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Picture story

ལྷག, 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?

ལྷག, 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

ལྷག, 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 

ལྷག, 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

ལྷག, 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 

ལྷག, 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

ལྷག, 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

ལྷག, 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

ལྷག, 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?

ལྷག, 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

ལྷག, 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

མིག, 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

མིག, 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

མིག, 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 

མིག, 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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Paro to have sales outlet for organic produce

མིག, 09/27/2021 - 11:22

Phub Dem | Paro

Most organic farmers in Paro, who are forced to sell their organic farm produce at the same price as local vegetables, will soon have a designated sales outlet.

The organic farmers did not even have a proper market to distinguish their produce, but the dzongkhag agriculture office is now in the process of establishing an organic sales outlet at the heart of Paro town. 

The two one-storey structures that previously housed ‘One Gewog One Product’  centre will be upgraded into the sales outlet soon. 

According to dzongkhag agriculture officer, Tandin, the Department of National Properties would dismantle the existing structures and build a two-storey building.

He said that the organic flagship programme would fund the establishment. “Construction will begin soon and the outlet will open next year.”

He said that the organic flagship programme plans to house an organic café, sales outlets and stores in the two-storey structure.  “The café will have ready-made organic cuisines such as Ema Datsi and Kimchi made using organic chilli, tomatoes and cheese.” 

The sales outlet will not operate like a vegetable market.

Tandin said that only processed and packaged organic products with proper branding would be displayed for sale at the outlet. “We will not bring in fresh vegetables at the outlet.”

He said the dzongkhag agriculture office already discussed with the municipality to keep separate space for fresh organic produces in the new upcoming market shed. 

He said that all these measures was to promote organic farming in the dzongkhag, adding that many farmers were coming forward to take up the venture. “The office is constantly in touch with the farmers. We brief them about the sales outlet and processing their farm produces.”

The processed agriculture products include dried and pickled vegetables, fruit jam, powdered vegetables, and packaged local rice.

He said that the outlet would enhance the value of organic products and farmers could fetch a better price.

Currently, Paro is gearing towards gathering organic agriculture products and livestock products.

Tandin said that local cattle that are not fed on imported feeds are primarily organic. “The livestock office has already identified around three farmers groups in Dogar, Naja and Tsento gewog.”

For organic farmers, the new establishment will bring immense benefits. 

Kinley Om from Gabjana of Lungyni gewog has been practising organic farming since her parents’ time. She has certified organic asparagus as of today. 

Her asparagus goes to Paro and Centenary Farmers Market in Thimphu like her other vegetables. “We have to invest extra on labourers and attention to organic products,” she said.

She also said production and income were less since they do not use fertilizers and pesticides.

Kinley Om said that the government already trained farmers and committed to help with branding. “The sales outlet would benefit the farmers in marketing their products.”

She said the outlet would differentiate local and organic products, thereby helping the customers choose the certified organic products. “Many vendors and sellers claim local produce as organic, which confuses and deceives buyers.”  

According to Kinley Wangmo from Chimakha, selling organic products in the local market has been challenging. 

She said that except for high-end resorts, she usually sells the produce at farmers markets like other local produce. “The sales outlet would encourage many farmers to take up organic farming not just for profit but for health benefits too.” 

Edited  by Tashi Dema

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Ranjung Mikyo Dorji makes his debut in Nepal cricket tourney

མིག, 09/27/2021 - 11:22

Thinley Namgay 

Ranjung Mikyo Dorji, 22, made his debut for Lalitpur Patriots in the Everest Premier League 2021 at the Tribhuvan University Cricket Ground in Kathmandu, Nepal on September 25.

He grabbed 17 runs off the last 13 balls of the match including a sixer against Kathmandu Kings XI, not out. His strike rate was 130.76.

Lalitpur Patriots, the defending champions, managed 157 runs in 20 overs.  Kathmandu Kings XI won the game by seven wickets as the club acquired 160 runs in 14.2 overs.

Ranjung Mikyo Dorji, on his official Facebook page, said that he was extremely happy to have made his debut for Lalitpur Patriots despite the frustrating loss. “Thanks for the great support.”

Besides Mikyo Dorji, Lalitpur Patriots have other international players Azmatullah Omarzai from Afghanistan, Oshada Fernando and Sandun Weekrakkody from Sri Lanka.

Lalitpur Patriots will face Pokhara Rhinos on September 29.

The fourth edition league saw six teams– Bhairahawa Gladiators, Biratnagar Warriors, Chitwan Tigers, Pokhara Rhinos, Kathmandu Kings XI, and Lalitpur Patriots.

Fifteen games will be played in the league round, where each team will play five matches. The top four teams will qualify for the semifinal.

Biratnagar Warriors lost to Chitwan Tigers by two wickets yesterday. Biratnagar Warriors will take on Kathmandu Kings XI today.

Edited  by Tshering Palden

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Raising healthy and resilient future

མིག, 09/27/2021 - 11:21

There is a need for schools to improve mental resilience programmes.

Many reports, from teachers and students themselves, say that our children today are becoming less resilient.

What does that mean?

Our children are overburdened; they can’t handle stress. The consequences are sometimes sad.

However, what our teachers tell us is that workload for students has reduced a lot today. Curriculum designers agree. Even parents do.

So where does the stress come from?

The answer is: not necessarily from schools work and academic pressure.

Bhutan is changing rapidly. With the change, we are living a very fast-paced life. No one seems to have “enough” time for anybody. The rush shows in the way that parents are not able to look at the needs of their children.

All the while, every child is expected to achieve the best.

This can get worse and, that’s why, we need some serious interventions before it is too late.

Some of us argue that we have enough interventions going by the many agencies and budget that the government allocates to these agencies. But the argument is missing the point. How many agencies and how big the budget is not important. What is important is: Are we coming even a little closer to solving one of the biggest issues facing our young people today?

Schools need to create an environment where building resilience in children receives a special priority. Some of the schools in the country are going out of their way, even beyond instruction time and syllabus to ensure that physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of children is taken care of.

Schools have shown that they can do it, given enough resources. Some teachers and educators are of the view that mental resilience can be taught as a subject. Counsellors are important, yes, but a more focused class can do a lot more in the long run.

Healthy children is our future. Knowing that, we need to invest significantly now, at a time when a large number of our young people are finding it difficult to negotiate through the complicated maze of development.

The idea is to make our children smart and strong to not just face the challenges of the day, but also look ahead with confidence and succeed. That’s what is required in the many lofty reforms and plans we are talking about today to give Bhutanese education a new face.

Let’s raise a healthy and resilient future. And this calls for heavy investment from the Ministry of Education.

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12th Five-Year Plan reprioritised to stimulate growth 

མིག, 09/27/2021 - 11:20

Yangchen C Rinzin  

Construction of dry ports at Pasakha, Gelephu, and Nganglam are some of the new and critical infrastructure activities frontloaded in the 12th Five-Year Plan (FYP), owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

These are a part of the three major new activities the government had to reprioritise and adopt in the 12th FYP as part of the Covid-19 interventions and Economic Contingency plan.

The initial plan was to only prepare detailed project reports for Gelephu and Nganglam, according to officials from the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) Secretariat. However, the construction of dry ports had to be frontloaded to be implemented within the 12th FYP to facilitate trade and the import of essentials.

Realising the importance of internal connectivity during the lockdowns, construction of internal connectivity roads such as Samrang to Jomotsangkha, and Gomtu to Tading gewog in Samtse, were major road projects prioritised in the 12th FYP. Jomotsangkha drungkhag and Gomtu are not currently connected internally.

The government identified or reprioritised critical infrastructure facilities based on the potential for the activities in question to enhance the local economy and create jobs, as well as the readiness and resources situation of the planned programmes, and expenditure trends and implementation status of the activities.

The government also frontloaded activities based on the availability of raw materials and domestic labour to implement the activities.  

“We’ve retained activities and incorporated new initiatives that are important and contribute to socio-economic development and engage unemployed youth,” a GNHC official said. “It also includes prioritisation of activities in health, food security, local economy, and job creation at the local government level.”

Construction of a petroleum, oils, and lubricants (POL) depot in Mongar, cold-storage facilities, and the improvement of farm roads in all dzongkhags were also brought forward for implementation.

“The establishment of industrial estates was also activated to fast-track development and operationalise businesses and create employment opportunities,” the official said.

A GNHC official said that farm road improvements were reprioritised, considering the minimal requirements for imported labour. The improvements can be managed with local workers, using domestic raw materials.

“The frontloaded activities are being implemented and progress is well on track,” the official said. “Reprioritisation has enabled sectors to undertake viable activities, thereby ensuring that there is economic growth despite challenges posed by the pandemic.”

A total of Nu 1.048 billion in additional grants was also mobilised from development partners in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, such as support for the vaccination roll-out, Covid-19 waste management, and supply of health-related equipment, surgical masks and Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), among others.

Initially, Nu 116 billion was the 12th FYP capital outlay, which was revised to Nu 117.234 billion later for central agencies, local government, flagship programmes, and the Bhutan Economic Stabilisation Fund.

Nu 53.033 billion has been spent against the revised outlay so far.

Activities were mainly reprioritised at the central agencies level; activities such as the construction of offices, staff quarters, regional offices, and dzongkhag courts were deprioritised.

“Capacity building activities and awareness programmes were also deprioritised, and the budget from these activities was allocated to support Covid-19 activities or responses,” said the official.

Edited  by Tshering Palden

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Focus point

ཉིམ།, 09/25/2021 - 12:29