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Updated: 1 hour 25 min ago

Investigation clears Tendu Central School

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 17:00

But some maintain their claims that a bar and smoking zone were in place for a karaoke party on campus

Following an investigation, the education ministry says that the party held on the Tendu Central School (TCS) campus in Samtse did not involve cigarettes and alcohol despite the claims of some who attended the event.

The ministry’s investigation says that the allegation, made by an anonymous user Bhu Drukpa on Facebook, that a party was held on campus that involved a smoking zone and a bar is not true.

The post went viral prompting the investigation.

The annual Tendu tshechu, organised from March 5-7, was held on the school campus given unavailability of space elsewhere. A “Karaoke Night” party beginning from 9pm, was organised in the school’s multi-purpose hall on the nights of March 5, 6 and 7.

In its report, the investigation team states that there was neither a bar nor a smoking zone as alleged by the anonymous user Bhu Drukpa on Facebook. The user questioned the ethics and integrity of the school’s faculty for organising such a party on the school’s campus. The user also posted an image of a sign designating a “smoking zone”.

However, the investigation report states that all those interrogated, including students, said that no such zones were demarcated. Instead many of those questioned, accused the anonymous user of having staged the photographs in a bid to defame the tshechu committee and the school.

However, Kuensel has received photographs of signs hanging from a net on the ceiling of the hall displaying a “bar”, besides “snack” and “juice”. One photograph also shows a whisky bottle box being held on the stage of the hall.

The report also states that student representatives or captains did not report any incidents or disturbances on those two nights. Students had their regular evening study in their respective hostels. “Some of them were not even aware that there was such a gathering,” the report says.

The karaoke party was organised in the multi purpose hall and was exclusively for army officers, local leaders, faculty members and their family members to get together and interact. It was also intended to allow officials who had been involved in organising various events to relax.

The report states that the party was conducted under the strict monitoring of the army and police as part of the tshechu programme.

However, a few Tendu residents earlier claimed to Kuensel that alcohol was distributed as prizes on the first night of the karaoke party, and that smoking could also be observed.

But the investigation team said that only light refreshments were available during the party.

The investigation team also found that no physical altercation had occurred on the school’s campus as alleged by the anonymous user.

In an earlier interview, the dzongkhag tshogdu chairperson, Nima Dukpa, told Kuensel that a few school dropouts under the influence of alcohol had to be ushered away from the school’s campus. Once outside the gate, one of the youths threw a stone and another a bottle, the latter which reportedly hit the school’s warden on the head resulting in some swelling.

These youths were taken into police custody and released after questioning.

Meanwhile, the report also points out that only games like fishing bottle, darts, and the spinning wheel were permitted and that no gambling activities like dice and cards were allowed in the stalls.

Tempa Wangdi and Rajesh Rai

Picture story

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 11:36

Thousands of devotees are taking part in the seventh annual Moenlam Chenmo in Zhemgang. His Holiness the Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choeda is presiding over the Moenlam Chenmo which started on March 12 and will end on March 17 with a Tshepakmey Kawang to the public. 

Drangpons disagree on what constitutes net income

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 17:07

One of the main challenges for drangpons today is the lack of a clear rule defining what constitutes the income of an individual when deciding alimony in matrimonial cases.

After more than an hour’s debate, drangpons at the annual judicial conference yesterday could not come to a consensus on the issue.

The chair of the conference Supreme Court Justice Rinzin Penjore following requests from the floor concluded to ask the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to issue an order to clarify the matter.

When a couple divorce the law entitles the spouse to a 20 percent, in case of a child, of the income of the individual asking for the divorce or guilty for causing it.

One of the main contentions was whether or not to include the allowance of salaried-individuals as income.

Civil servants are entitled to numerous allowances such as housing and altitude allowances. Those serving in different institutions have different allowances even including an allowance for vegetables.

Most judges go by the salary sheet of the individual in calculating the alimony. They said the net income of the individual is used as the basis for the alimony. However, some judges said there are complications in this practice.

For civil servants, Provident Fund, Group Insurance Scheme, Tax deducted at source, and health contributions are mandatory deductions and are excluded from calculating alimony.

Some drangpons said that litigants argue that provident fund should also be included in considering the alimony. “The person in the end benefits from the pension, so that is why it should be shared with the children,” a drangpon said.

Others said housing allowance too should be included in the calculation. The opposing argument was that while some get Nu 2,000 housing allowance the actual rent could be far more in which case there is no benefit from the allowance to the individual. Then there are others who get the allowance and reside in their private homes.

High Court justice Lungten Drubgyur said that a research finding of the High Court stated that only consistent income of the individual could be taken as the income to base the alimony.  He said that the judges should differentiate between ad hoc income and consistent allowance or income at the time.

Few other suggestions arose on including taking the Income Tax Act’s definition of income, or including income from shares and dividends.

Phuentsholing drangrab said that the difference in interpretations caused misunderstanding among litigants and people compare the verdicts from courts and complain. “This has led to people blaming the judiciary for inconsistent judgments,” the drangrab said.

Some drangpons said that considering the net taxable income to decide the basis to calculate the alimony might not be fair.

Taking the net taxable income for the alimony is unreasonable as numerous deductions including children’s education expenses are made in drawing out the net taxable income.

Drangpon Pasang Wangmo said that deliberating on such issues bearing in mind the best interest of the child is important.

Most of the cases registered with courts every year are matrimonial cases. Of the 7,910 cases registered in 2016, 1,420 were matrimonial cases.

Tshering Palden

Cabinet did not reject quota for women proposal

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 17:05

The Cabinet has not rejected the National Commission for Women and Children’s (NCWC) proposal that included introducing a women’s quota, the chairperson of NCWC, Lyonpo Dorji Choden clarified to this newspaper yesterday.

The works and human settlement minister said that it has been portrayed as if everyone was for quota and only the Cabinet was against it. “But the fact is that during the first national conference on women in politics in Bhutan, a lot of people, including women themselves, were against the quota system.”

Lyonpo Dorji Choden explained that the NCWC was then asked to work out a middle path and their recommendations included a gender-based nomination, meaning political parties would ensure a nomination of 33 percent of women candidates and for the National Council, gewogs could nominate a female and male candidate.

“But then it was also not found feasible because democracy is new and parties are struggling to get candidates,” the NCWC chairperson said.

She also added that the other issue with the proposal was that the Election Act has to be amended and acknowledging that it is too early for such an amendment, the government and NCWC will pursue educating and building women’s capacity to enhance their participation in elected offices as of now.

Lyonpo Dorji Choden said that the NCWC’s focus as of now is more on educating and creating a supportive environment for women to contest in elections.

The NCWC director Kunzang Lhamu said the national plan of action to promote gender equality is under consideration by the Cabinet.

She said NCWC submitted more clarity on the proposal as ordered by the Cabinet.

“The consultations with stakeholders held at the national level also ​resulted in the realisation and concerns expressed that the institution of quotas would require reforming existing systems and electoral laws,” Kunzang Lhamu said.

Tashi Dema

Dispute over temple

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 17:05

The dzongkhag chapter of the Hindu Dharma Samudaya of Bhutan (HDSB) in Tsirang recently wrote to the dzongkhag administration staking ownership to a temple located near Damphu Higher Secondary School, which the chapter says is traditionally Hindu.

Members of the HDSB lodged the complaint when a group of people announced that they would install an idol of “Kirat Guru” (religious master) in the temple on February 21. The temple is also called the Prabu temple as the place is locally known as Prabu Dara.

The group identify themselves as followers of what they call the Kirati religion, which they imported from Nepal.

The Kirati people claimed ownership of the temple a few years ago and have been organising gatherings at the temple since. They comprise Rais and Limbus (Subba) who broke from Hunduism some years ago.

The group withdrew their plan to install the idol of their religious master but displayed posters of their guru. The group also sought to organise a public function at the temple.

An active member of the local chapter of HDSB, UN Bhattarai, said: “We wrote to the dzongkhag administration requesting the authority to stop the plan.”  The complaint letter stated that the group was not registered as a religious organisation and that it should not be allowed to organise public functions.

The group had printed and distributed invitation cards under the banner “Kirati Association of Bhutan with a logo” of its own. They had also invited people for the planned installation of idols.

Members of the Kirat group say they want to register their group as a religious organisation. A founding member of the group, RD Subba, claimed that the motive of their plan was to “preserve the community’s culture and tradition.”

According to sources, some members of the group claims that the group is one of the branches of Hinduism. However, the HDSB does not buy the group’s claim and says that there was no need to form a separate group if they were one of the branches of Hinduism.

According to the HDSB, there are nine Panthas or branches of Hinduism in the country.

Members of the HDSB believe that formation of new religious group would not serve the best interests of the country. They say that any group of people who call themselves a religious organisation should be allowed to organise functions only if they are registered with the Commission for Religious Organisations.

As asked by the Commission for Religious Organisations (CRO), the HDSB on March 2 submitted a detailed report on the history and status of the Kirati group and how it spread in Bhutan. The HDSB wants all the members of their community to subscribe to their age-old traditions.

Meanwhile, the HDSB has announced that its annual general meeting will be held in Thimphu on March 27. Changes in the board of directors and other office bearers of the organisation are the expected outcomes of the meeting.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang

Addiction problem: Turning to promising direction

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 17:04

Addiction is the greatest scourge we face today, calling us to deal with it urgently and effectively. Considering more than half our population constitutes young people, addiction should be viewed as a compelling problem of modern life.

At a time when we are grappling with the growing problem of addiction due to increasing availability of tempting activities and substances, what is needed is counterbalancing forces in the society. We cannot just rely on the few institutions and support groups to deal with the problem. Response must come from larger communities and society itself. That means dealing with problem of addiction will require us to look beyond prevention and treatment.

What we lack in our society, though, is support structures that will help recovering addicts stay away from the old habits. When they return from rehabilitation centres, they find that they have nowhere to go than to walk into the same dark places where they picked up the habit. It appears that a more promising direction is the development of community and support structures at the points. We might turn to legislative and individual solutions to deal effectively with addiction problem, but little can be achieved without strong support networks in the society. Prohibitionist legislation will not help prevent addiction problems. What we really need to have a comprehensive view of addiction. Instead of blaming the people struggling with the problem of addiction, we could begin by taking ownership of the problem. Dealing with the problem will yield not much result otherwise.

Also, we need more people who can volunteer to sit with young people who may be walking into the problem of addiction. Not everybody requires medically supervised detox or an extended time in a rehab. What we must know is that rehabilitation treatment is not very popular with people struggling with addiction because treatment is much longer and requires total abstinence. But there are other treatment methods that are more effective. What about pharmacological treatment? A patient can lead a normal life and still quit the habit. It may perhaps be the most effective way to deal with problem of addiction by making pharmacological treatment available in all the dzongkhags and health facilities.

But that just the start; we can do more. It is also the responsibility of mass media to enlist positive support in the nationwide anti-abuse campaigns.

Bhutan, UN to propose for USD 42M from Green Climate Fund

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 17:03

UNDP and the government have collaborated to design Bhutan’s first Green Climate Fund (GCF) project worth USD 42 million (M). This project will be submitted to the GCF by next week.

UNDP and the government worked for 18 months to prepare this first GCF  project. The project is aimed at making the agriculture sector resilient to climate change.

While there are many irrigation channels and farm roads across the country they are currently not resilient or adaptive to climate change. The government has identified numerous areas that require  attention in such areas, which will now be submitted to the GCF.

The UN assistant secretary general and the UNDP assistant administrator and regional director for the Asia and the Pacific, Haoliang Xu revealed this to Kuensel during his visit to Phuentsholing on March 12.

The UN assistant secretary general was in Phuentsholing to inspect  ongoing slope stabilisation and protection work at Rinchending.

UN resident coordinator and UNDP resident representative Gerald Daly and the UNDP deputy resident representative Niamh Collier Smith were also present.

Speaking to Kuensel, Haoliang Xu said climate change is causing difficulties all over the world. “It is affecting not only infrastructure but also agricultural production,” he said, adding that climate change is affecting how people view their production patterns. “I think UNDP will work with the Royal Government to not only build resilience in infrastructure but also use sources of funding like GCF.”

UNDP has the potential to leverage funding from this new source, Haoliang Xu added.

He also elaborated that the UNDP Asia Pacific over the last year helped six countries to mobilise USD 220M for climate change adaptation projects.

Similarly in Bhutan, UNDP is looking forward to working with the government to develop such climate change adaptation projects, especially in agriculture.

“It will be more effective with new technologies,” Haoliang Xu said.

He added that there are various ways to help communities such as helping farmers obtain drought-resistant seeds or building water storage systems.

Meanwhile, during his visit to Rinchending, Haoliang Xu said that the slope stabilisation project is important from an economic standpoint. “The road is a major artery for transportation and movement,” he said. “If the infrastructure is not resilient to natural threats and to changes caused by climate change then the economy will not be resilient and people’s lives will be affected.”

The Global Environment Facilities (GEF) is funding this stabilisation work and the funds are being coordinated and acquired by the UNDP.

This mitigation project is among three National Adoption Programme of Action (NAPA) II projects in Phuentsholing Thromde. Once this project is completed, the Phuentsholing to Thimphu highway, which was severely affected in the last monsoon, is expected to be more resilient.

There are other areas prone to landslides and flooding under Phuentsholing Thromde that have also been identified. The areas below Rinchending Goenpa and the town’s old hospital will be landslide proofed, while river training infrastructure is being constructed along the Barsa River in Pasakha.

The thromde’s project engineer, Gautam Thapa said that 70 percent of the stabilisation work has been completed and at least 25 percent of the flood mitigation work.

GEF is funding the mitigation work at a cost of USD 4.4M.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Panbang to get a fuel depot

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 17:02

A driver stops his car by a shop in Sonamthang. He asks the shopkeeper to refuel his car for Nu 1,000. The shopkeeper comes out with two black jerry cans and pours fuel into the vehicle using a funnel.

This is how most of the people in Panbang fuel their cars. Panbang doesn’t have a fuel station and people have to drive to Nganglam to fuel their cars.

A resident in Panbang said they have to pay a higher rate for petrol in Panbang but it is of great help. “Nganglam is 55km from Panbang and driving there just to fuel does not make sense,” he said.

Petrol in Panbang costs Nu 70-75 per litre.

He said there are many vehicles in Panbang and a fuel station is required. A fuel depot was promised to the people of Panbang many times but one did not materialise.

A corporate employee said he used to store petrol in the past before the opening of the Panbang-Nganglam highway. “We can go to Nganglam to fuel if needed,” he said.

Nado, 60, from Panbang town said he found people surveying the land at Tungudemba to build a petrol pump last year but a depot did not materialise. “It was always a problem to fuel my car,” he said.

Another town resident said that recently the Prime Minister had promised to establish a petrol pump in Panbang soon. “I hope it comes up this time since Lyonchoen himself has promised one,” he said.

Panbang dungpa, Mani Sangye said the dungkhag cleared the building of the fuel depot at Tungudemba six months ago. Construction is expected to begin shortly.

Nima Wangdi | Panbang

Windstorms damage homes in Wangdue

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 17:01

In several parts of Wangdue the roofs of several houses were lost to a windstorm last week.

According to the damage assessment conducted by the dzongkhag disaster team, roofs of at least five traditional houses, a hotel and a lhakhang were damaged by windstorms that occurred on March 5, 6 and 12.

In Rubesa gewog, the roof of a two-storeyed house in Japhu village was completely blown off, while the roof of a four-storeyed house in Bara village and a lhakhang were partly blown away. All the houses were insured according to the dzongkhag disaster focal person Sonam Tobgay.

He said the windstorm partly destroyed a two-storeyed hotel in Rukubji, Sephu gewog. The hotel was insured.

In Bjena gewog, two one-storeyed houses in Gophu and Gamakha villages and one two-storeyed house in Sersona village were affected. The house in Gophu village suffered major damage and was not insured, while the other in Gamakha lost half of its roof but was insured.

The roof of the two-storeyed house in Sersona was completely blown off. Owner Tshering Wangdi had constructed the house less than a year ago.

Tshering Wangdi said there was no one at home when the incident happened.

“We were yet to remove the damaged parts of the roof and timber from the roof and then there was a heavy downpour that further affected the already damaged components,” he said. “I am worried about how to recover from this loss, as we just completed the house with much difficulty.”

Sonam Tobgay said they have repeatedly stressed to people the importance of insuring their houses under the insurance premium category two. However, despite that many did not insure their houses or insured under category three or four, even when they have larger and new houses.

For instance, in Tshering Wangdi’s case, if he had insured his newly built house under rural housing insurance category two instead of three, he would be receiving Nu 50,000 as compensation and not just Nu 25,000.

For category two, the insurance premium people have to pay is Nu 565 per year while in category three they have to pay only Nu 200. Due to which many choose category three, officials said.

The inspection and damage assessments were completed within less than two days of each incident, officials said. The assessment reports will be submitted to the concerned authorities.

The Royal Insurance Corporation Ltd will also release compensations shortly.

Dawa Gyelmo | Wangdue

Large-scale commercial paddy farming initiative begins

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 17:00

In a move that will leave no wet land fallow across the country and help realise the national goal of food self-sufficiency, the Farm Machinery Corporation Ltd (FMCL) has begun large scale commercial paddy farming.

The agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji inaugurated the large scale commercial paddy farming initiative in Gelephu yesterday.

FMCL has taken over 200 acres of private wet land at the fishery site in Gelephu. In just a day spring paddy was transplanted on about 13 acres with the help of over 230 volunteers from the dzongkhag agriculture sector, Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB) and the public of Gelephu.

Another 250 acres of private wet land has been leased by the corporation in Chuzagang, which will soon be cultivated. While the land in Chuzagang was partially cultivated by farmers until now, the land at the Gelephu fishery site was left fallow for more than 15 years because of unavailability of sufficient labour.

In return for the use of private land, which was either left fallow or partially cultivated, the corporation will give 20 percent of the harvest to the land owners.

Seeds are provided by the National Seed Centre, technical support by the Agriculture Research Development Centre, farming is carried out by FMCL, labour is provided by the labour ministry and marketing done by FCB.

FMCL CEO Karma Thinley said that this year paddy will be transplanted manually but from next year transplanting machines will be used. “This commercial large scale farming will be done phase wise across the country.

Wet land with available irrigation will be taken over first.”

He added that FMCL will also grow cash crops and vegetables on large scale in different parts of the country.

Later this week, cultivation will begin in Yoeseltse (Ghumauney) in Samtse and transplantation is scheduled for March 19 in Phuntshothang in Samdrupjongkhar. FMCL has leased 120 acres in Samtse and 200 acres in Samdrupjongkhar.

In later phases of the project, fallow land will be identified and studies will be conducted to determine availability of irrigation water and whether the land is protected from wildlife, among others.

Although the project began last year, paddy was transplanted on a  comparatively small area of 50 acres in Thimphu.

Karma Thinley explained that in the first year, efforts would be made to develop the area and set up farm machinery. In the long run, the corporation aims to farm on all fallow land.

“Our long term goal is to achieve food self sufficiency and provide jobs to our educated youth,” he added.  Currently, at least 134 youths are already employed. This number is expected to cross 200 by the end of this month.

“We’re optimistic that the youth are going back to agriculture,” Karma Thinley added. “However, it might take at least 10 years for the system to stabilise.”

For now three varieties of paddy imported from India have been used. It had to be imported from India because the local variety could not meet the requirement for large scale transplantation. From next year, farmers could also maintain paddy seedbeds and sell seedlings to the corporation.

FMCL has also begun commercial farming of mandarin in Kana gewog and large scale vegetable farming on about 200 acres in Nichula gewog in Dagana.

Karma Thinley said that when the country has all the resources, support and capacity in place food will not have to be imported. He added that the corporation is receiving the full support of various stake holders.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang

Country sees heaviest snow in more than a decade

Mon, 03/13/2017 - 17:05

People living in the western, central and northern regions of the country woke up to a thick blanket of snow on March 11. Some isolated places of eastern Bhutan also received snowfall.

Senior meteorologist, Tayba Buddha Tamang, said that the Department of Hydro Met Services had a good amount of precipitation across the country on March 11. “We have correctly predicted the event.”

Gasa recorded 11.4 inches of fresh snow, the highest among the six dzongkhags that received snowfall on the day, followed by Haa at 8.7 inches.

Thimphu and Paro recorded 7 inches of snow each while Bumthang recorded 1.8 inches.

Trongsa had traces of snow while the rest of the country received moderate rainfall.

In Thimphu, snowflakes started falling from 6am until late afternoon, which delighted many who took to social media to post photos and videos.

Children woke up early to go out and make snowmans and families went out to experience the first snowfall of the year. The snow, this year lasted longer than in  recent years.

Tayba Buddha Tamang said that the National Centre for Hydro-Metrological Forcasting started recording snow events and the quantity since 2013. This is the first time since then that Thimphu had heavy snowfall. “It might be the heaviest in the last decade.”

He explained that the winter precipitation in Bhutan is mostly due to the western disturbance (WD) that is the westerly wind blowing towards the eastern himalayan range bringing moisture from the Mediterranean Sea.

He added that this year the WD was strong and additional moisture incursion was from the Arabian sea which caused a suitable environment for the snow formation in Bhutan.

He said that the onset of the spring season is slowly gaining. Precipitation in the coming weeks is less likely, according to the forecast.

The government declared Saturday a holiday for residents of Thimphu and other dzongkhags that experienced the snowfall.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay posted the news on his Facebook page and advised citizens to be safe. He assured that the authorities concerned will do their best to keep essential services running and to respond to any mishaps.

For eight-year-old, Yonten Thinley Dendup, who turned nine on the day of the snowfall, it was the best birthday gift he had ever received. “I am making an Olaf,” Yonten said with excitement as he rolled up snow.

Pictures of snowmen and the towns, hills and valleys blanketed in white flakes flooded social media platforms like Facebook, WeChat and Instagram.

A Thimphu resident, Pema Wangmo, said that she was surprised to see such fat, fluffy flakes twirling down from the sky as she drew her room’s curtains. “My kids jumped out of bed to see if what I was saying was true. It was a pleasant surprise indeed,” she said.

Pema Wangmo said that last year’s snowfall was light and didn’t last long. “I took my kids to Dochula to witness a thick layer of snowfall,” she said. “This year, we had plentiful snow, enough to cheer my kids.”

Sonam Choki, a student with the Royal Thimphu College, said that snow is always expected and brings much joy to all. “The first snowfall has its charm and also it is romantic.”

Meanwhile, Jangchuk, 78, said that if a year has good snowfall then the year is considered auspicious.  “Good snowfall means good harvest. Heavy snowfall promises healthy crops and the harvest is bountiful.”

While the snow cheered up many including young and old, it wasn’t pleasing for some including travellers.

The Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) and traffic police division reported  several roadblocks at higher passes on Saturday. Movement of public transport was also cancelled on snow day.

However, all the roadblocks caused by the snowfall including the Wangdue-Pelela-Trongsa-Bumthang road was cleared by yesterday evening.

All but two flights in and out of Paro airport were cancelled.

Tents at RENEW’s ongoing mega fair at Changlimithang in Thimphu collapsed due to the weight of the snow.

Meanwhile, a number of vehicle accidents were also reported on snow day.

Dechen Tshomo

Mountain Hazelnut Venture to rectify hazelnut pollination issues

Mon, 03/13/2017 - 17:03

Six years after villagers of Zobel, Nanong and Khar gewogs in Pemagatshel  planted hazelnut trees, the villagers are still waiting for the plant to give them fruits.

The villagers claim that the Mountain Hazelnut Venture Pvt Ltd guaranteed that the trees would bear fruits three years after plantation and generate income for them.

They also claim they have an agreement drawn with the company.

A tshogpa, Lobzang Thinley, said they were assured the trees would bear fruits in not less than three years and they did not plant any other crops.

Villagers say only a few trees have given fruit and it affected them since they could not make use of their land. They said they planted hazelnut hoping it would have good returns.

They also claim they should have used the land to plant cardamom and maize instead.

The issue was raised in the last Pemagatshel Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) and the dzongkhag was asked to resolve the issue.

Zobel gup, Pema Dorji informed DT members that while some plants have grown tall some remain small. He said the villagers did everything to take care of the plants.

He asked if there would be any compensation, as the trees did not bear fruits as per the agreement. “Should people now cut the trees?”

Khar gup, Ngajay Dorji said such incidents would affect the annual performance agreement of the gewog. He also pointed out that the farmers feel that the company has cheated them.

However, following the complaint, the company’s officials visited the field and shared that the main reasons for the trees not bearing fruit are the young age of the trees and a shortage of compatible pollen and poor management that slowed growth and extended time to maturity.

The Hazelnut company’s executive assistant for field operations, Sonam Rabten, through an email interview said none of the trees have reached seven years of age as claimed by the villagers instead only 12.8 percent had reached five years of age.

Sonam Rabten said animals damaged the trees and if trampled, it could hamper a year’s worth of growth.

He also said the trees were not consistently given care among many other reasons.

“Hazelnut trees have both male and female flowers on the same tree but they can’t self pollinate. Earlier distribution was made without pollinisers but this was explained to farmers and the shortfall was met.”

He added they are aware of the technical issues and have already taken steps to address them. “A total of 298,295 of production trees and 51,599 polliniser trees were distributed earlier.”

Sonam Rabten said to assist the pollination in the long run over 700,000 polliniser trees are in the nursery, which would be distributed to the farmers and that would solve the shortfalls in all the existing orchards.

The pollen is imported from Georgia extracted from 2,600kg of catkins. Pollination is expected to catch up in the next few years.

“There was lack of communication with the villagers on harvests and revised expectations, which we should rectify. The first nuts would be observed in three years, sizeable crop at five years and full production in seven years.”

The company also plans to improve training and communication with farmers to improve management, offer fencing support schemes, and water shortage or irrigation assistance.

“The same issue exists across the country and not only in Pemagatshel and our assisted pollination program is active in nine dzongkhags this year,” Sonam Rabten said, adding they would need more cooperation from farmers to prioritise hazelnut orchard management that would lead to earlier harvests and rewards.

There are 298,295 hazelnut trees in 492 orchards in Pemagatshel.

Yangchen C Rinzin | Samdrupjongkhar

Bhutan, World Bank sign USD 24M credit deal to improve growth

Mon, 03/13/2017 - 17:02

The Royal Government and the World Bank signed on March 10 the Second Fiscal Sustainability and Investment Climate Development Policy Credit (DPC2) of USD24 million to help improve fiscal sustainability, access to finance, and investment climate.

According to a press release from the finance ministry, Bhutan has made impressive progress in poverty reduction and economic growth over the past decade. At the same time, high levels of investment in the hydropower sector have increased pressures on the country’s fiscal balance and external accounts.

“The World Bank is glad that this policy credit together with other programs are effectively supporting the Royal Government’s reform momentum,” said Yoichiro Ishihara, the World Bank’s resident representative for Bhutan. “With this policy credit, Bhutan will be better equipped to enact policies to foster private sector development and create more employment opportunities, especially for its youth.”

The credit was signed by finance minister Namgay Dorj and Yoichiro Ishihara.

This credit is the second of two operations to support Bhutan’s 11th Five Year Plan goals of promoting green socio-economic development and achieving self-reliance. DPC2 was approved by the board of executive directors of the World Bank on December 21 last year.

“The Royal Government of Bhutan has used the policy credit to support institutional strengthening measures in some key areas, building on the momentum and lessons learnt from the past budget support operations to accelerate development in Bhutan,” Lyponpo Namgay Dorji said. “Improving fiscal sustainability, access to finance and investment climate are critical to achieve the goals of the 11th Five Year Plan.”

The development policy series will be funded by credit from the International Development Association (IDA) – the World Bank’s concessionary lending arm with a maturity of 25 years, including a 5-year grace period.

Staff Reporter

Courts to not consider non-judicial matters

Mon, 03/13/2017 - 17:01

Courts hereafter will not conduct any non-judicial works. This was decided at the first day of the annual judicial conference that is underway.

Chukha dzongkhag drangpon Gembo Trashi said that the courts were facing acute shortage of employees. The limited number of staff are burdened with works like issuing attestation letters to relatives of a deceased person to withdraw money from a bank account or claim the person’s retirement benefits.

Attending to such tasks consumes a lot of time that could otherwise be devoted to settling cases.

Supreme Court Registrar General Tshering Dorji said that while discussing the matter with the financial institutions, it was not clear why the courts have to issue such attestation letters.

He said that during the meeting, he had informed the heads of the financial institutions that the Supreme Court will convey decision on the matter from the conference.

Drangpons from other dzongkhags said that they do not see the reason to continue this practice.

They said that while the financial institutions do not involve or consult the courts when taking the money from the people, likewise there is no reason to involve the courts when problems arise.

Some said this practice could have been in place because of some of the laws on financial matters.

Supreme Court Justice Rinzi Peljore asked if the matter should be consulted with the financial institutions before deciding. All drangpons unanimously decided not to entertain non-judicial matters hereafter in their courts.

Staff Reporter

Beating a habit

Mon, 03/13/2017 - 17:00

On a chilly winter evening in January 1989, a healthy baby boy was born to a family in Thimphu. Proud parents hovered over the cradle, with high expectations of their only son in the family.

Sonam Tharchen enjoyed the unwavering love and care of his parents and life was almost perfect. He started his education from Zilukha Primary School where he managed to make several new friends.

But life took a turn. Sonam was living in a neighbourhood where alcohol was freely available. “I knew at a very young age that drugs and alcohol are not good for health but somehow I got into it,” said the 28 year old.

It was in the early 2000s when western culture, beamed in through television and the internet, among others, began to proliferate. “I was into western rock music and Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison and Bob Marley were my idols,” he said, referring to big name musicians. “I wanted to look cool like them.”

Out of curiosity, Sonam was slowly tempted and drawn into a world of drugs and alcohol. “As I watched some of my friends enjoy the world of drugs, temptation started growing inside of me,” he said. “I thought people using drugs were cool and fashionable, and slowly I started using marijuana. I smoked just for fun in the beginning but soon it became a habit.”

By the age of 14, Sonam was smoking marijuana on a regular basis. He began missing his classes. “I became allergic to the advice of my parents and teachers. My addicted friends became more important to me than my parents, and I spent most of my time roaming the streets with them like a street dog.”

By then Sonam had started abusing other substances like correcting fluid, dendrite, thinner, prescribed drugs and alcohol. He was also put behind  bars on several occasions after coming into conflict with the law.

“My father came several times to the police station to bail me out. He begged me to change, but it was of no use. My mother who constantly supported me did her best to pull me out of addiction. Teachers and adults tried their best to make me a better student. All their efforts were in vain.”

Soon after Sonam left school. His parents, friends and teachers gave up on him. Still, Sonam was reluctant to change despite life spiralling out of control. However, the worst was yet to come.

On September 10, 2010, Sonam was informed that his mother had passed away. “It still hurts to talk about that moment, but my mother, the one who took care of me was gone forever.”

Sonam couldn’t digest the fact and he became numb with sorrow. “Tears didn’t flow from my eyes and words didn’t come out from my mouth. It was a cry of the heart. I remember all those days when she gave me care and love and I was so rude to her, often making her cry,”

Sonam said: “She must have waited a long time, with hope and expectation for me to come back home, but I didn’t even look back once. I know I broke her heart; she must have shed a million tears for me. I hadn’t seen her face for a couple of years. I just wanted to go and hug her and tell her that I was so sorry, but it was too late for me to apologise.”

After seven long years of addiction, Sonam finally decided to quit. He wanted to become a better man. For a few months, Sonam started working in small restaurants washing dishes and as a bouncer in nightclubs.

It was during that time when Sonam met Lama Shenphen Zangpo who changed his perspective on life. With the help of Lama, Sonam was employed at Ambient Café in Thimphu where his road to recovery began.

Sonam also got an opportunity to meet Her Royal Highness Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wanchuck who sent him for driving and computer training sesions. Later HRH Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wanchuck and Lama Shenphen Zangpo sent Sonam to train as a chef in Thailand. It’s been three years since Sonam has been working in a luxurious resort in south Thailand. “I have learned so much in these three years in Thailand. I came to know all about the kitchen basics and have also learned to cook international dishes. It’s hard work but it’s also fun at the same time.”

Sonam has been clean for almost seven years. “Life here is not easy. At the end of the day when I crawl into bed and all the lights go out, my thoughts can finally rise to the surface,” he said. “I am a little bruised, slightly broken, and permanently scarred but I am still here fighting. I am still waking up everyday to go through it all over again. This life may be hard as hell but it’s still a gift and I am going to live it.”

Younten Tshedup 

Three-year-old mauled by dogs in Panbang town

Mon, 03/13/2017 - 17:00

Rinchen Drolma gets up from her loom and walks over to a trash can outside her house. She reaches into it and pulls out two shirts.

The shirts are torn.

She says that dogs attacked and bit her three-year-old grandson last week. “There are too many dogs in Panbang town and it is not safe,” she adds.

Rinchen Drolma was herself bitten by dogs three years ago.

Eyewitnesses said that five dogs had attacked and mauled the boy, who suffered bites on his arms and back. He is currently being treated at the local hospital.

Tshering Zangmo, 62, said dogs from nearby areas congregate in Panbang town. They roam in packs, some as large as 20 dogs.

The boy’s mother, Dorji Tsheden, 22, said she was helping one of her neighbours when the attack occurred. Onlookers had rushed to the boy’s help. She said her son was bleeding profusely and was immediately taken to the hospital.

“These dogs don’t let us sleep peacefully at night as they roam around in packs barking,” she said.

Some said a female dog first attacked the boy after he approached her puppies. Other dogs then joined the female dog in attacking the boy.

People said dogs are sterilised every year but the population keeps on increasing.

Nima Wangdi | Panbang

DPR preparation for Chamkharchhu-II begins

Mon, 03/13/2017 - 17:00

Chamkharchhu III and IV will require construcion in protected areas and therefore is less prioritsed

Among the four hydropower projects designed in a cascading system along the Chamkharchhu, two have been prioritised.

While the construction of the 770MW Chamkharchhu-I is expected to begin soon, the Department of Hydropower and Power Systems is in the process of undertaking the preparation of the Detailed Project Report (DPR) of Chamkharchhu-II.

According to the draft environment and social management framework of Chamkharchhu-II, the project has been previously studied by the department through a reconnaissance study in 2011. A pre-feasibility report (PFS) was finalised in 2015.

Based on the findings and recommendations of the final DPR, the project will be proposed for development through Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC).

The 590MW Chamkharchhu-II will be developed as part of a proposed cascade system. The Chamkharchhu-I HPP (770 MW) is the most downstream project in the country.

The Chamkharchhu-II diversion site will be located approximately 21km upstream of the first project. In addition, three other future projects are considered for the complete cascade.

The PFS of the 364MW Chamkharchhu-IV has already been conducted while no detailed study was conducted on the Chamkharchhu-III, which has the potential of generating 1,250MW of power.

However, the latter two projects are of lesser priority as it will require construction inside protected areas or biological corridors.

The recommended layout of the Chamkharchhu-II, according to the PFS, is a run-off the river scheme with an annual generation of 2420GWh. It comprises a gated intake dam 30m high, 8.9km head-race tunnel, underground powerhouse, and 0.3km tailrace tunnel.

The Chamkharchhu-II diversion dam axis is located near Shingkhar village and the proposed power house is near Nimzhong village.

River diversion is planned on the left bank, while the project is developed on the right bank

The draft framework also stated that the existing roads to Nimzhong and Shingkhar will be upgraded and will connect the powerhouse and dam site.

“The environmental impact on land, water, flora and fauna of the Chamkharchhu-II HPP is expected to be significant across the various project sites,” the report states.

A significant reduction in river flows would occur in areas further downstream. The primary areas of influence would be the upstream catchment area, the water storage area, the dam site, the tunnel corridors, plant room location, and the immediate area downstream of the dam and upstream of the power house.

Given the mountainous area and undulating landscape that is fairly untouched and pristine, the report states that erosion and sedimentation issues would need to be evaluated and managed in all areas during the construction, operation and maintenance.

As a result of influx in the workforce and changes to local livelihoods, it is stated that the project may indirectly increase pressures on forests and other natural resources.

The proposed project will also require land acquisition and possibly a small number of relocations. Given the sparse population in the project areas and the deep gorge of the reservoir area, these impacts are expected to be minimal according to impact screening of the pre-feasibility study. The 2015 study identified 26 households that could be affected.

The department is however in the process of identifying other social, cultural and environmental impacts that have not been documented.

Tshering Dorji

Damo-Yangka-Dew reclaims its place in Bhutanese culture

Sun, 03/12/2017 - 15:39

Main story: It was about a decade ago when 53-year-old Hochu of Jala village in Wangdue planted five Dew-Yangkas (Pseudosasa Japonica), a species of bamboo that is used to make traditional Bhutanese arrows.

Jala village is known for growing Damo-Yangka-Dew but Hochu and his family initially decided to grow this plant solely for aesthetic purposes. But it has today become a source of income for the family.

The plants grow on at least six decimals of land surrounding Hochu’s house.

Just a few months back, Hochu and her husband harvested the bamboo and sold 30 pairs to arrow makers.

While there were not many buyers initially, with the government’s initiative to revive the use of the traditional bow and arrow, the demand for Damo-Yangka-Dew has increased significantly.

Hochu makes about Nu 300-Nu 400 from each pair of the Damo-Yangka-Dew.

Today, the plant is the major and continuous source of income for the people of Jala

“The income is not much but it’s a good and continuous source of an income as it does not require much effort to grow,” says Hochu. “We sell it at Nu 300 a pair. Business people selling traditional arrows take them and sell it at market prices ranging from Nu 1,000 to Nu 2,500 a pair.”

Hochu explained that the plants provide a double benefit. “The plant can be used to make arrows and with the leaves we feed the cows.”

Damo-Yangka-Dew is also used to make Changdha (arrows used for religious purposes) and Tsedha (arrows for long-life prayers).

“Unlike other cash crops, it doesn’t require any hard work and extra effort. We just have to water it and clean the reeds once in a while,” said Hochu. “If we harvest this season, buds start appearing after about 10 months and within a year the plant would have fully grown.”

Phub Lham is another villager who has been reaping the benefits of this bamboo species. Her father has been selling arrows to people in Wangdue and Thimphu for more than a decade.

“Every year my father manages to sell around 80 to 90 pairs of arrows which fetches around Nu 300 to Nu 400 per pair,” said Phub Lham. The income is enough to buy the basic necessities.

The history of the Yangka-Dew dates back thousands of years. The first pair of the arrows made from Yangka-Dew is preserved in the hat of the local deity called “Dolay” at the village’s temple, said Nim Gyeltshen of Jala.

He said that in the olden days, harvesting bamboo from the forest was considered illegal, let alone growing it around homes, and people were penalised if found to be violating the rule.

However, today, the majority of the 35 households in Jala grow the plant near their houses. Besides the economic values, the plant helps in warding off evil spells and spirits, said Nim Gyeltshen.

In the old days arrows made from Yangka-Dew were considered  special. The arrows were also rare. But with the arrival of modern arrows, the use of the traditional arrow dwindled.

According to Nim Gyeltshen, the story of Yangka-Dew can be traced to Jala Tanka-Tsho. It is said that a man from Jala went looking for his Ox and while searching for his Ox he reached the Tanka-Tsho (lake) of Jala. What he saw in the middle of the lake left him amazed – a pair of the Yangka-Dew plant.

The man then forgot to look for his Ox and went on to get the Yangka-Dew. He managed to cut the plants. This made the guardian of the lake furious, who then in the form of thick clouds chased the man until Jala village.

“It is said that the man turned out to be smart enough to change his clothes and saved himself from being harmed by the guardian of the lake,” says Nim Gyeltshen.

The man then made a pair of arrows from that Yangka-Dew plant that he had taken from the lake. When he never missed a shot using the arrows, the story spread beyond Jala village and finally reached the ears of Debs, who then commanded the people of Jala  to protect the plant by introducing rules to conserve it.

As that man aged and passed away, the elderly of Jala preserved the arrow as sacred, said Nim Gyeltshen.

He said that during the time of the First King, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck, two special watchmen were picked from Jala and Shayla villages to guard the Yangkha-Dew plants near the lake. The men were exempt from Woola.

With no roads in those days, the bamboo were packed, sealed and then sent from Jala to Wangdue, then to Ridha and Chendebji to Trongsa where the Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck resided. Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck would personally inspect them and then hand them over to arrow makers.

Earlier the people didn’t know the importance of planting and preserving Yangka-Dew near their homes. It was after the former agriculture minister, Sangay Ngedup’s visit to the village that people started to bring seedlings from the forest to plant near their houses. The former agriculture minister suggested to the people of Jala to plant Yangka-Dew for commercial purposes, said Nim Gyeltshen.

The Dew is harvested in the 10th month of the lunar calendar. It has to be dried in the sun for about two months, after which people use coal and smoke to straighten the arrow. When it is good enough to be turned into an arrow, they cut them into similar sizes and pair it to be sold.

With the revival of the traditional arrow and bow, Yangka-Dew is expected to remain an important source of income for the people of Jala.

Dawa Gyelmo

Workouts for improving Basketball skills

Sun, 03/12/2017 - 15:38

Health and fitness: Hi sir,

Can weight training help improve my basketball game? If yes, how  would you recommend me to go about? 

If no, what else can I do besides just practicing basketball? 

Tsheten 

Hi Tsheten,

Any form of resistance training will be beneficial for sports in general.

Weight training is an integral part of every professional sportsmen’s arsenal, rightfully so because there is distinct quantifiable benefit to not only performance, but also injury prevention.

Basketball is a sport that requires speed, endurance and the ability to jump vertically. Your game involves plenty of short sprints and vertical jumps and diagonal movements.

So these are the very things you must try and work on and improve with resistance and other forms of training.

I would divide your workouts into two separate sessions:

Session 1: (full body weight training designed to build strength)

3 sets of barbell squats 8-12 repetitions.

3 sets of deadlift 8-12 repetitions

3 sets of bench press 8-12 repetitions

Session 2: plyometrics (exercise to improve jumps) and short sprints.

Key in these moves is perfect form and explosiveness, not training to failure as it would be with weight training, Each set should only extend as long as you are optimally explosive, as that slows time to end the set.

1. Vertical box jumps 5-10 times as high as you can scale, resting and composing between sets for maximum output.

2. Double legged hops 5-10 times as long a hop as you can. Resting and composing between sets for maximum output.

3. Shuttle runs using a distance of 10 meters, sprinting in all directions, front, back and sideways, rest as needed.

Nyewai Rinchendun – The Seven Subsidiary Precious Possessions

Sun, 03/12/2017 - 15:37

Why we do what we do: The seven subsidiary precious possessions or Nyewai Rinchendun (རིན་ཆེན་སྣ་བདུན) are the seven Buddhist symbols which are adopted from the seven emblems of royalty in ancient India. They represent the royal luxuries in ancient times. They are known as possessions as they are subsidiary to the very special seven precious emblems of a universal monarch, which have been already discussed. However, these seven possessions are not limited to the universal monarch.

The Sword (རལ་གྲི་)

The precious sword is sharp and straight with a golden handle bedecked with precious gems and stones. It blazes with blue light and has power to impress the authority of the king without even using it. It causes fear and submission among the enemies and symbolizes justice, compassion and penetrating wisdom.

The Naga skin (ཀླུ་པགས་)

The large skin of a nāga or serpent king with golden hue, obtained from the depth of the sea is believed to be indestructible by water, fire and air. It gives warmth when cold and can cool the heat when it is hot. It helps summons the serpent world and thereby control the weather, obtain riches from the nāga world in forms in precious stones, pearls and corals and avoid illnesses such as leprosy caused by the nāga world.

 

The Palace (ཁང་བཟང་)

The royal house is spacious, pleasant, superbly built, facilitated and proportioned with beautiful designs. It is warm in winter and cool in summer, peaceful, inviting and very enjoyable to live in. It is conducive for happy living, good rest and sleep and is free from the suffering of death and illness.

The Robes (གོས་)

The royal robes are made of cloth of pure and very refined materials and decorated with golden embroidery. It has the magical qualities to resist weapons and fire, provides warmth when cold and helps cool the heat when hot. It is clean, soft, fragrant and invigorates physical and mental wellbeing.

The Royal Gardens (སྐྱེད་ཚལ་)

The royal gardens help the king to relax and enjoy peace with the beauty of nature. The garden has beautiful lush lawns filled with trees and plants with attractive colours, fragrance and delicious fruits. They have ponds, streams and fountains with clear water. Exotic animals, beautiful birds and fishes dwell in the garden and the cool fragrant breeze blow with divine music. The peaceful and rich life the garden reflects the virtuous work of the king.

 

The Royal Bed/Throne 

(མལ་ཆ་)

The royal throne, couch or seat is an object of exceptional craftsmanship. It is soft and comfortable seat to sit or lie on, which fulfils the desires of the king. It creates a sacred atmosphere and helps the king sit in royal ease and develop mental composure, clarity, positive energy and eliminates fatigue and other mental and physical problems.

The Royal Shoes (ལྷམ་)

The precious shoes are designed from special materials and decorated with beautiful embroidery and gems. They are very light, soft, comfortable and help the king travel at great speed with no fatigue. They are resistant to damage by water, fire and wear and tear. They boots help the monarch travel and carry out activities for his subjects.

The seven subsidiary precious possessions of a universal monarch are often included in the list of offerings during the Bhutanese religious ceremonies.

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