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Updated: 1 hour 4 min ago

The side effects

Wed, 09/29/2021 - 12:28

 A leopard intruded the home in Trongsa and attacked the two residents severely injuring them. This is not the first time that the residents of the dzongkhag suffered such casualty or loss of livestock. Such incidents scar and threaten the success of the conservation efforts thus far. 

Bhutan’s environmental conservation efforts have been lauded as a huge success, allowing endangered animals to thrive in the wild. This has been possible largely due to political commitment, law enforcement agencies’ crackdown on poaching and illegal trade of wildlife and body parts, and increased surveillance by foresters in the protected areas. 

There are many reasons for the growing human-wildlife conflicts. But increasing human encroachment of their habitat in the dense forests has forced the wild animals to venture into the human settlements. Human-wildlife conflict has been part of our lives in the villages as far as we can remember. 

For many of us who grew up in the villages, it was normal to find in the mornings that our dogs and calves killed by wild predators at night. However, the situation has gotten severe in recent times due to the ever-expanding settlements triggered by population growth and infrastructure development such as roads. So has the competition between wildlife and humans for shared natural resources. 

Such conflicts impact our food security and the well-being of both humans and animals. When there is injury or death from wildlife attacks, it is only natural for the communities to become hostile against the animals. 

A human-wildlife conflict (HWC) policy and wildlife Act could help solve our problems to a large extent. The policy directions for HWC management have critical gaps in the country due to a lack of a policy. Forest and Nature Conservation Act of Bhutan is the only legal tooth that supports the conservation and protection of wildlife species. But it does not address conflict management issues.

The policy could empower necessary provisions for conflict resolutions in the context of minimising conflict between wildlife and humans.

Efforts are being made to promote ecotourism as a tool for long-term conservation gains through the management of co-benefits and trade-offs. Such projects are expected to bring about transformational changes in the rural development landscape and help diversify the agriculture dominant rural economy by promoting a wildlife-based economy, boosting domestic tourism, creating jobs, and increasing community resilience. 

If wild animals continue to safely roam the jungles, it is due to the concerted efforts of the government and mainly the local communities. Despite no compensation for the damage they suffer, those in the rural parts of the country have endured and tried to live harmoniously with the wild. 

The measures to help mitigate the conflicts must come before the communities run out of patience and the wildlife suffer a severe backlash. 

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Sasung Gyelpo and ruins in Tsirangtoed

Wed, 09/29/2021 - 12:27

Choki Wangmo | Tsirang 

It was the war of the spirits. It was the war of the rulers. So goes the legend. But all that remains today of this fabled war of spirits and rulers is an untouched ruin of a fortress on top of a hill in Tsirangtoed gewog. 

According to oral history, the one-storey dzong near Tsirangtoed Central School belonged to Tserab Sasung also known as Sasung Gyelpo, who today is venerated as a local deity in the gewog.  

While some locals believe that he existed in human form, others are of the view that he was a tsen. But all agree that Tsirang was the corrupted form of Tserab from which the name of the dzongkhag is believed to have derived from. 

From the presence of the ruins which are partially covered in overgrowth, it is assumed that Sasung Gyelpo was a powerful feudal lord. 

 His presence is still strong in the area, says Sonam Tshering, whose family takes turns with another household every year to conduct rituals at the site. “People refrain from taking anything from the area, including soil or tree branches. They become sick and have to return them immediately.”

There were incidents in the past where students nearby got ill from making noise in the area. 

If it is one of the most feared places, it is also one of places where people feel protected and safe. Residents believe that they are well-protected by the deity, whose benevolence they believe is unmistakable. 

According to Khandu Om, more than 200 years ago, Sasung Gyelpo joined forces with a ruler in Wangdue to oust the leader of Trongsa. They believe that the king lost his life in a civil war. He is believed to have been killed near a mani dangrim above Tsirangtoed Lhakhang while his wives watched in horror. 

Guru Rinpoche’s nye is 15-minute climb from the dzong

 There, however, are no in-depth research works, literature, or archaeological studies to ascertain the actual age of the ruins. 

In 2017, the territorial forest division in Tsirang fenced about 45 acres of area surrounding the ruins and named it Pemacholing Heritage Forest. 

The heritage forest has a footpath and a walking trail from the ruins to a goemba (Guru Rinpoche’s nye) located about 15 minutes walk uphill. A traditional Bhutanese style choeten, considered to be the oldest in the dzongkhag, is built on the hilltop that provides a bird’s eye view of some of the gewogs of Tsirang and Dagana.

Sonam Tshering said that according to the legend, a childless elderly couple from the area heard sounds of ritual instruments from the current location of the stupa during auspicious days. Curious, the old man climbed the hill and dug up the area from which two doves flew away. It is believed that the birds flew towards Tha Nam Khai Dzong in Dagana. 

Other uncovered items found at the site include a bell, naturally-existing vajra guru mantra on a stone slab, a conch which was lost, and a stone with a fist print. It is said that the couple miraculously gave birth after the incident. 

“If the doves remained in the dzongkhag, Tsirang would have prospered more,” Sonam Tshering said with a tint of regret in his eyes.  

In a related story, Khandhu Om said that a few metres away from the ruins, in front of her house, was a lake that is now a fallow land. In the dream of one of her forefathers, he saw a beautiful lady who asked him to give her a place to stay in his mustard field, which was yet to be harvested. 

It is said that although he put extra labour to harvest the produce in a day, they couldn’t do it. But by the next morning, it was harvested clean and a lake was formed in the area. “It is said that she was a tshomen (mermaid) who was related to the tsen.”

One day, the speech-impaired servant of the house did not return from the lake after going to fetch water. She went missing and the furious old man then started dumping corpses in the lake. 

Maybe our merits had been exhausted, she said. After that, amid thunderstorms, the lake disappeared overnight. 

Tinpani, located in the nearby area, Khandu Om believes is the remains of the lake. “Three streams flow without a source.”

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk

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SJ thromde in a fix over compensation row

Wed, 09/29/2021 - 12:26

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar

The Samdrupjongkhar thromde has been subject to a legal case that requires it to compensate a resident who supervised the construction of a Zangdopelri in the town and claimed ownership of the land and property.

The thromde didn’t ask for the ownership of the land. Rather, it was verifying, as a local authority, the ownership of the land after the National Land Commission (NLC) found that the land didn’t belong to resident Thinley Dorji. The Commission asked him to handover the land to the thromde.

Thinley Dorji had appealed to the Commission to rectify the thram, which was entered in the thram as “Zangdopelri, care of Thinley Dorji”. He wanted to remove the wording “care of”, claiming that the land was his.

In 2015, Thinley Dorji filed a case against the thromde. The final verdict from the Supreme Court last week asked the thromde to compensate him with Nu 27,987,842 for expenses incurred while constructing the Zangdopelri, two buildings, retention walls, a butter lamp building, and land taxed he has paid so far.

The thromde, meanwhile, will discuss with the NLC and the government on how and who will pay the compensation,

Thrompon Karma Sherab Thobgyal, said the thromde administration, as a custodian of state land, only wanted to clarify who the real landowner was. He said that Thinley Dorji was found not to be the actual owner of the land during the investigation they conducted. “It was not our case and the thromde never claimed the land. But Thinley Dorji filed a case against us.”

Since the SC had also passed the same judgment and ordered the enforcement of the district court’s judgement, Karma Sherab Thobgyal said they would have to accept the judgment and pay the required compensation. “However, we don’t have money and the right or authority to pay compensation. We ask for help from the government,” he said.

The thrompon added that while he respects the courts’ judgment, he is  concerned that compensating people who had used state land would set a precedent.  “Anyone could use state land and claim compensation later,” he said. The thrompon also said they would have to verify and consider how much income Thinley Dorji has made from renting the two buildings so far.

The thromde would renovate the Zangdopelri and inspect the structural quality of the two buildings. If good, it will be rented out to thromde staff, especially those in a low-income group.

The thromde legal officer, Tshering Chophel, said they were not involved in the case to claim the ownership of the Zangdopelri land, but to find out the actual ownership of the land.

“Who will pay the compensation, the NLC or the thromde administration?” he asked. “We need a separate budget if we are to pay the compensation. We have not discussed how and who will pay the compensation, but we will write to the NLC.”

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Man arrested for rape of a minor

Wed, 09/29/2021 - 12:25

Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

Tsirang police division will soon submit a charge sheet to the courts for a 26-year-old man from Dagana who allegedly raped a minor.

He has been in police custody since the first week of this month.

Sources said that the suspect and the 13-year-old girl met through Facebook in June and had been seeing each other since then. Earlier this month, the girl, who is a student in one of the schools in Tsirang, was reported missing and the case was reported to the police by the gewog administration.

However, the girl returned home the next day. Upon inquiry, she confessed the relationship. They had reportedly spent a night together in a hotel in Damphu.

As reported by the gewog administration, the man was arrested. He reportedly works as a mechanic in one of the automobile workshops in Tsirang.

According to the Penal Code of Bhutan, the rape of a child above the age of twelve years is a second-degree felony with a prison term ranging from nine to 15 years.

However, law enforcers said that actual implementation of the penalty has faced challenges.

A source was of the opinion that if the relationship was consensual for those above 15 years of age, the degree of sentencing should be reduced, believing that the economic burden on the country would be reduced.

When the relationship is consensual, and if they happen to have children, a child has to grow without a father amid social stigmatisation and hardship. “The societal impact is immense.”

There should be different sentencing for different age groups, one opined. For example, lesser sentencing for those between 15-18 years, if the relationship is proven to be consensual. “It could be charged as a misdemeanour.”

Edited by Tshering Palden

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Police investigating sexual harassment case at the Royal Tutorial Project

Wed, 09/29/2021 - 12:25

Tashi Dema 

Thimphu police are investigating a case in which a 22-year-old woman has accused her supervisor of harassing her sexually.

The case was filed with police on September 13.

Although Thimphu police were not available for comment, it was learnt the case was registered and that police are investigating it. It was learnt that the investigative officer has changed, as the official initially assigned to the case was deployed for de-suup duty.

Sources said the police investigation has involved message retrieval from phones. “The case might be forwarded to court soon,” a source said.

The victim was not available for comment as police have collected her phone. However, Kuensel learnt that she became acquainted with the supervisor last year when she sought to apply for a scholarship at the Kuzoo office building in Thimphu.

She was 21 years old at the time, and working as a waitress.

Although she was a student with average grades, she wanted to continue her studies, and a scholarship was the only option because she comes from a broken family.

Since she did not have copies of her documents, she went to a nearby office to seek help. She not only got the documents photocopied but also met the accused, a supervisor at the office. According to the woman, he offered help, claiming that they were both dessup nymros as a reason for his good intentions.   

The woman did not get the scholarship, but got a job through the accused as an office assistant with the Royal Tutorial Project, where she said she was happy.

The happiness, however, was short-lived.

She alleged that a few months after she joined, the man in question started sharing dirty jokes with her, and touching her inappropriately. It was also alleged that he would grope her when she went to serve him tea.

When schools were closed because of the pandemic, the office engaged volunteer teachers to produce tutorial lessons, contributing to the e-learning programme. Throughout this time, the accused allegedly teased the victim and touched her inappropriately, then acted as if nothing had happened.

It was alleged that the main incident occurred on September 7 of this year, when the office assistant was writing a letter to her landlord to inform them about vacating her apartment. The officer called her inside his room. According to the allegations made against the man, he asked her when her contract would  end, inquired about her salary, reminded her that she got the job because of him, and how renewing the contract would depend on him.

It was alleged that even as he asked the questions, he closed the door and the window curtains, came closer and started touching her. The victim escaped with barely the time to take her handbag with her. That was the last time she visited the office.

It was alleged that the officer called her a day after the incident, asking her to come to the office to talk about it.

“When she refused his request, he came to her house, but she did not open the door and refused to answer his calls,” a source said. “He later sent her messages, saying he had come with a cake to apologise, and that he is a human being who made mistakes.”

The accused initially said he would issue a statement he had written about the incident and called it mere allegations, but later asked Kuensel to talk to the police, as the case has been registered with the police.

Meanwhile, the complainant has not returned to the office following the incident. The accused is still going to the office.

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Picture story

Tue, 09/28/2021 - 11:30

Eight employees of Gangtey Lodge and Black-Necked Crane visitor centre staff in Phobjikha, Wangdue cleaned the crane roosting area on September 26. As part of the annual maintenance, overgrown plants were cut and the ponds cleaned to ensure safety of the cranes from predators. Photo: BNC

Massage parlours or brothels?

Tue, 09/28/2021 - 11:29

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Police in Phuentsholing detained two women and a 14-year-old girl in a massage parlour last week in a suspected prostitution racket.

It was learnt that the massage parlour in question, which is owned by a woman in her 30s, was providing sexual services along with massage in Deki Line.

The 14-year-old girl and a 21-year-old woman worked as massage therapists although they aren’t trained and certified massage therapists.

Sources confirmed that the massage therapists charged Nu 1,500 for a one-hour service, Nu 1,000 of which was given to the parlour owner. They kept the remaining Nu 500 from each customer.

Sources said the parlour had a supply of condom packets for customer use.

Meanwhile, a driver is also under police custody. He is in detention due to his connection with the 14-year-old girl.

The girl, who is from Tsirang, had come to meet the driver. They connected with each other through Facebook.

Sources said the driver and the minor have engaged in a sexual relationship. Since the girl is a minor, the driver will be charged for rape of a minor.

It was learnt that the owner of the massage parlour had called the 14-year-old girl to work in her parlour. The woman will be charged for promotion or patronising, whichever is higher, to the court.

The girl will be handed over to the relevant organisation for counselling and further care.

According to a trade official, there are about 45 registered beauty parlours, spas, and massage and wellness centres.

“As per the thromde’s advice, we have also stopped issuing licenses for these businesses,” the official said.

Due to the pandemic and repeated lockdowns in Phuentsholing, it is also unclear how many are currently operating.

Rescued boys placed under observation

Tue, 09/28/2021 - 11:29

The boys and rescue members tested negative for Covid-19 

Nima | Gelephu

Two teenagers, who got lost when returning from a visit to a lake in Gelephu, did not carry any food on them because they planned to return home the same day.

For five days and four nights, they survived on wild mangoes and bamboo shoots in the thick forest. Slept by the river bank and in the forest. A matchbox, a water flask, and their phones were all they had, sources said.

The duo searched for caves and started bigger fires in the night.

Four days later, they were safely picked from Beth Dangra, about 11 kilometres away from Rai Dangra, which is around six hours walk from Gelephu town.

The village falls under Gelephu gewog and it is known for the picturesque view of buzzing Gelephu town. About four hours away from the village is the lake, one visited only by a few elders from Rai Dangra in the past.

A resident from Gelephu said that no one in the community dared to venture near the lake alone. “The forest cover is so thick and vast around the lake. Many got lost in that place in the past,” he said.

On September 22, two teenagers set on a journey to visit a waterfall at the source of Ipoli stream that passes through Samtenling gewog and flows down to the plains of Dathgari, Assam. The waterfall is not familiar to many today.

But, the parents of the boys said that they left to visit Sheti lake, a lake located at the source of the Shetikhari stream that flows right from the middle of Gelephu gewog and ends in Mauchhu.

The boys were kept under observation at Gelephu Central Regional Referral hospital. The duo and rescue members who came in contact with the boys were tested for Covid-19, as a precautionary measure.

It took three different search groups to comb the thick forest and hills above Rai Dangra in search of boys. Locals from Rai Dangra assisted the search and rescue teams.

“There are only trails of a pipeline. As we get deeper, the path disappears and only locals could find the trails,” said Tashi Dorji, a de-suup who joined the search team on Saturday.

The rescue team found the boys in stable condition on Sunday afternoon.

“We found them around 12:45pm. We were shouting to another rescue group when the boys responded to our call,” said the member.

The search and rescue team used mobile phones to locate them and tried reaching them with the help of locals from Rai Dangra on Friday after parents reported the incident to police.

The boys were asked to stay in a location and start a fire to help the search team find them.

Gelephu police officials said that all rescue members including some who spent two nights in the jungle searching the boys were back yesterday,

The boys are students in classes X and XII of a school in Gelephu. The students are from Samtenling gewog.

Edited by Tashi Dema

Stray horses too heavy a burden for Phuentsholing thromde 

Tue, 09/28/2021 - 11:28

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Stray horses and mules have been around in Phuentsholing town for many years. The number, however, has increased in recent times worrying the residents and thromde officials.

Phuentsholing thromde chased away 34 stray horses from the town towards Amochhu bridge after the recent lockdown. Of that, 30 returned the next day. Three horses were injured. One had a severe cut on the neck.

The Barnyard Bhutan Animal Rescue and Sanctuary (BBARS) in Paro took the two-year-old mare on September 10.

A thromde official, Jamtsho Drukpa said that they intended to reach the horses across the Amochhu bridge.

“On the way, just close to the bridge, we met three people, who warned us the animals will damage their crops,” he said. They left the horses there on the road.

“Most of the animals that returned were injured. Four didn’t return. I think people tried to kill the animals.”

Today, there are 29 stray horses in the town.

Jamtsho Drukpa said that the animals created problems with the traffic. During mating season, the animals go wild and it was risky for the residents.

“The horses also stay in pairs. When one goes missing, the other goes wild,” Jamtsho Drukpa said.

“There are chances of the horses getting bitten by rabid dogs. And there have been instances where these animals started chasing people. It is difficult to handle a rabid horse,” he said.

The executive director with the BBARS, Jamie Vaughan said that the injured mare was healing fast.

“We got to know about her from Phuentsholing Thromde. They have been looking after the horses during rabies outbreak and lockdowns,” she said. “We had provided funds for the feed but thromde did most of the work.” 

Jamie Vaughan said the Thromde, veterinary officials and taskforce had her treated before she was picked from Sorchen.

“Everybody helped make it happen. We got the movement permit and we could bring her the same day,” she said.

Meanwhile, BBARS is also planning to lift another three horses in about two weeks. One has injuries on a limb after she returned from Amochhu. 

“We have already found a new home for them here,” Jamie Vaughan said. 

BBARS is also planning to start a rehoming programme and hopes to take all 29 horses in the future. Barnyard has 60 horses today.

Phuentsholing Thrompon Uttar Kumar Rai said that handling stray horses was challenging.

“We don’t know the owners,” he said. “Where do we surrender the animals?”

The thromde’s pound can accommodate only about 10 horses. Thromde deploys workers to find fodder.

Uttar Kumar Rai said that whatever thromde office was doing at present were temporary solutions.

“All the cities may have such problems. We need to sort this out. It is a matter of sustainability too,” he said.

“When the owners don’t come, after six months or a year, what then? There must be some strategies.”

Meanwhile, sources said that most of the stray horses are from Lingden village in Phuentsholing gewog and some from Samtse.

Edited by Tshering Palden

Police drop anonymous complaint for lacking evidence

Tue, 09/28/2021 - 11:27

Nima | Gelephu

Police in Sarpang returned an anonymous case, alleging the principal of a remote school in Sarpang of touching the students inappropriately while beating them, to the dzongkhag administration.

The dzongkhag administration received the anonymous complaint last month and forwarded it to the police.

Police in Sarpang concluded that the complaint lacked evidence and their investigation also did not find any evidence.

Teachers, students, and parents from the school were called for the investigation.

Officials from the dzongkhag education sector said the case was dropped after the investigation did not find anything concrete as alleged in the complaint letter.

“The letter was directly written to the dzongkhag administration. We don’t even know who wrote the complaint letter,” an official said.

However, sources alleged botched investigation resulted in the case closure.

A source said the issue was reported to the dzongkhag administration after hearing about the principal’s inappropriate action from students and colleagues in the school.

It was learned that the investigation was done in the dzongkhag while the incident occurred in one of the gewogs.

“This had provided time and opportunity for the principal to persuade the parents and children who were travelling for the investigation to not share anything against the principal,” a source said.

Sources who followed the case closely said that an immediate investigation in the school could have resulted in something concrete about the case.

Meanwhile, the parents of the students who were allegedly molested came to know about the incident only when they received a call from the police for investigation.

A parent said that the school should have informed them before writing to the dzongkhag. “Maybe a teacher and principal are not getting along and complained.”

RUB colleges establish happiness and wellbeing centres 

Tue, 09/28/2021 - 11:27

Phub Dem | Paro

Colleges under the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) are establishing happiness and wellbeing centres to address mental health problems.

The nine colleges established the centres through a project to support students to enhance mental health, counselling and wellbeing.

The project is coordinated by Paro College of Education and Samtse College of Education in collaboration with three higher education institutes from the Europe Union.

According to the project coordinator, Sangay Dorji, the centres operate through a hybrid model of contemporary theories and practices in the field of counselling, guidance, and wellbeing integrated with the Bhutanese philosophy of Gross National Happiness.

He said that all students under the RUB were registered online to seek help virtually and anonymously.

He said that the project assisted colleges in capacity building through human resource training and the purchase of resources. “The project developed a digital platform dedicated for wellbeing and happiness centres, professionals working in the field of human service, students, young people, and international experts.”

The centres will cater services related to happiness, wellbeing, and counselling to RUB staff, local community, government agencies, and non-government organisations.

Some of the centres’ services are mindfulness, one-to-one counselling, group counselling, programmes on insight, and skill enhancement.

Three centre managers of each college, including dean of student affairs and student service officers were trained and certified as counsellors.

The centre will support the students deal with stress management, academic pressure, relationship issues, and skill-building that includes writing a resume, curriculum vitae, interview tips and references.

It also developed a training manual, working framework for the counselling centres and ethical code of conduct for counsellors working at the centres.

Representatives from relevant agencies such as Bhutan Board of Certified Counsellor, Bhutan Medical and Health Council, Bhutan Institute of Wellbeing, Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency, Ministry of Labor and Human Resources, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Central Monastic Body, Royal Bhutan Police and Department of Culture participated in the final stakeholders meeting conducted at PCE last week.

The representative discussed signing a memorandum of agreement for future collaboration and support.

Sangay Dorji said that the centre would serve as a point of reference for the stakeholders and support the centres.

He said that as the issue requires collective efforts, the agreement was essential for collaboration and sustainability of the centre once the project phase-out in November this year.

He said that in the past, wellbeing and counselling services at colleges were not uniform, adding that the centres integrated all the services targeted towards college students. “There will now be strong collaboration among RUB colleges.”

Most participants feel that there should be such centres in schools as many schools do not have adequate infrastructure for counselling services.

The project is co-funded under the Erasmus Plus programme. The project started in November 2018.

Edited by Tashi Dema

Pandemic impacts nettle fabric business

Tue, 09/28/2021 - 11:26

Nim Dorji | Trongsa

Like many businesses, the pandemic impacted women who make a living weaving fabric from nettle yarn in Trongsa.

Tsuendru Choden from Bayling village of Langthel gewog has been weaving nettle fabric for the last two decades. As the pandemic impacted her, many of her products at Tarayana could not be sold and some are at home.

“With no business and income from weaving, I made a group and started growing vegetable in an acre land,” she said.

She weaves different fabrics such as bed covers, table covers, cushion covers, and bags embroidered with indigenous designs.

The products were sold during trade fairs.

Tsuendru Choden said they also got orders to weave gifts for officials going outside and high-end hotels like Amankora before. “After the pandemic started, we did not get any orders.”

The 58-year old woman said many people weave from other yarns that are imported and easily available, but there are only a few who weave from nettle.

She said that while weaving from nettle yarn, spinning takes time. “Whenever we get free time in the morning and evening, we spend time spinning. It only takes two to three days to weave.”

Tsuendru Choden and 31 women from Bayling were trained to weave fabrics from nettle yarn in 2005 by Tarayana Foundation.

Now only 13 women weave from nettle yarn. Some of the group members died while some left the village.

Bayling is only the village in Trongsa weaving from nettle yarn.

Another weaver, Chimmi, said that the most challenging in weaving from nettle yarn is to collect nettle plant. “The plant is not available near our village. We have to walk almost a day’s journey. We have to walk till the base of the Black Mountain to collect nettle plant.”

Women said once they find the plant, they peel the nettle cover, bring it home, and cook it. “We then dry it, again wash and clean, and then spin into thread, colour it and weave,” Chimmi said. “Almost six kilogrammes of yarn is needed to weave a gho.”

The nettle is collected in the 9th and 10th months of the Bhutanese calendar.

Meanwhile, people are worried that the art may disappear in the future as not many young women show interest in the art of weaving from nettle yarn.

Edited by Tashi Dema

Chencho Dorji prepares Sudeva FC for Hero I-League

Tue, 09/28/2021 - 11:26

The club lost all three matches in the ongoing Durand Cup 

Thinley Namgay   

Head Coach Chencho Dorji will lead Sudeva Delhi FC for one more season in the Hero I-league, the second-tier Indian professional football league.

The 2021-2022 Hero I-League starts from December 3 at a centralised venue in Kolkata.

Chencho and his team are in Kolkata for the pre-season preparations. As part of its preparation for the league, the team participated in the ongoing  Durand Cup in Kolkata.

Sudeva lost all three matches in the Durand Cup – 1-0 to Jamshedpur, FC, 2-1 to FC Goa, and 1-0 to Army Green.

However, Chencho said that it was all neck-to-neck  defeat as Sudeva was a new club with young players, and it was their first in the Durand Cup.

Chencho Dorji, 39, said that the Durand Cup was one of the oldest and most prestigious tournaments in Asia, where top teams from the Indian Super League, I-League and army teams participate.

“It was a good opportunity for my boys to play against the best teams in India like FC Goa, Jamshedpur FC and Army Green. This Experience will help us play better in the upcoming league,” he said, adding that Sudeva Delhi FC would once again play with pure Indian squad in the I-league with many young and new faces in the team.

Thirteen teams will compete this season. It is the second time Sudeva will play in the I-League.

According to Chencho Dorji, he wants to feature his players in friendly matches before the league. His team plans to stay in Kolkata for the whole pre-season.

“We plan to play in another major upcoming tournament ‘IFA Shield’ at Kolkata before the league begins,” he said.

Edited by Tshering Palden

Picture story

Tue, 09/28/2021 - 11:25

Doedjung Open Archery Championship has resumed with 52 teams from Thimphu, Paro and Wangdue at the Changlimithang Archery Range in Thimphu. The tournament was suspended in December last year due to lockdown. The knockout round starts this week.

Who will bell the cat?

Tue, 09/28/2021 - 11:24

Alcohol is bad. This was pronounced centuries ago by none other than Lord Buddha. The Buddha’s teachings on alcohol is clear. He said that alcohol causes heedlessness and if  any Buddhists succumb to the lure of intoxicating drinks, they shall not consider him as a teacher.

Going by what the lord said, most of us are bad Buddhists. And this is evident in the figures. Alcohol is not only the source of social problems, it is, to repeat once again, the biggest killer in the country. Alcohol related diseases has killed 170 people in the last year. 2020 was a year of Covid-19 pandemic where, around the world hundreds of thousands of people succumbed to the viral disease. In Bhutan, fortunately, only three people died of coronavirus or died because of preconditions after contracting the disease.

While there was a national focus on preventing Covid-19 from becoming a full blown outbreak risking lives of Bhutanese, ALD had silently killed 170 people, 40 more lives than the previous year. ALD is on the rise every year and we have failed to intervene.

That alcohol is bad, it is killing people and becoming a burden on the free health service has been recognised years ago. Yet we have not been able to do anything. In the meantime, the only visible development is that we are pampered for choices. There are reports on alcohol and its impact. Even as we read and analyse the annual reports, we see new bars opening, new brands of alcohol reaching the shelves of groceries, bars and restaurants. Alcohol as a grocery item happens only in Bhutan.

There are no policy interventions. Nobody is taking the responsibility or accountability. There are no bold policies. Without effective policies, market forces will determine what quality or quantity of alcohol we make available for Bhutanese. The latter had taken over.  As if what we are producing is not enough, we import alcohol from as far as Australia and Korea.

Going by the facts – how alcohol is burdening the country and the people – it should receive the highest priority. Beyond the deaths related to ALD, it is also the cause of other deaths whether it is vehicle accidents that claim innocent lives including that of children’s or dismantling the social fabric that we had been proud of, so far.

There will be more reports. The media will cover it, policy makers will be shaken up for a few days and everything will be forgotten after the report. Who will take responsibility and who should be made accountable is not talked about. There is a hope in the present government that is led by a team of medical specialist, surgeons, and public health specialist. If the current government cannot make a bold decision, no governments would do it -whether because of lack of understanding or for political gains.

Alcohol and deaths related to it is the biggest irony. We spend billions treating people of alcohol related problem. It, therefore, becomes the impediment in health resource distribution. 

That alcohol is a problem is understood at all levels. What policies or decisions are made depends on politicians. Who will bell the cat is the question.

No local Covid-19 cases for 45 straight days

Tue, 09/28/2021 - 11:24

However, experts advise not to let our guards down yet

Younten Tshedup 

Bhutan has not reported any positive Covid-19 cases from the community for 45 straight days. The last positive case from the community was reported on August 14: an individual from Gomtu, Samtse.

A member of the technical advisory group (TAG) for Covid-19, Dr Tshokey said that with the exception of a few countries, globally, the overall number of Covid-19 cases is gradually dropping. At the same time, he said, the vaccination coverage is increasing.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), as of yesterday, more than 231 million (M) confirmed cases of Covid-19 were reported, including 4.74M deaths. As of September 22, 5.874 billion (B) doses of vaccines have been administered globally.

Dr Tshokey said that since the detection of the highly contagious Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in December last year, there have been no other variants of that level of concern detected that could pose a new major threat to humanity. “However, there are some variants of interest that are still under WHO’s observation.”

He said: “It’s been a while since we have had to face some potentially dangerous variants of the virus like the Delta variant. Also, because the number of new cases is on the decline, these are some good signs in these difficult times.”

However, he added that there were still a few countries where the rate of daily new cases is still on the rise. “These countries also have very poor vaccine coverage and are struggling to contain the outbreaks,” he said, adding that as the transmission of the virus escalates in these countries, the risk of potentially dangerous variants like the Delta developing was very likely. “If a new variant of concern should emerge, it would be from one of these countries. So no one is safe until everyone is safe.”

The clinical microbiologist said that the Covid-19 situation in India has also been improving compared to its situation at the beginning of the year.

According to a WHO report, there has been a gradual decline in the number of new cases in India. In the past week (September 15-21), as compared to the previous week (September 8-14), there was a seven percent drop in the number of new cases in India.

However, some of the experts are already warning of an ‘imminent’ third wave of the pandemic in the Indian subcontinent sometime next month. Observers say, given the unpredictable nature of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the relaxations that have come about in India, a third wave is inevitable.

“A surge in cases in India has a direct impact on Bhutan. One of the longest outbreaks in the country earlier this year was a direct result of the second wave in India,” said a health official.

A worrying trend

Dr Tshokey said that despite the positive situation of having no community cases for more than six weeks, there is a ‘worrying trend’ growing in the country, especially in Thimphu. “People are seen without face masks in town, or wearing them inappropriately, and the frequency and size of social gatherings have also increased. This is a big concern.”

He said that although the government has not made any major revisions to the existing Covid-19 protocols, a general sense of complacency had already settled on the capital. “People coming from places like Mongar and Zhemgang to Thimphu complain about how relaxed people in the capital have become.”

He added: “The protocols are there and the government and taskforce can do only so much. But this is a very worrying trend we are seeing in Thimphu today.”

Edited by Tshering Palden

Seyphu to host Bhutan’s first mega solar power plant

Mon, 09/27/2021 - 11:26

…Plan to install 30MW in Shingkhar on hold

Yangyel Lhaden and Nim Dorji 

Bhutan’s first mega solar power plant, a 17 megawatt (MW) plant, is likely to be constructed in Seyphu, Wangdue after the plan to construct a 30MW plant at Shingkhar in Bumthang faces a temporary hold due to community clearance issues.

The Department of Renewable Energy (DRE) under the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) has prioritised the construction of the plant in Seyphu.

Tengye Lyonpo (Economic Affairs Minister) Loknath Sharma said that the ministry was requesting the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to allow construction of the plant at Seyphu first. “As soon as ADB provides funds, the ministry is going to tender and start constructing a solar power plant at Seyphu by the beginning of next year.”

The ministry has obtained dzongkhag and community clearance for the site in Seyphu.

Once complete, the plant is expected to generate 26.15 million (M) units of electricity, earning an annual revenue of Nu 132.29 million at the domestic tariff rate of Nu 5.06 per unit.

A DRE official said that the plant has the capacity to reduce 24,495.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions if the plant-generated energy is exported.

Lyonpo said that it is crucial to dedicate alternative sources of energy to augment and supplement hydropower to achieve energy security. “We must prioritise other sources, considering hydropower is dependent on a run-of-the-river scheme, and in the lean season the country has imported electricity.”

A DRE official said that rapidly growing energy demand, combined with hydropower’s seasonal flow fluctuations induced by climate change, necessitates urgent attention to other renewable technologies such as solar and wind.

He said that similar to hydropower, solar and wind power plants are inherently clean, green, and sustainable technologies. “A large-scale solar and wind project takes only about 18 to 24 months to construct and commission.”

Lyonpo said that if Bhutan does not pursue alternative renewable energies right away, it will soon see an energy deficit. “It is a shame that a country that exports surplus energy during good times has to import energy during the lean season.”

The DRE’s initial plan was to build a solar power plant with 80,000 panels in Shingkhar, a 30MW plant which will occupy 114 acres out of the 800-acres available.

It is expected to generate 46.19M units of energy annually with an annual revenue generation of Nu 233.725M. However, the plan to install a solar power plant in Shingkhar is on hold because, according to Shingkhar Tshogpa, 33 out of 39 households in Shingkhar signed a petition letter to cancel the project.

Most people in Shingkhar depend on agriculture and livestock. The proposed solar power plant falls in their pastureland used as a grazing area for free-roaming cattle.

Tashila, a villager in Shingkhar, said that the light reflected from the solar panels would fall directly onto the village. Another villager said that as the plant would be located above the village, their water source could be affected.

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said as the solar power plant is a green technology there is a minimal impact on the environment. “People will be doubtful until they see it working. This is why we are going ahead with the plant in Seyphu to set an example.”

“After seeing Seyphu’s plant succeed, the people of Shingkhar might also come around to the ,” Lyonpo added.

Another villager in Shingkhar, Phuntsho Dhendup said that Shingkhar people did not have any other sources of income other than livestock and agriculture. “We don’t have the right to oppose the project outright because the land belongs to the State. But we request the government to cancel the project.”

Villagers said that they were against the project since the officials visited the site in 2014 because it takes away their grazing land.

Villages also said that they resisted the idea to build a golf course in the area more than a decade ago.

Ugyen Tshering, a villager in Shingkhar, however, said if a solar power plant was constructed in his village, it would have more advantages than disadvantages. “The project will not only benefit Shingkhar but the nation as a whole. If something is benefitting the country, people should come forward for such projects.”

Lyonpo said that Shingkhar residents were not totally against the solar power plant, but wondered if other, perhaps more suitable places, could be explored. “The ministry respects their concerns and it is not good to push a project forward that doesn’t make the community happy.”

Lyonpo said that the community also suggested using the pasture land on the outskirts of the village.  However, those sites were not feasible. “Data shows that the current proposed location is the best.”

Lyonpo said more than 10 sites across the country were studied for more than three years to identify the three best sites for the renewable power plants under this project, and Shingkhar was chosen for the biggest MW solar power plant, as data collected from three years of study indicated that Shingkhar was the best site.

DRE is also studying for more sites in the country for more mega solar power plants.

Lyonpo said, “DRE might find a site more suitable than Shingkhar for the 30MW project, but at this stage, I cannot say whether the plant at Shingkhar will be dropped.”

The project to install three renewable power plants received USD 10 million (M) as a grant, and a USD 20M loan from ADB.

Lyonpo said that the community’s resistance to projects funded by financial institutions such as ADB could have implications for future projects, as funding agencies might also ask for due diligence to be completed before applying for funds.

Installation of three major renewable power plants: a 30MW solar power plant at Shingkhar, Bumthang; a 17MW plant at Sephu, Wangdue; and a 23MW wind power plant at Gaselo, Wangdue, will be funded in part by the ADB.

Edited  by Tshering Palden

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DeSuung National Service completes water project in Guma, Punakha

Mon, 09/27/2021 - 11:26

Phurpa Lhamo | Punakha

The first water project executed under the DeSuung National Service on November 11, 2020 in Guma gewog, Punakha, was inaugurated on September 25.

Her Royal Highness Princess Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck, the chief guest, inaugurated the water project. Residents of five chiwogs of Guma gewog, de-suups, and officials attended the programme.

The project will benefit more than 225 households and about 1,945 people in the gewog. The design includes capacity provisions for an additional 1,250 people to benefit in the future.

According to a press release issued by the Royal Office for Media, the project was inspired by the Royal Address of His Majesty The King to the nation on September 12 last year, calling on the youth to engage meaningfully in the process of nation-building amidst the pandemic. “The Royal Address highlighted the potential for the youth to develop water projects in consideration of the importance of safe, reliable drinking water for the people and the nation.”

A farmer, Namgay Tshering, said that prior to the completion of the project, his house located in Zomlingthang had neither a water tap nor a proper source of drinking water.

He added that drinking water was fetched from the Mochhu river.

As part of the project, more than 120 tap stands were  constructed in the gewog.

The water sourced from the Jabab Menchu stream will benefit Phulingsoom, Changyuel-Thara, Tashijong, and Docha Ritsa chiwogs.

More than 70 desuups volunteered for the first water project. A few civilians and Royal Bhutan Army personnel also took part in the project. 

The press release stated that the desuups also gained valuable technical experience in the design, construction, and supervision of a fairly complex construction project. “De-Suups were trained in mechanised construction methods and introduced to higher quality construction standards.”

It stated that the project was the first time most young desuups had undertaken such physically demanding work, especially in challenging circumstances like thick forests, leech-infested swamps, and precarious ledges in the summer heat and monsoon rains.

The officer-in-charge of the project, Captain Tshering Dorji, commended the dedication, enthusiasm, and ‘esprit de corps’ (group morale) of the volunteers, which instilled immense energy on a regular basis.

He added said the stamina of the de-suups to undertake and complete a big project spanning over 10 months inspired all other people engaged in the project to work even harder.

The press release stated that, inspired by a powerful Royal vision, the youth stepped forward, shouldered their responsibilities, and delivered what many would have considered impossible a year ago.

“As we celebrate the completion of the Guma water project led by the de-suups, we also celebrate the capabilities and potential of our youth to undertake even more challenging projects in the country, and to build our nation despite all the limitations posed by the current Covid-19 pandemic,” it stated.

After the first project began on November 11 last year, the DeSuung National Service has undertaken 25 projects across Bhutan, out of which 12 projects have been completed and handed over to local governments and communities. Other projects are in various stages of completion.

Edited  by Tashi Dema

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Bhutan and India sign joint satellite Implementing Arrangement

Mon, 09/27/2021 - 11:25

Yangyel Lhaden  

The Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) signed Implementing Arrangement (IA) to jointly develop a small satellite for Bhutan on September 24.

The agreement was signed virtually by Department of Information Technology and Telecom (DITT), Jigme Tenzing, and Scientific Secretary of ISRO, R Umamaheshwaram.

MoIC Secretary Phuntsho Tobgay, Officiating Foreign Secretary Pema Choden, and other officials of the two ministries, Bhutan’s Ambassador to India Major General Vetsop Namgyel, Indian Ambassador to Bhutan Ruchira Kamboj and senior officials from India’s external affairs ministry attended the event through video conference.

Following the agreement, the DITT and ISRO will develop a joint satellite to be launched sometime towards the end of this year.

This is in line with the MoU signed on November 19 last year between the two countries on Collaboration in Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj said that for the second phase Bhutanese engineers would travel to India in October.

In the first phase of the project, a team of three engineers from DITT and one from the College of Science and Technology attended a two months course with ISRO  in Bangalore and developed a prototype of secondary payload.

Ruchira Kamboj said that the agreement captured the spirits of friendship enjoyed by India and Bhutan, and implementing arrangement significantly reflected upon resolving opening new chapters of cooperation between the two nations.

She said that India’s space programme was not just a national priority but a vital instrument of national development of global cooperation. “We are indeed honoured to share our learnings, and experience striving for excellence with Bhutan.”Capacity building, knowledge sharing and technical training are also in heart of this project.”

While the agreement was formally signed last week, R Umamaheshwaram said that the planned activities under IA were being implemented without hindrance despite the pandemic. “I am fortunate to be part of this project since the beginning and I am extremely delighted by the enthusiasm shown by Bhutanese engineers.”

He said that in ISRO Bhutanese engineers would continue to learn assembly, interaction, and testing of satellite.

MoIC Minister Karma Donnen Wangdi said that the Royal vision of His Majesty The King was to harness space technology and its applications for the benefit of the country and to use space-related activities to create a greater sense of interest and passion in students for science, technology and innovation to help elevate Bhutan’s space ambitions to great heights.

Edited  by Tshering Palden

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Two missing boys found safe after four days 

Mon, 09/27/2021 - 11:24

Nima | Gelephu

Two students, who went missing in a forest last Wednesday, were found yesterday afternoon. They were located about three hours away from the Rai Dangra, a village located about 15 kilometres away from Gelephu.

The duo went missing after they took leave from their school in Gelephu to visit a waterfall in Samtenling gewog.

The boys were asked to stay in one place and build a fire to help the rescue team get to them after the boys called their parents. They were carrying mobile phones that helped rescue team locate them. The police started to search for the boys after their parents reported them missing on September 23.

Three different groups of search and rescue teams were deployed in the past four days to search for two missing boys studying in one of the schools in Gelephu. The teams were deployed at Samtenthang, Sheti lake, and Tshachhu areas.

A group of locals from Rai Dangra with police officials left in search of boys on Friday after parents received calls from the boys on Saturday. Another team of de-suups, police, and locals from the village went in search of boys the following day.

Locals from Rai Dangra said the boys could have left to visit the lake at the source of Shetikhari stream, a tributary of Mauchhu. Many people had gone missing in that area.

Edited  by Tshering Palden

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