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Bhutan's Daily Newspaper
Updated: 1 hour 21 min ago

BFF upholds decision on Lhayul President case

Wed, 12/07/2022 - 12:27

Thinley Namgay    

The Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) upheld its decision to suspend  Druk Lhayul FC’s  president for a year from the BoB Bhutan Premier League.

The BFF’s disciplinary committee suspended the president, Thukten, in October for his involvement in a physical assault during a game between Thimphu City FC and Druk Lhayul FC on September 18 at the Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu.

Besides suspension, BFF also fined Thukten Nu 10,000 for  physical assault.  Lhayul’s player Dorji Khandu was also suspended for two games and fined Nu 5,000 for violent conduct.

The president appealed to the BFF on October 12 citing unfair decisions.

As per the BFF’s match commissioner report, Thukten went to the pitch without approval when the referee sent out Jomoul Anthony Francois of Druk Lhayul FC and Karma Shedrup Tshering of Thimphu City FC following their violent action.

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The report states that Thukten kicked the game’s fourth official on the right leg and tried to kick  again, but was stopped by the de-suups and officials.

The brawl between Lhayul and Thimphu City occurred four days after solving the disciplinary issues between Paro Rinpung FC players and Thimphu City FC.

The game on September 18 at Changlimithang Stadium witnessed numerous brawls between players and officials, one of the worst scenarios over the years. Spectators started throwing water bottles, plastic cups and other materials on the ground with abusive words.

Druk Lhayul FC’s  appeal to BFF 

In October,  Druk Lhayul FC’s management appealed to the BFF for suspending its president Thukten for a year.  The club demanded a fair and unbiased decision.

The club management appealed that the club has been upholding the highest form of professional ethics since its inception.

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Druk Lhayul FC alleged that the opponent and official referee pushed boundaries until the unexpected events unfolded. “All the spectators present at the stadium and via online platforms have noticed a wider degree of open unfairness and arbitrary biased decision taken against the club while favouring the opponent club.”

The club mentioned that its player Dorji Khandu was a victim of physical assault by the opponent player and the committee’s decision ruling that he has stepped on the opponent intentionally is their perspective. “The fact via video recording did not see otherwise. Moreover, the opponent player is subject to a penalty for assaulting physically.”

“The decision to ban Dorji Khandu for the next two matches is more ridiculous while the real assailant is not mentioned whatsoever for his unacceptable behaviour,” stated the club, adding that Karma Shedrup of Thimphu City FC had physically assaulted Dorji Khandu, and is liable to punishment.

According to the club, the referee had deliberately ignored to carry out his duty diligently and it is an obvious act of favouring the opponent while undermining his professional conduct and ethic.

The club appealed that the BFF disciplinary committee has penalised the owner of the club twice for the same offence. “It amounts to double jeopardy, a technical concept whereby the same person can’t be punished twice for the same offence.”

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The club also mentioned that the official responsible for ensuring security of the match must also be held accountable.

Stuck both in traffic and decisions

Wed, 12/07/2022 - 12:22

Those who listened to the deliberations in the joint sitting of the Parliament yesterday found the discussion relevant, if not impacting them every hour of their life. In reviewing the Public Accounts Committee’s report on safe and sustainable road transport systems, the need, as apparent it is, is safer, reliable and sustainable public transport systems.

The ideas from our elected representatives are brilliant – starting electric trams, digging tunnels and broadening roads, and decongesting the city to create space for an efficient transport system. This is the need of the hour and should be high on any government’s priority. How we do it is a different story.

The need is identified. The road ahead is not clear.

There are challenges. Tunnels can cut distance, but are expensive. A 760 metre-long tunnel cost 40 to 50-km long surface road, according to the works and human settlement minister. Bus rapid transit system is a solution to urban transport, but there is no infrastructure. In fact, there is no space to create the infrastructure even if we have the budget. We have the plans but not the guts to implement it and good plans got sabotaged.

If we need to create infrastructure, we need space. To create space, we need to decongest the city. We had a grand plan to do it. The Lungtenzampa bus terminal was to be shifted to Olakha a long time ago. Now Olakha is more congested than Lungtenzampa. We need a few more bus terminals.

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The fuel station at the mouth of the city, everybody agrees is unsafe and choking the entrance to the city. The Lungtenzampa bridge is faulty in design and unappealing in aesthetics. Yet nothing could be done.

In the meantime, our roads are overwhelmed with vehicles. Traffic policemen who take turns to divert the traffic at Norzin Lam would disagree with many of us feeling proud of being the only country without traffic lights. They must be silently complaining of sore arms every night.

We have invested and invested heavily in road infrastructure. It was the harbinger of development and for the past few decades, it was the priority to the extent that governments were judged based on the roads they built.

Road infrastructure is still important. The priority in the past was access. It is quality today to ensure safety and reliability and shorten travel time. Our urban roads are congested because there are no alternatives. It is common sense to make roads shorter to save time and money. It is not the case in the capital. For instance, there is not a single road to reach Motithang in a straight line from the Sunday market. A resident of Changjalu has to go to Olakha to come back to Changjiji. This is ridiculous yet nobody is complaining or thinking.

What we have achieved is adding pressure on the limited infrastructure. In the capital city, there is a vehicle for two people. This is with bans on the import of vehicles and restrictions on lending. We are late, but not doomed. If we are serious about improving public transport, efficiency, affordability, sustainability and most of all, making hard decisions is the way forward.

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Botanical expedition in Black Mountain

Wed, 12/07/2022 - 12:20

Chhimi Dema

Durshingang or the Black Mountain, which is home to a local deity, Jowo Dungshing, is one of the least explored mountain ranges in Bhutan.

Apart from foresters, researchers, and local herders making a few visits once or twice a year, the place remains largely secluded.

Durshingang, according to researchers, has a wealth of diverse plant and animal species­–some explored and some yet to be explored.

To collect specimens for the National Herbarium and document the rare and endemic plant species in the country from Durshingang, two National Biodiversity Center officials—Phuentsho and Rinchen Dorji went on a botanical expedition in August last year.

The expedition’s outcomes were published in NBC’s Status Report 2022 last month.

What does it take to go on a botanical expedition? What do researchers do during a botanical expedition?

It was Phuentsho’s third trip to the Black Mountain, the only trip when he could reach the mountain.

During his first trip, he could not go beyond Yenduchhu. On the second trip, heavy snowfall stopped the team midway.

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“I heard stories about the mountain when I was young; it has never gone off my mind since then,” he said.

The Black Mountain range, located in central Bhutan, is part of the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park, formerly known as the Black Mountains National Park.

It falls within Wangdue and Trongsa.

Phuentsho and Rinchen Dorji collected more than 40 different plant species, nine of which were new to the National Herbarium.

“We were fortunate to have stumbled upon Primula chasmophila during the excursion, a rare and endemic plant that can only be found on the Black Mountain’s true peaks,” wrote the authors in their article.

Primula chasmophila was rediscovered in 2019, after 82 years.

The two officials also collected Nardostachys jatamansi locally called pangpoe which has medicinal value.

Phuentsho said that such botanical expedition is important to strengthen botanical information and knowledge-base through exploration, collection and documentation of plant diversity in the country.

He said that since the Black Mountain range is separated from the northern alpine area, the area is expected to have some endemic flora and fauna.

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The team travelled from Phobjikha from where three routes lead towards the Black Mountain. They travelled from Zizi to Wangchekha through Sala La.

It took the team 21 days to travel and collect specimens from the mountain.

Rinchen Dorji said that the most memorable moment during the expedition was sighting Primula chasmophila.

“The journey was tough with pouring rain, less drinking water, tough terrain and heavy backpacks. But when I saw the landscape and the plant all the difficulties along the way were forgotten,” he said.

The National Biodiversity Centre has no capital budget for the fiscal year 2022 to 2023.

This is likely to hamper conservation efforts with no budget for officials or researchers to go to the fields for specimen collection or carry out a similar botanical expedition.

Rinchen Dorji said that such expedition or research is important to know what plants are there in the wild or which plants are vulnerable so that efforts can be made to conserve these plants. “It is impossible to make these expeditions at our cost.”

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404 Found brings solutions to growing parking issues

Wed, 12/07/2022 - 12:18

Jigmi Wangdi

A group of young individuals who call themselves 404 Found won the student category of DHI Techhack’s National Entrepreneurship Challenge.

The members—Dorji Thogmey, Tandin Penjor, Ugyen Choden, Pelden Wangchuk, and Jigme Namgyel are students of Gyalpoizhing College of Information Technology.

The group started working on the project two months prior to the competition. Their project is called Smart Parking System.

“Before we began the project, we started thinking about the problems and how we could bring solutions. We thought about the growing parking issues in our towns,” Dorji said.

Dorji added that even when people are able to get a parking, parking fee collectors lie to the drivers and charge higher rates. “That is why we wanted to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning to create an automated payment system.”

How does it work?

Drivers will be registered in the App. When they sign in, they will be taken directly to a map that shows areas where parking areas are free. Green is for available spaces available and red is for the opposite. This will all be shown in the App with the help of a sensor. “We will also have Optical Character Recognition which will recognise the number plates as it is already registered in our system,” said Tandin, a member of 404 Found.

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Tandin further added, “After a vehicle is parked, the driver can use the App to find the location and status of the vehicle, which will show the time and the total fees. The driver can then directly pay from the App. We are doing this so that we can generate trust and transparency in the system.”

What’s more?

The team plans to make a payment method similar to that used by telecom service providers. “Like how people buy data plans from internet providers, which enables them to use the internet, we are also planning on developing our own form of currency, where the users pay us a certain amount and we ensure that they can use the in-App currency to pay,” Tandin said.

Tandin said that many people might think that the coming of the App would render the parking fee collectors jobless. “That will not happen. We have plans to take parking fee collectors as part of our maintenance team.”

Dorji Thogmey said that the project would soon come up with a prototype. The system, he said, could be used in collaboration with other agencies for public benefit. “Once we have a full-proof prototype, we would like to approach the Thimphu Thromde with a proposal and we hope we can get their support especially to install sensors and cameras.”

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Dorji said that their system could assist the police and traffic police as well. “For example, since our system will have data and information on vehicles, we can work with the police to find vehicles that they are looking for.”

The team is working on finalising the prototype and will soon launch pilot projects.

“ Through these tests, we can fix the bugs and other issues before launching it,” said Dorji Thogmey.

The National Entrepreneurship Challenge was a competition organised by DHI to celebrate the 115th National Day of Bhutan.

BHSS football championship to host eight schools 

Wed, 12/07/2022 - 12:18

Thinley Namgay

Eight higher secondary schools have been selected for the upcoming maiden Bhutan Higher Secondary School Football Championship (BHSSFC) in Phuentsholing next month.

The nine-day league cum knockout tournament will commence on January 11 among eight schools that topped the four regional tournaments held between August and November.

The qualified schools are Chukha Central School (CS), Gesarling Higher Secondary School (HSS), Jakar HSS, and Tshangkha CS. The other four schools are Baylling CS, Nangkor CS, Ugyen Academy, and Yangchenphug HSS.

Ugyen Academy and Yangchenphug HSS won the recent western regional tournament in Punakha. Ugyen Academy won both games against Yangchenphug and Shaba HSS.

The regional championship followed a single-league format.

The Baylling CS and Nangkor CS were the eastern regional champions held in Samdrupjongkhar in October. Both teams earned six points each from three games.

Chukha CS and Gesarling HSS got through the southern regional championship in September. From three matches, Chukha won two.

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Jakar HSS and Tshangkha CS sealed their places in the central regional tournament held in August. Jakar recorded four straight wins whereas Tshangkha won three.

The winner of the BHSSFC will represent Bhutan in the South Asia High School Football Championship which is expected to be hosted by Bhutan.

The three-year BHSSFC will be coordinated by the Bhutan Football Federation and the Department of Youth and Sports under the education ministry.

The tournament was supposed to be held at Changlimithang Stadium. However, BHSSFC’s focal person Ugyen Dorji said that the venue was changed to Phuentsholing considering the harsh winter climatic conditions of Thimphu.

In the first phase of the BHSSFC, 71 HSSs from across the country played the district league in a home-and-away format from June conducted by the school sports instructors depending on clusters.

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Twenty district winners were selected for the four regional championships.

BHSSFC aims to foster mass participation in football at the grassroots level and enhance youth football quality.

BHSSFC is also expected to address the growing concerns of regional imbalance in terms of representation at the national level. It will also be an opportunity for the club owners to select competent players for the club.

Parliament decides not to relocate the Thimphu bus terminal  

Wed, 12/07/2022 - 12:17

Thukten Zangpo 

The joint sitting of Parliament yesterday did not support the Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) recommendation to relocate the Thimphu bus terminal.

The House was discussing the review report of the Royal Audit Authority’s performance audit report on the Safe and Sustainable Road Transport System 2022.

However, the House supported the committee’s recommendations that the government should implement Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS), improve bus and taxi stops infrastructure and have information boards to be made available for travelers at the bus terminals or stops.

With the majority of the MPs raising concerns about the safety of the public transport system, the House included the new recommendation that the government should come up with policies and measures for a safe and quality public transport system.

Bartsham-Shongphu MP Passang Dorji proposed an additional terminal and to redesign the existing one.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that there was discussion that the Thimphu’s bus terminal was supposed to be relocated to Damchen Oil distributors in Olakha under the Public-Private Partnership model in 2019.

A three-storey building was to be built at the cost of Nu 2 billion (B) where 30 percent of the total budget was to be injected by the government, he said.

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However, Lyonchhen said that relocation could not be done because it was not certain whether it would resolve the traffic congestion or not and it is of no use if the problem is transferred.

Works and Human Settlement Minister Dorji Tshering said that the ministry has redesigned the Lungtenzampa bridge into a three-storey structure where vehicles would ply in the first and second storey and people can walk in the third storey.

Gasa MP, Dorji Khandu, said that if some of the ministries could be relocated to the other dzongkhags, constructing more flyover bridges and underground tunnels could ease the traffic congestion in the capital city.

On BRTS, he said that in other countries, there are different routes for the public bus, emergency vehicles, and two-wheelers and the government could explore such routes.

Lyonchhen said that the government has plans to pilot the BRTS from Ngabirongchhu to Dechencholing in Thimphu.

He added that when the expressway was planned there was no BRTS.

Lyonpo Dorji Tshering also said that it would not be feasible to construct tunnels. He said that constructing a 760-metre tunnel costs Nu 1.5B and the budget could build about 50 kilometre surface road instead.

Mongar MP, Karma Lhamo, said that the committee should include safety including public transport availability and affordability.

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Members said that the government should also look into the public transport facilities in rural areas.

Chhoekhor-Tang MP, Dawa, said that the local governments can ask for support if the particular area does not have public transport services.

Punakha MP, Lhaki Dolma, said that differently-abled people constitute 2.1 percent of the population and has to be included in a friendly public transport system.

Chairperson Ugyen Tshering said that the agencies concerned had a discussion with the government and there are plans to make public transport friendly for differently-abled people.

Lyonchhen said that the government would distribute the city buses depending on the number of the population.

He said that Thimphu Thromde has a population of 140,000, 18,000 in Phuentsholing, and 8,000 in Samdrupjhongkhar.

Dewathang-Gomdar MP Ugyen Dorji proposed the additional school buses for the school-going children and staggered time for office goers.

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Picture story

Wed, 12/07/2022 - 12:15

The famous Kholong Tshechu in Kanglung, Trashigang began yesterday and will end on Friday. Unlike in the past, the tshechu did not see huge gathering of people.

DoT penalise 24 service providers 

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 11:25

Dechen Dolkar 

The Department of Tourism (DoT) penalised nine non-certified hotels with monetary fines ranging from Nu 10,000 to over Nu 300,000 for providing services to tourists.

The department in collaboration with the Department of Revenue and Customs (DRC), Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA), and Regional Offices of Economic Affairs (RoEAs) conducted random monitoring in Phuentsholing, Paro and Thimphu from October 25 to November 4.

As per the new tourism system, it is mandatory for certified tourism service providers to be validated by the DoT to provide services to tourists.  This measure was taken to validate the readiness of tourism service providers in preparation for the reopening of tourism on 23rd September 2022.

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The department has carried out the validation of tourist hotels and homestays across the country. As of November 2022, 174 tourist hotels and 105 homestays across the country were validated and approved to host tourists.

Officials from the department said that the fine ranged between Nu 10,000 and over Nu 300,000 depending on the size of the groups (tourists). Fines were collected as per the Tourism Rules and Regulations (TRR) 2022, which states that service providers without a valid licence, certification, or registration would be imposed a fine amounting to Nu 50,000 per service.    

A DoT official said that the department issued a series of notifications on the department’s website on July 26, September 9, and October 3, 2022, informing the service providers that non-validated and non-certified tourist accommodations will not be allowed to provide services to guests.

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This was followed by the readiness assessment in different phases. The third phase is underway.

“Despite this, some hotels have not adhered to the department’s requirement,” the official said.

Fifteen tour companies were found to have used the services of such accommodation providers.

The department also penalised 15 tour operators for arranging accommodation for guests at non-validated and non-certified hotels. The fine amount ranges from Nu 10,000 to Nu 100,000.

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The rules and regulations state that failure to arrange accommodation in the tourism-certified accommodation or seek necessary approval would be liable for a fine of Nu 10,000 per person per night. The service provider shall be liable to pay the fine if the service provider arranges such accommodation.

Machine-woven gho and kira 85 percent likely to be purchased in future: RTA

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 11:24

Jigmi Wangdi 

The Royal Textile Academy in Thimphu launched a series of survey reports on the textile industry of Bhutan. One of the studies was on the purchase and consumption of national textiles.

The study also found that the respondents purchased less than five gho and kira pieces 24 months prior to the survey across all three looms. The study shows that machine-woven gho and kira are about 85 percent likely to be purchased in the future compared to a 70 percent on both back-strap and meche looms.

The objective of the survey was to study the consumption trends, consumer opinions on quality and cost of textiles woven on back-strap, meche, and machine looms.

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The study found that 75 percent of the respondents considered gho and kira woven on back-strap loom excellent (35 percent) and above average (40 percent) in terms of quality. However, over 75 percent of the respondents considered gho and kira woven on back-strap loom available in the market to be expensive; over 20 percent considered reasonable.

Similarly, over 50 percent of the respondents considered gho and kira woven on meche loom to be excellent (15 percent) and above average (40 percent) in quality. About 55 percent of the respondents considered gho and kira woven on meche loom available in the market to be very expensive or expensive while around 40 percent of the respondents considered it reasonable.

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Over 25 percent of the respondents considered gho and kira woven on machine loom to be excellent (5 percent) or above average (20 percent), while 65 percent of the respondents considered same textile available in the market average in quality.

Sixty-five percent of the respondents considered the cost of machine-woven gho and kira available in the market to be reasonable; 20 percent of the respondents found it cheap, and 15 percent of the respondents said it was expensive.

In order to increase the demand for back-strap and meche looms, the study recommends a development in the Bhutanese textile industry. According to the survey, a way to improve the sector is by producing ‘aspirational products’, which could be compared to high-end brands from foreign countries.

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The survey also points towards the importance of increasing the value of hand-woven textiles rather than suppressing demand for machine-woven textiles.

The survey had a total of 4,000 respondents out of which 2,745 were female and 1,255 male.

National Day Build-up activities

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 11:23

Jigmi Wangdi

The National Day Coordination Committee (NDCC) launched the activities in the run up to the National Day on December 4. 

The NDCC chairperson, Home Minister Ugyen Dorji said that the National Day holds great significance as it is being celebrated for the first time since the end of Covid-19 pandemic. 

“The celebrations this year will also mark our victory over the pandemic. Our country was able to overcome the pandemic owing to His Majesty’s undying efforts, our people’s devotion to His Majesty and the unity of our people,” Lyonpo said. 

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The celebrations beginning at the Thimphu TechPark focus on youth entrepreneurship in digital technology. “This is because of His Majesty The King’s vision of the youth being the future of the country.”

“The celebrations have major significance for our youth as His Majesty has always stressed the importance of a digitally capable society and the role our youth have in shaping the country’s future,”  Lyonpo said. 

Lyonpo said that the Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck (JNW) super fab lab at the Thimphu TechPark holds great importance. “There are only four super fab labs around the world and because of His Majesty’s vision, we have one here in Bhutan.”

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An official from the NDCC said that the event aims to bring together youths with skills in digital technology. “We want the youth to work together to bring common ideas to life and hone their abilities further.”

The committee’s intention is to give the public a sense of the country’s future when they join the celebrations. “We hope our younger generation will come to the event so that they can learn about the technological aspects of the event,” Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji said. 

The event at the Thimphu TechPark began yesterday and will end on December 9.

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Between December 10 and 17, there will be a CSI and food fair. 

An official from the NDCC said that 90 percent of the people exhibiting their products are all from different dzongkhags. “We will have DeSuung Skilling Project’s food stalls, entertainment, game zones, and other activities,” he said. “We will also be showcasing authentic foods from every dzongkhag.”

The official added that the focus is to promote youth entrepreneurs around the country and their products. This will also allow people to meet and interact with young start-ups and entrepreneurs.

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The event will also hold entrepreneurship awards, product launches, tech displays and demonstrations, outdoor film screenings and host finales of reality shows.

Not a good season for orange exporters

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 11:22

…Farmers and exporters could see the worst season

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Mandarin orange farmers and exporters in the country could likely face a difficult season this year if Bangladesh decides not to import.

As a measure to save its dwindling foreign currency exchange reserves, Bangladesh has restricted many import categories.

In the case of mandarin oranges, one of the most exported cash crops from Bhutan, Bangladesh importers have not yet been able to provide Letter of Credits (LC) without which exporters in Phuentsholing have not been able to export.

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An orchard owner, Pavitra from Lokchina, said the oranges are ready for harvest and export.

“But it is likely we will not be able to sell it off to the exporters due to the LC problem…India is the only market.”

The Indian market, however, is already flooded with domestic production.

An owner of one of the biggest exporters in Phuentsholing, Sonam Tobgay, said they are waiting for the LC. “There are a few with small LCs in the market. But most don’t have LCs. Bangladesh wants to save dollar reserves.”

He said: “Our suppliers are calling us time and again. But importers in Bangladesh do not have LC approvals. This is not good news for the season.”

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Sonam Tobgay has constructed a depot but hasn’t been able to export the fruit.

Peling Exports’ proprietor, Pemba, said that the export season usually starts by November 25. “This season, we have not been able to export…The few LCs are ones approved before November.”

Mandarin oranges and apples are the two top export cash crops from Bhutan.

The exporter says India is not the best market this year.

BBPL to make packing crates

Exporters in Phuentsholing said that the government has given opportunity to the wood industries in the country to manufacture quality crates.

Some exporters say that there is a severe shortage of crates.

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Pemba said that even if there are LCs, there would be a shortage of crates in the market.

Bhutan Board Products Limited (BBPL) will now venture into manufacturing medium density fiberboard crates as an alternative. BBPL inaugurated the product yesterday.

According to the BBPL management, the boxes will be made from the offcuts and factory rejects that are currently being recycled in the boilers at the factory or used as pallets while transporting particle board and furniture to various markets.

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“BBPL considers that putting the offcuts and factory rejects to a good use as a by-product will be a win-win situation for both BBPL and the exporters,” BBPL CEO Sherab Namgay said. “The primary reason for entering into this segment is to bridge a huge demand-supply gap.”

According to BBPL, the preliminary assessment suggests that the total demand for such wooden boxes is in the range of 300,000 to 400,000 boxes per orange season. The price of a box will be Nu 90. BBPL also has 25,000 confirmed orders in hand as of today.

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BBPL crates comply with ISPM 15 standards and other regulatory requirements. The boxes are of superior quality as compared to the wooden ones, BBPL CEO Sherab Namgay said.

Our National Day

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 11:21

Next week, we will celebrate the 115th National Day. It is one of the most important days  and Bhutanese look forward to rejoicing on the occasion every year. 

The traditional splendour of the occasion has become a part of our annual calendar. But we often overlook the greater significance behind the festivities.

While it may be true that all functions represent a deeper meaning and effort far more than is visible, the celebration of Bhutan’s National Day is a culmination of traditional skills, expertise, talent, and reverence of the highest order. It is a solemn, yet thrilling experience. 

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Today, we need no reminder that National Day is more than an annual function. Nearly every Bhutanese student and adult is aware of the day when Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck was unanimously elected as the kingdom’s first hereditary Monarch by the clergy, the officialdom, and representatives of the people on December 17, 1907. We are grateful for the era of peace and prosperity which replaced a difficult period of instability, internal strife, and external threats.

But what we often take for granted is nearly a century of stability and progress which we have seen since the first National Day. We forget that building on the momentum of progress can be more difficult than creating it. We forget that Bhutanese history is being made every day.

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Our elders lament today: “You, young ones, do not know what you have today. You do not realise how far we have come. We used to break our backs to get what you children now take for granted. You don’t appreciate the real significance of progress. You don’t realise the value of what we have achieved as a nation.”  

We fail to appreciate the vision, sacrifices, and commitment of leaders, past and present, which have steered this small kingdom into the 21st century. We sometimes do not realise that Bhutan is one of the most fortunate countries in the world today, not by luck but by foresight, planning, commitment, and effort.

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In His Royal address to the nation last month, His Majesty The King called for all Bhutanese to persevere, forge ahead with resolve and be driven by national aspirations. Such a call should echo around the kingdom every day. Bhutanese, in every corner of the country, must be more aware of national achievements, goals, and priorities. 

With the transformations around, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering put it aptly when he said, “Until now we have been carrying the load according to our strength. Now is the time to exert strength according to the load that we must carry.” 

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National Day, therefore, is not just a function on December 17. It is a time to reflect on our fortunes and our responsibilities every day of every year. 

PAC recommends DoR take over GC road maintenance

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 11:20

Chhimi Dema  

Responsibility of maintaining gewog centre (GC) roads will revert back to the roads department after it was devolved to the local governments more than two years ago.

This was what was recommended by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) during the joint sitting of the Parliament yesterday. The responsibility was given to LGs with a reduced maintenance budget from Nu 45,000 to Nu 30,000 per kilometre.

The Review Report of Performance Audit Report on Farm Road Development and Management stated that the local government does not have adequate skilled human resource, machinery and equipment to carry out timely maintenance, resulting in poor condition of GC, chiwog and farm roads.

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The review report was based on the Royal Audit Authority’s review of systems, structures and processes of farm road development and management covering 13 dzongkhags and 121 gewogs from 2010-2011 to 2020-2021.

National Council’s Paro MP Ugyen Tshering, also the chair of the PAC, said that the performance audit on farm road development and management in Bhutan was conducted with an overall objective to assess the efficiency and effectiveness in the development and management of farm roads.

The committee recommended DoR as per the Road Act of Bhutan 2013 to review strategic master plan, institutional arrangement, road classification system including GC, chiwog and farm road development, inventory management, maintenance and oversight role in ensuring quality management system of the farm roads in the country.

Haa NC Ugyen Namgay, supporting the committee’s recommendation, said that if a national authority works for road management in the country, then it would bring uniformity in the construction of roads.

He said that currently in some gewogs, some farm roads were blacktopped and in some, only the granular sub-base was laid.

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The committee also recommended DoR to review the Guidelines for Farm Road Development, 2019, and rationalise the length of the chiwog and farm roads to be maintained by local government and road user groups.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that the new infrastructure and transport ministry would replace the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement with four departments – surface and air transport, human settlement and infrastructure.

The PAC’s recommendations are the mandates of the new ministry, Lyonchhen said.

During the joint sitting, MPs made proposals for new recommendations from which the committee was directed to look into the inclusion of a budget for bridge construction and a proposal for land substitution while planning for farm road construction.

PAC in their findings stated that there was no classification of roads causing inconvenience on the territorial boundary and availing maintenance budget.

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It was also stated that the road user groups were facing challenges in maintaining the farm roads because farm roads were lengthy and were used by heavy vehicles and machinery for mining, quarrying and logging who do not contribute to the maintenance of the farm roads.

The joint sitting will continue the deliberation on the report and the committee will report on the two recommendations today.

Hand-woven textile sector requires improvement: RTA study finds

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 11:19

Jigmi Wangdi 

The Royal Textile Academy (RTA) launched three survey reports on November 29 in Thimphu. One of the surveys focused on the hand-woven textile industry in Bhutan.

The survey found that most Bhutanese engaged in textile production focused in weaving compared to other areas such as yarn production, processing and dyeing, etc.

It was found that around 50 percent of the households or families derived less than 25 percent of their household income from weaving. Around 85 percent of the weavers in Bhutan weave for their own consumption.

According to the survey, about 55 percent of the weavers used their own savings as investment, 20 percent from the sale of textile products, 15 percent with support from family and friends, and 5 percent was financed by clients who provide the materials.

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The satisfaction level with the quality of traditional Bhutanese fibre types such as cotton, sheep wool, yak wool and nettle is very low. In contrast, satisfaction level with the quality of imported fibre types is very high.

The study found that this could be because traditional Bhutanese fibre types are generally viewed as expensive. Also, accessibility to traditional Bhutanese fibre types is considered difficult, whereas imported fibre types are easily accessible.

The study shows that weaving in Bhutan takes place at home, indicating that weaving in Bhutan is more of a ‘home’ or ‘local’ affair and weavers make the decision themselves regarding the type of product and its production size. This, according to the study, is largely owing to experience, market trends, clientele, etc.

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Weavers face less challenge when customers pay in cash, when payments are immediate, and when middlemen are trustworthy in making payments.

According to the report, around 40 percent of the weavers use their income/profit generated on household expenses, saving it for education, and investing it back into weaving and other areas. Majority of the decisions on the usage of the income generated is made by the weavers themselves and to a certain extent by their spouses.

The study found that around 30 percent of the sellers face some challenges in delivering their products owing to lack of transport and high cost of transportation, including labour charges.

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According to the study, weaving is generally a skill that is largely handed down from a parent to child. Weavers are found to have learnt weaving at all age levels (below 12 years, 13 to 20 and 21 to 30), majority being between the ages of 13-20.

The report recommends that hand-woven textile sector should be transformed into a formal textile industry and institutionalise the textile production system. According to the report, it is also important to establish quality control and supply chain linkages and ensure the availability of easily accessible, affordable, quality Bhutanese fibre types.

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The report also recommends the improvement of weaver’s skills and education by enhancing it mainly by focusing on textile- designing and technical skills, and to a certain extent on business skills.

There were 6,077 respondents of which 99.3 percent were female and 0.7 percent male.

PAC recommends relocating Thimphu bus terminal

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 11:18

To ease congestion and make travel public friendly

Thukten Zangpo 

The Thimphu bus terminal at Lungtenzampa should be relocated with adequate urban transport infrastructure. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recommended this yesterday although relocating the bus terminal had been planned for years.

At the  joint sitting of the Parliament yesterday, PAC’s Chairperson and Paro MP, Ugyen Tshering said that relocating the terminal will ease traffic congestion and make travel more public-friendly.

The recommendations follow findings of the Royal Audit Authority (RAA) report on Safe and Sustainable Road Transport System 2022. The Committee recommended that the government should implement a bus rapid transit system, improve bus and taxi stops infrastructure and information boards to be made available for travelers at the bus terminal or stops.

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Ugyen Tshering said that the committee found out that the people choose private vehicles because of the lack of proper infrastructure like bus stops, bus bays, access to bus stops and bus shelters.

“Encouraging people to use public transport will reduce pollution and other traffic problems. If better public transport facilities are made available, it will discourage use of individual vehicles,” he said.

Ugyen Tshering said that there was no information related to the timing and destination along with the route map available for the travelers at the bus stops.

The RAA report found that although bus and taxi stops were installed, it lacked proper space leading to traffic congestion along urban roads posing safety risks to passengers and other road users.

There are more than 60 buses in the capital today that cater to more than 138,736 people.

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However, according to a study conducted by the information and communications ministry for the drafting of National Transport Policy, there should be at least 60 buses for every 100,000 population. At present, it is short of about 23 buses.

The National Statistics Bureau projects  Bhutan’s population to reach more than 884,000 by the end of 2047. Half of the population is expected to reside in urban areas.

“If the current infrastructure is not improved, it would be even more challenging to manage the traffic with the increasing number of vehicles in the country,” the report added.

The audit report also stated that there are unclear legal and institutional framework in terms of surface transport and weaknesses in monitoring and poor oversight responsibilities.

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The RAA had asked the information and communications ministry to come up with a comprehensive surface transport policy because there was no policy.

RAA had also asked the department of road and Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) to adopt a coordinated approach among relevant authorities in planning, designing, construction and operation of roads to ensure minimum safety standards.

The RAA also recommended making urban transport efficient to address traffic congestion and vehicular pollution.

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Meanwhile, the number of vehicles in the country is growing at an annual rate of 8 to 9 percent with the number of light vehicles tripling since 2005. According to RSTA, there are 125,052 vehicles in the country as of October 2022.  The highest is in Thimphu with 68,435 and the lowest is in Mongar with 2,973.

Records with the Royal Bhutan Police (Traffic division) show that there had been 19,235 motor vehicle accident cases reported with 1,678 deaths and 9,792 injured cases from 2000 to mid 2021.

The deliberation will continue today.

The never-ending land cases in Chang gewog

Mon, 12/05/2022 - 12:19

Four gups and a tshogpa prosecuted so far

Rinzin Wangchuk 

With the vast paddy fields once turned into valuable landed property, land cases in Chang gewog – on the outskirts of the capital city – almost always feature in the cases looked into by the Anti Corruption Commission.

Of the 27 land cases highlighted in the commission’s 2021-2022 annual report, 23 cases were from Chang gewog involving more than 50 acres of state land.

Even as the report is published, a court judgment to restitute about 8.30 acres of state land in the gewog is being enforced. As of June 2021, 3.02 acres of state land had been restituted. From 2006 – 2017, a total of  81.65 acres of land in the country had been reinstated as government land through courts’ orders.

Four former Chang gups and one Tshogpa, who served as local government leaders between 1999 and 2017, were prosecuted, convicted and state lands were being restituted as per court orders. They were involved in fraudulent registration, encroachment and transacting of State land and manipulation of plot sizes at Tshalumaphey, Gangchey, Babesa, Chang Debsi, Lungtenphu, Serbithang, and Gyabjakha, in Chang gewog.

The anti-graft also found there were cases of shifting land from Punakha, Hongtsho and Talakha ( a goenpa high above Babesa) to urban areas through manipulation.

Before the 1980s, many residents of Thimphu owned land in Punakha and Wangduephodrang as well as in Thimphu, but were registered in a single thram even though they were under different administrative jurisdictions.  However, the thram register maintained by the land record authority did not record plot locations.

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From 1980 onwards, the government segregated the registration and placed it under respective dzongkhags based on consultations with individual thram holders. This circumstance presented an opportunity to some landowners and local leaders to falsely claim land in Thimphu, in subsequent surveys, even though the location was in other dzongkhags.


How the issues unearthed

ACC launched various investigations from 2012 after receiving numerous complaints against former Chang gupsfor allegedly registering and transacting state land in Thimphu while serving as gups of Chang gewog.

Investigations revealed a range of illegal activities in collusion with surveyors and public officials.  Some complaints were already reflected in the findings of a high-level investigation conducted by a special committee under the Royal Command in 2002 and 2003.

The ACC also noted that despite many findings of illegal practices in land registration in Thimphu by the high level committee (HLC), not many were enforced strictly. In some cases, authorities allowed suspects to reinstate the land once restituted by the State in consequent to findings of the HLC on the pretext of other circumstances.

During investigations from 2013 to 2015, ACC referred and reviewed Thram history, kashos and executive orders, National Assembly resolutions, survey guidelines, and land transaction documents and sale deeds, consulted officials of the National Land Commission Secretariat (NLCS) and Thimphu Thromde and sought their expert views wherever required.

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ACC’s findings revealed that the rampant illegal practices in the land sector started when the New Sathram Compilation Survey (NSC) was conducted from 1997 to 2003 for the entire country. Local leaders then misused their duties by forging and tampering Chagzhag Thram, Kappa form, land records and surveys maps in collusion with land record and survey officials to encroach and register government land.



What is Chazhag Thram?

In 1961, coinciding with the launching of the 1st Five Year Plan, chain surveys were initiated and the entire country was surveyed from 1961-1966. New thrams were issued to landholders between 1966-1972, which was technically based on the chain surveys. Later, these thrams were posted in a separate register to serve as clerical records. Today, these thrams are known as ‘Acre Thram’ of Chagzhag Thram since the unit of area, for the first time, was expressed in acres. Until then, the unit of measurement was based on ‘langdo’.

These thrams served as a sole authoritative document that recorded and established the legitimacy of ownership title to land. This thram record was extensively used as source record by the survey teams at the time of NSC survey in order to verify the excess land incorporation during detailed survey. It was also used as the basis for settling the disputes for excess land, if any, amongst the land owners.

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Detailed survey

In 1980, the 52nd session of the National Assembly resolved that the government re-survey land holdings throughout the country using modern methods of surveying to derive an accurate and precise basis for land information depicting correct land holdings. This survey was done between 1980 and 1997 and it is widely referred to as Detail Survey/Plane Table cadastral survey.

An important outcome of this survey was that the survey authority was able to generate cadastral maps which could be used as a reference document for subsequent surveys. Surveyors interpreted this map as the original map. The copy of this map was used during the NSC survey to facilitate the surveyors while verifying in the field.


New Sathram Compilation Survey

The NSC was conducted between 1997 and 2003 during which verification of the detailed survey maps with Chagzhag/Acre Thrams were conducted for the entire country. The survey was to verify and validate the legitimacy of exact land holdings of a juristic person in the country. It digitised cadastral maps and thram records.

To conduct this nationwide survey, the DSLR, then subordinated under the Ministry of Home Affairs, had compiled a guideline titled “Guidelines on the NSC 1988”.

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The NSC guideline 1998 outlines important provisions governing the working procedure as well as the acceptable circumstances or preconditions under which the cases of excess land can be considered. To start NSC work, a survey team headed by a team leader was deputed to different administrative locations and the work was carried out jointly with the representatives from the respective dzongkhag and forest division. Verification of land was carried out systematically with the help of cadastral maps and with reference to field draft.


Kappa Form

This is one of the most important field documents containing details pertaining to land holding as per Chagzhag Thram, re-survey, total acreage, legalised land holdings and government land. The land registrar/thram writer was required to provide the Kappa Form containing detailed land holdings of the Thram holder to surveyors for carrying out survey work on the ground. With the details of the landholding of thram holders, surveyors physically verify the land along with the land owner and the Sai tshogpa ( a member from the community).

After updating all the thrams in one gewog, the team conducted a public hearing of the landowners during which the Kappa is read out in the presence of the gewog authorities and sai tsogpa. The landowner, if satisfied, accepts the Kappa by signing or attesting thumb impression on the Kappa with legal stamps. The Kappa is then endorsed and validated by gewog authorities, the sai tshogpa, dzongkhag representative, survey team, coordinator and forest representatives. In this process, new thrams were issued between 2004 and 2005 to landowners.

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The Sa-Thram

The Sa-Thram refers to an officially accepted record of landholdings. There are different kinds of Sa-Thrams. Sa-Thram in government custody is known as Chagzhag Sa-Thram and the ones held by the landowners are known as Lagzha Sa-Thrams or Lag Thram.

The Martham Chem compiled in 1919, revised in 1936 is the earliest Chagzhag Sa-Thram. It contains the landowner’s name, name of the land, number of terraces or bunds, amount of produce and tax payable. Acre Thram, New Thram and National Cadastral Resurvey Programme are subsequent Sa-Thram.

Land Transaction

As per the Land Act 2007,  land transaction means the change of title of ownership to a land by selling/purchasing of land; inheriting of land; exchanging of land; gifting/donating of land; surrendering land to the government; order of court and default of mortgage subject to the applicable laws.”

Land registration means registering land in the Sa-Thram after the transaction, new registration pursuant to grant of Kidu, land substitute or land swapping.

Depending on the location of the land, transaction is processed either through the gewog or thromde. The transaction of land located outside the town is called rural land transaction and the transaction of land within the Throm (town) is called urban land transaction.

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DHI InnoTech organising exhibitions as part of National Day celebrations

Mon, 12/05/2022 - 12:18

Staff reporter 

To celebrate the 115th National Day, Druk Holding Investment’s innovation and technology department (InnoTech) will be conducting a Technology and Innovation Programme starting today at the Thimphu TechPark in Serbithang.

Focusing on the significance of leveraging technology for economic growth and the common good of the society, the programme aims to create a platform to enable conversation, learning, interaction and exploration of concepts and technologies that could transform the Bhutanese economy.

The program has three core components: the national entrepreneurship challenge, the InnoTech interactive exhibition and the InnoTech-Talks.

The five-day programme will be open to the public and the DHI InnoTech will organise free bus service from Changlingmithang to Thimphu TechPark from 9am to 5pm.

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The event will also be hosting a fair consisting of food stalls, musical performances, open mic, movie or documentary screenings, networking programmes, a tour of the Jigme Namgyal Wangchuck super fab lab, workshops and other social activities.

Interested individuals can also exhibit their products by contacting InnoTech through their social media pages to arrange stall space.

The programme at the Thimphu TechPark ends on December 9.

DTT announces three more candidates 

Mon, 12/05/2022 - 12:17

Dechen Dolkar 

Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa (DTT) declared Mani Kumar Ghalay as its candidate from Tashichholing, and Deo Raj Galley from Ugyentse-Yoeseltse in Samtse, and Jampel Dorji from Sombaykha Constituency yesterday.

Mani Kumar Ghalay, 48, served as the Election Commission of Bhutan’s Chief Planning Officer, before resigning this year, after 22 years, to join DTT.

In his 16 years with ECB, he was mostly responsible for crafting plans and policies for the ECB and drafting the agency’s 12th Plan.

Before joining ECB, he taught Bio-Chemistry at Nganglam High School and Samtse Higher Secondary School.

Mani Kumar Ghalay holds a Master of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Texas, USA and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education from Samtse College of Education.

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Deo Raj Ghalley, 47, resigned from Royal Monetary Authority (RMA), this year after working there for 20 years. He was the chief research officer for the Macroeconomic Research and Statistics department of the authority.

Deo Raj served 14 years in the RMA’s Foreign Exchange and Reserve Management department.

He has a Master of Business Administration from Maastricht School of Management, The Netherlands and a BA Honours in Economics from Sherubtse College in Kanglung.

Jampel Dorji, 35, worked for more than 10 years in the tourism and hospitality sector. He served for more than five years in the hospitality industry in Kuwait, Qatar and Dubai. Before that, he worked in the tourism sector within the country.

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Jampel completed his college with a degree in International Hospitality and Tourism Administration from Indra Gandhi National Open University, an academic pursuit he took straight after graduating high school from Good Shepard Institute of Hospitality Management in Kalimpong.

So far DTT has declared 18 candidates.

Seminar for transformation and inclusion of PWDs in development 

Mon, 12/05/2022 - 12:16

Staff Reporter  

Organisations working for children and persons with disabilities recommended forming a consortium to help coordinate efforts and drive a collective voice and action on common agenda.

The organisations met recently during a two-day seminar to raise awareness on the rights, social and economic inclusion of children and persons with disabilities organised by the Ability Bhutan Society (ABS), Bhutan Foundation and Perkins International on December 2 in Thimphu.

According to a press release from the ABS, the consortium can serve as a platform for stakeholders to network, harmonise plans and actions and collectively push the disability and inclusive agenda.

The participants noted that despite the adoption of disability policy in 2010, the expansion of special education needs (SEN) programmes and various guidelines and standards put in place “much remains to be done in addressing the gap between policy and implementation.”

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The national policy on PWD has clauses to develop strategies to make reasonable accommodations and incorporate universal designs in new education infrastructure.

ABS, however, mentions the absence of infrastructure requiring a parent to carry a child to access school facilities like the toilet.

The conference with the theme, Transformative Solution for Inclusive Development in Bhutan, aimed to create awareness of the existing services and policies and bring PWDs closer to the community.

The participants–teachers, educators, early childhood care and development (ECCD) facilitators,  SEN Aid, parents and caregivers, persons with disabilities (PWDs) and civil sector organisation representatives–during the seminar made 10 recommendations to improve services and minimize the impact of disability.

The recommendations were on leveraging the potential of technology for the development of assistive technology to improve accessibility and inclusion and reviewing the current model of SEN schools to expand understanding and integration of inclusive education.

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Proposing a single curriculum with pedagogy and assessment that ensures choices and meets individual needs and strengthen the capacity of teacher and ECCD facilitators were some of the recommendations made during the conference.

Picture story

Mon, 12/05/2022 - 12:16

The 4-day annual Mongar tshechu ended on December 3 with the unfurling of Guru Thongdroel followed by Dramitse Ngachham and Guru Tshengye (eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche) mask dances.  Thousands of devotees gathered to receive blessings.