem for the monks in Tango monastery in Thimphu.

Monkeys have been breaking into rooms, altar and kitchen to steal food and offerings. The sewage pipes are frequently broken by monkeys and CGI sheets bent by climbing on them.

In Cheri recently, a monkey snatched a woman’s handbag.

“The number of monkeys in Tango’s vicinity has increased,” said Gembo Dorji, a research officer at Tango monastery.

About 40 monkeys loiter in the area.

About 40 monkeys loiter in Tango area

Gembo Dorji said the monastery consulted the agriculture ministry on the issue and temporary electric fencings were installed.

“The greatest concern for us is electric short circuit,” Gembo Dorji said.

In Tango, last week, a monk’s quarter was raided by a monkey. And two days ago, a bear tore a 15kg tin of hydrogenated palm oil (dalda) and had eaten half of it.

Gembo Dorji said: “We are consulting with relevant organisations to find solutions.”

Over the past week, forestry officials chased the monkeys using firecrackers.

 

Implications of feeding wildlife 

Nature Conservation Division’s chief forestry officer, Sonam Wangdi, said that pilgrims feeding the monkeys and poor waste management were some of the reasons behind such incidents.

“When people feed them, animals get habituated in that area,” he said.  “When we feed a generation of monkeys then the next generation loses their instincts to search for food in the wild.”

This can cause monkeys to altogether lose their wild instincts and make them think that their source of food is from humans, Sonam Wangdi said.

The incidents are common in other dzongkhags and along the national highways as well.

Monkeys are mostly found along the road of Thimphu-Wangdue-Phuentsholing highway and also in Trongsa and Lingmethang in Mongar.

“It is becoming more and more challenging to control these animals,” Sonam Wangdi said.

In India, a monkey snatched a 12-day-old boy from his mother and killed him.

Senior forestry officer, Namgay Wangchuk, said that monkeys along the highway were because of poor waste management.

He said that people discard food wrappers and food along the road encouraging monkeys to consider it a food source.

“Animals get nutritious food from the wild than what we feed them,” Namgay Wangchuk said.

Officials said that regional tourism was another factor that caused the monkeys along the road to shift their habitat. “Tourists buy food solely to feed the monkeys on the way because macaque has a spiritual meaning in the Hindu religion.”

Poor waste management cause risks on other animals.

Predators such as leopard cats feed on rodents that feed near the roads, Namgay Wangchuk said, causing the cats to be run over by vehicles.

Another risk is the spread of zoonotic disease. Zoonotic diseases are spread from animals to humans.

Imbalance in ecosystem is another issue, Sonam Wangdi said.

Sonam Wangdi said that in Tango bears were drawn to the human settlement because of poor waste management.  “As part of our help towards communities who are affected by bears, we are now procuring bear-proof containers that cannot be broken by bears and are air-tight.”

He said bears are found in the herding communities because of poor food storage facilitates, in retreat because of ritual cakes (tormas) and in other places because of food waste.

According to the Forest and Nature Conservation Rules and Regulations of Bhutan 2017, feeding wild animal is an offence and shall be fined Nu 500 per occasion.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk

RMA increases housing loan repayment term to 30 years

Fri, 09/10/2021 - 11:34

Thukten Zangpo

The Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) has increased loan repayment term for housing (commercial and residential) loans to 30 years from 20, excluding the maximum gestation period of three years.

This, according to RMA, is to promote homeownership, housing affordability, and availability, and further reduce the rent burden.

The Authority’s press release states that RMA is cognizant of the fact that due to the prolonged impact of the pandemic on the businesses, there is a looming threat to the housing as well.

“An increase in the loan repayment tenure would reduce the equated monthly installment and we expect the house owners would reduce the house rents, however, it will also depend on the house owners,” an official from RMA said.

The press release states that the existing housing loans, for both commercial and residential, will also be eligible for the extension of loan term.

For example, those who have availed housing loans for the term period of 20 years and has been repaying for five years, they would get an additional 10 year-term period. However, it depends on the borrower whether to extend or not.

For a commercial housing loan (CHL) amounting up to Nu 50 million, borrower will get a loan of maximum of 80 percent of the total collateral value (building and land).  Earlier, it was 70 percent.  

For a loan amount of more than Nu 50 million, one can avail a loan of maximum of 70 percent of the collateral value. Earlier, it was 60 percent.

CHL is given for the purpose of construction, purchase of a house, building, or apartment and it also includes repair, for the purpose of generating a profit, either from business activity, resale of the property, or rental or lease income.

Additionally, for home loan, one can avail a loan of maximum of 90 percent of total collateral value. It was 80 percent earlier.

Home loans are provided for the purpose of construction of personal house and it also includes repair, purchase of house or apartment.

The RMA also relaxed the risk weight for home loans from 100 percent to 50 percent that is overdue by 90 days and less to encourage financial institutions to finance home loans. “The relaxation in the risk weight will help in freeing up capital charge on home loans which are required to be maintained as part of the regulatory capital.”

However, there is no change in the different interest rates of housing loan maintained by the banks.  

The housing sector accounted for 26 percent of the total loan portfolio of Nu 174.92 billion as of June 2021.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk

A driver switching point to ease port congestion, cut import costs

Fri, 09/10/2021 - 11:34

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

To ease congestion at the Mini Dry Port (MDP) and truck parking (temporary port), and reduce the import costs, the Southern Covid-19 task force (SC19TF) opened an additional driver switching point in Phuentsholing yesterday. 

Phuentsholing Higher Secondary School ground was inaugurated as the driver switching area on September 8. The initiative was coordinated by the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) and its members along with relevant agencies as per the instruction of the SC19TF.

With the new driver switching station, the vehicles entering from India with goods will directly be escorted to the school premises. The Indian drivers will be kept in a containment area and the vehicles would be disinfected and kept untouched for a minimum of an hour. After that, the Bhutanese drivers will drive the vehicles to various godowns where the goods would be unloaded. The vehicles would then return to the switching area and be escorted to the exit gate with the same Indian drivers.

The SC19TF said: “This is expected to hugely benefit all the traders and importers.”

Meanwhile, importers intending to use the facility can register for the service.

The regional secretary of BCCI office in Phuentsholing, Sangay Dorji said that the station could accommodate approximately 50 trucks.

“And there are 51 approved or registered warehouses,” he said. “Firstly, it will ease the pressure on MDP and truck parking. Secondly, it will also cut down on many unnecessary costs.”

A Phuentsholing-based importer said that, unlike the MDP and truck parking ports, there will be no need to pay the loaders.

“Until today Indian drivers were allowed only until MDP,” he said, adding that importers paid extra on freight, loading and unloading charges.

“Now, we can directly take the goods to our godowns and our labourers can unload,” he said. 

Edited by Tshering Palden

A hot cultural issue

Fri, 09/10/2021 - 11:33

Economic development can bring painful transformations in developing countries. Communities complaining about the increasing burden to take care of their lhakhangs and other religious monuments are an example.

Lhakhangs, choetens and other religious sites play an important role in the lives of Bhutanese. Religious monuments are the country’s rich cultural heritages and identity for more than 75 percent of the Bhutanese population.

In a country that identifies cultural heritage as an important aspect of developmental activities and one of the four pillars of guiding philosophy for development, the Gross National Happiness, everyone should be worried about the complaint.

In the olden days, people took pride to take care of their community lhakhangs and other monuments. It was a symbol of community vitality. But in the recent years, people have become reluctant to take care of the lhakhangs and other monuments. Economic empowerment took over spiritualism.

Initially, local leaders wanted the government to deploy caretakers. Now they are surrendering their community lhakhangs to the Zhung Dratshang or private individuals. There are frictions within communities on responsibilities to conduct community rituals. Many households do not shoulder the responsibility equally.

While rural-urban migration and younger generations are blamed for the lack of interest in communities to take care of their lhakhangs, both could be prevented if we put in a little effort.

In urban Thimphu, where almost 19.1 percent of Bhutanese population live, thromde and gewog officials are forcing each other to take care of the community lhakhangs and choetens.

There is no shame and sense of responsibility on anyone to discuss the burden in a Buddhist country. Some vocal social media users blatantly asked people not to go for pilgrimages if they cannot take care of their community lhakhangs.

There is also a need for us to introspect why the younger generations are not interested in our culture and religious practices. Parents, teachers and the communities should inculcate the values in them. Our religious practices should become simple and accessible to them.

The discussions of communities not being able to take care of their lhakhangs and monuments also come at a time when there are numerous new lhakhang constructions mushrooming across the country.

Without a sustainable source to fund the lhakhangs, problems would aggravate .

Putting a cap on new lhakhang constructions in places where there are many lhakhangs and encouraging the sponsors to renovate and take care of existing lhakhangs would solve the issues temporarily.

As a long-term solution, the Department of Culture should frame strict guidelines to take care of community monuments and implement them. It’s also time to deliberate on the Cultural Heritage Bill.

The Constitution mandates every citizen to protect our culture and heritage. Let us not fail in that duty.

Bhutan to achieve herd immunity by first week of October 

Fri, 09/10/2021 - 11:33

Second dose for children to begin from September 14  

Younten Tshedup 

By early next month, Bhutan would have achieved herd immunity as more than 80 percent of the total population would have been fully vaccinated.

This would be possible following the complete immunisation (two doses) of some 60,000 children between the age of 12 and 17 years, which begins next week.

The health ministry will roll out the second round of vaccination for children in this age group between September 14 and 18. Simultaneously, the first dose of vaccine for children in this age group in the seven remaining dzongkhags would also begin.

A member of the National Immunisation Technical Advisory Group (NI-TAG), Dr Sonam Wangchuk said that with the arrival of 198,900 doses of Pfizer vaccine recently, the health ministry plans to fully vaccinate more than 59,700 children (12 to 17 years) in 13 dzongkhags and some 16,000 children in the remaining seven dzongkhags.

“Once we complete the vaccination programme, the overall vaccine coverage would be more than 80 percent,” he said, adding that the remaining 16,000 children would receive their second dose by the end of October.

Besides the 4,500 plus children in Phuentsholing and Samtse, who received the Pfizer vaccine in July, most of the eligible children have received the Moderna vaccine. However, this time, all eligible children will receive the Pfizer vaccine.

“Interchangeability between Pfizer and Moderna vaccine is recommended. People should not confuse this as mix-and-match because both the vaccines are mRNA type, manufactured by two different companies,” said Dr Sonam Wangchuk.

He said that vaccination for children would be conducted at the respective schools across all the dzongkhags.

Despite the holidays in Thimphu, Dr Sonam Wangchuk said that the coverage should not be hampered as most of the students would be vaccinated before the holidays — between September 14 and 15. “Should there be any additional students who had not received the vaccine then, we can continue after the holidays.”

The government spent over Nu 101.377 million to procure 198,900 doses of Pfizer vaccine earlier this week.

Edited by Tshering Palden

115 businesses suspected of fronting in Phuentsholing cancel licenses 

Thu, 09/09/2021 - 10:38

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Since January 2020 to date, 115 businesses suspected of fronting in Phuentsholing have voluntarily cancelled their licenses. Of that, 60 were trading licenses and 55 for services such as bars, restaurants, and workshops.

A Phuentsholing regional trade official said that there were 274 (179 trading and 95 services) businesses suspected of fronting in the town, including the 115. 

From the remaining 159 license holders suspected of fronting, the trade office said 124 have submitted statements for non-involvement in fronting and 18 licenses were cancelled due to non-renewal or expiry of validity in the licensing system.

Further, 16 licenses were cancelled after the license holders didn’t turn up to update and explain to the trade office despite notices being served, and a license was dropped due to information mismatch.

Regional director for trade, Sonam Dhendup said that all these 274 firms were marked as “suspected fronting.”

“We called them and explained. We told them they know better whether they were practising fronting or not,” he said. “We gave them the opportunity. So 115 voluntarily cancelled their licenses.”

Sonam Dhendup said they could not distinguish correctly or exactly if the suspected fronting license holders are actually fronting cases.

The trade office has been raising awareness of the new penal laws and likely penalties.

“We want to make it clear. If they come forward, it would be good. We don’t want people to be taken by surprise when the law is implemented,” he said.

Meanwhile, the country’s biggest trading hub is also considered as the breeding ground for fronting businesses due to the porous border.

Without proper laws, fronting, which is generally an act of leasing licenses to non-Bhutanese has been thriving in the town presenting a huge challenge in stopping the revenue outflow. According to the trade office, Bhutanese license holders make easy money through commissions without making any investment or taking business risks.

However, with the new Act, fronting businesses will be treated as criminal offences and penalised beginning next year.

Fronting business between Bhutanese will be charged for violation for the first conviction and petty misdemeanour and cancellation of license if convicted for the second time.

It would be a felony of the fourth degree or value-based sentencing, whichever is higher, if fronting takes place between Bhutanese and a non-Bhutanese and between non-Bhutanese license holders.

A businessman said that fronting was in every sector in Phuentsholing such as trading, services, travel agents, and boulder export.

“Now some may have shifted to Thimphu,” he said.

He said that when there were persons without Nu 100,000 in their accounts, nor any past transactions, it was difficult to believe them holding import licenses.

“The licenses must be provided considering all these,” he said. “An import business needs huge investment.”

A Phuentsholing resident, Karma Tshering Dorji said that the government must first close the bigger entities operating in fronting. The smaller ones would automatically dissolve, he added.

“Bhutanese must think of bringing in foreign direct investments rather than engaging in fronting with non-Bhutanese,” he said.

He said that the fronting laws between Bhutanese were irrelevant.

“If leasing of licenses between Bhutanese is fronting and criminal, the government must now think of engaging people in business and entrepreneurial training, and not just leave it to the new law,” he said.

Edited by Tshering Palden

Maintaining a ‘small, compact and efficient’ CS still a challenge

Thu, 09/09/2021 - 10:37

Increased number of CS attributed to increasing demand in education and health sectors

Yangchen C Rinzin   

Maintaining a ‘small, compact and efficient’ civil service still remains the biggest challenge for the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC), according to the commission’s annual report 2020-2021.

The increased number of civil servants this time was attributed to the increased demand in the education and health sectors.

In the last three years, the commission recruited 1,737 new civil servants in the education sector and 1,012 civil servants in the health sector.

The commission pointed out that the policy decisions on the education system have driven the growth of human resources. “RCSC has very little say as the decisions are taken directly by the government or sometimes in consultation with the ministry and sometimes unilaterally without due process of policy formula,” the report stated.

On an average, the education sector has recruited 579 teachers and the health sector recruited 337 employees annually in the last three years while all other agencies together recruit only about 250 to 300 officers.

“Although teachers are recruited every year, the vacancies in teaching have not yet stabilised to a reasonable number,” the report stated. “This is despite the average student intake rate from 2016 declined approximately by 2 percent due to decline in birth rates.”

Officials said changing policies with successive change in the government changes the human resource requirement.

An official explained how the number of teacher requirement increased during the previous government’s tenure when it reduced the student-teacher ratio from 22 to 18 hours, dedicated Dzongkha teachers for Classes PP-III, introduction of central schools with boarding facilities, and opening of Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) centres and special needs teachers.

This government introduced a policy to provide admission to class XI for all students, the introduction of formative assessment for primary level, and reducing the admission age for pre-primary to five years old from six. “RCSC received a new requirement of teacher assistants,” the official said.

The commission found that with the continuous expansion of health infrastructure, demand for human resources have also increased including the establishment of new hospitals and basic health units upgraded.

The commission, however, saw positive development with the recent staffing exercise of 49 departments of eight ministries, 25 agencies, 20 dzongkhags, and four thromdes. “The demand for staff is stabilising and decreasing in some agencies,” the report stated.

The reduction in the staff was partly attributed to leveraging on the ICT systems that have reduced workload, the assessment for staff requirements, multi-tasking of staff and doing away with redundant posts.

The commission also found that changing policies without adherence to existing policy making processes, policies are being developed with limited due diligence, consultation and appreciation of the practical implications on the ground and future sustainability.

“Such practices could lead to many issues in the future. The frequent change in the education sector policies where many new interventions are introduced even before the earlier systems or processes stabilise,” the report pointed out.

The commission pointed out that this raises questions of quality, cost effectiveness and sustainability of such policies.

Meanwhile, besides the challenges of keeping a small and compact civil service, the challenges of collaboration and coordination have also been long standing in the civil service.

The recent Royal Kasho also clearly reflected that agencies pursue isolated sectoral objectives while administrative processes burden efficient service delivery.

It also stated communication and coordination has been further side-lined in the quest for autonomy by different agencies.

It was found that agencies were generally found to function in “silo” fashion with limited or minimal interaction with relevant agencies. The issue was also extensively reported during the mid-term review of the 12th Plan this year.

“These challenges have come to the forefront in the context of increasingly fast paced and disruptive change like the Covid-19 pandemic,” the report.

However, the RCSC has now developed the leadership statement and the support functions assessment as management tools for performance improvement and accountability enhancement through better staff engagement, increased ICT use, greater collaboration & coordination, and continuous innovation.

This will be implemented from 2021-22 Fiscal Year.

There are 31,267 civil servants including 26,798 on regular and 4,469 on contract as of June 2021.

Edited by Tashi Dema

New facilities for quarantine completed

Thu, 09/09/2021 - 10:37

Nima | Gelephu

His Royal Highness Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck attended the consecration ceremony of the new quarantine centre at Namkhaling, Gelephu thromde yesterday.

More than 80 de-suups, 72 trainees from Jigme Wangchuck Power Training Institute (JWPTI) under the guidance of the officials from Royal Bhutan Army in Pelrithang, Gelephu completed the construction of a 200-bed quarantine facility within 45 days.

Two officials from the Sarpang dzong construction project were involved in the construction of the quarantine facility that began in July.

De-Suups were recognised with a service pin and the other officials were awarded certificates.

The incident commander of the dzongkhag Covid-19 taskforce, Sarpang Dzongdag Lobzang Dorji said that the task force had drafted a standard operating procedure to manage the quarantine facility.

The management plan was submitted to the national task force for review and a quarantine facility management team would manage the quarantine facility.

The quarantine facility, equipped with kitchens, would mainly cater to foreign workers. There won’t be any catering from outside, according to the dzongdag

However, the national task force would be finalising the SOPs for the quarantine facilities in high-risk areas.

Meanwhile, another 200-bed quarantine facility in Samdrupjongkhar was handed over to the dzongkhag administration in a simple ceremony yesterday. The construction of the centre was completed recently.

On the Command of His Majesty The King, construction of quarantine facilities in Samtse, Gelephu, Samdrupjongkhar, and Phuentsholing started in July.

Edited by Tshering Palden

Gelephu FC registers first win of the season 

Thu, 09/09/2021 - 10:36

Thinley Namgay   

Gelephu FC fulfilled their quest to record a win at the ongoing BoB Bhutan Premier League (BPL) when they defeated Tensung FC 2-0 at the Changlimithang Stadium yesterday.

Gelephu’s striker, Ngawang Namgyel Tamang, scored a brace to give his team the long-awaited three points in the tournament.  Ngawang Namgyel Tamang scored an early goal in the 15th minute following an assist from Bijay Gurung. His second goal came in the 67th minute which was assisted by winger Yeshi Norbu.

Despite being a prominent BPL team, Tensung FC couldn’t stop Gelephu FC, who displayed a relatively competitive performance.

Gelephu FC’s coach Mindu said that he was happy with the win and wanted to dedicate it to the fans of Gelephu who have been supporting the team so far. “Our fans are our source of motivation.”

Mindu said that the second half of the game saw his team face more pressure. His players dealt with it despite their disadvantage in terms of fitness compared to their opponents.

Both Tensung and Gelephu have three more games in hand.

Gelephu will play Paro FC, Rinpung FC and Gomo FC in the remaining matches.

Tensung’s head coach, Namgay Tshering, said that his players completely lost focus during the game yesterday. “I told my players before the game that none of the teams would be easy, but they took the game lightly. It could be because Gelephu had not won a single game so far.”

“We had many chances in the second half but luck was not on our side,” said Namgay Tshering, adding that Tensung failed to play a pressing game yesterday.

Transport United FC will face Gomo FC at Changlimithang Stadium today.

Edited by Tshering Palden

Hunters prey on domestic animal

Thu, 09/09/2021 - 10:36

Tshering Namgyal | Mongar

Few weeks after police in Thimphu and Paro nabbed a few men for slaughtering cattle, residents of Muhung chiwog in Mongar are alleging that some people are killing their domestic animals with poisoned arrow.

A villager, Karma Yangden, who lost her pregnant cow, found it dead with an arrow on right chest in the jungle about a kilometre away from the village on September 7.

She said she had to hire seven villagers to look for the cow. “I went to look for the cow on the evening of September 6 when it didn’t return home and shouted for it. The slaughterer might have abandoned it after hearing my voice.”

With children in school, it is only Karma and her husband at home. They release the cattle for grazing in the forest and gather it in the evening.

“We lose our cattle to wild animals and now with people killing them, we are worried more,” Karma Yangden said.

Muhung tshogpa Karma Lethro said he reported the matter to the gewog administration after the owner informed him.

He said this is the third time such incidence has happened in the chiwog in recently.

He said a villager lost her milking cow and calf too in 2019. “Another lost a cow last year also. Only waste and tail were left.”

According to the tshogpa, they had initially suspected wild animals but they are now certain that it is miscreants. “We suspect some people from Balam gewog and Sershong chiwog in Sheri Muhung gewog. Cow herders from the chiwog had earlier met some hunters from those places before but we have no evidence.”

He said that they have to do something as it is becoming a serious matter now.

Sheri Muhung Gup Ugyen said the gewog falls under Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary and he has verbally informed the rangers after the tshogpa informed him over social media.

He said the forest officials were on the way to Aja to investigate the incidences of tiger preying on cattle and hoping they would look into the matter once they are back.

Edited by Tashi Dema

National Seed Centre plans to diversify organic seeds

Thu, 09/09/2021 - 10:33

Phub Dem | Paro

As the country gears towards achieving 100 percent organic by 2035, National Seed Centre (NSC) in Paro has been taking a proactive approach in procuring and supplying organic seeds since 2019.

The centre has been producing and promoting high-quality seeds, planting materials and other agriculture inputs at affordable prices to improve the livelihoods of farmers.

Considering the requirement of organic seeds with the introduction of the organic flagship programme, the centre launched seven organic seeds within two years. The seeds are quinoa, buckwheat, beans, chilis, ginger, turmeric, and asparagus.

According to the Programme Director of NSC, Sonam, except for organic cauliflower seeds, which are highly prone to pests, the centre is ready with export-oriented and domestic organic seeds.

He said that the centre had identified a group of farmers in Trongsa for cauliflower and its organic seeds are expected to hit the market starting next year. “We are planning to diversify organic vegetable seeds and exploring organic seeds for broccoli.”

The centre started organic seed production during the 2019-2020 financial year with support from the National Organic Flagship Programme.

He said that the centre began an awareness programme for farmers to identify feasible lands to grow organic seeds and then register the farmers as organic seed growers.

He said that a multidisciplinary team comprising officials from Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority and the National Centre for Organic Agriculture visited every gewog to check the feasibility and consult with interested seed growers. “The team also listed support farmers require such as tools, quality seeds, and irrigation pipes.”

In the past, the demand for organic seeds was met by sourcing the seeds from traditional farms that have no history of using chemical fertilisers.

The National Centre for Organic Agriculture has to register, verify and certify every seed grower and their produce.

Sonam said that it was a lengthy procedure and only a certain amount of the seeds were certified as organic seeds, adding that farmers have to certify their produce every year.

There are over 215 organic seed growers registered with the centre.

The seeds were produced on previously uncultivated land and without using any chemical fertilisers.

The centre procured 14.3 metric tonnes (MT) of organic seeds and supplied about 7.7MT across the country.

Without a separate cleaning and processing machine, the centre is facing challenges while packing the produce. Today, the centre has to clean the machine that is used to wash and dry regular seeds and use it to process the organic seeds.

The price of organic seeds is low; currently, they are sold at a promotional rate.

The centre receives supply orders from the dzongkhag agriculture office and private buyers. Besides, the centre also sells the seeds at the CSI market in Thimphu.

According to some officials, the ultimate aim was to hit the export market.

“The organic seeds are stored in small cold storage and they are packed when there is demand. We don’t have separate cold storage to store the packed seeds for now,” an official said.

The NSC is planning to convert some infrastructure on the campus for cleaning, drying, packing and storing organic seeds.

The organic flagship programme worth Nu 1 billion is aimed at a high value, low volume production of 12 organic products. The products are buckwheat, quinoa, ginger, cardamom, mushroom, turmeric, trout, lemongrass oil, asparagus, beans, cauliflower, and chilli.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk

Shifting electric poles incurs expenditure for people  

Thu, 09/09/2021 - 10:32

Thinley Namgay   

Residents of Hongtsho, Yusipang and Rama under the Chang Gewog in Thimphu have been bearing the cost of shifting electric poles from their land.

Poles are being relocated to either build houses or for other reasons.

Chang Mangmi Sonam Zangmo said that the farmland was distributed among family members over time, and people had to transfer electric poles to build houses. “But it’s problem for the residents when they have to pay more than Nu 100,000.”

The Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC) could address the issue, said Sonam Zangmo. “It is challenging, especially for the disadvantaged section of people.”

BPC official said that the issue was not only in Thimphu. He said an exorbitant land price and land distribution among family members were the main reasons.

Many residents from Hongtsho and Yusipang have applied to transfer poles, according to BPC official. “To shift the poles, one has to bear the cost. If it is for a new one, payment is not required. People of Hongtsho and Yusipang are not requesting in a group to shift the poles.”

The BPC official said: “Today, it is difficult to get land to shift the poles. It would be better if the gewog administration could submit the list of all the affected people at once so that BPC can allocate a separate budget for the financial year.”

The recent Thimphu Dzongkhag Tshogdu decided that the gewog leaders should submit a list to the BPC.

The unauthorised installation of electric poles by the BPC in the private land is one of the causes of the current problem, Hongtsho Tshogpa Minjur Wangmo said. “In some places, BPC has installed tower without permission.”

She said that when residents apply to the authorities concerned to build a house, one of the criteria is whether there is an electrical disturbance in the surrounding. “So far, I received 13 complaints from the people.”

Yusipang Tshogpa Jamyang Lhamo said: “Depending on the size of poles, people have been paying between Nu 15,000 to Nu 50,000. In some places, there is a transmitter, and it costs more than Nu 500,000 to transfer it. How can people afford it?”

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk

Shortage of classrooms in Nganglam MSS force parents to enrol PP students in Gashari

Thu, 09/09/2021 - 10:32

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar

Residents of Nganglam in Pemagatshel have hired a bus to drop their children studying in pre-primary (PP) at Gashari Primary School in Norbugang gewog this year.

This is because Nganglam Middle Secondary School refused to enrol children aged five this year.

Gashari Primary School is 12km away from Tshenkari in Nganglam and there are about 49 children from Nganglam and Tshenkari studying in the school.

A parent, Rinchen Lhamo, 30, said Nganglam MSS enrolled only children above six years and didn’t take children aged five, stating that the school has a shortage of classrooms this year.

She said that she admitted her son at Gashari Primary School as it would be late because her son turns seven next year. “We don’t know why Nganglam MSS takes only limited students in PP.”

When the parents did not hire a bus, they had to spend about Nu 500 every day, dropping and picking their children.

Rinchen Lhamo said that they were not sure if they would be able to transfer their children to Nganglam MSS or let them continue in Gashari Pry School next year. “Gashari Primary School management told us that we should keep our children there for three years.”

Another parent, Deki Wangmo, 34, said sending children to Gashari is a problem for both parents and children. “Children have to wake up early in the morning and we have to drop and pick them.”

She said they hired a bus for the children because the parents who do not have their own vehicle face problems in dropping and picking up their children.

Parents pay Nu 1,250 for a child for the bus service and salary of the driver.

Deki Wangmo said they are expecting Nganglam MSS management to enrol their children next year.

Few parents said they stopped sending their children so that they could continue in PP next year at Nganglam MSS.

“We don’t understand why Nganglam MSS is not enrolling children as per the education policy,” a parent said.

Parents said they arranged a bus this year, as the bus was idle since travelling via Indian highway was not allowed because of the pandemic.

They are worried they might not get the bus as the owner would resume transportation service if the situation improves.

A parent, Jigme, said they pay Nu 30,000 for the bus and Nu 12,000 for the driver a month excluding the fuel and maintenance charges. “We spend about Nu 14,000 a month on fueling. It would help us if the school would construct additional classrooms.”

Nganglam MSS Principal, Nidup Tshering, said the school could not take new admission for the children aged five because they had to accommodate two sections of class X this year. “We faced classroom shortages.”

He said the school management had converted two units of girls hostel into classrooms to accommodate class X because the school has only about 29 classrooms for classes PP to X with 31 sections at the moment.

“Although we are planning to construct temporary classrooms with support from parents, the schools had also requested the dzongkhag education sector to reconsider and start the construction of six-unit classrooms immediately,” the principal said.

Nidup Tshering said there would be more challenges and pressure for the new admission next year and the school wouldn’t be able to take up the new admission for the children above five years if the education sector could not reconsider the six-unit classrooms.

Meanwhile, according to the officials from the dzongkhag education sector, it would be impossible to construct the six-unit classrooms as they do not have the budget this time.

Officials said they are trying to avail budget.

Edited by Tashi Dema

Fighting fronting from the front

Thu, 09/09/2021 - 10:31

In less than four months, fronting of any sort will be treated as a criminal offence and penalised as the Penal Code of Bhutan 2021 comes into effect.

Fronting between Bhutanese will be charged for violation for the first conviction and petty misdemeanour and cancellation of licence if convicted for the second time.

It would be a felony of the fourth degree or value-based sentencing, whichever is higher, if fronting takes place between Bhutanese and a non-Bhutanese, and between non-Bhutanese licence holders.

However, the problem with fronting today is that it is so widespread in the country as holders lease out their licences to others for some profit.

Fronting exists in grocery stores, hotels, garment stores, pastry shops, electronic and hardware shops, scrap dealers and micro-businesses, tourism, and even in large industries and the construction sector.

The dominance of fronting in Phuentsholing was clear when almost all shops in the town remained closed whenever there were festivals in India or the border was sealed during elections or for that matter the early days of the border closure due to Covid-19 last year. But today it is everywhere and mostly in major thromdes like Thimphu, Gelephu, Mongar, Samdrupjongkhar.

Fronting is a term unique to Bhutan, which generally describes a business practice where a licensed person leases the business to another person for a fee or commission. The unregulated and unlicensed person who is the owner actually controls the business from behind the Bhutanese signboard.

Lack of monitoring and alternatives largely resulted in the failure of many a ban like those on tobacco and plastics. The moratorium on the issuance of bar licences has led to a multitude of illegal activities, such as leasing or selling of the licences, sale of alcohol without a licence, etc.

Liberalising licensing could to a great deal ease the problem. On that front, the economic affairs ministry’s efforts seem to be on the right track. But there is a need to look at terms and conditions of obtaining licences for other businesses as well. One is cutting down on the excessive bureaucratic processes and formalities.

We also know through experience that many licence holders will do everything possible to bend the law and make easy money. So we should expect that they would still try to fine-tune their tricks to sidestep the rules.

So we should also advocate our people on the dangers of such a practice in the longer term.

Rampant fronting activities will have grave social, economic and political consequences as foreigners running the businesses take advantage of the opportunities in Bhutan, evade tax, repatriate profits, and render the locals as lowly paid employees or cheap commission agents. Every business licence holder in the country must realise that.

To achieve that we must have many more awareness campaigns, not only with a select audience in towns but even in the villages. And repeatedly.

His Majesty grants dhar to new layog lyonpo and others

Thu, 09/09/2021 - 10:30

His Majesty The King granted dhar to formally appoint a new minister to the Cabinet, as well as government secretaries, and Zimpon Wogma to the Office of the Gyalpoi Zimpon.

Karma Dorji, Member of Parliament from Nganglam constituency, was appointed as Minister of the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources (MoLHR). The incumbent minister of MoLHR, Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji, has been appointed to the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs.

L-R (Front Row): Col Kesang Wangdi, DT; Col Gyembo Dukpa; Col Pema Lethro, DK; Hodo Drukpa, DK; Col Tshering Penjor; Col Karma Sampa (RBG)
(2nd Row): Col Tandin Gyeltshen, DNY; Col Tobgay Drukpa; Col Chen Dorji; Col Wangchuk Dukpa; DT, Col Kesang Tobgay, DK; Col Tharchen, DK

 

L-R: Col Ugyen Penjore; Col Chewang Dengye; Col Kinlay Wangdi, DNY; Col Yeshey D Tangbi; Col Tashi Phuntsho; Col Namgay; Col Gyem Tshering

The new Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests is Thinley Namgyel, who was serving as the Secretary of the Gross National Happiness Commission.

Kinga Dakpa, who was serving as Director General of the Royal Education Council, is the new Secretary General of the National Council.

Sonam Thinley, who was working in the Cabinet Secretariat as the Chief Administration Officer, was appointed to the Office of the Gyalpoi Zimpon as Zimpon Wogma.

His Majesty The King also granted promotions to 11 officers of the Royal Bhutan Army, one officer of the Royal Body Guards, and seven officers of the Royal Bhutan Police. The officers were promoted from the rank of Lieutenant Colonel to the rank of Colonel.

 

Zimpon Wogma Sonam Thinley

NC Secretary General Kinga Dakpa

 

NC Secretary General Kinga Dakpa

Bhutan shares its Covid-19 success story 

Wed, 09/08/2021 - 16:50

WHO ministerial roundtable meeting calls for a resilient health system 

Younten Tshedup  

Bhutan’s Covid-19 journey so far has been one of the most successful compared to most countries in the region and across the world.

A recent assessment conducted with support from the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicated that there was ‘little or no effect’ of the pandemic on essential health services delivery in the country.

Representing Health Minister Dechen Wangmo during the ministerial roundtable virtual meeting at the 74th session of the WHO Regional Committee (RC) for South-East Asia yesterday, health secretary, Dr Pandup Tshering, said that as part of the overall Covid-19 response strategy, Bhutan had prioritised all essential health services in the country.

The pandemic, he said, have caused major disruption to essential health services threatening the decades-long progress achieved in improving maternal and child health, increasing immunisation coverage, and reducing communicable and non-communicable diseases, across the world.

Dr Pandup Tshering said that apart from stretching the health systems of many countries to a breaking point and beyond, the Covid-19 pandemic has also forced countries to make significant changes and adjustments to the delivery of essential health services particularly in the event of large and widespread community transmission.

He said: “Bhutan is no exception to it. Nevertheless, Bhutan has managed to successfully contain the pandemic by making the best use of the evolving science and evidence around the pandemic.”

To safeguard mainstream health facilities, the secretary said that flu clinics were established in early 2020, just as the threat from the pandemic was growing in the region. Flu clinics were later equipped with tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis facilities to enhance the detection of TB cases.

To minimise the incidence of flu-like illnesses, and to help narrow down the focus on Covid-19, Dr Pandup Tshering said that seasonal influenza vaccination was rolled out across the country, covering over 91 percent of the total eligible population by April 2020.

“To maintain our efforts towards eliminating cervical cancer and besides the HPV vaccination programme for girls, Bhutan rolled out HPV vaccination for boys,” he said, adding that over 97 percent of boys aged 12 years or those in Class VI were inoculated.

However, he added that although Bhutan had done considerably well given its demographic advantage, there was more to be achieved. He said that there was an urgent need to prioritise and enhance investments in the health workforce, health infrastructure, safe and timely access to medical supplies and in enhancing emergency preparedness.

Calling on the WHO, UN agencies and other international development and health partners, Dr Pandup Tshering said: “More than ever, we need to ensure that health systems are resilient and robust enough to respond to the unforeseen challenges of the future.”

He added: “It is time to look ahead and explore innovative ways and regather and strengthen efforts towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and Universal Health Coverage (UHC) at all levels in the region and across the globe.”

A Ministerial Declaration was adopted at the end of the meeting yesterday to strengthen health system resilience and ensure health security and achieve UHC and SDGs in the health sector.

During the ministerial roundtable meeting, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia, said that the pandemic has highlighted the urgency and importance of investment in human resources for health, especially at the primary health care level, and the need for an adequate supply of affordable and safe medical products to ensure an effective response to public health emergencies.




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Major damages in Gasetshogom gewog

Wed, 09/08/2021 - 16:49

Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue

Heavy rainfall last week caused major damage to irrigation canals and farm roads in Gasetshogom gewog in Wangdue.

Estimated reconstruction costs exceed Nu 2.4 million (M), showed the assessment by the dzongkhag officials. 

Changchey-Matshigpogto, Khamaedna, Khatoedkha, Changkha and Dabchhaykha-Matshigkha chiwogs reported damage on August 29.

Gasetshogom Gup Kinley Gyeltshen said that in some chiwogs, both drinking water and irrigation water sources and distribution lines were damaged due to heavy rainfall swelling the irrigation water source.

He added that to curb the issue, after an assessment of the area and damage, pipes to bring water were expected to reach the gewog soon.

“Because the villagers don’t have water right now, we are hoping for pipes to arrive soon in the gewog from Phuentsholing,” he said.





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Kuensel learned that pipes worth Nu 210,000 would reach the gewog today.

In Khamaedna, irrigation water canals have been damaged at two locations.

Khamaedna chiwog tshogpa Phub Gyeltshen said that the canal and source also supplied water to Khatoedkha and Changkha chiwogs.

He added that the source located more than 7km had swelled due to heavy rainfall and damaged the canal. “The canal at source has also been damaged. Right now there is no water for irrigation in the villages.”

While paddy cultivation season has ended, Tshogpa Phub Gyeltshen said that water was required for the paddy to grow.

“The villagers in Khamaedna also planned to go and work on fixing the irrigation canals but it rained and we couldn’t do the work yet,” Phub Gyeltshen said.

Khamaedna chiwog has more than 40 households. Damages were also reported on the Changchey-Pangsho irrigation canal in the gewog.

The farm road to Sharipangkha lhakhang has been washed off, and the road to Tinga village has been blocked with rocks and muck.

Gup Kinley Gyeltshen said that the roads were yet to be cleared. “We hope the dzongkhag would help us in clearing the block.”




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Samdrupjongkhar thromde yet to utilise sewerage plant

Wed, 09/08/2021 - 16:48

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar

Although the Samdrupjongkhar thromde completed constructing sewerage treatment plant for local area plan (LAP) II and III in 2017, it is still not utilising the plant.

Thrompon Karma Sherab Thobgyal said the sewerage treatment plant was completed in 2017, but they could not connect the sewerage network to the buildings since there were more than 250 buildings.

He said the thromde administration started designing the sewerage network around 2016, but they had to depend on international expertise as there is no expert in the country. “The international expert could not complete the design on time.”

According to the thrompon, the design was completed in 2019, but could not start the construction of the sewerage network because of the increase in the budget as per the design. “Our initial budget for the sewerage network was Nu 6 million, but it has increased to about Nu 69 million.”

He said the thromde had to seek assistance from Asian Development Bank (ADB) and had awarded the construction of sewerage network work to the contractor in November last year.

Karma Sherab Thobgyal said although the contractor had started the construction work, it is challenging for them to get the labourers as no one wants to work as Samdrupjongkhar is a high-risk area.

The thrompon said there are no issues in the LAP I as all the buildings have been connected with the sewerage network and sewerage treatment plant. “Once LAP II and II are connected, more than 4,000 people would benefit.”

He said since all the buildings in LAP II and III have septic tanks, residents are using it now. “Nobody reported sewerage related issues. We provide cesspool tankers whenever there are problems with the septic tanks.”




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