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Updated: 45 min 51 sec ago

Four farmers convicted for smuggling 20kg gold

Thu, 09/05/2019 - 16:13

Paro dzongkhag court on September 2 sentenced four farmers from Tsento to two and a half years to five-year non-compoundable prison term for smuggling, solicitation, aiding and abetting in connection with the import of 20kg gold biscuits from the northern border.

As per the provisions of Penal Code, Gem Dorji, 39, and Rinchen Khandu, 33, received five-year term each for smuggling in 20kg gold worth Nu 58.713 million.

Gold smuggling is graded third-degree felony with a prison term ranging from five to nine years.

Chencho Tshering, 44, and Chencho Norbu, 46, were sentenced to two years and six months term each for aiding, abetting, solicitation and for the offences of illicit trade.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) charged Chencho Norbu for smuggling. However, the court changed to the offence of aiding and abetting since he was not in the possession of gold.

Case background

Chencho Tshering had conspired to import 20kg gold from the Tibetan border of Kerila and to smuggle out to India after he contacted Changa, a Tibetan based in Phari on WeChat on June 23, 2018.

Chencho Tshering and Chenga knew each other from import and export businesses they did.

Chencho Tshering hired and sent Gem Dorji, Rinchen Khandu and Chencho Norbu to the northern border on June 26. He agreed to pay them Nu 30,000 each as carrying fee.

The trio encountered with the RBA patrolling team at Dorikha while returning from the northern border the next day. The patrolling team apprehended Gem Dorji and Rinchen Khandu and found they were in the possession of 10kg gold biscuits (24K) each. Chencho Norbu managed to escape.

The duo confessed to the RBA interrogating officers that Chencho Tshering and Chencho Norbu were involved in smuggling. They were handed over to the Paro police on July 25 last year for further investigation.

Police handed over the seized gold biscuits to the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) on July 3 last year.

The court also ordered to forfeit the seized gold and dismissed the claims made by the defendants as baseless.

OAG registered the case before the Paro court on April 1 this year.

Chencho Tshering, Gem Dorji, and Rinchen Khandu were also being prosecuted in a separate gold smuggling case, for smuggling of 52kg of gold amounting to Nu 151.664M along with seven men in Paro court.

Gem Dorji also being tried with five other accused for illegally importing 31kg gold from Kerila last year.

OAG charged them at the Paro court on June 21 for smuggling gold and solicitation.

Rinzin Wangchuk | Paro

Sector raises issues concerning mines and minerals Bill 2020

Thu, 09/05/2019 - 16:12

Private miners have proposed some pertinent changes in the royalty and mineral rent and community development fund (CDF) in the Mines and Minerals Bill of Bhutan, 2020.

A joint report by Association of Bhutanese Industries (ABI) and Bhutanese Exporters Association (BEA) has also been submitted to the economic and finance committee of the National Assembly.


Royalty and mineral rent

The mining sector has raised that the current royalty and mineral rents are not as per the international best practices.

Currently, the royalty and mineral rent is applied as a percentage on the minimum floor price (MFP) or the invoice value—whichever is higher.

However, the percentage is different for different minerals. The invoice value includes the cost of transportation from the mine sources to the border exit points or the customers’ locations.

Private players have pointed out that the royalty rates would keep changing if there were changes in cost components such as fuel price and salaries.

The royalty and mineral rent was revised on June 1, 2016, through the Taxes and Levies Act 2016. Under this legal framework, the royalty and mineral rent for minerals exported from the country was revised from a fixed rate to an ad valorem rate—the existing system.

At the recent meeting, the mining companies proposed that the royalty and mineral rent should be calculated at the mine sources and should exclude all other expenses related to reaching the mineral to the customers. The royalty and mineral rent, they proposed, should be a flat rate at the mines’ sources.


Community development fund

The joint report underscored that the communities at present are reluctant to allow mine and quarry operation in their areas, as they do not get direct benefits.

Communities are benefitted only through corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, which are solely voluntary in nature.

According to the report, addressing this aspect is critical from the perspective of the mining and quarrying sector for the long-term sustainability of the sector.

Further, the report highlights that although the Mines and Minerals Bill 2020 has addressed this aspect to some extent, it will not solve all the problems.

The report cites Clause 146 of the Bill, which states that a community development agreement (CDA) would be developed by the authority, and Clause 147, which states that the authority will manage the CDF.

This means the communities has been kept out of the development process because they are not involved during the process of drawing the agreement, nor in the management of the fund.

“As they are a party that is directly affected, it is only imperative that they are involved in this process, including managing the funds for their development activities,” the report states.

The report proposed that a certain percentage of the royalty be kept for the CDF so that the government can directly engage in community development.

“This will ensure transparency in terms of the funds to be paid especially in the face of information asymmetry that will invariably exist between the community and the mining and quarrying companies,” the report pointed.

Despite efforts by the economic and finance committee of National Assembly to table the Mines and Minerals Bill, 2020 as an urgent Bill in the upcoming winter session, the National Council has objected it.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

DNT to elect new party president

Thu, 09/05/2019 - 16:10

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) wants to set a precedent by electing a new party president after the formation of the government.

The objective of the party is to separate politics from governance.

The DNT’s charter requires the prime minister to relinquish the post of party president after he becomes the prime minister.

Party members say that they want the prime minister to become the first to relinquish the post of party president. The first two prime ministers both held on to the post.

Party members feel that not allowing the prime minister to hold the post of president will enable the prime minister to focus on governance.

Earlier, the party office had cited the lack of executive committee and terms of reference (ToR) for the new party president as the reason for the election delay.

The party office has ToR that outline specific roles for the president to avoid overlapping of responsibilities and possible conflicts, which is awaiting the endorsement of the executive committee, the party’s highest decision-making body.

It also defines the working relationship between the prime minister and the party president.

The party says that electing a new president will strengthen intra-party democracy.

The responsibilities of the party president include providing effective leadership and representing the party at various national and international fora.

All registered members are eligible to cast their votes.

MB Subba

Finding solutions to climate change coverage

Thu, 09/05/2019 - 16:10

Enhancing coverage on climate change, improving climate-related reportage through in-depth stories and making climate-related stories relevant through human interest stories are some of the new ideas Bhutanese media will undertake in their coverage of climate change.

This was declared yesterday at the end of  two-day media workshop on climate change, solutions and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Paro.

Journalists and social media influencers also agreed to leverage different forms of media and creativity to advance awareness and increase engagement on climate-related issues ad encourage solution journalism to influence decision-making at the policy level.

About 20 reporters and editors attended the workshop organised by United Nations Bhutan in collaboration with WWF, WHO and the Journalist Association of Bhutan (JAB).

Speaking on the importance of workshop and multi-stakeholder participation in the country, UN resident coordinator, Gerald Daly said, “Climate change is bigger than any one organisation. In the past, most workshops were held by one organisation because of organisational egos. But this workshop brought together agencies from different sectors because reporting on climate action requires concerted efforts.”

“The workshop is designed following a 70-30 rule. We put 30 percent of energy into telling reporters on the effects of climate change and 70 percent in helping them understand the solutions to climate action. It is important because people in the media house influence our future in a practical way,” he added.

The workshop saw social media influencers and bloggers, who have immediate outreach to people and inform the general public on climate change and SDGs.

Executive director of JAB, Namgay Zam said social media can be used as a tool to positively inform people on various issues in the country. She emphasised the need for the media to be inclusive of people in the rural areas who have no access to newspapers, television, and radio.

Travel photographer and a film maker Pawo Choying Dorji shared his experiences of visible climate change and its impact in the higher altitudes during his excursions. “As we have access to media, everyone has power because of information. We can document and tell stories on the related issues.”

Pawo Choying narrated how people in Lunana observed the melting snow and glaciers although they have no knowledge about climate change. “Lunaps said once the glaciers melt, the turquoise-maned lion has no home, which indirectly shows Bhutanese values and concern for the environment.”

Agriculture minister Yeshey Penjor said, “Climate change is happening in Bhutan. In the past, communication of climate change has seen limited involvement of the media. Climate change dialogues remained within government and civil society organisations’ workshops.”

As a result, Lyonpo said that the climate change has often been miscommunicated. “I am grateful that reporters and editors are trained on climate change and related challenges.”

Reiterating on the power of media and the importance of reporting on climate change, Lyonpo shared observable impacts of climate change in his village. “In the past, leeches were found in Mangdechhu basin but in recent years, it appeared in the paddy fields and human settlements. People also reported presence of an invasive frog species in the fields.”

“We have not been attentive enough,” Lyonpo added.

Yeshi Dorji from United Nations Population Fund said that data for development is important for reporters to write stories on population trends such as the aging people who are left behind in the villages due to rural-urban migration. “SDGs believe in leaving no one behind but without knowing demographic trends, reporters would not be able to write evidence-based humane stories.”

According to Tobgye from UNICEF, the reporters have the power to bring in behavioural changes in the society with effective stories they write.

Journalists questioned the lack of access to data in doing evidence-based journalism. Some said because of lack of expertise, available data couldn’t be analysed. Journalist also highlighted the importance of collaborating with UN experts and making information available for better coverage of climate change.

UN experts from the Asia-pacific region mentored the participants. Officials from UN offices and government agencies attended the workshop.

Choki Wangmo

Climate change and media

Thu, 09/05/2019 - 16:09

It may be an exaggeration, but it is said that the fight against climate change could be won or lost on the pages of newspapers, on TV and radio broadcasts and now, on the internet and mobile phones.

This indicates the importance of media.  Journalists and social media influencers can warn about extreme climatic events, breakdown complex policies, highlight coping strategies or the lack of it. Above all, it is important in informing people or governments in making effective decision.

This week, journalists and climate change experts met in Paro to thrash out issues and explore how media can enhance coverage on climate change and sustainable development goals while also sharing their challenges in reporting climate change.

Such an exchange of ideas or dialogue was long time coming. Bhutan may boast of being carbon neutral, having 70 percent forest coverage or clean air, but the impact of climate change sees no boundaries. Even as the meeting was being held, some parts of the world got battered with hurricane, and cyclones. If the rain forest in the Amazon is burning, glaciers are receding.

The situation may be better at home, but we are seeing frequent flashfloods, windstorms, landslides and outbreak of dengue fever. The threat of glacier lakes bursting is fresh in out memory.

Discourse on climate change reminds us of our vulnerability, the impact of our actions and a priority. There are skeptics, but climate change or climate crisis is a reality. Located in a fragile ecosystem, we are among the most vulnerable countries. Now scientist have found out that the increase in temperature from global warming is higher in the mountains than in the plains. This is disturbing, as we are in a mountain ecosystem.

Media could play an important role. The message from the two-day discourse was that knowing how to cover climate change could make a difference. If climate change stories are not making it to the front page, there is the tendency to focus on the “doom and gloom’ narrative.  There is a rush to break stories when a lake burst or threatens to burst when a flashflood happens or when there is a storm. These are important stories, but we could go beyond.

There is a focus on giving face to climate change stories, making it simple by going beyond scientific jargons and making it relevant to the average reader. We are rich in such stories like the Lunana yak herder who is worried about losing snow, the home of the mythical snow lion or the farmer who is seeing new species of weed in her garden that until today, thrived only in warmer places.

In our case, the good polices we have the challenges we face can raise global awareness and help in our negotiation at international climate change negotiations.

Like in many developing countries, the lack of resources, access to information, the incapacity to synthesise data and scientific information impedes effective reporting on climate change.

The recognition of media this week is a good start. There were commitments made and support extended. Building media capacity, improving communication and collaborating with media will address most of the challenges we face today.

Gelephu hospital restoration almost complete

Thu, 09/05/2019 - 16:08

Restoration work at the central regional referral hospital in Gelephu is nearing completion.

Following media report on damaged structures at the new hospital, the health ministry carried out an investigation earlier this year.

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Ngawang Dramtoe’s own angel of change

Thu, 09/05/2019 - 16:07

Thinley Bidha’s work starts as early as 7 am.

As a field officer with Tarayana Foundation, she has an important role in the isolated Ngawang Dramtoe, a Lhop (Doya) community in Tading, Samtse.

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Merak people question DT decision to blacktop GC road from Chaling

Thu, 09/05/2019 - 16:05

People of Merak in Trashigang are unhappy with the dzongkhag tshogdu’s (DT) decision to blacktop the gewog centre (GC) road through Chaling.

There are three routes to Merak—from Chaling in Shongphu, from Khardung in Radi, and from Karma Goenpa in Phongmey.

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Mid-year trade deficit close to Nu 20B

Wed, 09/04/2019 - 16:11

Going by the trade statistics, the country’s effort to promote export and substitute import is a far-fetched dream, which has been suffering from a serious deficit since 2011.

In a way, the trade deficit is due to smallness of the country’s economy and vulnerabilities ignited by the dominance on hydropower and government spending. 

Even as the government promotes foreign direct investment (FDI), Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering, during the review of the Annual Performance Agreement (APA) of the finance ministry on September 2, said that should an FDI of more than Nu 100B comes to Bhutan, the government and stakeholders like the central bank wouldn’t allow it.

The investment size equal to or more than the country’s GDP would cause distress in the economy because the economy cannot absorb the sudden shock.

The Rupee crisis that surfaced during the tenure of the first elected government is the case in point, according to some local economist. The construction boom and commencement of three mega hydropower projects at a same time entailed more import, which in turn necessitated more Indian Rupee.

For the first time since the commissioning of Chukha and Tala power projects, the country’s economic growth hit double digits but suddenly nose-dived to an all-time low after the rupee crisis. This also coincided with the end of 10th Plan where capital investment from the government exhausted and contractors and agencies dependent on government defaulted on loans with no activities in hand.

This means that growth  was fuelled by government spending and investment in hydropower.  However, private investment in construction and building, which also contributed to the rupee shortage was fuelled by excess liquidity the banks catered to back then.

Figures from the RMA point out that almost half of the loan (44 percent) as of March this year pertained to non-enterprising sectors like housing, personal loan, staff loan and education loan. About 23 percent of outstanding loan is attributed to of medium industries and 17 percent to large industries.

The concern, some officials and banker shared, was that a majority of loan portfolio was directed to non-enterprising sector, sectors that did not create jobs and that directly translated into imports.

Loan for housing and hospitality also constitute about half of the loan portfolio. The concern here is the growing non-performing loan, which has reached almost 40 percent.


Trade deficit

Amidst growing imports, electricity is the only saviour to narrow the trade deficit. Compilation of this year’s two quarterly trade statistics reveal that the country has imported goods worth more than Nu 32B against an export of Nu 13B, leaving a trade deficit of about Nu 19B until June this year.

Had it not been for more than Nu 2B from electricity sale in the first half of this year, the gap could have been even wider.

Among the top import commodity, petroleum products such as diesel and petrol dominate in terms of value. Until June this year, the country imported about Nu 3.9B worth of diesel and about Nu 1.1B of petrol. The combined value of fuel import until June, which is about Nu 5B, is more than the electricity exported until the same period (about Nu 2.5B). However, it is expected that electricity export will pick up during the autumn months.

The import of fuel is further aggravated by vehicle import, whose monetary value every quarter reached more than Nu 1B, meaning that until June vehicle import touched about Nu 2.3B.

The country also imported Nu 838M worth of rice when efforts have been put to achieve rice self-sufficiency.

In terms of export, boulders emerged as the top export commodity in the first quarter of the year with more than Nu 1B in value. However, it dropped to second position with Nu 680M. Exporters blame the controversy that surrounded surface collection and transportation issue for the drop in business.

Silicon is another export commodity that earned Nu 1B in the first quarter and another Nu 1.9B in the second.

Tshering Dorji

Draft policy outlines clear roles for LG

Wed, 09/04/2019 - 16:10

The Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) is reviewing a national decentralisation policy, which outlines clear roles and responsibilities for local governments (LGs).

The policy was drafted to facilitate gradual devolution of power, functions, and authority from the central government to LGs.

After the policy passes the GNH screening test, the commission will submit it to the Cabinet for approval and implementation.

According to the draft policy, the central government will perform only those functions that cannot be undertaken effectively at the LG level.

LG can set their own priorities. However, the policy allows the central government to intervene in cases where national priorities are more important than LG priorities.

“The central government shall not undermine or surpass LGs, except in cases where national priorities should take precedence over local government priorities. Dzongkhag administrations shall not undermine or surpass the Thromde and Gewog Administrations,” it states.

Accountability of LGs has been given due consideration.

LGs are required to be accountable not only to the central government but also to citizens equally, according to the policy.

The citizens shall also bear responsibility for their own progress and development.

At a time when local governments are facing a shortage of engineers, the new policy states that the human resource capacity shall form a core element of devolution of roles and responsibilities from the central government.

The policy requires the central government to ensure that there is matching human resources capacity at the LG level to manage the devolved functions.

The policy will also form a basis for the government to enact a national decentralisation Act and amend the Local Government Act 2009.

The government is expected to incorporate features of the policy in the new local government Act.

Once the policy is adopted, it will become the responsibility of the central government to support LGs in the implementation of resolutions of Dzongkhag Tshogdu, Gewog Tshogde, and Thromde Tshogde.

One of the important features of the policy is that the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) will be required to decentralise and empower local government administrations to carry out human resource functions.

The RCSC should also review the “focal person system” in LGs to ensure that officials are not overburdened and service delivery is not compromised.

Transparency and information sharing in the LGs are also key features of the new policy.

LGs must display on the public notice board the agenda for the next Dzongkhag Tshogdu, Gewog Tshogde, five-year and annual plans and budgets, calls for tenders, awards and value of contracts.

The government has allocated 50 percent of the 12th Plan budget to LGs, which will be distributed as gewog annual grants and dzongkhag development grants.

The policy also aims to improve an enabling environment for LGs to be more self-reliant and autonomous with adequate human and financial resources.

At present, less than 1 percent of LG income comes from own source revenue generation.

The policy states that challenges persist in terms of fully financing local development needs and priorities with insufficient flexibility and authority in the decision-making and use of allocated resources.

MB Subba

FCB’s OD facility benefits 549 farmers

Wed, 09/04/2019 - 16:09

The government supported the Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) to purchase 50.2 metric tonnes of cardamom worth Nu 20.75 million (M) using the Nu 50M Over-Draft Facility last year.

This scheme benefitted some 549 farmers from eight cardamom-growing districts, according to the department of agricultural marketing and cooperatives’ annual report 2018-2019.

Cardamom was then exported or sold locally by the FCBL.

According to the report, with the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in India the value of  export of spices fell in 2018 compared to 2017. Although the export of non-wood forest products improved over the years with the introduction of GST, documentation issue at the border points surfaced.

“As a result, cardamom export to India was affected. This had also affected the price of cardamom in Bangladesh,” the report stated. “The export documentation issue was resolved, however, the prices remained low, which is why government resorted on buy-back.”

The buy-back scheme is a contingency strategy to provide support to farmers at times of market failures. The commodities are then included in the scheme and buy-back price is determined annually by a technical committee representing various stakeholders.

Auctioning of Cordyceps were done at 10 different sites, involving a total of 1,746 collectors and 35 buyers took last year. A total  of  346.75kg Cordyceps worth Nu 175.945M were auctioned.

The auction last year reported the highest bid ever at Nu 2.21M per kg.

The major imports, according to the report, still constitute meat, rice, dairy produce, oil, and vegetables.

Compared to 2017, meat recorded the highest increase of 16 percent, while rice import decreased by five percent.

According to the report, the department’s market research on the assessment of organic produce demand of high-end hotels showed that the word ‘organic’ and ‘local’ are used loosely and interchangeably, which made assessing the demand difficult.

“Most hotels do not differentiate between ‘organic’ or otherwise, or keep proper records of procurement although price, supply and quality are important to determinants,” report stated. “There is a need to design, research and model differently to project real demand of organic produce in the country.”

Women contribute significantly to farming; of the total 1,770 new members registered during 2018-2019, 52 per cent are women.

The report also mentions that the agriculture sector has the potential to create gainful employment through the creation of pro table agri-businesses.

The existing 170 farm shops continue to employ 340 people. However, because of the shift in policy vis-à-vis farm shops, no new farm shop was established in 2018-2019 fiscal year.

Yangchen C Rinzin  

Revised stipend for RUB yet to be implemented

Wed, 09/04/2019 - 16:08

The Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) is yet to implement revised monthly stipend and house rent allowance for students of RUB which was revised in the last National Assembly.

The students still receives monthly stipend of Nu 1,500 in a month.

On the recommendations of the National Assembly on June 11, the monthly stipend and house rent allowance for students was revised from Nu 1,500 to Nu 2,500 a student a month. A house rent allowance of Nu 1,500 is paid to those who are mandated to live outside the campus.

The revised monthly stipend should have come into effect by July.

RUB’s vice chancellor, Nidup Dorji, said that the RUB was yet to receive the order to implement the revised stipend although RUB had already submitted the revision details to the ministry of finance.

He said that RUB was waiting for finance ministry’s approval and budget release.

“Once the revision has been endorsed, there are certain procedures that must be followed,” Nidup Dorji said. “We’re waiting for government directives.”

The stipend for the RUB students was last revised in 2011.

It was reported that the current stipend was able to provide only 300 calories per meal per student; the revised stipend will provide at least 500 calories per meal per student.

About 30 percent of the students live off-campus.

As per the calculation submitted to the National Assembly, an increase of Nu 1,000 on the existing stipend would require additional of Nu 10,000 per student for a 10-month academic year.

The total expenditure for 7,915 students in a year will amount to Nu 79.15 million while house rent allowance will amount to Nu 35.625 million per year.

Finance Minister Namgay Tshering had earlier said that Nu 208 million was allocated for RUB as a capitation fee, which means this would cover the revision since the RUB can decide where and how to utilise the budget.

“The capitation fee is in the form of a grant and the fund would be released as per the recommendations submitted by the RUB. The revision is necessary for the students and the budget will be enough,” the minister said.

Yangchen C Rinzin

Interpreting data through human stories

Wed, 09/04/2019 - 16:06

Temperature rise in the mountains is higher, which means global temperature increase of 1.5˚C would translate to 2 or 2.5˚C in the mountains.

Data on climate change is often perceived as too technical and that there is a degree of uncertainty in scientific research which frustrated journalists.

At the media workshop on climate change, solutions, and the sustainable development goals (SDGs) that the United Nations is organising in Paro, media officer with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Maxim Shrestha, said that ICIMOD was facilitating access.

“The inter-governmental’s research material and media are free for use,” he said.

Data, he said, should be seen as an entry point, a foundation, or a question. “There is a person and story in every single data. There is story in what is being counted or presented… Once we think of data as a story, we can find out possible biases in the data—what is left out, who is left out and why.”

Air pollution, accelerated glaciers and snow melts, drying up of water resources, increasing disaster risks, poverty, food insecurity and energy poverty, among others, are some of the impacts of temperature rise. This, rise in temperature, in the context of Asian, can affect the circulation of monsoon and distribution of rainfall leading to reduced crop yield.

Communities dependent on glaciers and snowmelt are increasingly feeling the impact of rising temperatures.

According to Maxim Shrestha, the direct impact of climate change on water resources was in the loss of storage in the form of ice, changing precipitation and flow pattern that resulted in more floods, drought, and a high level of uncertainty.

He said climate change was causing floods, droughts, landslides, and glacial lake outburst floods in the region. “Women are more susceptible to natural disaster than men.”

The blanket approaches to country-level poverty, he said, was not sufficient but it was important to segregate the baseline by disaggregating national level and isolate mountains and hills.

“We see a much higher rate of poverty incidences in the mountain areas,” Maxim Shrestha said. “Bhutan as an entirely mountain country, we have to find out if the matrix used to measure poverty is applicable.”

He, however, added that there was an acute shortage of mountain-specific poverty data.

Thirty percent of Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH) region’s population suffers from a lack of food security; 50 percent from malnutrition; and about one-fifth of children under five suffer from stunting.

“Agriculture and food production are highly susceptible to climate change,” Shrestha said. “Poverty (income and energy), food insecurity, and migration affect women, children and marginalised communities more severely than others but policies and response in HKH countries overlook these multiple forms of exclusion.”

The HKH region is a global asset for food, energy, water, carbon, cultural, and biological diversity.

What happens in the mountains is not only vital to the highlanders but also to those living in the plains. The HKH regions affect one-fourth of humanity.

The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Gerald Daly, emphasised that journalists and social media influencers played a significant role in shaping the environment for the future.

Meanwhile, the participants consisting of media practitioners, UN officials, and other relevant agencies like agriculture and home ministry discussed possible data requirements and story ideas related to climate change.

Tashi Dema

More needs to be done to deal with cervical cancer

Wed, 09/04/2019 - 16:05

Cervical cancer continues to be the most common cancer in women in Bhutan with an estimated incidence of 20/100,000 women. And because more than half the cases are diagnosed when the cancer is already at a matured stage, mortality rate ensuing from the illness is high.

Bhutan has come a long way in terms of development in the health sector and to keep ourselves abreast of the latest technology and medical know-how has been the top national priority. That, however, does not mean that we have the privilege to full sail as if the matters are all well in hand.

The reality is that even as there has been a remarkable improvement in our health system, lack of expertise and commitment has given rise to intermittent gaps that threaten to leave the entire system out of order.

A significant challenge with the cancer that is most prevalent among the Bhutanese women is that there is today a formidable—almost physical—barrier that needs to be torn down. And that must begin with what seems to have been in short supply all the while—education.

Experience, largely from the global perspective, has shown that women do not consider Pap smear or cervical screening a priority because of poorer understanding of the risks and the role of screening in cancer prevention and detection. 

Although cost and access to service are not in any way the deterrents in Bhutan, embarrassment, pain or discomfort on the part of service seekers are the major barriers. Worst of all—the fear of result.

In such a scenario, much of the work needs to be done by the health professionals. If our women do not understand the risks associated with ignoring cervical screening, information and education materials are vital to allay fear and inspire willingness to avail themselves of the screening services. A woman said that she was willing to have Pap smear or cervical screening if a health practitioner told her that it was important.

But, perhaps more important, is to provide a comfortable and secure environment for screening. According to the global trend, three out of four women who develop cervical cancer have either never had a Pap smear or haven’t had one in the past five years.

Thirteen years after the screening programme began in Bhutan, our national coverage is less than 60 percent. Health minister has made clear that this is not enough,which means we have a lot more to do. 

And we cannot make a short work of it.

Karaoke to be allowed in Daga town

Wed, 09/04/2019 - 16:04

With most of the local leaders agreeing on the need of entertainment in the town, the dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) approved a karaoke buineess in Dagana town on August 27.

A Daga town businessman had proposed to operate a karaoke in the dzongkhag.

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Bhutan to table elimination of cervical cancer at WHO SEA RC

Wed, 09/04/2019 - 16:03

A six-member delegation led by Health Minister Dechen Wangmo is attending the 72nd World Health Organisation (WHO) South-East Asia (SEA) Regional Committee (RC) meeting in New Delhi that began on September 2.

WHO representative to Bhutan, Dr Rui Paulo De Jesus, is also accompanying the delegation.

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Living with the fear of elephants 

Wed, 09/04/2019 - 16:02

Samdrupling, Gelephu – Bakti Maya Rai puts her children to sleep and gets back to her sewing work. It is 9.20 pm.

The hut in Samdrupling in Gelephu was destroyed by a herd of wild elephants on September 2

A loud thud distracts the 35-year-old widow. Elephants have surrounded her little hut. She does not move for what seems like a long time. Suddenly, in consternation, she gets hold of her youngest son and urges two sisters to scream to scare the animals away.

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Tourism development for Trongsa to begin soon

Wed, 09/04/2019 - 16:01

The dzongkhag administration of Trongsa in collaboration with the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) and Association of Bhutan Tour Operators (ABTO) will work on the development of the Heritage Palace tour and restoration of traditional routes.

This was discussed during the meeting between the dzongkhag administration and the TCB on August 26.

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Coach to undergo Para Taekwondo

Wed, 09/04/2019 - 16:00

A Bhutan Taekwondo Federation’s coach has been selected for Agitos Foundation Session on Para Taekwondo course at Tsukaba University in Tokyo, Japan from November 20 to 22.

Para Taekwondo is an adaptation of the sport of taekwondo for athletes with impairment.

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Picture story

Tue, 09/03/2019 - 16:10

The Dorji Lopen of the Central Monastic Body awarded certificates to the graduates of the Institute of Science of Mind at Tashichhodzong yesterday. The 28 students who received certificates are the first batch of Buddhist Philosophy graduates from the institute in Semtokha.