Environment: A proposed highway that generated a lot of debate in recent years, the Shingkhar-Gorgan highway, has reached a critical stage today.
The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) for the environment clearance is currently being reviewed by the National Environment Commission secretariat.
The road sparked much controversy as conservationists vehemently opposed the proposal as the road cuts through the core area of Phrumsengla park.
The Phrumsengla National Park issued the forest clearance under the directive of the director general of the forest department to the roads department who then applied for the environment clearance.
At a Meet the Press session in June last year, Cabinet ministers said that construction of the road has already begun. Works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden said: “While the works have started from Pelphu in Lhuentse, works on a 10km stretch from Shingkhar in Bumthang would begin soon.”
Other ministers agreed that the road runs through the core area of the park and that there could be certain damage to the park.
Kuensel learnt that the forest department has stated the road would run through the multipurpose or buffer zone and not the core area.
However, the government had said that it runs through the core area of the park.
The works and human settlement minister’s argument is that 70km of the present road runs through the park area. Of that 50km of the present road falls in the core area. Of the 32km of the proposed highway that will be in the park area, the agriculture minister who is from Lhuentse said, only 18km will be in the core area.
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said preliminary studies indicated that the road will be under less snow cover, shorter in distance, and more comfortable to drive on.
However, those opposing the road construction said it will pass through poor geology, disturb the pristine ecology, and since it passes over the Singmala pass, which is claimed to be higher than the Phrumsengla pass, using it would be a safety risk during winters.
Once the Shingkhar-Gorgan road is complete the old road is expected to become a park road.
The government has so far argued that although there are adverse impacts on the environment the economic advantage for the people of the poorest dzongkhag in country also needs to be considered.
The NECS is expected to submit the EIA with their comments to the works and human settlement ministry before March 7.
ICT: Data is now more popular than voice minutes, changing the way Bhutanese communicate today. The shift in the demand for more data than the voice network has created an additional challenge for the two cellular operators in the country.
In a recent survey report from the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA), the data network performance of the two telcos were found be under satisfactory.
The overall performance of the voice network of both the telcos according to the report was found to be better than that of their data network.
The report stated that TashiCell’s data network performance was worst in the months of May and June. However, the network showed significant improvement in the following months.
TashiCell managing director, Tashi Tshering, said that poor data network in the two months was mainly because of the introduction of the 4G LTE facility.
“We launched the 4G LTE service in April and the data was taken from May and June. During that time after the launch May and June was the worst period of our network because of the migration from 3G to 4G,” said Tashi Tshering. “There were so many issues during that time, we were working on fixing the issue. That’s why we had a bad network during that period.”
Tashi Tshering said that although the telco’s data network had improved considerably today, the operator is working to enhance the network further. “Although our data network is way above the required standard, we are working to further improve our network and to provide the best we can to our customers.”
Bhutan Telecom on the other hand continued to struggle with its data network during the survey period (April to August). According to the report, no significant improvement was observed in the telco’s performance rather it is deteriorating.
An official from Bhutan Telecom said that the poor data performance was mainly as a result of congestion due to the exponential growth of data users. “The ever growing number of data users per se is due to BT’s affordable tariffs and coverage,” said one of the officials.
He said that to address the problem in places like Olakha and Dechencholing areas as reported in the survey, the telco has upgraded and put in additional 3G equipment. In Taba, Bhutan Telecom has installed additional 3G sites in upper Taba and also installed additional 3G and 4G stations in Pamtsho.
To improve the service quality and decongest the 3G networks, Bhutan Telecom has implemented the 4G LTE on a full throttle basis. The official said that the initiative would in turn improve the voice network. For the voice network, the telco is adding extra 2G Base Transceiver Stations (BTS).
The official said that at times there are some call drops in certain locations caused due to various factors such as power failure, fluctuations in radio and technical faults, among others. And also as a BTS in a location has maximum and minimum capacities, there will be congestion if users exceed the maximum capacity due to floating users, he added.
BT today has around 424,000 subscribers. TashiCell on the other hand has almost half BT’s total subscribers. Tashi Tshering said that the people’s notion on higher users corresponding to weaker network is not true.
He said that with a larger customer base, telcos can generate larger revenue resulting in more investment on infrastructure and equipment to improve the network. “Currently for both TashiCell and Bhutan Telecom the subscriber base is too small,” said Tashi Tshering. “Technology has huge capability. Even if we have 1 million subscribers in Thimphu alone, we should be able to cater to all these people. The more we have we can actually do better.”
As a cellular network operator in Bhutan, Tashi Tshering said the biggest challenge is having a small customer base. Now with the transition of cellular choice from voice to data, TashiCell is working towards enhancing its data network and establishing an ecosystem suitable for such demands.
“Until last year, our business was purely voice based. Now it is almost 50-50 and soon data is going to take over voice. Since last month we are getting more revenue from data than voice and slowly a major chunk of our revenue will come from data,” he said, adding that the operator has to now reconfigure its network to make it suitable for data services.
This year TashiCell has a capital outlay of about Nu 600 million in the pipeline to be invested for network improvement. The telco is also seeing an increasing number of subscribers at the rate of 20 percent annually.
Climate: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will continue to support efforts to foster environmental sustainability, climate-resilient economic development and enhanced climate and disaster risk management in SAARC countries, the advisor for the South Asian department of the ADB, Liping Zheng, has assured.
He made this assurance in a meeting held among SAARC member countries to study climate risks in the region held in Thimphu on February 16 and 17.
The assurance was also made after ADB resource persons, Dr Arabinda Mishra and Ulka Kelkar, pointed out the need to consider and assess regional impacts of climate change in the SAARC member countries.
Liping Zheng highlighted the challenges faced by South Asia due to climate change and stated that cooperation in the area of environment and climate change remains a high priority of SAARC member countries.
The study on climate risks in the SAARC region: Ways to address the social, economical and environmental challenges states that there is a need to integrate climate and development, align climate change actions and efforts to meet sustainable development goals (SDGs), enhance capacity building efforts at the regional level, address cross-sectoral gaps and focus on cross-ministry coordination in each member country.
The two resource persons also stated that there is need to consider climate change resilient development pathways, address issues relating to disaster management and funding adaptation needs in SAARC.
They also emphasised the need to take measures to improve access to adaptation funding, enhance regional cooperation in the field of climate change as it is a shared issue and focus on technical development and transfer of technology.
Participants from the seven SAARC countries, after the presentation, pointed out that since the study was conducted in 2013, there is need to update it in the present context.
The participants then decided that resource persons would prepare a quick update of the study based on views expressed by the delegations during the meeting and with updated inputs already available in the latest publications of member countries.
The updated study would be forwarded to the SAARC secretariat by March 31 this year.
NEC secretary, Chencho Norbu, who chaired the two-day meeting said the resource persons, based on the updated inputs received from member countries, would prepare a revised study for circulation among the member countries through the SAARC secretariat by July 31 this year.
The meeting recommended that the SAARC secretariat may formally approach the ADB to provide financial and technical assistance to carry out the recommended tasks.
NEC’s chief for climate change division, Thinley Namgyel, said climate risk study, led by the SAARC secretariat with technical and financial support of the ADB, is an opportunity for the member countries to identify common risks and challenges from climate change and recommend a way forward for further cooperative action.
He said the cause of climate change and its major impacts are not always restricted to national boundaries and some actions require regional cooperation. In this regard, he urged that the member countries must take the opportunity of the mandate from our leaders to further enhance cooperative action to address a common threat from climate change.
The NEC secretary said SAARC, as a region, is most vulnerable to climate risks and climate is a concern for all member countries. “Through this kind of collaboration and cooperation, we can stand firm and tackle difficulties and challenges,” he said.
It is frightening to learn that hundreds of drivers take to the roads without licences. To call the situation appalling would be an overstatement. By right, therefore, we must call attention to the dangers of such unhealthy practices on our roads.
Between July 2015 and June 2016, 86 people died due to motor vehicle accidents. According to RSTA records for the month of January, close to 500 road users were found driving without a licence and other necessary vehicle documents. At the same time, 107 road users were fined for drink driving.
Major causes of accidents and road deaths in the country are speed, alcohol and not wearing of seatbelts. But this gives us no reason to neglect other contributing factors. Some drivers are so inconsiderate that they actually text, let alone talk on their mobile phone, while driving. Inspectors found 105 drivers using a mobile phone while driving last month.
There is a need to employ more sensible and practical measures to improve road user behaviour in the country. We call for more safety measures and enforcement of drink driving laws; there is a need to clampdown on road users who do not wear seatbelts. If inconsiderate motorists remain oblivious of the dangers to themselves and others due to their carelessness, it may be that penalties represent an insufficient deterrent.
What about mandatory testing of vehicles, for instance? Hand-free are available and should be made mandatory. And, among other things, regular and stricter testing of drivers could greatly help reduce accidents and road deaths. It is time we did not ignore any measure that will help make our roads safer.
Making our roads safe will be a difficult task if we leave it entirely to the police and RSTA. There is a need for multi-sectoral cooperation. We need to have a collective roadmap that includes improving road and vehicle safety, enhancing emergency services, and building up road safety management. We need to scale up well-defined and workable measures together to reduce preventable deaths.
Increased and improved legislation and enforcement on using helmets, seat belts and child restraints, and avoiding drink driving and speeding will go a long way in reducing pointless death on our roads.
Above all, we must slow down a bit.
The closing hearing was held on February 16 at the Paro dzongkhag court
Legal: The prosecutor of the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), during the closing hearing of a case involving counterfeit US dollars, submitted that the two defendants be charged for illegal possession of counterfeit notes, at the Paro dzongkhag court on February 16.
According to the Penal Code, possession of counterfeit currency is a felony of the fourth degree with sentence of between 3 to 5 years imprisonment.
Security personnel at the Tsekha outpost on the northern border apprehended the two people on September 2 last year, when the two were on their way to meet with a businessman across the border.
At the time of their arrest, the two were carrying a total of 333 counterfeit US dollar notes of 100 denomination. The two claimed they did not intend to use the counterfeit currency to purchase gold from across the northern border.
The OAG has charged them for manufacturing, selling, demanding and supplying the counterfeit notes, which both defendants denied.
One of the defendants, Gyembo during the hearing requested the court to reconsider the charges as they intended to sell the counterfeit notes across the northern border. He also requested the court to reduce the charges against them.
OAG’s prosecutor said that Gyembo, who was in Sikkim, India, went to Siliguri to print the counterfeits. “Crime within and outside country should be considered the same,” the prosecutor submitted.
The defendants had agreed to pay INR 400 per counterfeit note. Gyembo and Phub Thinley paid INR 100,000 in advance and to pay the balance INR 33,200 after returning from across the border.
The notes were counterfeited using notes of one-dollar denomination.
Citing the difference between ‘planning to murder’ and ‘murdered’, Gyembo said section 307 of the Penal Code doesn’t fit their crime. “We tried to sell the counterfeit notes,” he said.
According to section 307, a defendant shall be guilty of the offence of counterfeiting, if the defendant knowingly manufactures, distributes, or sells counterfeit medicinal products, false currency, coin or bank notes.
Justifying the charges, the prosecutor said that the matter was discussed before and found that the only one particular provision of the Act was appropriate for the case. “The two couldn’t sell the counterfeit notes but it was seized from them,” said the prosecutor.
The prosecutor also submitted that defendant Phub Thinley who was staying in Phuentsholing visited Sikkim to check the counterfeit notes indicating their intention of crime.
Defendant Phub Thinley said they had to commit the crime after incurring huge losses from their businesses. “It was not intentional,” he submitted.
Since they didn’t show up despite the court’s numerous orders relating to another case, one of them was denied bail.
Tashi Tenzin | Paro
Crime: The 22-year-old man, detained by Thimphu police on February 9, suspected to have been involved in the death of a 24-year-old security guard with the Jachung Security Services has confessed to the crime, according to police.
The deceased was found unconscious in the national referral hospital’s trolley ramp located on level three bleeding from his nose and mouth. He succumbed to his injuries the same night.
According to the suspect’s statement to police, a laundry staff asked him to stop people from entering the wards before the doctors make their rounds on the morning of February 8.
There was a tussle between the deceased and the suspect after the deceased told the alleged suspect that he was not allowed in the ward, during the deceased’s morning rounds at around 8am on the day of the incident.
The suspect was in the wards till 6pm that day.
The deceased who had night duty on the same day again asked the suspect to leave when he was about to sleep in the patient’s store room located on level three.
The alleged suspect confessed that he followed the deceased who opened the biometric door to leave the ward using the trolley ramp, after his rounds. He then punched the deceased on the throat, who then fell and hit his head on the ramp’s cement railing. The deceased then fell onto the ramp’s floor.
The deceased had his trachea broken and suffered severe internal head injuries which caused the death, according to medical reports.
To avoid suspicion, the alleged suspect used the trolley ramp to move to the second level and then back to the orthopedic and surgical wards on level three using the stairs. He sat with a few patients and talked for about thirty minutes.
A police official said that if there were CCTV cameras installed in the ramp area then the footage would show what exactly happened between the deceased and the alleged suspect. “The footage could also be presented as evidence in the court of law,” said the official.
The alleged suspect had worked as a laundry boy with the hospital for about a year after he got terminated in February 2 for not performing well. He also worked part time as a bouncer in one of the drayangs in Thimphu.
Although the suspect doesn’t have any work at the hospital, according to hospital staff, the suspect visits the hospital frequently and sleeps in the patient’s storeroom in the hospital.
The suspect spent his days in the hospital’s orthopedic and surgical wards on level three, talking with patients.
The suspect usually wore the uniform of laundry staff and loitered in the hospital.
According to their statements, security personnel at the hospital were aware that the alleged suspect did not work with the hospital anymore and asked him not to loiter in the hospital.
Meanwhile, the alleged suspect, in his confession to police, claimed that the security personnel did not like him and always picked on him.
The alleged suspect is a repeat convict. He was convicted for larceny in Taba, and a few battery cases prior.
The alleged suspect confessed that he acted alone in the crime.
He is charged for voluntarily manslaughter.
BAFRA also collected more than Nu 200,000 as penalty
Vegetables: Illegal import of chillies has picked up drastically ever since import of green chillies from India was banned.
In just four days, from February 13 to 16, the Bhutan Agricultural and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) seized more than 1,000 kilogrammes of chillies at the Rinchending check post. The agency also collected more than Nu 200,000 in fines. Those involved include not just vegetable vendors but also students, drivers and farmers.
On the evening of February 14, BAFRA officials caught two students and seized 250kg of green chillies. BAFRA also fined a college student Nu 65,000.
The officer-in-charge with the BAFRA office in Phuentsholing, Phuntsho said that there have been many such cases. “We have arranged a special inspection for a long time now,” he said, adding that they have caught many people. “They are still bringing in the chillies.”
Phuntsho said that the two students BAFRA caught knew that importing chillies from the Indian border town was banned. “They said they were poor and needed money for school,” he said.
Kuensel learnt that most people try to smuggle the chillies in the evening and at night. BAFRA has been deputing two officials every night for inspections these days.
Despite such measures in place, people still try to smuggle chillies.
As a result, some have even tried to hide chillies under trucks. The illegal business has become an easy way to mint money.
A kilogramme of chilli costs Nu 20 to 30 across the border. When it reaches Thimphu and Paro and other places, it is sold at between Nu 80 to Nu 150 depending on demand.
“Despite the crisis, we request people not to consume these chillies even if it is being supplied,” BAFRA officer-in-charge Phuntsho said, adding that the impact on health would not be immediate but gradual.
Phuntsho also said that BAFRA would not tolerate people trying to supply chillies illegally.
Bhutanese vegetable vendors imported chillies from Falakata, India until it was banned last year. The ban was implemented after a high level of pesticide residue was found in the chillies.
In the last four days, BAFRA also seized 120kg of cauliflowers and 50kg of beans that were both also banned last year for high pesticide residue content.
Meanwhile, the demand for chilli is still as high as ever. The Food Corporation of Bhutan Ltd (FCBL) is placing an order for another consignment of 15 metric tonnes (MT).
The corporation so far has purchased 126.22MT of green chillies from Kolkata, India. About 117.37MT were sold across the country.
FCBL’s marketing advisor Bhimraj Gurung said that importing chillies is not an easy task. “Some chillies are spoiled,” he said.
FCBL lost about 4.87MT chillies to weight loss when it arrived in Phuentsholing and about 3.8MT chillies are also being dried today after it started rotting. Bhimraj Gururng said that it takes time to gather information on demand and to talk to suppliers on availability and to negotiate prices.
“The government is putting in so much effort to establish prices and getting the right supplies,” he said.
FCBL has 10 identified retailers across the countries that are allowed to sell chillies supplied by the corporation.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
Infrastructure: Zangthi, Tshothang and Doongmanma chiwogs in Lauri gewog will have to wait until the 12th Plan for their farm roads to be connected with a bridge over the Zangthi river.
This is the resolution of the Samdrupjongkhar Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) that was held on February 16.
The Lauri gup and mangmi tried to convince the tshogdu on the dire need of a bridge but after more than 30 minutes of deliberation members decided to incorporate the bridge in the first financial year of the 12th Plan given lack of budget.
While farm roads to Zangthi and Doongmanma are being constructed, construction of a farm road to Tshothang is yet to begin. The farm roads will remain underutilised without a bridge even if it is completed on time.
A bridge would be required over the Zangthi for three farm roads to be connected with the three villages. Today villagers travel by car until Wongthing. From there, they walk to their villages- Tshothang, Zangthi and Doongmanma using a suspension bridge over the Zangthi.
With an estimated cost of about Nu 13M (million), Lauri gup, Tempa Gyeltshen explained that the gewog has only about Nu 5M from this financial year and Nu 2M from the gewog development grant. Therefore, the gewog raised the case in the DT to seek budget as the bridge is vital for the villages.
Since the bridge was not in the Plan, the gup requested DT members to incorporate the bridge in the 11th Plan and adjust the budget either from the dzongkhag development grant or from other planned activities.
The bridge will benefit about eight villages with more than 200 households.
Mangmi Tenzin explained that initially during the survey only one bridge over the river Jomo, which is under construction at present, was incorporated to connect the entire road including the gewog centre.
“But later the plan didn’t materialise with the inception of the Ngera-Ama hydropower power survey,” he said, adding that the new survey then found the requirement of a new bridge that was not in the Plan.
Tenzin requested for the budget to be arranged from the dzongkhag development grant, to which Dzongdag Tharchen Lhendup explained that the fund should be used equally among the 11 gewogs in line with the guidelines.
Although members supported the issue stating that road connectivity is important for development of any gewog, they said that the cost and availability of budget must be considered.
Dzongkhag planning officer Ngawang Chophel said although the cost estimation is about Nu 13M, the cost could either escalate or decrease during the actual implementation of the work unless the bridge is completed within a year, which is not impossible.
With no budget available from the current or next financial year, the proposal was rejected as construction of the bridge would incur huge costs.
Yangchen C Rinzin | Samdrupjongkhar
Arrival of black-necked cranes has drastically decreased compared to last year
Conservation: This year, the number of black-necked cranes (BNC) in Bumthang has decreased drastically while those that arrived have also left their winter grounds much earlier.
The cranes migrate to Chumey, Tang and Chokhortoe during winters. Chumey and Tang received six cranes each while Chokhortoe received none this year.
Forest ranger Tsheten Wangchuk of the Chumey range office said only six cranes came to Chumey this winter. He said there were 16 in 2016 and 22 in 2015. “The number of cranes coming here has drastically dropped and we can’t say if there will be any next year going by the current trend,” he said.
Tsheten Wangchuk attributed the decline in the number of cranes to the loss of their feeding grounds to the developmental activities. “Different machines and increased number of stray dogs disturb the cranes,” he said.
Tsheten Wangchuk said usually the black-necked cranes came to Bumthang by mid November and stayed till early March. “The cranes left the place by the end of December last year,” he said.
Wangchuk Centennial National Park’s senior ranger Tenzin said there were six cranes in Tang, which is an increase of two, compared to last year. There were two in Chokhortoe last year but no cranes arrived this year.
Tenzin said of the six cranes in Tang that arrived on December 27, four already left on February 2.
Lawa, 67, from Domkhar village said there used to be many black-necked cranes in different places in Chumey in the past years. “We hardly see any today,” he said.
Lawa said people used to feel good hearing the melodious voices of these birds and even enjoyed their dances. “It’s sad not many of them are coming here today,” he said.
People said black-necked cranes used to feed at the places where Gaytsa school, Sonam Kunephen School and the Technical Training Institute in Chumey are located today. “The number of cranes decreased since these institutions and some other infrastructures were built in recent years,” an elderly person from Chumey said.
Nima Wangdi | Bumthang
Service: The Department of Air Transport (DAT) with the information and communications ministry will install a new taxi counter at the Paro International Airport’s arrival terminal starting next month.
The decision to have a pre-paid taxi service at the only international airport in the country is based on customer feedback.
DAT director Karma Wangchuk said that the department is constantly trying to improve services at the airport based on customer feedback.
Customers complained that the taxi drivers at the airport overcharge foreign guests.
Karma Wangchuk pointed out that in the current scenario, taxi drivers rush for passengers and it is a hassle.
“One of the main reasons for having a pre-paid taxi service is to streamline the system and for the convenience and safety of passengers,” Karma Wangchuk said. “The rates charged will be approved by the RSTA.”
Interested taxi owners can contact USD Enterprise for registration to operate at the airport.
Karma Wangchuk said that USD Enterprise has been selected through an open tender to operate and manage the taxi counter at the airport.
After July this year, the taxi counter will be updated to an automatic parking fee collection service, established as per the international airport standards.
“We have tendered out the work to construct a parallel taxi way and international cargo terminal at the airport,” he said. “We are trying to increase the facilities at the airport.”
The airport will also start collecting parking fees starting next month.
Karma Wangchuk pointed out that people tend to park their cars wherever and whenever they like and congest the parking spaces at the airport.
The parking fees differ from zone to zone.
Karma Wangchuk said that prime parking areas will be charged higher and people who require the parking space in the prime areas will pay and use the space.
Light vehicles will be charged Nu 100 for thirty minutes or less, for parking in zone one. Similarly, Nu 50 and Nu 20 for using a parking space in zone two and zone three respectively, for thirty minutes or less. The amount doubles for every thirty minutes after the first thirty minutes.
A designated parking space for the crew in zone three is free for crew members, while zone four is designated for airport staff. However, overnight parking is not permitted in zone four.
Similarly, heavy vehicles will be charged Nu 150 for parking in zone one for thirty minutes or less, Nu 100 for parking in zone two and Nu 20 for parking in zone three for thirty minutes or less, whereafter the amount doubles every thirty minutes.
Karma Wangchuk said that there is a free parking space for those who do not wish to pay parking fees. The free parking space is located further away from the terminal but is still walking distance, unlike in other international airports where the distance between the parking space and the terminal is a few kilometres, he added.
People who wish to park their vehicles overnight at the airport can park at zone three. Nu 200 per night will be charged for all types of vehicles.
Karma Wangchuk said that establishing a taxi counter and charging parking fees is expected to ease the traffic flow in Paro.
There are also plans to increase the departure gates to three and increase the parking spaces within the airport. Currently, there is an only one-departure gate at the Paro Airport.
Verdict: The High Court on February 9 sentenced a cop to life imprisonment for murdering his wife after a quarrel in 2016.
A medical investigation revealed that the convict had stabbed his wife 28 times with a dagger.
On May 5 last year, the deceased had fled their home in Jaigaon, India to her friend’s house located in the police colony in Phuentsholing.
Her husband, Sonam, discovered that she had left home and followed her after learning from the guards at the border security gate that she had entered Phuentsholing.
He met the deceased with a friend, Phurpa Dolma at the colony. They entered the friend’s home upon which the couple started quarrelling, which quickly escalated.
In between the convict took out a dagger from a bag he was carrying and stabbed her. When the friend tried to intervene, he pushed her away and latched the door from inside.
The deceased was rushed to the Phuentsholing dzongkhag hospital where she succumbed to her wounds within hours.
The convict surrendered to police immediately after the incident.
Witness Phurpa Dolma in her statement to the court said that the deceased had told her that she was often physically abused by the husband who was prone to jealousy. Phurpa Dolma submitted to the court that she had seen marks of physical abuse on the deceased’s face.
The police investigation team also recovered a medical prescription from the Sarpang dzongkhag hospital for a swollen right shoulder indicating that she had suffered physical abuse before.
The Phuentsholing dungkhag court sentenced the man to life imprisonment which the Chukha dzongkhag court reduced to 15 years.
The deceased’s mother appealed to the dzongkhag court to reduce the prison term as it could jeopardise the lives of the couple’s five children. The children live with their maternal grandmother in a rented apartment in Wangsisina. Further, the government would incur heavy expenditure in supporting him in prison.
The High Court partially reversed the Chukha dzongkhag court’s verdict and upheld the verdict of the dungkhag court.
The High Court justices Lungten Drubgyur and Tshering Namgyal stated that the convict had taken a dagger in his bag and followed the victim and stabbed her. As per the Penal Code’s sections 49, 54, 55, and 56 the convict committed the crime purposely, knowingly, and recklessly with the intention to kill.
Section 54 states: “A defendant acts purposely with respect to a material element of an offence, when the element involves the nature of the defendant’s conduct or a result thereof and it is the defendant’s conscious objective to engage in a conduct of that nature or to cause the result of the conduct.”
Commuters say that the signboards could attract poachers
Forest: Signboards along the Ura-Nangar bypass providing information on different places and species of birds and animals are inappropriate, say commuters.
Commuters said that the signboards could benefit poachers although put up for a good cause.
“As the area falls under the park, its obvious that there will be different species of birds and animals,” a commuter, who wished not to be named, said. “Providing such information would only attract more poachers.”
Another commuter, who also did not want to be named, said birds like the Monal pheasant and Blood pheasant can be seen along the road as people drive.
The commuter said that placing such signboards could have more negative impact than the intended purpose. “It’ll be easy for poachers to locate where these birds can be found,” he said, adding that there are people who poach these birds for various reasons.
Phrumsingla National Park’s (PNP) chief forest officer Ugyen Namgyel said that as it is a tourist area, the signboards were meant for tourists, who complain that they can’t see any animals in the park area. “The signboards provide information on when these birds can be seen in the identified places,” he said.
Ugyen Namgyel also said that people have to weigh the pros and cons of the signboards. “Local people know where these birds could be found but not the tourists who come here to watch them,” he said.
He said there are also some other endangered species of animals but that their habitat locations are not revealed. “We are also mindful of what we are doing and received different views on these signboards,” he said.
“We discourage people living along the road to rear dogs as they could harm these birds,” he said, adding that the birds do not have much value in the black market.
The signboards placed at different points along the road provide information on the habitat of the Red Panda, and Monal and Blood Pheasants.
Nima Wangdi | Bumthang
Farmers are concerned about dwindling incomes from citrus farming
Agriculture: Despite farmers concerned of not earning enough from citrus farming, the Farm Machinery Corporation Ltd (FMCL) has started a giant citrus orchard in Dolopchen in Kana gewog, Dagana.
Works on the project called Citrus Management began since November last year. More than 25,000 citrus saplings are growing in about seven green houses. Trees were felled on 101.4 acres of land identified for the plantation. With the deployment of two excavators, land is being prepared to transplant the saplings. The planting will be completed between April and May.
Project manager Ugyen Tshering said Druk Seed Corporation in Gelephu supplied the seeds while the seedlings are ready to be planted outside the green house.
About nine College of Natural Resource graduates are involved full-time in the project. “It’ll be a model citrus farming, done with all modern techniques and managed by qualified workers,” Ugyen Tshering said. “Once the project is in full swing more man power will be required.”
This is one of the many projects that FMCL has initiated in the country to generate revenue for the company.
The project also begins at a time when farmers in the citrus growing dzongkhags of Tsirang, Dagana and Sarpang are giving up cultivating citrus because of the difficulty involved in management and care.
Every year either the production or the price of the cash crop falls. Farmers have already started to turn their citrus orchards into cardamom orchards after cardamom began fetching more money.
Ugyen Tshering said that while there are concerns over the dying citrus crop among farmers, the project would go ahead to see how successful it would be. “We expect to begin generating income three years after the plantation,” he said.
Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang
Health: Infection and related diseases could be controlled with a procedure as simple as hand washing. To make infection control more efficient the health ministry is training 27 health officials in Phuentsholing hospital.
Besides nurses, health officials from other disciplines are also being trained.
JICA funded to send two health ministry officials to Japan to learn about efficient infection control in hospitals. The same officials are providing the training.
One of the trainers, Pem Zam, said that this time they have considered training health staff from different backgrounds in hospitals. “Although in-country curriculum is there, it is still important as there are new nurses who come studying outside the country,” she said.
Pem Zam said such training would reduce infections in hospitals. As of today, surgical related side effects are mostly reported in the country.
A nursing staff from Lhamoizingkha Basic Health Unit- I, Kul Man Subba, said that he had attended such training before. “Although we practice infection control, there are some changes we have to know.”
In 2012, when Kul Man Subba attended one such training, he learned that it required 20 seconds to effectively wash hands in six steps. Today, it is 40 seconds to a minute in seven steps.
Another participant, Dorji from Punakha hospital, said there was not much difference. However, it was useful to new nurses and participants, she added.
Participants were told that washing hands will prevent most of the infections in most cost effective manner. Hands are the most contaminated part in a human body.
Healthcare waste management is also important aspect in infection control. For this, health ministry had piloted a waste storage house in Phuentsholing hospital.
The waste house will be used for reducing, reusing, and recycling medical wastes. All upcoming hospitals will get such houses. In the existing hospitals, waste storage houses are likely to be constructed in the 12th plan.
The three-day training will conclude on February 18. Practical sessions and demonstrations are also being conducted.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
Fire: After battling it for more than three days, around 300 firefighters including members of the armed forces, DeSuups, foresters, civil servants, monks, villagers and other volunteers managed to control the blaze near Tango monastery yesterday.
The fire which burnt along a small gorge on the right side of the monastery had almost reached the mountain top, close to Dzongkha temple.
Thimphu division’s chief forestry officer Gyeltshen Drukpa said the government’s helicopter helped in controlling the fire.
The greatest worry of the firefighters and forestry officials was of the fire spreading towards Tango monastery. The fire did raze three tshamkhangs or houses for hermits. In total, about 30 acres of forest was razed during the three days of the fire.One of the tshamkhangs that was razed
The wind blowing northward from Thimphu valley fanned the fire. If the fire had burned more than a hundred metres to the left, the monastery would have been in danger of catching fire.
Over 100 villagers from Kawang gewog, rushed to the site to fight the fire.
Dechen Wangchuk, 70, from Kabisa who was involved in fighting the fire for all three days said that leaf cover on the ground aided the fire to grow quickly and spread.
“I think the leaf cover on the ground is also responsible for re igniting the fire because we had to continuously put it out for the past two days,” he said yesterday.
The fire that started on February 13 reignited repeatedly in the following two days and grew out of control.
Tashi Chozom, another village volunteer from Kabisa, said that they created fire lines to stop the fire from spreading towards Tango Monastery.
“We used all sorts of tools from sharpened tree branches to spades and knives to dig following the instructions of forest officials but it was not easy,” she said. Volunteers began fire fighting efforts at 7am yesterday. The gewog provided free transport and noodles for meals. At the end of the day, fire fighters were fed by the monks of the monastery.
Except for those who could not walk, most from nearby villages turned out in hordes to battle the blaze, Gyeltshen Drukpa said. Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay also visited the site of the fire.
“The community has to come to help in such circumstances because it’s our forests and moreover, whoever doesn’t will be penalised through fines and other forms,” another villager, Kinley Wangmo said.
“We hope the fire will not reignite again and that someone would do some magic and bring the rains.”
Tango Monastery is located 14 kilometres to the north of Thimphu. It was founded by Phajo Drugom Zhigpo in the 13th century and built in its present form by Tenzin Rabgye, the 4th Desi in 1688. In 1616, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel meditated in its cave. The self-emanated form of the wrathful Hayagriva is deified in the monastery.
In recent days, a few posts online have generated much debate and discourse.
Some of it has been healthy. Some of it not.
While everyone enjoys the right to express their opinions, both in the real world and the online domain, we should do so in a socially acceptable manner.
Some of the responses to the recent posts, contain not only profanity, but hateful speech.
There is a simple rule to follow or guide one’s online behaviour. If you would not say or do something in a social setting, for instance, at a public park because it is socially inappropriate, the same rule would apply for an online social or work setting. If you would not say something to someone’s face, then you shouldn’t online as well. Both social settings are the same, except that one is simply enabled by technology.
Some opinions may elicit anger and an urge to disapprove that opinion or piece of information. However, using insults, profanity, and hate speech, will not achieve the goal but only prevent any discussion from reaching any possible compromise. And even if opinions cannot be changed, at least there would still remain mutual respect for the differing opinion once the discussion has ended.
Opinions must be met with opinions. Healthy debate and discourse should be the only course of action.
We’re a people, proud of our unique culture and etiquette. By resorting to uncivil behaviour, both in the physical and online worlds, we disrespect the efforts made to ensure the preservation of our culture and etiquette, and risk damaging the country’s reputation.
It can be a challenge deciding where the line is when it comes to freedom of expression, responsibility and defamation. Some of us adhere to the saying: “Your rights end where my rights begin”.
But when it comes to hate speech, which side of the line you stand on is very clear: the wrong side.
Exhibition: Four Bhutanese contemporary visual artists are exhibiting their artworks in an exhibition titled Voice of the Thunder Dragon in the United States.
Curated by collector Maxwell S Joseph, the exhibition presents works by Asha Kama, Pema Tshering, Phurba Namgay and Gyempo Wangchuk.
Asha Kama is the founder of Voluntary Artists’ Studio in Thimphu (VAST). Phurba Namgay is a traditional Bhutanese thangka painter and a contemporary artist. Gyempo Wangchuk and Pema Tshering are well known for their contemporary art works.
The exhibit explores the dominant themes in contemporary Bhutanese art, Maxwell S Joseph said through an email interview.
“The primary purpose of the exhibit is to provide additional channels of dissemination for Bhutanese contemporary art. Currently, it is very difficult for Bhutanese artists to interact with the global art market. This both discourages young Bhutanese from pursuing contemporary art and prevents the world from hearing the very compelling and potent story of Bhutan,” Maxwell S Joseph said.
The artworks are being presented with utmost care and consideration of the traditions and historical context of Bhutanese art forms, Maxwell S Joseph said, adding that the response from the exhibition is overwhelmingly positive. “People are very intrigued and excited to learn and see more of contemporary Bhutanese art.”
Pema Tshering has been a contemporary artist for more than 17 years. He is known for his works where he re-examines Buddhist and Bhutanese concepts offering them a new perspective.
To be able to participate in such exhibitions is very important for Bhutanese artists, Pema Tshering, who is the only Bhutanese artist present at the exhibition, said. “It gives us encouragement and a drive to do better. When we have such opportunities, we get more exposure and it helps us learn from others. We also get to see new perspectives, which is important for the overall growth of contemporary art.”
“I want to thank Maxwell S Joseph and Alexander Bohm for working hard to make this possible for us,” Pema Tshering added.
The exhibition that began February 11 will go on until February 28.
… but demand for local beers growing
Alcohol: During the ongoing consultative health workshop in Wangdue, Bumthang’s Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) chairperson questioned health officials on why the government is producing many alcohol products despite being aware of its impact on society.
The question was raised after a presentation on the top ten causes of mortality in the country. Alcohol liver disease is the top killer in the country every year. According to the 2015 health report, 158 people died of liver disease caused by alcohol that year.
Pemagatshel has the highest number of alcohol drinkers followed by Bumthang and then Mongar, while Gasa has the least, it was presented.
Annually, the government generates less from alcohol sales than what it spends on treating diseases caused by alcohol, health officials pointed out. The ministry spent Nu 184.6 million (M) on referral cases in the 2014-2015 financial year.
Bumthang’s DT chairperson, Jamphel, said that it is heartbreaking to see many people, especially the young, affected by alcohol every year.
“Why is the government not working on reducing alcohol production,” he said. “To achieve GNH, we feel it is important to resolve the alcohol problem first,” he added.
Department of Public Health’s chief health promotion officer, Dorji Phub, said alcohol is also causing the top four non-communicable diseases occurring in the country today. However, he also pointed out that the alcohol issue is culturally sensitive as any event or tendrel in the country involves alcohol.
It was pointed out that the ministry requested the government to introduce three measures: one was for only high quality alcohol to be produced as it would minimise the impact on health, the second was that the issuance of bar licenses be stopped and the third was to restrict grocery shops from selling alcohol.
Two of the three measures recommended were implemented: the issuance of bar licenses was stopped and grocery shops are not allowed to sell alcohol today, Dorji Phub said. However, alcohol is still attractive, accessible and affordable, he added.
The ministry has come up with an alcohol policy that has already been endorsed by the Cabinet. The ministry’s main responsibility is advocacy.
Dorji Phub said the ministry is not trying to ban alcohol consumption but raising awareness on the ripple effects of alcohol on not just the consumer but their families, children, society and the country.
Dorji Phub said community-level projects aimed at reducing alcohol consumption are being piloted in Lhuentse and Mongar. For example, in Lhuentse, instead of tshogkhang people are encouraged to bring fruits, and in some areas bars have been moved away from schools.
It was also pointed out that last week, the ministry met with an interagency team from WHO, UNDP and UNICEF, to look at how the implementation of the alcohol policy can be supported by these organisations.
Recognising that the health ministry alone cannot succeed in this endeavour, local governments are being asked to come up with their own proposals and initiatives, which the ministry will support. In a meeting with 11 eastern dzongkhags, the alcohol problem was identified as the major problem being faced, Dorji Phub said.
Meanwhile, there are more than 3,000 bars of which around 1,200 are in Thimphu alone. In March 2012, the import of alcohol was banned in the wake of the Indian Rupee crisis in the country. The ban was lifted in January 2014.
While the ban did not reduce alcohol consumption, it did reduce expenditure on imported alcohol. In 2011, prior to the ban, a total of Nu 580M was spent on the import of alcohol, which was reduced to Nu 203.2M more than a year later.
Health officials said that studies by the National Statistics Bureau (NSB) found that the majority of people consume locally brewed alcohol and beer. NSB studies confirmed that demand for local beer was growing, and that annual production of the local beer industry rose from 8.4M litres in 2008 to 13.8M in 2010.
In 2010 Bhutan’s per capita consumption for pure alcohol was more than eight litres.
Dawa Gyelmo | Wangdue
Connectivity: The road at Kamji, which is 22.4km from Phuentsholing on the highway to Thimphu has been restored and is now open to traffic, including heavy vehicles.
Works and human settlement minister, Dorji Choden, and the Indian ambassador to Bhutan, Jaideep Sarkar, inaugurated the road in the presence of Project DANTAK officials and other dignitaries yesterday.
Thanking all agencies and those involved directly or indirectly in the restoration of the road and construction of the earlier double-double bailey bridge, Project DANTAK chief engineer PKG Mishra said that the road has been restored on time.
“In October, the Mangdechhu hydropower project asked to open the road before February 19 so that they can induct heavier equipment,” PKG Mishra said, adding that he was happy to say it has been completed on time. “It is a very satisfying moment.”
It was in July 24 last year when more than a 100-foot stretch of the road was washed away by a landslide caused by incessant rainfall for several days. Project DANTAK then connected the highway with a 160-foot double-double bailey bridge.
Although light and medium vehicles were allowed to use the bridge, due to its lower carrying capacity, heavy vehicles carrying heavy equipment had to use the Pasakha bypass. However, heavy equipment required by the Mangdechhu project could not be transported because the carrying capacity of the Singye bridge in Pasakha was not enough.
With the bailey bridge in place, Project DANTAK continued road restoration work and constructed a wall required to build the road. It was announced recently that the bridge would be disassembled and removed as the road had been completed.
Addressing those gathered for the event, Lyonpo Dorji Choden said that 2016 had not been a good year for roads and bridges in the country.
“I want to congratulate and thank all the men and women of Project DANTAK who worked very hard to bring this damaged road back to its original form,” she said.
Lyonpo Dorji Choden pointed out that the Kamji road is “very important in Bhutan.” The road is a lifeline not only for Thimphu; it is also lifeline for all places beyond.
Ambassador Jaideep Sarkar congratulated both the teams from Bhutan and India for the road’s reopening. “It is in times of disaster that brings out the best in the people,” the ambassador said.
The ambassador pointed out that the Kamji road is an example of the two sides coming together for a noble cause.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
ICT: With the launch of the Managing for Excellence (MaX) online system, civil servants can now submit their performance appraisals online.
The online system developed with the financial assistance from the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) under the project “Institutionalisation of Performance Management System and Leadership Development Program” is aimed at ensuring the alignment of an individual’s performance activities to the agency’s objectives.
The system is also expected to ensure accountability in contributing and achieving the targets, and in differentiating performance assessments.
An official with the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) said that enhancing service delivery through the Performance Management System is one of the five key reform areas that the commission has identified.
The official said that the new Performance Management System is renamed as MaX.
Besides ensuring easy access for monitoring the individual work plan, the system will also ensure discipline in planning and evaluation of performance targets and competency behaviors within the stipulated schedules with enhanced accountability to both the managers and employees.
During the initial phase (February till June this year) of rolling out the online system, the agencies have the option to submit the performance appraisal for the fiscal year July 2016 to June 2017 online, or to submit offline to their respective agencies.
However, it will be made mandatory for all civil servants to submit their performance appraisal through the online system starting the next fiscal year.
For those civil servants whose performance cycle is as per calendar year, the performance appraisal should be submitted online starting from January 2018.
The system has three user perspectives.
The chief of division shall have the right to view, edit, approve and evaluate the performance appraisal of the employees under his/her division. The executives will only have viewing rights on the performance scores while human resource officers will be focal officers in familiarising civil servants on the online system and to provide necessary guidance in knowing the system process.
However, the O-category (operational) civil servants are not included in the MaX online system.
The launch of the online system was part of the RCSC’s executive roundtable meeting held at Le Meridien in Thimphu, yesterday.