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Trashigang grapples with high fallowing of land

ཕུར།, 07/26/2017 - 17:09

Fallowing of land has become a major concern in Trashigang.

According to recent records from the dzongkhag agriculture office, of the total 21,529.6 acres of dry land in the dzongkhag, about 7,015.78 acres have been left fallow. About 483.34 acres of 4,104 acres wetland remain uncultivated.

The difficult terrain, shortage of farmhands due to emptying of households and human-wildlife conflicts, among others, are some the commonly cited reasons for the increasing fallowing of land.

Between 2015 and 2016, a total of 983 goongtong cases were recorded in the dzongkhag; Bartsham had the highest (150), followed by Phongmey (126).

The problem of fallowing of land has become so common that even in Radhi, the rice bowl of the east, fields are left uncultivated. Some 1,964.9 acres of land (wet and dry lands) remains fallow in the gewog today.

Radhi gup Kulung, however, said that the figures of acreage left fallow in the gewog could not be true. “We need to conduct a survey to find the actual figure.”

Dzongkhag agriculture officer, D C Bhandari, said that lack of adequate irrigation channels in Radhi is one of the major factors leading to the fallowing of land. Irrigation water, he said, is usually tapped from small streams that are mostly not perennial.

“Irrigation is dependent mostly on monsoon. If there is timely rainfall, there is scope to cultivate,” said D C Bhandari. “Moreover, irrigation channels are damaged by slides during monsoon.”

But there is good news. The agriculture ministry and JICA are planning to construct a new irrigation channel in Radhi to address the issues. Feasibility studies have been completed and the dzongkhag administration is awaiting the approval from the ministry.

Water will be drawn from Yudiri, a river between Radhi and Phongmey.

“Once the irrigation channel is in place, water shortage in Radhi will be solved,” said D C Bhandari.

Fallowing of land is a concern for the dzongkhag administration, said D C Bhandari. “But we think the number is decreasing, not drastically but we are observing a gradual drop.”

As a measure to reduce fallowing of land due to human-wildlife conflict, farmers are provided with electric fencing. Officials, however, say that most of the farmers are not wiling to take the ownership of the fencing.

The dzongkhag’s agriculture office is also encouraging dropout and unemployed youth to take up farming and make use of the fallow lands.

The response from the young, however, has been lukewarm.

Younten Tshedup |  Trashigang

SAARC to improve regional tourism

ཕུར།, 07/26/2017 - 17:08

The lack of connectivity and information sharing among the countries of South Asia, which hinders the development of tourism sector in the region, will be addressed by encouraging regional tourism among the countries.

Lack of connectivity makes travelling difficult for tourists, which affects the tourism sector in South Asia region.

President with South Asian Association Regional Corporation Chamber for Commerce and Industry (SAARC CCI), Suraj Vaidya, said that South Asia is the least connected region in the world and the focus of the meeting has been to make travelling easier in the region.

“The aim is to make visa much easier for the south Asia region and make connections in different areas,” he added.

It was pointed out that dis-connectivity in the region has resulted due to lack of cooperation between private sectors and government, and the political situations in the region.

It was discussed that to improve tourism sector in South Asia inter-regional tourism needs to improve which could be done by improving visa availability.

Afghanistan’s deputy minister of information and culture, Sayed Muzghan Mustafavi, said that there is an initiative to start e-visa in the SAARC nations. “We hope that in a year’s time, the religious visa will come through which is now under process,” he added.

It was recommended that to improve the relation in the region, tour packages such as Buddhist tour package aiming at multiple countries in the region could be started.

“We also have ‘Unleashing South Asia’ and 20 other projects which plans to make South Asia a tourist destination within and outside the region,” Suraj Vaidya said.

Chairperson of Pacific Asia Travel Association, Sarah Mathews, said that the region suffers from minimal information which limits the development. She added that the countries need to understand their target tourists and work towards it with proper resources such as visa and infrastructure.

Spokesperson of Tourism Council of Bhutan, Damcho Rinzin, said that the recommendations made will be discussed. “The meeting has a huge potential. With the tourism connectivity, the countries will benefit with joint marketing space and exposure,” he added.

In South Asia, the tourism sector contributes 8.9 percent to the GDP.

Consultant with United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Joseph George, said that the countries in the region have developed individually but the region as a whole still remains behind. He added that South Asia can improve by working together which will help the employment sector in large.

The 70th executive committee meeting of SAARC CCI discussed issues related to young entrepreneurs. It also aimed at making South Asia region one of the most preferred tourist destinations in the world among others.

The meeting began on July 23 and ended yesterday in Thimphu.

Phurpa Lhamo

Herb collectors of Naro get drying house

ཕུར།, 07/26/2017 - 17:07

Collection of medicinal herbs begins next week in the mountains of Naro gewog, Thimphu that lies above 3000 meters above sea level.

The highlanders are happy with a new asset in the gewog that would make the exercise an easy affair.

Naro gewog now has a proper drying place for the herbs they collect from the mountains. The Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay inaugurated the one-storey structure during his visit to the gewog centre on July 22.

The highlanders can’t use it yet. They will have to wait for another year to use the facility that cost Nu 1 million and a year to build. It runs on electricity and the gewog’s power derived from solar panels is not enough.

But everyone gathered at the meeting with the Prime Minister seemed happy with the facility.

A highlander, Jigme, said that collection of herbs is one of the main activities that the highlanders rely on for their livelihood.

“Livestock rearing is plagued with chronic diseases like guyum, infection of the brain, and wild predator attacks,” he said.

“This drying facility is going to save us a lot of hardship and time,” he said. “Herb collection is going to be more tempting.”

Naro Mangmi Kinga Thinley said that the gewog is expected to connect to grid electricity by next year.

“We’ve heard Bhutan Power Corporation tender out in August the works to connect the gewog centre with electricity,” he said.

In absence of a drying facility in the gewog, most highlanders have to dry their herbs either in the caves or in tarpaulin tents.

“If it rains continuously, we risk rotting the herbs, so we have to take them to the institute at Kawajangsa in Thimphu,” Mangmi Kinga Thinley said. “The wet ones don’t fetch a good price.”

Price varies for different varieties. The highlanders earn between Nu 100 and Nu 700 a kilogramme of herb.

The gewog has a group that collects herbs and everyone in the gewog is a member of the group. They go to collect the herbs after the Drungtshos from the National Institute of Traditional Medicine place their demands.

The season to collect the herbs begins in August and ends in mid-September.

The highlanders earn between Nu 40,000 and Nu 100,000 a year selling the herbs to the National Institute of Traditional Medicine.

The highlanders collect mostly Putishing (Picorrhiza kurroa), Papaveraceae varieties locally called ud-pal, Caprifoliaceae or pangpoe, Plantaginaceae or Honglen, and wangle, among others.

Naro gewog has about 27 species of medicinal herbs.

Tshering Palden

CSOs familiarise themselves with SDGs

ཕུར།, 07/26/2017 - 17:06

A workshop was organised in Thimphu Monday to strengthen Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) advocacy capacity of Civil Society Organisations (CSO) at national and sub-national level.

Participants learnt how to implement the SDGs, including effective engagement with the government and promotion of multi-stakeholder partnership. The participants were familiarised with SDGs’ 169 targets and the symbols associated with each SDGs.

The workshop helped CSOs identify the SDGs that they are engaged in furthering and promote networking and partnership among themselves.

Director of  programmes with Tarayana Foundation, Sonam Pem, said the workshop would help create awareness among the CSOs about SDGs and how to contribute towards fulfilling them.

Asia Development Alliance’s co-convener (ADA) Seonghoon Lee (Anselmo) said that implementing SDGs require partnership and that CSOs have a double role to play when it comes to working towards achieving the goals. “One is direct implementation and advocacy of SDGs. At the same time, CSOs need to monitor whether the governments are carrying out implementation properly.”

He said that governments are fragmented with different ministries focusing on different priorities. The CSOs should, therefore, help the government make a coherent understanding of the nature, characteristics and complexity of SDGs, he said. “Many governments are technical, they do not look at the background, and they pick a goal and a target without understanding and knowing how the goals are interconnected.”

He said that CSOs being part of the process are free to interpret SDGs whereas most governments engage in only what they know. “Second is the need to demand consultations based on 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. If asked consultation or representation is sought, CSOs should give their opinion even if the governments do not implement it.”

Sonam Pem said that the workshop will help CSOs identify the goals they are working with enabling them to have constructive engagement with the government. “When the government conducts consultation meetings to compile their Voluntary National Reviews on the progress of SDGs in 2018, the CSOs will be in a better position to have constructive dialogue on the contribution made by us.  Our contributions can complement and supplement on what the government is doing so that the government can present a holistic report to the United Nations.”

She said that the CSOs contribute to achieving almost all the SDGs except for the life below water goal.  “CSO as a sector is contributing in areas such as poverty reduction, youth issues, women issues, HIV health issues, preserving our tradition and culture.”

An official from Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) shared the government’s plans to achieve SDGs.

Chief planning officer with GNHC, Lhaba Tshering, said that SDGs are incorporated in the GHN policies as the base for Bhutan’s plans and policies. “In the current Plan, there are many CSOs collaborating with the government such as Tarayana, RENEW and Loden Foundation.”

Lhaba Tshering said that CSOs have important role to play, which is why CSOs were involved right from the initial conception to the formulation of the 12th Plan guidelines. “Whenever we have policy formulation and discussion, we invite representatives from CSOs. Turn out has been good.”

About 32 participants from 20 CSOs attended the workshop.

The workshop was organised by the Tarayana Foundation in collaboration with ADA with financial support from Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).

Karma Cheki

Residents allege monastic structures were constructed without approval

ཕུར།, 07/26/2017 - 17:05

Three years after the Department of Culture (DoC) issued a circular in 2014 stating that it would not issue any permits to construct new monastic structures, it was found that there was a lhakhang, a guest house, a drasha (monk’s residence) drupkhangs and tsamkhangs (meditation centre) constructed in Laiju, Silambi in 2015 and 2016.

It is not clear how the structures were constructed since dzongkhag officials claim that they did not approve any such constructions but the owner of the structures, lam Pema Singye, received Nu 1.3 million (M) from the gewog administration for the construction from the 2015-2016 budget.

A Silambi resident alleged that the budget was actually approved to renovate a drupkhang at Wama chiwog but because the thram was issued to the dratshang and not in the name of the lam, the budget was used to construct structures at Laiju.

Silambi residents also alleged that the gewog allotted Nu 1M to the lam to renovate a drupkhang at Samten Gatshel in Silambi chiwog.

Lam Sangay Dorji, who represents lam Pema Singye and coordinates the Samten Gatshel drupkhang, said that the structures were constructed with approval and work order from the gewog administration. “We assumed that notifying the gewog office suffices,” he said. “We did not know we need approvals from other authorities.”

In 2015, following a report by Kuensel after local people complained that the lam constructed the structures without seeking forest a permit, foresters imposed a fine of Nu 72,000 on the lam.

Foresters also imposed fine of Nu 84,621 to lam Samgay Dorji for constructing the Samten Gatshel drupkhang that year.

Silambi residents are questioning how the gewog administration could approve Nu 2.3M budget for the construction of private monastic structures.

A villager, on the request of anonymity, said the gewog even constructed farm roads until the monasteries with gewog development grant.

The former Silambi gup, Tshering Dorji, in an interview with Kuensel in December 2015, said that the budget was approved so that the public would benefit from the structures.

Meanwhile, the Silambi resident also alleged that in Dag chiwog, the community constructed a lhakhang on a private land with financial support from the gewog in 2011.

The man also alleged that the new gewog officials also allotted Nu 400,000 for the sertok and choesham (altar) of the lhakhang.

He alleged that there was no approval sought to construct the lhakhang and a structure to offer butter lamps.

Silambi residents also allege that although there were several illegal constructions in the gewog, the gewog authorities never reported the matter to the dzongkhag administration.

Kuensel’s several attempts to contact Silambi gup Dorji Wangchuk, who was a tshogpa of Nagor chiwog before becoming the gup, went unanswered.

Mongar dzongkhag cultural officer, Peldup, said that the letter seeking approval to renovate the lhakhang in Laiju and Samten Gatshel was forwarded to the dzongkhag culture office in October 2015. The culture office then sent it to the DoC. “I will have to confirm with DoC whether the renovation was approved and also consult with gewog officials.”

He said he would visit the gewog soon and investigate it.

Peldup said that neither the gewog nor the dzongkhag administration has the authority to sanction new monastic constructions and renovations. “Only DoC has the authority.”

Tashi Phuntsho | Silambi

Man sentenced to 16 years for stabbing mother

ཕུར།, 07/26/2017 - 17:03

Dorokha drungkhag court on July 21 sentenced a 24-year- old man to 16 years imprison for murdering his mother this year.

According to the judgment, the man is charged with second-degree felony and sentenced to 16 years as per section 139 of the Penal Code of Bhutan (amended).

By law, the convict is liable to pay compensation to the family. However, since the father of the convict requested the court to waive off the compensation, the court agreed to it.

The incident happened on March 14 this year at Dorokha, Samtse, when the deceased went to wake her son up and asked to light a fire in the kitchen. The son who was angry with his mother took a kitchen knife and stabbed her.

The judgment stated that the convict, Buddha Kumar Rai, had intentionally planned to stab his mother, as there was evidence that he bought the cutlass from a nearby shop and kept in his room.

To destroy the evidence after the crime, Buddha Kumar Rai threw the kitchen knife in a nearby bush and fled the scene. The mother succumbed to the injury.

On interrogation, Buddha Kumar Rai confessed to the crime and told police that he had committed the crime out of anger and frustration.

Buddha Kumar Rai used to eat with his parents but was living alone in another house.

Tashi Tenzin

Haa police forwards Rangtse BDBL case to OAG

ཕུར།, 07/26/2017 - 17:02

The case involving a Bhutan Development Bank Limited (BDBL) branch in-charge of Rangtse, Haa, who allegedly robbed more than Nu 4.6 million (M) from the branch’s safe on the night of June 4, will be forwarded to the Office of Attorney General today.

Haa Police, after investigation, charged the 32-year-old man for burglary, forgery, embezzlement, official misconduct, and misappropriation of government property.

Paro’s senior superintendent of police (SSP), Colonel Pasang Dorji, said their investigation found that the official committed the five offences. “The OAG will also investigate and frame the charges, which will either remain same or differ,” he said.

He also alleged that the branch in-charge was found to have misused the company’s money since 2013. “Our investigation reveals that the branch in-charge withdrew money from the clients’ accounts during official inspection or auditing and deposited it back once the inspection is done.”

Paro SSP also looks after the Haa jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, the branch-in-charge was arrested after a health worker in Sangbaykha, after finding the BDBL branch office in Sangbaykha open, informed the Sangbaykha BDBL branch office in-charge who was out of station then on the night of June 4.

The Sangbaykha branch office in-charge informed the Rangtse branch office in-charge to check the office. The next day, the Rangtse branch office in-charge reported to police that someone broke the safe in his office and stole the cash.

The Rangtse branch office in-charge was arrested on June 5. Police claim that he confessed to the crime.

It is, however, not confirmed if the Rangtse branch office in-charge was involved in trying to break into the Sangbaykha office. In Sangbaykha, the safe could not be broken.

Dechen Tshomo

Samdrupcholing-Dewathang road to be blacktopped after monsoon

ཕུར།, 07/26/2017 - 17:01

Motorists plying along the 67kms Samdrupcholing-Dewathang highway are worried about the worsening road condition every day.

The highway connects Samdrupcholing drungkhag to Samdrupjongkhar via Dewathang.

A truck driver, Thukten Tashi, 31, said that the road is filled with potholes in every metre distance.

He also claimed that although the widening works are complete, the road is not blacktopped.

Thukten travels to Samdrupjongkhar to ferry cement but he says it is difficult to ply on the road. “It is even difficult for trucks to ply through the road.”

Road users also claim that while the number of vehicles plying along the highway increased over the years, the highway is still narrow.

Dawa, 43, said although the road is graded as a highway, the condition of the road is worse than a farm road.

Pemathang gup, Madhukar Subba, said though the highway was maintained and blacktopped until Martang from Dewathang, the road condition is still worse from Martang to Samdrupcholing since it is not blacktopped and it is ridden with potholes.

He said poor road condition extends the travel time.

The gup said that the issue was discussed in the dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) in 2015 and officials from Department of Roads (DoR) informed the DT then that they will maintain the road phase wise.

He said that since they don’t see any progress of the road maintenance, the gups of the four gewogs in the drungkhag will raise the issue in the upcoming DT session.

DoR officials in Samdrupjongkhar also agreed that there was a need for maintenance and blacktopping of the highway.

DoR’s chief engineer, Jigme choidup, said they received Nu 15 million from the works and human settlement ministry for the highway maintenance and blacktopping. “The work will begin in August or after the monsoon.”

He also said that the budget would be used to blacktop about 10kms. “ We are planning to blacktop 50mm because there are many trucks plying on the highway carrying coal and mines. The 25mm blacktopping doesn’t last long.”

He said that the budget might cover about five kilometres for the 50mm blacktop.

Jigme Choidup said that about 23km have been blacktopped towards the drungkhag from Dewathang and with the additional five kilometres, a total of 28km will be blacktopped. “The widening works are completed except for drainage and blacktopping.”

He said they didn’t blacktop it earlier since the blacktopping along with the road widening hampers the work progress.

He said they don’t have the budget to blacktop the whole stretch but they always conduct maintenance time and again.

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupcholing

Ugyen Academy FC slips to third in National league

ཕུར།, 07/26/2017 - 17:00

Ugyen Academy FC suffered their first defeat of the championship against the home team Thimphu FC at the Changlimithang Stadium yesterday.

In a match of equals, Ugyen Academy FC, consisting of young players threatened the home team by bringing into play their pace with long balls.  However, Thimphu FC defence stood firm denying them opportunity to convert from the numerous chances.

Down the second half of the game, Thimphu FC striker Dorji slotted home from a through pass from Jigme Yonten in the mid field. He dribbled past two defenders who tried to prevent his strike for Thimphu FC.

His goal in the 67th minute earned the first win for Thimphu FC and put off the spectators who had been cheering for Ugyen Academy FC.

Ugyen Academy Coach Tim Tashi David Jaeggi said that his squad played quite a good game against the experienced opponent. “The players are not used to playing in the different ground and they failed to find a solution to short passes. We have to focus more on our defensive line in upcoming matches,” the coach said.

A forward player of Ugyen Academy, Dinesh Gurung, said that it was a hard luck for the team. “We were unable to convert several chances we had. We performed much better today and we are looking forward to the championship.” He said that the squad had to bench three key players because of injury.

Ugyen Academy FC has played all three games away. The squad consists of young players except for their skipper Lhendup Dorji who plays in the national squad.

Thimphu FC coach Kota said that he did not get enough time to study the tactics and ability of the squad as he was handed over to the squad recently. “The team understands the style of play and their tactical performance of the game is improving,” the coach said.

Kota was previously with Drukstar United before joining Thimphu FC and it’s his third match with the squad.

Thimphu City, Transport United, and Ugyen Academy FC are the top three teams in the league while Phuentsholing City FC is at the bottom of the table without being able to register a point in the table.


MoEA cancels 10 education consultancy licences

ཕུར།, 07/26/2017 - 17:00

Economic affairs ministry cancelled licences of 10 Education Consultancy and Placement Firms (ECPF) on the grounds of non-compliance with the guidelines for ECPF and for being non-operational.

Regional Trade and Industry Office cancelled the licences based on the recommendation made by Department of Adult and Higher Education (DAHE) this month.

The licence of four ECPFs, Sherig Thuendrel ECPF, Bhutan College Search ECPF, Shanti Yoedzer ECPF and Career Infopedia were cancelled for non-compliance with the ECPF guidelines.

The licence of Shanti Yoedzer ECPF and Career Infopedia were cancelled for major non-compliance issues. The two firms had been involved in the alleged mistreatment of students overseas.

Drupthop ECPF is also under suspension following the reports of the firm placing students in Malaysia without student visas.

Deputy chief programme officer with Quality Assurance and Accreditation Division (QAAD) with DAHE, Sangye Choden, said Shanti Yoedzer ECPF had failed to abide by the agreement signed with the students.

“Career Infopedia had placed about 200 students on scholarship in Bangalore but after a certain semester the students were asked to pay fees,” she said. “We kept their licences suspended hoping that they would improve, unfortunately they didn’t leaving us any choice but to cancel their licences.”

The licence of Shanti Yoedzer ECPF and Career Infopedia had been suspended from November 25 and March 11, 2016 respectively.

Sherig Thuendrel ECPF and Bhutan College Search ECPF had minor non-compliance issues such as not having an office and not being in contact with QAAD.

“We tried to contact them repeatedly through e-mails, phone call and visits. Only after failing all these, we recommended cancellation of their business licences,” Sangye Choden said.

Five ECPFs, namely IMS Sophiya ECPF, Bhutan ICFAI ECPF, Lama Overseas ECPF, Druk Future Links ECPF, and Rangjung ECPF cancelled their business licences voluntarily.

The business licence of Elyon ECPF was cancelled for being non-operational (inactive) for more than two years.

Sangye Choden said that as of now there are 31 operational ECPFs. “We are also reviewing the guidelines and until it is finished we have suspended the issuance of licence.”

She said the review is being done to curb the number of issues such as growing number of firms, poor quality services, to identify genuinely interested firms, and to make guidelines more detailed.

Sangye Choden said that QAAD used to monitor ECPFs annually. “Now we have realised that we have to do ad hoc monitoring. So we are going to monitor a few ECPF every month.”

The information about the operational ECPFs are available on DAHE’s website www.dahe.gov.bt

Karma Cheki

A lone school in an isolated community

ལྷག, 07/25/2017 - 16:41

Since its establishment eight years ago, Naro gewog’s lone school, Barshong Community School, has been facing shortage of students.

The school has one of the highest teacher-student ratios in the country with two teachers teaching its seven students today.

The school was opened in 2010 after people of the gewog requested the government for an extended classroom (ECR) as their children had to go to the school in Lingzhi gewog, which  is a two-day walk from Naro.

The government’s only condition then was that the public would arrange for a room to be used as the classroom.

Two years after its establishment, the ECR was upgraded to a community school in 2012 and His Royal Highness Gyaltshab Jigme Dorji Wangchuck inaugurated it.

The government also built a three-room single-storeyed house of stone and mud motor masonry with corrugated iron sheet roof for the school. One of the rooms is used as a library and another as a teacher’s residence.

The school has a clean water supply, solar electricity, and separate toilets for boys and girls. It is next to the gewog’s grade II basic health unit.

But the school, which has up to grade IV today, could never have more than 11 students in an academic year.

That is not because the gewog lacks school-going age children. The highlanders claim that there are enough children to fill a primary school.

A highlander from the gewog, Wangdue, has been living with his five grandchildren in Chamgang, Thimphu in a rented apartment for the past three years.

He is from Zhomthang, a pastureland that is closer to Phajoding in Thimphu. It takes three days on foot to get to Barshong. “Sending our children to Barshong school is impossible.”

He said that to enrol his children in that school, he has to rent space near it to build a temporary house to live in. There is no shop in Barshong or in any parts of the gewog.

“We’ll have to transport food supplies and other essentials from Thimphu via Dodeyna spending more than Nu 10,000 for vehicle and horses to ferry the supplies enough to last half a year,” he said. “If one of them falls ill, then who’ll look after the rest when I take him to the hospital in Thimphu.”

The people, during the Prime Minister’s visit to the gewog last week, did not ask the government to upgrade the school.

Highlanders said there are more than 20 of them who have children in other schools in other parts of Thimphu and Paro.

Many highlanders say that they opt to enrol their children in schools in Kabisa and Chamgang in Thimphu, and in Paro because they live in places that are more than a day’s or two walk away from the gewog centre in Barshong.

Of the 69 households in the gewog, only about 15 are close to the school.

“We can enrol our children in Barshong school only if the school has a boarding facility,” Tenzin, who lives in Kabisa, a village about half an hour drive from the capital city, said.

Even to those who live close to the school, keeping their children in school throughout the year is problematic.

Three highlanders from every household go to collect Cordyceps Sinensis, which has become the mainstay of the highlanders’ livelihood, for a month between May and June every year. The academic session does not break for summer break until the end of June.

A highlander living next to the school, Yangki, had to request a teacher to look after her son as her family left to collect the highly-prized fungus.

Naro gup Wangchuk said that a survey last year found that there are 15 students aged one to five. “We don’t have many children here because most of our youth settle in towns and don’t return home,” he said.

He said that life in the highlands is demanding and given the tempting options of an easy life in towns elsewhere closer to hospitals, and modern amenities, people don’t want to return.

Meanwhile, Wangdue entrusted his cattle and yaks to his four children. The pasturelands are scattered and he claims that life is difficult up there in the mountains.

“Without proper schooling, our children will get nowhere in the future,” he said. “The natural resources could exhaust one day, that’s why most of us chose to live like this to educate them.”

Tshering Palden | Naro 

Value chain in Agro-industries need to advance

ལྷག, 07/25/2017 - 16:39

Acquiring local farm produce does not make economic sense for the agro-industries unless a technological transformation occurs throughout the value chain.

This is because the best quality locally-grown agro produce are exported and the local industries cannot afford to pay at par with the export value. Sourcing fruit concentrate from other countries are found to make economic sense to the industries.

While the cost of production of fresh produce in Bhutan is comparatively higher than in India due to higher costs of inputs, labour and transportation, a study conducted by the Department of Agriculture and Marketing Cooperatives (DAMC) found that there is a general perception that Bhutanese farmers always expect a higher price than what it is really worth.

The DAMC has surveyed four local agro-industries.

Among the industries surveyed, Bhutan Agro Industries Ltd (BAIL) is the largest purchaser of locally grown produce, with procurement amounting to Nu 7.1 million in 2016. However, the company also imported almost Nu 10M worth of raw materials from India, mostly fruit concentrates.

This was followed by Bhutan Fruits Product Private Ltd (BFPL). Together, these two industries locally sourced produce worth Nu 8.61 million in 2016.

Zimdra Food Private Ltd (ZMPL) and Bhutan Milk & Agro Ltd (BMPL) are entirely dependent on imported raw materials and do not source locally. Their main imports are fruit concentrates, fruit pulp, sugar, fresh milk and powdered milk – most of which are not available locally or if available, in very limited volume.

From the growers’ perspective, for most commodities, the price offered by agro-industries is lower than other markets.

“The best apples and oranges grown in Bhutan are exported to Bangladesh and India while those that do not meet the export quality standards are normally sold locally or to agro-industries,” the report stated.

The average export price of apples according to the Bhutan Exporters Association in 2016 was Nu 33.45 a kg while farmers were paid around Nu 15 to 20 per kg for mediocre quality and superior quality fruits. The situation is similar for oranges.

The BFPL, for instance imported a vast majority of its fresh produce from India. In 2016, they procured only Nu 1.5 million worth of oranges, mango and potato locally while importing produce worth Nu 10.4 million. “It is obvious that Indian farmers are able to produce and supply fresh produce at a much lower cost as compared to Bhutanese growers.”

Even in case of BAIL, the report stated that the rates offered does not attract Bhutanese growers except when the growers find no alternative market.

“BAIL also purchased fresh chili worth Nu 0.09 million from India during 2016 probably because of the very high costs of chili in the local market,” the report stated. The average retail price of green chili at Nu175 per kilogrammes, is almost 950 percent over the actual cost of production.

To address this, the report stated that the concerned agencies are already determining the costs of production and disseminating information while also devising methods to keep production costs low through farm mechanization.

The study also pointed out a positive impact, if the local agro-industries that source locally move up the value chain, expand or diversify. “Among other things, the quality of the final product will be determined by the quality of the raw materials used,” it stated because a vast majority of our value-added products may fail to meet the high quality standards that are demanded in developed markets.

With technological transformation, agro-industries would be able to capture greater market share, increase their returns and eventually pay higher price for raw materials. This in turn would be a catalyst for Bhutanese growers to invest for higher farm productivity.

For instance, fruit concentrate manufacturing plants are extremely capital intensive and would require very large volume of raw materials and high capacity utilization to make it cost-efficient and may not be a viable option for a considerable period of time in Bhutan.

But pulp production is a fairly simpler and the investment costs are not prohibitive, though volume of raw materials available for processing and the capacity utilization is still a question.

However, the study pointed out that there is still ample scope for increased production of fruit pulp locally, by investing in better and higher-capacity technology.

The three large companies combined utilize approximately Nu 19.03 million worth of fruit pulp, from which only a miniscule of 1.51 percent is supplied by local fruit pulp manufacturers.

Tshering Dorji

Trongsa-Gelephu highway closed to traffic

ལྷག, 07/25/2017 - 16:39

With about 50ms of road’s formation width completely washed away by landslide near Bubja in Trongsa, the Trongsa-Gelephu highway is closed to traffic since the midnight of July 23.

Mangdechu Hydroelectric Project Authority (MHPA) officials say they started working towards constructing a temporary road since yesterday.

Officials claim they expect the light vehicles to be able to ply by today evening.

MHPA’s chief engineer, AK Sthapak, said continues heavy rainfall for few days in the area caused the landslide.

“We should be able to construct a temporary road through which heavy vehicles could also ply in a week’s time if the weather favors,” he said.

The chief engineer said that they would be able to start construct permanent road only after the monsoon ends.

Staff reporter

The spectacle called drayangs

ལྷག, 07/25/2017 - 16:38

The concept of drayangs tends to conjure varying notions.

To some, the mere existence of drayangs threatens our culture and tradition while others argue that drayangs play a role in the promotion and preservation of these values.  Somehow, in this conversation that dwells from cultural to moral policing to image crisis, we appear to overlook the concerns of the women who work in these places.

Drawn from these social constructions of morals and culture, discussions on the women who perform in drayangs revolve on the spectacle, their choreography and acts of requesting songs that sexualise entertainment.  Be it in the parliament or the dzongkhag tshogdue, the agency of the woman, as an economic actor who works long and odd hours to make a living gets overlooked.

The recent workshop that RENEW organised for drayang employees and employers saw important issues raised. It was a good initiative for it created space for drayang employees to share their concerns. Drayang employees shared that they are as vulnerable, economically and sexually at work as they are after work. At work, they claim that they tolerate the exploitation. After work, they claim that walking home or taking a taxi becomes risky and expensive.

It is not that the society is not aware about this situation. Our policy makers and people in the farms and those in between including those who frequent the drayangs know that most of those who perform in drayangs are school dropouts, single mothers and or divorcees. While claiming to enjoy singing and dancing, many come from villages to make a living and help their families back home. Depending on their employment arrangements, they earn from Nu 6,000 a month to Nu 60,000 and have to share 50 percent of this with the owners.

Yet, we choose to not see and understand these issues. We harbour meanings and the construction of narratives given by those who perceive drayangs and its women employees as a social nuisance. And it is in such instances and frames that patriarchal expressions are embedded. But it becomes important for us to understand that if we, the spectators, choose to judge them by their work, we must accept that the circumstances that compelled them to seek employment in drayangs are also of our making.

For we have become a society that has started to see business opportunities in poverty and unemployment. We are as quick to blame modernity and socio-economic development in our analysis of the drayang culture as we are of the drayangs diluting our culture. At the same time licenses are being issued to operate drayangs. Records show that Thimphu has 13 of the 42 drayangs in the country.

It is however not to suggest that such concerns are not important or valid. They are but in raising these issues, the women and her agency, her right to work and be financially independent must not be diluted. The concerns the employees raised at the workshop point out several lapses in our monitoring agencies.

Authorities must ensure that the employees are paid well so that they are not exploited or tempted to indulge in activities that are perceived to be wrong. A start has been made. We must take it further for drayangs are as much an expression of our society as it has become a spectacle.

Wetland managers discuss conservation issues

ལྷག, 07/25/2017 - 16:37

Infrastructure development, colonisation by invasive species, overgrazing, pollution, and lack of proper boundary demarcation are among the challenges facing the conservation of wetlands in Bhutan.

Issues facing wetland conservation was discussed at a training programme for wetland managers.

Ramsar convention defines wetland as an area of marsh, fen, peat bogs or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water.

Ramsar convention is an intergovernmental treaty for the conservation and wise use of wetlands.

There are three Ramsar sites in Bhutan that are of international importance.

Director of Department of Forests and Parks Services, Phento Tshering, said that conservation of wetland is important. “Wetlands provide fundamental ecosystem services, such as water regulation, filtering and purification, as well as numerous scientific, cultural and recreational values within the watersheds. Wetlands are important for the maintenance of the broader ecosystem health,” he said.

Senior forest ranger, Wangda, said that there are conflicts concerning the exact boundary of the site. In Gangtey-Phobji site, for instance, the division is putting up signboards around the designated areas to resolve such issues.

Addressing the conservation challenges will require understanding the effects of colonisation by invasive species and biodiversity in Ramsar site, water bodies and wetlands inventory, advocacies and awareness programmes, and development of wetland management plans.

Senior forest officer with Watershed management Division (WMD), Sonam Choden, said that there was knowledge gap on wetlands.

She said WMD did a brief assessment to find out why springs were drying. It was found that there were possible human and climate interference.

She added that WMD would do a detailed research in a year. National wetlands inventory and mapping, and sustainable management of wetland are stipulated in the 12th FYP.

Senior agriculture officer, Kuenzang Om, said that through this training the wetland managers will know about Ramsar Convention and its tools such as rapid assessment of wetland ecosystem services, Ramsar management effectiveness tracking tool, help them share basic concept and experience in wetland science and management, discuss challenges and issues related to wetland and recommend solutions, encourage interaction among wetland managers and strengthen the network of wetland managers in the country.

Rinchen Zangmo

Fire guts Thangrong gup’s house

ལྷག, 07/25/2017 - 16:36

The Gyaltshab’s office in Gyalpoizhing, Mongar has provided a semso of Nu 30,000 to Thangrong’s gup after a fire gutted his house on July 23 afternoon.

The fire started from a shop. The gup claimed he lost his belongings, Nu 80,000 worth shop items and cash of Nu 20,000.

The Mongar dzongkhag kidu office also provided a semso of Nu 10,000, clothes and kitchen utensils.

The fire incident, according to the gup, occurred when he was in the gewog office preparing programmes for the gewog tshogde and a ritual (Zhiwa Jinseg).

Gup Chenga said that he was supervising and delegating work to the public when the incident occurred. “My wife was in the garden and my children were at home, watching television.”

Although no casualty was reported, Gup Chenga said that the incident hampered the gewog tshogde. “The gewog tshogde could have been conducted yesterday if the fire incident did not occur.”

He said the public helped in containing the fire and the affected are now staying with their relatives.

Tashi Phuntsho | Mongar

Damphu CS principal deny allegations against him

ལྷག, 07/25/2017 - 16:35

The principal of Damphu Central School has denied all allegations made against him by the school cook, Harka Bahadur Subba, who went missing for almost nine days in Bangkok in January this year.

In the rebuttal submitted to Tsirang court yesterday, the principal refuted the claim by Harka Bahadur’s brother that he was handed over to the family on February 10. “The family did not accept him,” the principal said.

He alleged that the family members did not show any concern for Harka Bahadur and the school had to withdraw their consideration to bear his medical expenses.

The principal also questioned how Harka Bahadur returned with Thai Baht. “He went missing without even a penny in his hand. He has to prove who gave him that money,” he said.

Rebutting against the allegation that he did not accept Harka Bahadur back to work, the principal submitted before the court that he only asked the cook to prove his medical condition based on the Bhutan Civil Service Rules.

Harka Bahadur’s brother Bal Bahadur, who filed the case against the principal made three points of allegation against the principal during the preliminary hearing on July 20.

Bal Bahadur said that when his brother joined work after completion of his brother’s treatment in April, the principal instructed him to meet the Dzongkhag Education Officer (DEO). “The principal refused to let my brother join work although he produced a joining letter from the DEO,” he said. “The principal also told him he wouldn’t be paid and asked him to leave.”

Bal Bahadur claimed that Harka Bahadur went back to the DEO, where he was instructed to continue working but the principal did not accept him at job. “My brother got harassed in the process.”

The brother also claimed that on May 3, the dzongkhag human resource officer issued an office order stating that Harka Bahadur can continue his work. “Despite the order, the Principal did not allow him to continue his work.”

The principal also refuted the allegation that he issued a termination order on March 3.

He submitted before the court that he has no authority to terminate his staff. “I asked him to continue working but asked him to bring his family members to hand him over to school management committee,” he said.

The principal also submitted that he did not forge any documents while taking Harka Bahadur to Bangkok as an agriculture instructor.

He also refuted the claim that he was responsible for Harka Bahadur’s health condition when he returned. The principal said that the tour was spoilt since they had to look for him.

Harka Bahadur will submit his rebuttal on July 28.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang

Township building begins in Tshangchuthang

ལྷག, 07/25/2017 - 16:34

A township development area has been identified for the people of Tshangchuthang in Samdrupjongkhar.

Samdrupcholing drungpa, Lobzang Dorji, said the present town is located on a high-risk flood zone and has no development space.

“We have already completed the construction of a 250-cubic metre water tank, internal road and started electrification. Plot distribution would soon follow,” Lobzang Dorji said. He added that a committee would be formed for the plot distribution.

Lobzang Dorji said that the committee would decide whether to give plots to those shopkeepers from other dzongkhags who have been doing business in Tshangchuthang or to those who own land near the new township. Priorities will be worked out.

“We will distribute the plots in consultation with the dzongkahg and National Land Commission after the getting the approval from human settlement ministry,” said Lobzang Dorji.

The 21-acre land will have 63 plots.

The shopkeeper, who has been doing business in Koipani for more then last 10 years, said that shopkeepers welcome the township development news.

The township will benefit almost 7,000 people. Samdrupcholing is about 68km from Samdrupjongkhar.

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupcholing

Sarpang Strikers win women’s T20 club championship

ལྷག, 07/25/2017 - 16:33

Sarpang Strikers overwhelmed Dechencholing Nazhoen at the Women’s T20 club championship final at the Pelkhil oval yesterday.

Dechencholing Nazhoen won the toss and decided to bat first. The decision did not matter much to Sarpang Strikers with bowling machine Anju Gurung.

Captain Anju Gurung of Sarpang Strikers said that the light rain in the beginning of match made them feel confident. Dechencholing Nazhoen made 73 runs.

Anju Gurung who plays for the national team has won four best bowler titles under her belt. Yesterday, she earned the best bowler title.

Sarpang Strikers thrashed Dechencholing Nazhoen by nine wickets.

The champions lifted the title without losing a single game in the tournament.

Sarpang Strikers coach Kumar Subba said that he had been motivating the players to perform and show their skills in the game as they were less confident and hesitant in the beginning.

“Every player performed their best today. They played like they wanted to become champions,” he said.

So far, Sarpang Strikers has collected two champion titles. They won the district level cricket championship in December 2016.

Sarpang Strikers were awarded a cash prize of Nu 100, 000 along with the champions’ trophy. Dechencholing Nazhoen took home Nu 50,000 along with a trophy.

Sonam Peldon of Sarpang Strikers, the best batswoman of the championship, was given a cash prize of Nu 3,000. Ajnu Gurung, the best bowler, walked home with cash prize of Nu 3,000.

Dechen Wangmo of Dechencholing Nazhoen was declared the player of the tournament and took home a cash prize of Nu 10,000.

The total of six teams from Wangdue, Punakha, Paro, Thimphu, and Sarpang took part in the championship.

The first ever women’s T20 club championship was organised by Bhutan Cricket Council Board with support from India-Bhutan Foundation, UNICEF Bhutan, International Cricket Council, and Pelkhil School.


Making Table Tennis popular in Bhutan

ལྷག, 07/25/2017 - 16:32

Bhutan Table Tennis (TT) Federation conducted week-long TTIF level I coaching course for 18 sports instructors, teachers and trainees.

The participants were taught the skills required to plan and deliver basic table tennis coaching sessions.  They are expected to be able to conduct table tennis coaching and tournaments when they go back to their respective places.

Course director Arif Khan said that the level I coaching course is important to make the sport popular in the country.

“The course focuses on training young players to enhance their development from the grassroots,” he said.

The participants were taught various ways to be followed while conducting coaching programmes, foot works, physical training required for the players, and rules and regulations.

Arif Khan said that the sport challenges one’s mind and demands high level of skills.

“The coaches should have different coaching style and techniques to make the player mentally and physically strong,” he said.

He added that the country has a good set of players but they need to undergo regular practice to improve their level. “The coaching course will help them teach better skills.”

Para Table Tennis session was conducted to provide the coaches with skills and techniques required to train and conduct tournament.

Sports instructor of Tsholingkhar Primary School, Rinchen Lhamo, said that she is confident enough to coach her students and organise tournaments in her schools.

Pema Dorji, a trainee at Paro college of Education, said that the coaching would help make the sport popular.

The participants will be awarded international level I coaching certificate after they submit a report on practical coaching session. Certification will require at least 30 hours of practical coaching.

The course, which was held at Royal Academy of Performing Arts (RAPA) hall, was funded by International Table Tennis Federation.