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Updated: 47 min 13 sec ago

Water supply work for Nobding yenlag throm begins

Tue, 08/24/2021 - 11:12

Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue

Construction of a drinking water supply line for residents of Nobding town, Wangdue began in late March this year.

This is the first of many structures and facilities for Nobding since it was identified as a yenlag throm (satellite town).

According to Wangdue dzongkhag Urban Planner Cheki Wangchuk the structure and local area plan for Nobding yenlag throm was approved in 2018.

He said that structures such as internal roads, sewerage drainage systems, streetlights and footpaths among others would be carried out in the next 20 years, between 2017-2037.

“Right now, we have completed re-plotting and demarcation of the land. We have also issued new lagthrams to the people.”

While reservoir tanks would be built and water would be brought to Nobding, construction of distribution lines will begin after service duct construction completes.

Dzongkhag planning officer Jigme Dorji said that the water supply would benefit more than 2,000 residents of Nobding.

Currently, the residents depend on smaller water sources, which is insufficient. The new water source at Lachuka is located around 7km away from Nobding. The project worth Nu 27.28 million (M) is funded through small development projects.

As part of the yenlag throm, officials are also trying to have an oil distributor operate in Nobding.

Cheki Wangchuk said that the yenlag throm would also consist of eco-trails, and parks for the residents. “Our vision for the throm is to build a vibrant and socially harmonious town which will act as a regional centre or hub for Gangtey, Dangchu, Phobji and Sephu.”

The yenlag throm covers 85.94 acres.

Meanwhile, the need for waste management and collection system in Nobding was also raised during the 10th dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) session held this month.

Dangchu Gup Pemba raised concerns over the lack of budget for the waste management system in Nobding. Most Nobding residents currently burn their waste.

Planning officer Jigme Dorji said that a proper waste management system plan would be executed through the national waste flagship programme in the next financial year.

He said that either a dumping ground in the community or an integrated waste collection system with Bajo would be made.

“If it is integrated with Bajo, the vehicle will go from here, which is expensive. So we are hoping for a dumping ground there.”

Edited by Tshering Palden




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Sarpang gups against pooling engineers in the dzongkhag

Tue, 08/24/2021 - 11:11

They are worried of losing gewog engineers to dzongkhag

Nima | Sarpang

Gups in Sarpang voiced their concerns against restructuring in the dzongkhag engineering sector, where all engineers in the dzongkhag would be pooled together.

The re-organisation plan is expected to enable knowledge sharing, specialisation of engineers and lead to improved work quality as engineers with different expertise and qualification would be stationed together.

Through the reorganisation plan, dzongkhag engineering sector would be reorganised as dzongkhag engineering and human settlement sector with five different sections of human settlement, infrastructure design, municipal service, implementation and monitoring, and compliance section.

Under the infrastructure design section, there would be three units of building, roads and bridge, and water and sanitation.

During the last dzongkhag tshogdu conducted on August 19, most gups said it is important to have engineers in the gewogs.

The DT resolved that gewogs could keep the engineers for a time being, but should abide by the government’s directives and sent the engineers to the dzongkhag.

The DT chairperson, Nim Dorji Sherpa, said local government officials have to support the plans and policies of the government.

He said that although gewogs were supposed to have an accountant, engineer and administrative officer, only some gewogs have the officials today.

“There is a need for an engineer in the gewog, but it is not appropriate to push the government in these difficult times,” he said. “The Department of local government has started to study the challenges faced by gewog administrations.”

Gelephu gup Ugyen Wangchuk said that an engineer plays an important role in the gewog administration.

“We face lots of problems when they are away even for a month. We won’t be able to achieve the set target and the budgets won’t be utilised well if they are stationed in the dzongkhag,” he said.

The dzongkhag could spend only over 70 percent of the total budget in the fiscal year 2020-21 while gewogs utilised almost 100 percent budget, according to the officials from the dzongkhag.

Ugyen Wangchuk said engineers in gewogs are busy compared to the engineers in the dzongkhag, who only look after big projects. “Big projects come once in four or five years whereas in gewogs, many small construction and plans are implemented frequently.”

He said gewogs would not be able to use expertise of engineers if they are stationed in dzongkhag. “Restructuring of engineers in the dzongkhag was a good initiative but it might not cater to the immediate need of the gewogs.”

According to the gup, the government might have to bear extra expenses on travel and daily allowances of engineers once they are pooled in the dzongkhag. “Country is not in a good situation today. The pandemic is far from over. There might be lockdown any time and it’s important that we have them in gewogs.”

Umling gup, Ugyen Norbu, said restructuring the engineering sector was aimed to provide improved services with the limited resource at hand.

He said change should not impact the people. “We were most benefited with the engineers in the gewog.”

Gups said they have to seek approval from the dzongkhag even for a survey in the past when engineers were not placed in gewogs, delaying the service and progress at the grassroots.

Dzongkhag’s chief engineer, Sangay Tenzin, said that there were only limited expertise and professionals in the dzongkhag today. “Engineers are stationed in gewogs, drungkhag and dzongkhag. When gewogs approach the dzongkhag for help, it is not available readily. We have engineers with expertise in water projects and irrigation in the drungkhag.”

He said it is difficult to monitor engineers when they are not stationed together.

There are 14 civil engineers in Sarpang today, six in dzongkhag, three in gewogs, and five in Umling drungkhag. There is one technician each in 11 gewogs and one each in drungkhag and dzongkhag.

The chief engineer said that using the current set of engineers well would be much better with the restructuring of the sector. “Design, estimate, monitoring, and implementation from the beginning of work to end, is done by one engineer today. The quality gets compromised.”

Sarpang dzongdag, Lobzang Dorji, said that the restructuring of the sector was not about taking away engineers from gewogs. “The resource and expertise remain in the dzongkhag whether they are working from gewog or dzongkhag.”

He explained the restructuring plan is as per the Royal Civil Service Commission’s aim to maintain small, compact, and efficient civil service. “It would enable effective use of limited resources in the dzongkhag.”

He also said this is expected to be more convenient, transparent, and there would be more accountability with different people involved in design, estimate, implementation, and monitoring.

Edited by Tashi Dema




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Pemathang farmers wait for agriculture officer 

Tue, 08/24/2021 - 11:10

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupcholing 

The absence of an agriculture extension officer in Pemathang gewog in Samdrupcholing drungkhag, Samdrupjongkhar, has left villagers in a fix. Farmers say they lost more than 100kg of chillies recently because there was no one to facilitate marketing.

Villagers said that despite several requests to the gewog administration, the gewog was left without a replacement after the former agriculture extension officer resigned nine months ago last year.

A farmer, Chandra Bahadur Waglay, 48, said they seek help from the agriculture extension officers of Phuentshothang and Martshala gewogs whenever they are available.

“But since both are large gewogs in the drungkhag, we are unable to reach the agriculture officers when we need. Martshala gewog’s agriculture extension officer visited once so far,” he said.

Another farmer, Ram Chandra, said it became difficult to get seedlings, information on forming cooperatives, and avail farmer training without the official.

“It is more challenging when the insects affect the crops because we don’t know how to deal with it,” he said. “It’s high time for the concerned authorities to send a replacement.”

“We cannot blame Phuentshothang and Martshala gewog’s agriculture extension officers for not turning up because they also need to attend to their respective gewogs,” a farmer, Subba Chettri, said.

Officiating Samdrupjongkhar agriculture officer, Chorten Tshering, said that they have submitted the requisition to the department in Thimphu three times so far.

He said the department has instructed them to wait until December this year. “The dzongkhag agriculture officer has been helping the people in the gewog whenever required.”

Edited by Tshering Palden




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Wangdue DT decides to relocate crematorium

Tue, 08/24/2021 - 11:10

Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue

Around 35 funeral rites were performed at Wangdue dzongkhag’s cremation ground near Wangdue dzong this year alone.

According to the crematorium caretaker, Ugyen Zangmo, this is a rise from around four before the pandemic.

With more bodies turning up at the dzongkhag’s crematorium, the narrow road leading to the crematorium, lack of proper guesthouse, and other facilities such as kitchen have become a major concern.

Considering these issues, the dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) members during its 10th session last week decided to relocate the crematorium.

Wangdue Rabdey’s Drungchen Nima said that the current crematorium lacked a proper space to keep the corpses and rooms for the relatives to stay.

He said that Tshochungthang, located near the existing crematorium near the Punatshangchhu which had enough space and was an ideal site for a crematorium.

Following discussions on the clearances from the environment and forest sector, the members agreed on the new location.

The members suggested building guesthouses and a lhakhang to perform the rituals, among other structures at the new site. 

According to chief dzongkhag engineer Tshering Chophel, the new location was below the existing crematorium and belonged to Wnagdue Rabdey. He added that a road could be connected to the area from a different route.

A proper survey is yet to be conducted to estimate budget and work to begin.

Meanwhile, members discussed blacktopping the road to the existing crematorium.

A recent survey estimated  blacktopping and drainage costs to be around Nu 2.7 million. While concerns over parking space at the crematorium were raised, DT members deliberated that the existing location didn’t have room for expansion.

DT Thrizin Tenzin Wangchuk said that investing money on the crematorium, which was to be relocated, will waste budget.

The DT forewent blacktopping and decided to maintain the road if the relocation took time.

Edited by Tshering Palden




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Bailey Bridge at Rothpashong to come in next fiscal year

Tue, 08/24/2021 - 11:09

Tshering Namgyal  | Mongar

A bailey bridge over Kurichhu river at Dorjilung, commonly known as Rothpashong area, would be built in the next financial year, according to the Department of Roads (DOR) officials.

The chief engineer of DoR regional office in Lingmethang, Mongar, Kinzang Dorji said the parts for the bridge would be supplied by Punatshangchu. However, the budget for the construction of abutment and wall would be proposed in the next financial year due to inadequate budget for this financial year.

“Even zhabtog lyonpo during his recent visit has agreed and the bridge is confirmed,” Kinzang Dorji said.

However, the chief engineer said DoR officials are yet to confirm the exact location of the bridge. According to the old survey and design, the site had been confirmed as the area near the existing suspension bridge.

However, DoR officials are planning to shift the location a kilometer upstream towards Lhuentse to avoid the landslide-prone area which often blacked the highway in summer.

The chief engineer shared the status of the bridge at the recent dzongkhag tshogdu that ended last week.

Tsamang Gup Sonam Dargay said that the road from Banjar via Pam in Tsamang gewog was connected in the financial year 2018-19 and following which the survey for the bailey bridge was conducted by the regional DOR office, dzongkhag engineering sector, and the gewog administration jointly.

However, he said there was no progress on the bridge.

Kinzang Dorji also explained the progress of road widening between Phrumsengla and Yongkola, and the plan to widen and improve the Yongkola to Dorjilung bypass highway.

Of the five contract packages on the Phrumsengla-Yongkola stretch, he said three were awarded and tender for one has been floated. The last package would also be tendered out soon, the chief engineer said.

While the widening work on this stretch is expected to complete by 2023, Kinzang Dorji said the road from Yongkola to Dorjilung would be widened simultaneously as the zhabtog lyonpo has agreed to propose its budget in the next financial year.

Once the bridge completes travelling distance between Lhuentse and Thimphu is expected to be shortened by more than 32 kilometers. The road will not pass through Gangola junction in Mongar while the people of Tsamang travelling to Mongar town or Lhuentse will enjoy similar benefits.

Edited by Tshering Palden




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Archers complain no uniformity in implementing Covid-19 protocol

Tue, 08/24/2021 - 11:08

Thinley Namgay  

The number of players during an archery game is still limited to 10. This is the threshold set by the National Covid-19 task force in the wake of the pandemic.  

Despite the standing regulation, most of the archery matches today — official and informal — are seen with more than 10 players.   

An official from the Bhutan Indigenous Games and Sports Association (BIGSA) said that the association had sent an official letter to the DeSuung head office requesting deployment of desuups at the archery ranges to ensure the threshold set by the government is maintained.

BIGSA official said that until the notification from the government, the association was not able to do anything.

Following the first nationwide lockdown in August last year, the government allowed sporting activities in a phase-wise manner.  All sporting events were permitted beginning March this year. However, new protocols developed by the Bhutan Olympic Committee in consultation with national sports federations and associations were put in place.   

According to officials, desuups and BIGSA officials monitor the number of crowds at the two Changlimithang archery ranges. However, the situation is different in most of the private archery ranges around the capital and other dzongkhags. There are no desuups regulating the crowd. 

An official from the DeSuung head office said that it was difficult to deploy desuups in all the archery ranges. 

The official said that the DeSuung office had deployed desuups to monitor the games following the request from BIGSA but was recently suspended given the manpower shortage. “While the office would revisit the issue, archers must be responsible and follow the protocol.”  

In the meantime, archers are not happy with the restriction set by the government. 

An archer, Sangay, said that it was not fair for archery players when rest of the games and sports were going on as usual without any restriction. “As long as we follow all safety measures, there shouldn’t be any problem. In archery, two teams are playing the entire day, and risk of Covid transmission is comparatively lower compared to many other sports.”

He said that a game of football involved more physical contact than an archery match. “Twenty-two players are involved in a game for more than an hour. After every hour new teams arrive and in the process most of them get mixed, increasing the probability of transmission.” 

Another archer said that there was no uniformity in imposing the player restriction.  “Most of the archery ranges outside Thimphu are privately owned and there are no protocols followed there.”

Edited by Tshering Palden




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Controlling inflation

Tue, 08/24/2021 - 11:08

The official inflation rate is recorded at 4.94 percent as per the latest report this year. On the ground, many are feeling the heat this summer as  prices of essentials have almost doubled in the last one year. The poor and the middle income group are affected the  most.

Increased food prices mean the low-income group are  cutting down on food items like meat and dairy products. Many families are also struggling to afford basic necessities.

One evidence of the rising cost of essentials is how Bhutanese are cutting down on offerings, a critical part of our life. Many say they  have either reduced their butter lamp offerings or are contemplating reducing it because ‘dalda’ has become unaffordable. A box of the hydrogenated fat  that cost about Nu 900 at the beginning of last year cost more than Nu 1,800 to Nu 2,000.

Egg price is the latest to hit the consumers. Although it is the only food item that we can proudly claim of being self sufficient, there is no control on the price of eggs because we still import layers, broilers and feed.

Inflation, if not controlled could push many Bhutanese, who lived above the poverty line below the poverty line. It is also a difficult time when most people have lost jobs because of the pandemic and are surviving on ‘kidu’.

Economists explain more flow of money in the economy and shortage of stocks cause inflation. In the present context, as an import driven economy, the problems associated with import of essentials is the probable cause of inflation.

The government claimed inflation in our market is because of inflation in India. That is one fact. There are areas where policy making can keep a tab on the rising cost, goods or services . Inflation, especially the increasing price of essentials, house rents, and fuel is impacting the people of lower-income group.

The government could intervene in areas like the ever increasing  house rents. It cannot be left to the market forces alone.  In times of the pandemic, house owners  benefiting from the fiscal and monetary policies like the interest waiver, deferred payment of loans should have played a role in checking inflation  by letting the benefits   trickle down to the tenants. Most Thimphu residents spent about 60 percent of their income on house rent.

Cost of utilities are another burden on the already burden consumers. Unfortunately, price regulation is also poor in the market. Our market is flooded with goods that have no fixed prices.

Everyone understands that improving our own food production is the only way out to tackle increasing food prices. But we have also been discussing that for decades. The pandemic has only exposed our vulnerabilities. Although efforts are made, we are far from producing what we need.

Our high-cost economy is another challenge. Cost of production is always high. Reviving the economy will not be possible if policies are not framed and implemented to address the existing problems.




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Financial sector performance improving

Tue, 08/24/2021 - 11:07

MB Subba 

The five banks and non-banking lenders recorded a net profit (after tax) of Nu 1.63 billion (B) at the end of the first quarter 2021, according to the financial sector performance report of the central bank.

This is an increase of Nu 1.625B from a meagre profit of Nu 4.7 million (M) at the end of the first quarter of last year.

The quarterly review report highlights the performance of the Bhutanese financial sector based on the reports submitted by the financial institutions.

The interest income of the financial institutions increased from Nu 2.979B to Nu 6.045B during the period. The financial institutions’ interest expenses increased slightly from Nu 2.022B to Nu 2.514B.

One of causes of the increase in the profit was the increase in the loan amount that the financial institutions had disbursed to stimulate economic activities amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

An official said that the financial institutions had come up with various credit products to boost the economy and to offset the impact of the pandemic and that the non-performing loan (NPL) had also decreased during the past one year. “The financial institutions have launched various products like short-term loans to local industries for import of raw materials to deal with the impact of the pandemic.”

The total loan at the end of the first quarter increased to Nu 169.8B from Nu 158.928B at the end of the first quarter of last year.

However, NPL decreased from Nu 28.162B to Nu 24.754B during the period. The amount of NPL decreased by 12 percent while the gross NPL ratio decreased from 17.72 percent to 14.58 percent. 

Figures show that out of the total loans, the service and tourism sector has the biggest chunk of the loan with Nu 44.7B (28 percent) followed by the housing sector with Nu 41.368B (26 percent) and trade and commerce sector with Nu 19.9B (12 percent).

An analysis of the loan portfolio shows that the financial sector has loans highly exposed towards the service sector with an NPL ratio of 29 percent. This is followed by trade and commerce sector, and production and manufacturing sector with NPL ratio of 19 percent each.

The capital fund of the financial institutions stood at Nu 22.948B in March 2021 as compared to Nu 21,065B in December 2017.

The capital fund is the main source of financial support and acts as a buffer that enables financial institutions to absorb a level of losses without the interest of creditors and depositors being adversely affected and protects the interest of the creditors and depositors in the event of liquidation.

Besides absorbing the unanticipated shocks, the capital fund also signals that the institution will continue to honour its obligations.

Edited by Tashi Dema




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Picture story

Mon, 08/23/2021 - 11:20

 Lead by Zhung Dratshang’s Laytshog Lopon Sangay Dorji, a group of lams and monks are conducting a week-long kurim and rituals at Rinchending Goenpa in Phuentsholing

MoAF to revamp buy-back scheme

Mon, 08/23/2021 - 11:20

Chhimi Dema 

The agriculture ministry will revamp the buy-back scheme and improve the agricultural marketing system in the next three years, according to Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor.

The scheme was introduced to provide an assured market for agricultural commodities to ensure that the farmers do not run into total loss and to encourage them for future production.

Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor said the current buy-back scheme helps farmers, but the government risks incurring heavy loss since there is no assurance to market the produces.

The government buys potato, cardamom, areca nut, ginger, cabbage, beans, carrot, maize and paddy under the scheme.

Under the scheme, the government spent Nu 20.74 million (M) in 2019 to buy 50 metric tonnes (MT) of farm produce and Nu 70M in 2020 to buy 3,000MT of farm produces.

To buy cabbage under the scheme, the government incurred a loss of more than Nu 2.7M and the Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited incurred the loss for Nu 30M last year.

Sources said the cabbages were dumped in Wangchhu at Damchu later.

According to Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor, the ministry will soon revamp the current buy-back scheme and call it buying-back at the source.

He explained that under the new scheme, price of the produce would be considered on three criteria like location of the produce, seasonal growth and nutritional index.

He cited how the price of chilli should be different in Trashigang and Thimphu, and  that the price in December should be different from June. “If the chilli does not hold nutritional value, then the buy-back price should be lower.”

He also claimed the buy-back price set by the government should be competitive, meaning that the price the government fixes should be attractive for the farmers to sell to the government. “If the price is fixed based on availability during the season, farmers would attempt to produce during the lean season.”

He said that with the buy-back scheme if the price is competitive and market assured then people would be encouraged to produce more.

Lyonpo said that after buying from the farmers, the government also must create two avenues of marketing­ like value addition export and raw export.

“After buying the produce, the produce should not be wasted but exported with a better price or set up value chain and storage system,” he said, adding that cold storage system allows an opportunity for the government to sell at a good price when the produces are in demand.

Three cold storages are under construction in Wangdue, Sarpang and Khaling. The ministry plans to construct five more cold storage units within this fiscal year.

Lyonpo said that there are opportunities for the private sector or youth cooperatives to invest in certification systems, packaging, storage or transportation of the farm produces.

“The risk factor in the RNR sector is high so the private sectors are not bold enough to venture into it and the government should prove that it is worth investing,” he said.

He, however, said that until buy-back at the source is implemented, the current buy-back scheme will continue. “We need to continue this in the pandemic situation so that the farmers do not run into a total loss.”

 



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Agriculture marketing 

The minister also claimed the ministry is working to improve the agricultural marketing situation, which is a production-driven market today.

He said that the proposal to revamp the agricultural marketing system will be submitted to the government. “By 2023, the country would have a better marketing system.”

He said that with the closure of the border and when trade was formalised, they realised that they had been complacent on informal trade.

He said that exporters did not bother about maintaining the quality of agricultural produce, good packaging or adding value to the produce. “After the auction, they did not explore where the produces were exported to or the price fetched.”

To improve the agricultural marketing system, the ministry is working on an application to show the production of RNR produces in different dzongkhags.

“The application would also allow the extension officers to provide information about the quantity of production and the timing of harvest to the Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives (DAMC),” Lyonpo said.  “DAMC will then facilitate sharing the demand from market centres and give it to the farmers.”

The application was developed to manage the agricultural marketing chain in the first and second lockdown.

Edited by Tashi Dema




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Space Science and Technology lessons to begin by year-end 

Mon, 08/23/2021 - 11:19

Yangyel Lhaden  

What do I require to survive on the Moon? How can I design a satellite mission? How do I design a prototype of a space rover to explore another planet by using satellite images?

Among others, these are what students of Classes IX-XII  will learn in the newly incorporated space science and technology (SST) lessons of the New Normal Physics curriculum (NNPC) which began this year.

Developing the curriculum started in 2020 and was completed the following year along with teaching or learning materials by local experts from the Royal Education Council (REC), the division of telecom and space (DTS), and the education ministry.

A DTS official said that 21st-century education emphasised on development of transversal skills of critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, and collaboration. For that engagement in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education was crucial, the official said.

REC’s Dean and Curriculum Specialist II, Wangpo Tenzin said: “Our government mandates STEM as one of the essential crucial tools in empowering transverse skills and also engender scientific temper and interest to learn and do science.”

He said STEM education has always remained one of the crucial learning areas. “Therefore, elements of space physics existed in the old physics curriculum across various key stages.”

REC’s Curriculum Developer ( Physics), Phuntsho Norbu said although space physics existed in the old curriculum it was more of theory and lacked practical lessons for students to have first hands-on experience.

A DITT official said SST in NNPC’s main objective was to present a hard science topic in a fun and interesting manner.

Phuntsho Norbu  said SST in NNPC  involved theory and practical lessons. Students would also build models and track satellites through software available on the internet. “There is so much for students to explore, self-study, and critically analyse.”

New Normal Curriculum Physics

Phuntsho Norbu said materials for SST in NNPC was developed as a separate package was distributed to all schools last week.  “Incorporating SST in a textbook by revising the old physics textbook authored by foreigners is not feasible.”

He said SST was inserted as the last chapter of the syllabus to provide enough time for teachers to prepare. “ We are aiming for a face-to-face orientation.”

Class IX students would learn about the moon, Class X students will be taught space exploration,  Class XI students about space technology and applications, and Class XII about satellite development.

A DITT official said topics could be treated as introductory lessons. “The initiative is closely linked with recent global developments in the space industry as well as complementary to the advancement of other emerging technologies.”

In Class IX students are taught how to make nine life-supporting systems on the moon. The background of the teacher’s guides reads a future lunar pace to be a self-contained habitat with all life support systems necessary for the survival of people, animals, and plants.

Students will be taught how to make life-supporting systems through materials such as straws, strings, rubber bands, tapes, card boxes, and hoses.

Way forward

Phuntsho Norbu said through NNCP it was expected to ignite interest in students so that they could find a career in the SST field in the international market. “The future is SST and this is our first step in introducing SST to students.”

A DITT official said that as the integration of SST was a recent initiative it was preemptive to embark on a full study on the space job market. “However, informally officials are carrying out research studies on the space job market and monitoring the impact of this intervention in the Physics curriculum.”

Phuntsho Norbu said in collaboration with DITT they were also developing series of SST books for classes PP-XII. 

Edited by Tshering Palden




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Chaskhar farmers revives paddy cultivation in 70 acres field after a decade

Mon, 08/23/2021 - 11:18

Tshering Namgyal | Mongar

After Chaskhar gewog in Mongar allocated Nu 6 million budget to restore irrigation water source at Gudari, farmers of Pam chiwog revived paddy cultivation in more than 70 acres of fields at Frokpulung this year.

The 6.7kms irrigation restoration work was executed through a community contract.

Chaskhar gup, Pema Dorji, said more than 60 households benefitted from the repaired irrigation canal. “We also increased the intake at the source.”

He said there are more than 100 acres of dry land remaining fallow because of lack of irrigation water.

Farmers are happy.

Paithey, 66, of Pam chiwog in Chaskhar gewog, Mongar, remembers harvesting more than 800 drey (measuring bowl) of rice from his paddy fields in Frokpulung decades ago, but lack of irrigation water forced them to leave the fields fallow. “The water source dried up.”

He said they did not buy imported rice then as what was harvested was more than self-sufficient for the family. “But we depended on imported rice after we stopped cultivating.”

Paithey is now happy.  With the paddy fields looking lush green and promising, he is hoping for a similar yield he harvested 15 years ago.

“The soil is more fertile here in the lower altitude and I’ve no doubt about the yield this year as well,” he said.

Another landowner, Rinchen, said she is even hoping to sell rice and earn some income.

Edited by Tashi Dema




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Wangdue farmers affected by electricity lines want land replacement 

Mon, 08/23/2021 - 11:18

Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue

A farmer in Chungsaykha village of Phangyul gewog, Wangdue, had been waiting for the last two years to construct a new house. She has the documents and materials ready for the construction.

However, construction is yet to begin.

This, she said, was because the new house, which would be bigger than the present one, fell right below electricity lines.  “Everyone says that the roof of the new house would touch the electricity lines,” Tshering Wangmo said.

Tshering Wangmo only owns 11 decimals land as chimsa (Land for house) and relocating the house would be difficult. “The land behind the current house is government land and in the front, the house falls right under the electricity lines,” she said.

Her case is not isolated.

Many homeowners in Daga gewog faced similar problems due to the gewog’s close proximity to Punatsangchu Hydroelectric Project.

The 10th dzongkhag tshogdu session also discussed the matter.

Daga mangmi, Sonam Lhamo, said that while people received land replacements when electricity poles were installed on private lands, there is no land replacement when electricity lines impact houses.

She said that farmers, who do not own much dry land, are impacted as they could only cultivate and not construct houses when electricity lines run above their land.

Dzongkhag land registrar, Gyembo, said that a circular issued in 2013 states people should be provided with land replacement when their land was used for installing larger electric poles.

Cases in regard to having electric lines over private lands aren’t given land replacement.

Gyembo, however, said some cases were also considered and land replacement was given to individuals, who owned only fewer decimals of lands and didn’t own any other dry land.

Bhutan Power Corporation’s senior divisional manager, Dil Kumar Rasaily, said that house constructions are not allowed under electricity lines for safety as breaking of the high voltage electric lines posed risk to the residents.

He said that the economic affairs ministry was currently framing the rehabilitation and resettlement guideline, which he added might address the concerns.

Edited by Tashi Dema




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Hydroponics option to address youth unemployment 

Mon, 08/23/2021 - 11:17

Yangyel Lhaden

To attract youth into modern agriculture employing smart farming technologies linked with Internet of Things technologies, the agriculture ministry is seeking proposals to support.

The ministry’s Agriculture Production Division (APD) has invited proposals from interested youth entrepreneurs wishing to take up hydroponics farming and has received five proposals to date.

Deputy Chief Horticulture Officer with APD, Tsheltrim said that they targeted youth as rising youth unemployment rate is a concern with many  young overseas returnees were laid off and interventions to engage them in a business-as-usual mode might be futile. The division received budget to upscale and promote hydroponics.”

Fundamental prerequisites for the projects require 20 percent equity from individuals and land either owned or leased will have to be ensured. The proposals will be screened for authenticity, seriousness, and areas for fund support.

He said proponents would present their proposal at the end of this month and if the project proposals exceed the fund available the proposal would be further screened at the departmental level. “The amount ceiling will depend on the proposals and areas which we can support.”

Individuals after their project proposal approval will receive materials and equipment to set up hydroponics system. Individuals will also be consistently monitored and trained by agriculture research and development centre researchers.

Tsheltrim said they will also use experiences of the existing private hydroponics for training youth.

Unlike traditional farming, hydroponics is not labour intensive and all a farmer needs to is monitor the pH, temperature, and nutrient level in the water with instruments. The system can grow plants and vegetables much faster than on the conventional setting in soil with less water and in a small space.

Tsheltrim said researchers are confident to promote hydroponics after several trials. “Officials are capable of delivering technical support on hydroponic system development and customising systems to best suit our location.”

He said nutrient formulation was one of the challenges of hydroponics and several trials on crops were conducted to formulate our own nutrient composition. “Only nutrient formulas tested and tried will be provided to youth.”

Tsheltrim said the project’s long-term goal was to promote gender-friendly farming options which could produce more from a small area, reduce drudgery, and reduce pest and disease incidences.

He said hydroponics was an option for future farming in urban and peri-urban areas where land and water were a limitation.

Edited by Tshering Palden




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Lone honey maker of Haa encourages youth to take up bee-keeping

Mon, 08/23/2021 - 11:17




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Phub Dem |  Paro

Growing up with his father, who is an apiarist involved in introducing beekeeping in Bhutan, Leela Raj Pulami from Tsirang was interested in beekeeping from an early age.

Before completing his Masters in Business Administration, he had a business proposal to start a modern beekeeping business in Haa ready.

He picked up 84 queen bees from Bumthang three years ago and established the farm in Namchu under Katsho gewog, leasing 70 decimals apple orchards. He pays Nu 12,500 a month.

The bee-keeping farm has about 90 bee colonies today. Each colony produces around 20 kilogrammes of honey.

Leela Raj Pulami earns Nu 1.2M annually by harvesting two metric tonnes of honey, which is harvested once a year, towards mid July. He sells a bottle of honey for Nu 350 and it often cost Nu 500 in the market.

He targets to have 500 bee colonies. Currently, he is multiplying colonies by breeding and grafting queen bees. He has added 33 new colonies so far.

Marketing his honey to Thimphu and Paro, he said he did not face market problem. “Sometimes we run out of stock and are not able to meet the demands from the local market.”

Honey from high altitudes is considered pure and has medicinal values as bees feed on high altitude herbs and flowers.

While there is potential to export the product, he said it was challenging to meet the local demands. “If I reach my target of 500 colonies, I might explore exporting them.”

He said that foreigners usually place their orders via email, but it was difficult to export a few cartoons considering high shipping charges and taxes.

Meanwhile, Leela is worried about organic production of honey.

He said there was no organic honey production in the country for now. “Organic beekeeping is not possible unless the whole village becomes organic as bees feed on chemical sprayed crops.”

As Haa remains cold for a more extended season, the beekeeper said he ran short of stock by November.

His final task for the year is ‘overwintering feeding’ with sugar syrups in October to brave the cold deserted winter. “We do not have to touch or look after them for five months.”

He said beekeeping is one of the easiest businesses one can do, along with farming. “There is little work, but the return is amazing.”

The honey production, he said, depends on the weather pattern, adding that heavy rainfall shreds flowers, leaving less nectar for bees. “The success of beekeeping would solely depend on weather, rainfall and flowers.”

Domesticated honeybees and agriculture have been linked to each other for many years. Locals said that those orchards residing near the bee farm bear good fruits.

According to the Haa dzongkhag livestock production officer, Kipchu, the lone private beekeeper had encouraged locals to take up the practice, adding that two youth are provided with five beehives and colonies each and was attached with him to learn the process.

He said that the dzongkhag livestock office had been encouraging locals to take up the practice, but due to religious sentiments, it was difficult. “However, many unemployed youths are interested in beekeeping and we expect many to come forward. We have plans to make a beekeeping cooperative in Haa.”

He also said that Leela Raj Pulami and his father, who has 22 years of experience in beekeeping, could be of immense help for locals to take up the practice.

The Department of Livestock launched the National Apiculture Strategy and Action Plan to enhance apiculture development last year.

The action plan highlights the critical issues and provides a practical approach to optimise the sustainable utilisation of the rich diversity of honeybee resources for the benefit of the people.

It states that the beekeeping industry in Bhutan has enormous potential for large-scale production due to the presence of indigenous species of bees and diverse nectar-rich vegetation in its most pristine natural environment.

Recognising the importance of beekeeping, the apiculture programme is included in the 12th Plan. The National Highland Research and Development Centre in Bumthang is mandated to coordinate and implement the National Apiculture Program (NAP).

Edited by Tashi Dema




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Tensung FC lost both the games to Paro FC 

Mon, 08/23/2021 - 11:16

Staff reporter   

Paro FC (Tigers) defeated Tensung FC 3-0 to level up with the defending champions, Thimphu City FC, in the ongoing BoB Bhutan Premier League, at the Changlimithang Stadium yesterday.

Paro FC’s Yeshi Dorji scored an early goal in the sixth minute with an assist from skipper Jigme Tshering Dorji. Five minutes later, an error from Tensung’s defender, Nidup Dorji, gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead.

Tensung were provided with an opportunity to get back in the game after the referee pointed to the spot following a handball from one of Paro’s players inside the box. However, striker Ngawang Tobgay could not capitalise on the opportunity.

Tensung resorted to a defensive approach in the second half. The new gameplay did work in favour of the soldiers, but only for a while. Paro’s young striker, Tobden Drakpa, managed to break through the soldiers’ defence to make it 3-0 for the Tigers in the 76th minute.

Paro FC’s head coach, Puspalal Sharma, said that winning the three points from an away game was encouraging. He said that the opponents did manage to intercept a lot of their ‘penetrative passes’ in the second half.

Paro defeated Tensung 5-0 at home during the first round on July 15.

Tensung’s coach, Namgay Tshering, said that the outcome of the match could have been different had they capitalised on the penalty. He added that the absence of his goalkeeper after an injury also made a difference in the game. “All in all, despite the loss, our boys played well.”

With 35 points each, Thimphu City FC and Paro FC are currently leading the league. The defending champions however remain on top of the league table as of yesterday, on goal difference. Thimphu City thrashed Paro Rinpung FC 10-1 on Saturday at the Woochu Sports Arena in Paro.

Transport United FC will face Gelephu FC tomorrow at the Changlimithang Stadium.

Edited by Tshering Palden




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Key to the Covid-19 fight 

Mon, 08/23/2021 - 11:15

Phuentsholing residents are rejoicing the absence of Covid-19 cases  from their localities and hoping that the situation improves. It has been more than a week since the last positive case.

This has come after a lot of sacrifices and hard work on the part of many including the task force, front line workers and most of all the residents, themselves.

Despite the reassuring success in containing the virus in the town, villagers of Sampheling and Phuentsholing gewogs still remain on guard.

While both gewogs are located along the porous international border and in close proximity to Phuentsholing town, the gewogs successfully kept the virus away. While neighbouring Phuentsholing reported 630 positive cases, the two gewogs reported not a single positive case.

In Sampheling gewog, each household of six villages along the border has signed undertakings to follow the Covid-19 safety measures. The head of the family is responsible for the family.

Phuentsholing gewog has village volunteers, residents who help in surveillance and work with front line workers at the points of entry. They have been instrumental in keeping their community safe despite a l large group of people moving between the town and the gewog.

The residents attribute their success to being responsible for their own safety and preemptive measures that the local administrations initiated.

Their success echoes the message of the coronation address of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo: “A little effort on your part will be as much more effective than a great deal of effort on the part of the government.”.

We need to drive this message through and through especially because the government or the State cannot afford to be bogged down with the minute issues that the community level. Also because the complacency setting in among the public can herald dangerous consequences.

For instance, the Zhemgang dzongkhag Covid-19 task force recently fined some offices, institutes and individuals for not complying with Covid-19 safety protocols. People were caught without face masks and the establishments without proper handwashing facilities.

This behaviour relates to the Peltzman effect. We become more careful when we sense greater risk and less careful if we feel more protected. That is natural and being human.

While this behaviour is dangerous for the general public, this can be disastrous for health care workers who are in contact with Covid 19 patients every day.

The Covid-19 committees need to monitor compliance strictly and report to the respective task forces in case of any issues. For that, a reporting system can suffice. We also need more inspection for compliance in shops, offices and other establishments to ensure compliance.

It is crucial to vaccinate the majority but it is also equally important to be aware of the Peltzman effect. We need to be on guard now and even beyond herd immunity.




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Villagers better at Covid-19 surveillance

Mon, 08/23/2021 - 11:14




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Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Sampheling and Phuentsholing gewogs in Chukha are considered vulnerable to Covid-19 outbreak due to the porous international border and proximity with Phuentsholing town, but the gewogs did not have any positive cases until now.

Gewog officials attribute the success to a centralised management system where villagers volunteer to take up surveillance responsibilities.

In Sampheling gewog, gewog officials have started a system called Covid-19 guard where households in six vulnerable villages have signed an undertaking to take responsibility at individual level.

Sampheling gewog administration officer (GAO), Passang Dorji, said the head of the household takes the responsibility of the entire family.

“We have signed an agreement,” he said.

“Even shops and tenants living in the villages have signed the agreement.”

He explained the undertaking mandates people to follow all Covid-19 prevention norms.

“Villages like Kothiline, Pana A, B, and C not only share porous borders with India, but the borders are quite open. The risks are huge. But not a single positive case has been reported.”

Passang Dorji also said the surveillance system was initiated last year after a series of meetings and consultations with the people.

“Dzongdag, police SP, and taskforce representatives were also present,” he said. 

He said people were sensitised on government and public responsibilities.

Passang Dorji said Sampheling villagers have also been contributing all the labour works required for any construction purposes in tackling the Covid-19.

He said there is another group called “village volunteer,” who volunteers along with security personnel and de-suups in different areas.

Phuentsholing gewog also practices the same Covid-19 guard system. Villagers have signed the agreement.

As it shares close proximity with Phuentsholing town from Toorsa, there are about 36 such village volunteers.

Phuentsholing GAO, Tenzin, said the village volunteers ensure there are no mass or public gatherings.

“They also monitor the Covid-19 protocols. Most importantly, they ensure that the prevention and preparedness initiatives reach the people.”

Village volunteers also ensured people followed home quarantine in the villages during the lockdown.

Tenzin said they make sure that  those who come to the villages from Phuentsholing are home quarantined.

“The volunteers also guard the entry points along with de-suups.”

These days, about hundred people visit Phuentsholing town on a daily basis. Tenzin said that no cases have been reported from the gewog because when villagers return home, everything is monitored.

“People even inform if their own relatives enter the gewog through routes in the jungle.”

Phuentsholing gup Birkha Bahadur Rai said his team and public are collectively working in preventing the Covid-19.

“Public is  supportive. We will not let Covid-19 to enter our gewog.”

Edited by Tashi Dema




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Focus point

Sat, 08/21/2021 - 15:13

picture story

Sat, 08/21/2021 - 15:13

People queue outside the  Bhutan Duty-Free Limited outlet at Chubachu, Thimphu for tobacco products after the office announced that consumers could buy tobacco from them. While small shops and grocery stores could import and sell tobacco products, many are still depending on distributors like BDFL and others who had been supplying before import and sale of tobacco was legalised. 

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