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Bhutan's Daily Newspaper
Updated: 2 hours 40 min ago

Getting to work

Thu, 06/30/2022 - 10:13

The news is finally out as to when Bhutan’s borders would reopen to tourists under a new system. With it came the announcement from the Tourism Council of Bhutan on the various activities to prepare the sector for their arrival as well. 

TCB says its plan to revamp the tourism sector is focused on three areas – upgrading infrastructure and services, the elevation of tourists’ experiences, and maintaining carbon-neutral tourism.

In the long run, the goal is to create high-value experiences for visitors, and well-paying and professional jobs for our citizens.

Some portion of the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) will go towards activities that promote carbon-neutral tourism and building a more sustainable tourism sector which includes offsetting the carbon footprint of tourists and upskilling workers in the sector. 

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To put it bluntly the analysis today is that we have been taking much from the land and not putting anything, or very little, back. The message we are getting is that this is not good enough. We have to contribute more.

Foreign tourists came to see Bhutan for its pristine environment, unique culture, and traditions that represent, for many of them, a lost world. And that was, indeed, all they saw.  

Tourism has largely been the process of bringing in groups of people who pay about USD 250 a day, taking them around the country by vehicle or on foot, and then seeing them off. Most were happy to have been in Bhutan, happy enough to overlook what had become an average, sometimes poor, quality of service. 

A bulk of our tour operators did not actually have much infrastructure and were sometimes scrambling to take care of their visitors. And in some cases, tourists have complained. 

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This is going to change. Standards for service providers, including hotels, guides, tour operators, and drivers are going to be revised. These establishments are going to be subject to a more robust certification process before they can engage tourists. Their employees have to participate in skilling and reskilling programmes, where necessary, to boost service quality. These are urgently needed improvements. 

With the sustainable development fee raised to USD 200 a day tourists will expect better service and greater variety. 

While this is a change from the more complacent attitude of tourism authorities in the past, TCB will have to reinvent itself and rise up both in terms of resources and human capital to meet the challenges or live up to the expectations of the reforms.

We would also like to see the tour operators, the biggest beneficiaries, do more to raise the profile of the industry. Some are so exclusively high-end and others are so low-end that they do not have an impact beyond their own businesses.  

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Today’s generation of successful Bhutanese is an extremely lucky generation, owing most of our success to the country whether it is in education, jobs, business, property, or health. It is time to roll up our sleeves and dirty our hands.  It is time to pay back.

Road resurfacing work in Lhuentse depends on budget approval

Thu, 06/30/2022 - 10:12

Tshering Namgyal | Lhuentse

The Department of Road (DoR) would blacktop 20km stretch of Lhuentse-Gangola highway if budget gets approved.

DoR is resurfacing 11km of the highway from Budur to Gorgan with the budget approved in the past financial year. Work is expected to complete by July this year.

Officials said resurfacing work of 65km highway began in 2017, but they are conducting stretch-wise based on budget approval. With the completion of the ongoing work, 45km of the stretch will be blacktopped.

“We’ve proposed Nu 40 million to resurface the remaining 20km of the highway,” an assistant engineer Gayleg, said. “Work will be executed in 2022-2023 financial year if Gross National Happiness Commission approves the budget.”

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The need to improve the secondary national highway was the priority of Lhuentse residents and the issue was also raised in several dzongkhag tshogdu sessions.

DoR initiated resurfacing work since the proposal to widen and improve the road didn’t get through.

Residents claim they are already benefitting from the resurfaced work.

A frequent traveller from Lhuentse to Mongar, Jigme, said travelling time has been reduced by 15 minutes after the resurfacing work and blacktopping the entire stretch will benefit them more.

Meanwhile, DoR’s Autsho sub-division has also proposed for the budget to resurface and improve gewog roads of Kurtoe and Maenbi, which are under its jurisdiction.

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The 42.5km road between Lhuentse and Dungkar and 14.65km between Tangmachhu bridge-Takela are also in dire need of maintenance.

Many people visit the sites for historic and cultural significance.

Maenbi gewog mangmi, Kelzang Jamtsho, said people visit Guru statue at Takela and the number of visitors has increased over the years.

He said Takela road was blacktopped in three phases of which the latest one was done in 2015 and it is high time to resurface the road.

According to Gayleg, they proposed road improvement work every year and Nu 20 million was approved in 2019. “However, it was slashed after the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.”

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He said they proposed Nu 33M to resurface Takela road and Nu 147M for the road to Dungkar.

DoR has also proposed the widening of 15km road stretch between Tangmachhu bridge to Lhuentse town into primary national highway standard because of the heavy traffic caused by government, corporate and private offices.

Water shortage hampers service delivery in Tsirangtoed

Thu, 06/30/2022 - 10:11

Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

Due to its strategic location, Tsirangtoed gewog serves as a centre for residents of neighbouring gewogs to avail health and education services.

 However, as the gewog’s water woes worsened in the past few months, according to residents, publi service delivery has been greatly hampered.

For more than a month, the 10-bedded hospital, which was completed in March this year, could not deliver health services due to acute water shortage.

Senior health assistant, Pema Khandu, said that with the opening of the new hospital, more patients came to avail services but due to water shortage, service delivery was disrupted. “We need water to maintain sanitation, infection control, lab tests, and ultrasound services.”

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With the new hospital in the gewog, residents of three gewogs—Phuentenchhu, Sergithang, and Tsirangtoed—do not have to travel long distances to avail health services in Damphu.

Pema Khandu said that for the past month, temporary water connection was installed with the support of residents.

Another health worker said that it was inconvenient to work in such conditions.

A resident, San Man Subba, said that the water shortage has become acute; residents and Tsirangtoed Central School staff are transporting water on Bolero pickup trucks.

“Without water, there were delays in service delivery in the hospital,” he said.

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Water shortage, he said, is severe in upper Sentabsa and Tsirangtoed chiwogs.

A lhakhang caretaker, Sonam Tshering, said that the residents have been collecting rainwater for consumption. For offerings in the monastery, he has to get it from his neighbours.  

“We got drinking water only once last month,” he said.

Tsirangtoed shares its water source with Puentenchu gewog.

Tsirangtoed Gup, Nandalal Kharel, said that although there are infrastructure and service centres in the gewog, everyone was helpless without water.

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“There are 500 boarding students in the central school. Maintaining cleanliness is challenging for them,” he said.

He said that Pabkhola, which used to be a big river, is now a small stream. “The source is drying up.”

Residents, he said, are harvesting rain and getting water from ponds that are also drying up gradually.

Confusions over Money and Financial Bills

Thu, 06/30/2022 - 10:10

MB Subba

Even though it is the third Parliament, there are confusion and lack of clarity on what construes a Money Bill and a Financial Bill.

For instance, the National Assembly on June 27 passed the Goods and Services (GST) Bill amid confusion about whether it is a Money Bill or a Financial Bill.

Finance Minister Namgay Tshering said that there was not much difference between the two.

However, the issue is that if a Bill is passed as a Money Bill, it has to be implemented retrospectively from the date it was introduced in the National Assembly, according to the Public Finance Act. The GST Bill, according to the National Assembly’s decision, will be implemented whenever the GST software is ready.

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Opposition Leader Dorji Wangdi said the issue arose because of the Speaker’s decision to introduce it as a Money Bill.

He said that it should have been introduced as a Financial Bill to avoid the legal issues and set a precedent.

Dorji Wangdi said a Financial Bill and a Money Bill have similar but different components.

He said that while a Money Bill would prescribe specific dates for implementation and withdrawal of the Bill, the implementation period of a Financial Bill could be indefinite.

He said that the annual budget and Fiscal Incentives Bills could be treated as Money Bills. “Such Bills have specific deadlines for implementation.”

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According to the opposition leader, the GST Bill, however, would be implemented until it is amended by Parliament.

He added that Bills dealing with Corporate Income Tax and Personal Income Tax, which are also implemented until they are amended, could be treated as Financial Bills.

Some officials said that the Public Finance Act lacked clarity when it came to the differences between the two Bills.

According to the Public Finance Act, Money or Financial Bill is a Bill that contains only provisions dealing with all or any of the following matters imposition or increase of any tax or abolition, reduction or remission of any existing tax and government spending, appropriation (of budget) or payment of money out of the consolidated fund.

However, Article 13(2) of the Constitution differentiates Money Bill and a Financial Bill.

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The chairman of the Constitution drafting committee, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye, in his book “The Constitution of Bhutan – principles and Philosophies” explains that a Bill is considered a Money Bill if it contains provisions dealing with the imposition of, abolition, remission, alteration or regulation of tax.

The book also states a Money Bill also deals with the regulation of money borrowed or any guarantee given by the government and the custody and the payment of money into or the appropriation of money from the consolidated fund.

According to the book, Financial Bills are those Bills relating to the revenue or expenditure of the government. “Not all Financial Bills are Money Bills, but a Financial Bill is considered to be a Money Bill when it contains matters specified for a Money Bill.”

However, Athang-Thedtsho MP Kinley Wangchuk said that a Financial Bill and a Money Bill were similar and that different countries interpreted them in their own contexts.

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Financial Bill deals with all provisions of revenue and expenditures. “Our definition of Financial Bill and Money Bill should be in line with the Public Finance Act.”

However, the opposition leader said that a Financial Bill, unlike Money Bill, need not be an urgent Bill. “Money Bills, including annual budgets are sealed in a suitcase until they are introduced in Parliament, which is not the case with Financial Bills.”

The Public Finance Act also states that if any question arises whether a bill is a Money Bill or not, the decision of the Speaker thereon shall be final.

The National Council had recommended the National Assembly to withdraw the GST Bill due to the legal issues surrounding the Bill.

Bartsham-Shongphu MP Passang Dorji (PhD) said that passing the Bill without an implementation date would be in violation of the Public Finance Act.

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He said that it would be a threat to the rule of law and legislative norms to pass the Bill. He expressed his support for the NC’s recommendation to withdraw the Bill.

The GST Bill is the only Bill that has been amended twice even before its implementation.

Picture story

Thu, 06/30/2022 - 10:09

The road to Kuenselphodrang near Druk School has collapsed due to an excavation below the road in the past week. Commuters use an alternate route from Changidaphu.

Tourists who confirmed tours before June 20 can visit at old pricing

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 11:05

Staff Reporter  

All tours confirmed before June 20, 2022 can avail of rates applicable under the Tourism Levy Act of Bhutan 2020, the minimum daily package rate (MDPR), which includes the royalty of USD 65.

June 20 is the day Tourism Levy Bill 2022 was tabled in National Assembly or the day it comes into effect.

This was a major recommendation from the National Council to let all confirmed tours benefit from the old pricing.

National Assembly members including the Tourism Council of Bhutan chairperson and Foreign Minister, Dr Tandi Dorji spoke in support of the recommendation. They said they had missed it while they deliberated and passed the Bill last week.

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The NA had initially passed the Bill saying that old pricing under the Tourism Levy Act 2020 will apply only to those tourists who had paid and confirmed their tours before June 20, 2022.

Members said that the precedent was the tours were confirmed months ahead, while the actual payment took place closer to the time of the visit.

TCB chairperson Dr Tandi Dorji said that tour operators have to show evidence of tour confirmation by tourists to avail of this facility.

The final Section 6, Transitional and Saving, has been adopted as thus: “Notwithstanding Section 4 of this Act, a tourist who had confirmed the tour under the Tourism Levy Act of Bhutan 2020 on or before 20th June 2022 shall continue to benefit subject to conditions imposed under Tourism Levy Act of Bhutan 2020 and Rules thereof.” NA members through a majority show of hands endorsed the recommendation of the National Council.

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The Tourism Levy Bill 2022 was passed by both the Houses after the National Assembly endorsed all 11 recommendations from National Council on the Bill and adopted it with a large majority in favour yesterday. The Bill will now be submitted to His Majesty The King for Royal assent.

Chairperson of the Economic and Finance Committee, Kinga Penjor presented the 11 recommendations made by the National Council on the Bill along with the committee’s decision to accept the recommendations.

National Council also recommended changes to Section 7. The section reads, “A tourist shall be liable to pay a tourism levy known as the Sustainable Development Fee of USD 200 per night which may be revised by the Competent Authority from time to time”.

The NC recommended deleting “which may be revised by the Competent Authority from time to time” from the section justifying that the taxes, fees and other forms of levies shall not be imposed or altered except by law as per the Article 14.1 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan.

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Of the 40 sitting members yesterday, 38 voted Yes, 1 voted No, and 1 abstained.

Falling boulders kill two men and injure three in Samdrupjongkhar

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 11:04

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar

Falling boulders killed two men and injured three men at Phochu in Lauri gewog, Samdrupjongkhar, on June 27.

The accident occurred at 3:30pm that day when the five men were crossing Phochu. They were returning home from Khawrong of Langchenphu gewog where they went to construct a house.

The two men, aged 40 and 28, died on impact of severe head injury. Rescue team could not take the victims to Jomotshangkha hospital because of multiple roadblocks.

The three friends, who sustained multiple injuries, are undergoing treatment at Lauri basic health unit (BHU).

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Lauri gup, Jigme Tshewang, said rescue team consisting of gewog officials, de-suups and volunteers from the nearest villages in Serthi gewog recovered the bodies yesterday morning and handed them to their relatives.

The deceased were from Dungmanma in Lauri gewog.

He said the victims have sustained internal injuries, fractures and head injuries. “The rescue team carried the victims to Lauri BHU due to the multiple roadblocks.”

Jigme Tshewang said Lauri BHU does not have technologies to examine the victims and provide treatment. “We cannot even evacuate them to Jomotshangkha hospital due to the roadblocks.”

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He said since the victims were in severe condition, they requested for a helicopter but they were told the chopper could not take off because of bad weather.

Engaging communities for suicide prevention

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 11:03

Choki Wangmo | Dagana

For the past few weeks, counsellors and principals of seven schools in Dagana were involved in suicide prevention and awareness programme in their communities across the dzongkhag.

Initiated by the dzongkhag administration, the programme was introduced in the wake of rising suicide cases in the dzongkhag.

Dzongkhag planning officer, Sonam Jamtsho, who is also the officiating dzongdag, said that counsellors could contribute in advocating on suicide prevention by going beyond the school campus.

“With the report of recent suicide cases, counsellors, district health officer, and the chief dzongkhag education officer were asked to develop a way forward to address the issue,” he said, after which Suicide Prevention Action Plan was developed for each counsellor.

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The gewog administrations, Sonam Jamtsho said, were instructed to allocate budget provision for such activities in the future. “It would enable counsellors to work closely with the gewogs in reducing suicide cases in the communities.”

Principal of Drujeygang Central School, Tashi Wangchuk, said that while the focus of the programme was on the students, parents and public also play an important role in suicide prevention, as most of the cases were caused by societal issues.

He said that the communities were forthcoming, which was hopeful.

“Everyone is aware that suicide is harmful but there is a need for awareness for early detection, identification of symptoms, and support system for prevention,” he said.

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Earlier this year, one suicide case was reported from the gewog.

A counsellor of Gesarling Central School, Sudar San Sharma, said that the community support and feedback was encouraging.

He said that youth are vulnerable and need strong support system from the communities.

Records with the Dagana police and health officials showed that the most people who took their own lives had a history of alcoholism.

Recently, a man with drinking problem in Gesarling took his own life.

Majority of the suicide cases in the past were reported from Tsangkha gewog.

NA rejects NC’s recommendations to withdraw GST Bill

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 11:03

Thukten Zangpo

The National Assembly (NA) on June 27 rejected the National Council’s (NC) recommendations to withdraw the Goods and Services Tax (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2022.

The NA passed the Bill on June 20 this year and was forwarded to the National Council.

The Bill was passed stating that the Act would come into force from the day the Parliament approves for enforcement when the goods and services tax (GST) system is ready.

However, the NC did not agree with the deferment of the commencement date of the Bill citing legality and concerns about the preparedness of the government, and the need to draw a clear distinction between the money Bill and the financial Bill.

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The NC also recommended the amendment of Section 46B of the Public Finance (Amendment) Act 2012.

Section 46B of the Act prescribes that the money Bills shall be applied retroactively from the date it was initially tabled in the National Assembly.

According to the National Council, Section 46B of the Public Finance (Amendment) Act 2012 is yet to be amended. The House said that it is concerned that until such time the Section 46B is amended, any deviation from it would amount to willful violation of the prevailing law, and to accept and pass any bill that ultra-vires the law passed by the Parliament is a threat to rule of law and legislative norms.

Supporting NC’s recommendations, Bartsham-Shongphu MP Passang Dorji said that there are risks of cancellation of the GST Act in future, and discontinuing the work would be a wasteful expenditure.

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Finance Minister Namgay Tshering said that the finance ministry is reviewing the Public Finance (Amendment) Act 2012 and the house as the legislative committee can supersede certain clauses.

Lyonpo said that increase in tax or the government spending, appropriation or payment of money out of the consolidated fund, is financial and money Bills.

He added that the GST system is important because Bhutan would not be able to do trade with India, Singapore, or Thailand otherwise.

Supporting NC, Opposition Leader Dorji Wangdi said that the money Bill and financial Bill are different.

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He added that before the Speaker makes an announcement of the Bill to the house, the Bill has to be submitted to the economic and finance committee to decide whether it is a money or a financial Bill.

The Bill will be submitted for Royal Assent as per the Rules of Procedure.

Local governments to decide matters about new lhakhangs

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 11:02

Thinley Namgay  

Local government officials could decide matters related to temples that are 10 or 20 years old and not built by extraordinary people.

Home Minister Ugyen Dorji said in the National Assembly yesterday while responding to Chumey-Ura’s member of Parliament (MP) Karma Wangchuk.

The MP asked what the government is doing to expedite the process to renovate lhakangs.

He said while there is no issue in the renovation of dratshang, goendey or shedra registered under zhung dratshang, there are many community and private lhakhangs.

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MP Karma Wangchuk said some lhakhangs that are small in the past had to be extended today. “People also have to repair walls and roofs, but it is difficult to get approval from the ministry.”

According to the minister, the Department of Culture registered 230 lhakhangs that are constructed in 10 to 20 years and they are registering about 500 other lhakhangs.

He said local governments could also grant permission to build other amenities around the temple without consulting the ministry.

Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji said permission should be given within 30 days to construct a lhakhang and a week for renovation. “Dzongkhag culture officers were recently trained in Thimphu.”

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Meanwhile, the existing process for lhakhang construction and renovation includes communities or individuals first request the gewog, then the dzongkhag and the ministry.

The ministry further reviews the application and approves or rejects the proposal.

The home ministry received  300 applications for lhakhang renovation in 2021 and rejected 26 applications.

Walking to work is not the solution

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 11:01

Fuel price is on the rise driving the cost of essentials. As an import driven country rising cost of fuel is a huge concern. In such a situation, telling people to walk to work is not the best solution. It is not practical. It will not solve the problem.

What can solve the problem is good policies and decisions. Shortage or the rising cost of fuel  is a global problem. In our region some governments are cuttinf down on the sale of fuel for non-essential vehicles.  People are being told to stay home, work from home, or to make use of public transport services. We are in a better situation. The government has enough money to import fossil fuel as long as there is supply. People still prefer to drive notwithstanding the surge in fuel price.

At the same time, this is happening because we do not have a reliable and efficient public transport system. The capital city is seeing an increased number of city buses.  However, it is not enough. A ban on sale of fuel to non-essential vehicles – thousands of cars we drive to work every day – spells trouble. The city buses will not be able to transport all the people on time for work and back home. Beyond the capital city, transportation would come to a standstill because there is no public transport.

The current fuel  crisis should not go into waste. We need to look for alternatives.

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Electric vehicle is one. There is already a movement, small it may be, towards going electric. If there are policies that encourage people to buy electric vehicles or schemes that are affordable, many would want to go electric. A private company promoting E-vehicles in Thimphu recently had all EV vehicles  booked. A bank is providing 70 percent of the cost in loan. This enables people to buy EVs even if they cost  thrice the price of an fossil fuel-driven vehicle. Many are convinced that it is the way forward even if they are not concerned about the carbon footprint fossil fuel-driven vehicles leave behind.

The government should come with schemes and policies that will make people switch to EVs. Dependence on imported fossil fuel that costs more than the electricity we export should convince the government. Without alternatives, we will keep importing cars that will burden the government exchequer.

Public transport is the other alternative. For decades we have been talking about it without any results. Successive governments have promised improved public transport that is reliable and affordable. None kept their word. 

An electric tram between Khasadrapchu and Dechencholing could, for example, remove more than a thousand cars from our roads. There are no separate bus lanes in the capital city after years of discussion on public transport. Meanwhile, more than a thousand vehicles are added to our roads every month. 

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The impact of fuel shortage is already being, to the bones, as some say. In some dzongkhags, farmers have to get a clearance from the gewog office to buy diesel for their power tillers. The decision may be to stop hoarding, but when a farmer has to leave his power tiller in the field, go home to wear his gho and pick up a kabney and head to the gup’s office for the “letter of proof”, it costs him time and money. If the gup is in the meeting or on a tour, the changla has to be postponed.

Jangsa river threatens settlements

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 11:00

Kelzang Wangchuk | Jomotshangkha

As the swollen Jangsa river rolls down with heavy debris at this time of the year, the Jangsa village at Langchenphu gewog in Jomotshangkha drungkhag, Samdrupjongkhar, vibrates. 

The villagers have sleepless nights and resort to going to the neighbours’ houses in a safer places. Some of the villagers have stopped cultivating in the land near the river.

A villager, Sita Ghimirey, 32, said that the swollen river washed away about an acre of land before and it has been removed from the old lag thram without any compensation.

She said she had planned to plant doma trees on an acre of land near the river, but could not because the swollen river washed away some portion of her land. She has about 5.5 acres of land.

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 “Since my house is just a few metres away from the river, my family and I went to the neighbours’ house. We could feel the vibration of the swollen river,” Sita Ghimirey  

Another villager, Ram Chandra Nepal, 35, said the protection wall along the river that the gewog administration built about five years ago was helpful as the swollen river did not wash away their land.

He said that the villagers reported to the chiwog tshogpa for the need for a river embankment because there is a risk of farmlands getting washed away. “But there is nothing from the gewog so far and the protection wall constructed by the gewog is also damaged.” 

The villagers said the swollen river washed away about 15 acres of State land in the past. The river swells until September. People have had to shift electric fencing two times because of floods. 

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 They said the river has been eroding their land every summer and the river swells suddenly even if there is no rain.

“It would help if the gewog could construct the protection wall along the river,” a villager said.   

 The Langchenphu Gup, Guman Singh Gaylal, said that since the swollen river washed away the land, the gewog constructed about 800 metres of river embankment in the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

 He said that the gewog administration carries out the dragging work whenever it is required but is not that effective to protect the land from getting washed away. 

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He said there is a need for about 100 metres of river embankment but the gewog has no budget, adding that the gewog wrote to the dzongkhag disaster management (DDM) committee.

“The committee has endorsed it and submitted it to the department of disaster in Thimphu. We will propose the budget for the river embankment through DDM again,” the gup said.

Govt. to review terms and conditions between car dealers and buyers

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 11:00

Dechen Dolkar 

The government is reviewing the terms and conditions between the numerous car dealers and buyers.

The current terms and conditions favour the dealers.

Although buyers sign a contract agreement before purchase, it is found that the provisions of the contract favours vehicle dealers, particularly concerning delays and cancellations.

While ordering a new vehicle from the dealers, buyers have to pay an advance of up to Nu 300,000. Sometimes it takes more than a year for the vehicle to arrive after making the advance payment. If the buyer wants to cancel the order, he or she will have to pay cancellation charges.

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During the question hour at the National Assembly yesterday, Mongar MP Karma Lhamo said this is not fair because buyers pay an advance and wait for a long time.

She said that buyers should be able to pay the tax to the government and bring in vehicles directly. “Otherwise, the possibilities should be explored.”

She said that the government must otherwise ensure that the vehicles are delivered within three months after advance payment.

Responding to the question, Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said the office of consumer protection (OCP) has carried out a study.

OCP found that the vehicle dealers have to pay advance to the manufacturing company when placing orders  and so the dealers ask advance payment from the buyers.

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Lyonpo said that there is no regulation that says that a buyer should order a vehicle through the dealers.

“Some buyers directly order vehicles from the company and pay the tax to the government before the pandemic,” Lyonpo said.

Lyonpo also said that the reason for the delay, taking one year to arrive, could be due to the pandemic with less productions from companies.

On the advance payment, Lyonpo said that dealers have to make full payment to the manufacturing companies.  However, buyers can cancel the order if it takes more than six months for the order to reach the country.

Lyonpo said that the government is in the process of reviewing the contract agreement. “The agreement will be suitable for both parties.”

Lyonpo said the government is trying to do away with dealership monopoly.

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The chief program officer of OCP, Jigme Dorji, said: “Apart from force majeure, which is beyond anyone’s control, there are no clauses in the contract agreement making the vehicle dealer liable to pay penalty for the delay even during normal conditions, or for the customer to cancel with a full refund of advance payment.”

He said the terms and conditions would be studied to ensure that they are in line with the Consumer Protection Act, 2012.

OCP will also carry out advocacy programmes for vehicle dealers on their duties and obligations as a supplier and for consumers on their responsibility, particularly to help grasp the nuances of the terms and conditions before signing the contract.

No adverse effects of LDC graduation: Foreign Minister

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 10:59

Nima Wangdi

Graduating from the Least Developed Country group would have a minimal adverse impact on Bhutan as the country is ready, according to Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji.

During the question session at the National Assembly yesterday, he said, “With all the arrangements in place, we should be comfortable until 2029.”

He said that the international support will continue for three years after graduation to help the country help with the transition.

Kengkhar-Weringla’s Member of Parliament, Rinzin Jamtsho asked the minister how prepared Bhutan was to graduate from the LDC category next year. The MP said that the people are worried as external aid and support could fall.

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Lyonpo said that the grant and assistance at low-interest rates come from Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. They will continue as they have nothing to do with the graduation. “The two banks have considered Bhutan as a middle-income country since 2015 but they continued with the same support.”

“Official development assistance from other countries is just five percent of the GDP and any drop in it will not have a huge impact,” Lyonpo said.

According to Lyonpo, Bhutan receives support from only a few countries and mainly from India.  Graduation from the LDC group is not going to impact it. “We have signed agreements with Japan and the European Union. Their support too will continue till 2027.”

Lyonpo said that these countries provide support because the country has good relations with them, and not for being an LDC.

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According to Lyonpo, there is evidence that the countries getting affected in terms of trade after they graduate. Since Bhutan is not a member of the World Trade Organisation, trade would not be affected too.

“Most of our trade is with India, Bangladesh and Thailand. We have strong trade agreements with them and it will continue.” Lyonpo said.

However, there could be a slight reduction in support from UN organisations. “But we will continue to get loans from Technical Bank and the UN Capital Development Fund’s assistance (UNCDF) for five years after graduation.” Climate finance might be reduced in future but it will continue for now.

“The graduating countries should have policies for the smooth transition. A committee and Gross National Happiness Commission have already made it ready to be incorporated in the 13 FYP,” Lyonpo said.

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Bhutan can become energy secure in next 3 years: Lyonpo Loknath Sharma

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 10:57

Thukten Zangpo 

Bhutan at present is not energy secure, said Lyonpo Loknath Sharma. Adding 200MW of wind energy in the next 2 to 3 years, he said, could help the country achieve energy security.

Lyonpo was responding to Bartsham-Shongphu MP Passang Dorji’s question at the National Assembly yesterday, who asked about the government’s plans and policies to achieve energy security.

Passang Dorji said that hydropower is the backbone of energy in the country but studies have found that the sector could face the risk of climate change in the future.

He added that the country exports about Nu 11.5 billion (B) worth of electricity yearly to India, but it is offset by the import during winter season, while the country also imports petrol and diesel from India worth Nu 9B annually.

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Passang Dorji also said that although the country has the potential to generate 22,000 megawatts (MW) of solar energy and 760MW of wind energy, only 9MW has been realised till now.

The country has a generation capacity of 2,326MW of electricity from hydropower in summer, which decreases to 411MW in winter, Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said.

He said that the country’s demand was 500MW last winter, and Bhutan imported 200MW of electricity to meet increasing demand from the manufacturing and production sectors, which coincided with the shutdown of Tala hydropower project.

“By 2030, we would require 1,500MW of energy,” he said, adding that the government had discussed with the Druk Holding and Investments to install 200MW of solar energy in the next two to three years which would be followed by other alternative sources.

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Lyonpo said that the country has achieved 99 percent of energy security technically. However, the situation is changing in practical terms.

He said the electricity generation target was 10,000MW by 2020 but there are many inconveniences to sort out.

Lyonpo said that globally there is a growth of other energy sources like solar, wind, thermal, hydrogen, and nuclear. To meet energy security, he added that the government has come up with the Sustainable Hydropower Policy 2021 and is also coming up with an alternative energy policy.

Lyonpo said that the government is in discussion with experts to come up with green hydrogen-powered energy. “Investment in green hydrogen is huge.”

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He said that the solar panels are being installed in rural villages and there is a shift in the use of energy-efficient electrical appliances and a move towards embracing electric vehicles in the country.

Bhutan, he said, also has to look for alternatives to shift from run-off-river hydro projects to reservoir projects.

Picture story

Tue, 06/28/2022 - 10:49

A 53-year-old-man in Koilatar, Lhamoidzingkha in Dagana was referred to the national hospital in Thimphu after he sustained serious injuries to his legs when an elephant attacked and damaged his home at 5am yesterday. 

Student sustains second degree burns from electrical accident 

Tue, 06/28/2022 - 10:48

Blames negligence of BPC

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

A 14-year-old student of Chumigthang MSS student, Pasakha is recovering at Phuentsholing General Hospital (PGH) from second degree burns he sustained from an electrical accident at Baunijhora, Pasakha on June 25.

He is in stable condition.

The incident occurred on the afternoon of June 25, when the boy and his friend, another 14-year-old student, were returning home from school. The victim’s friend didn’t sustain injuries. The boys were passing through an area to avoid the problematic Baunijhora road downstream. One of the boys, the taller one, went too close to 11kv electric line and got exposed to an electrical flashover, which is a continuous electric discharge of high current.

The boy burned his hand and leg.

According to sources, the distance between the BPC’s 11kv line and the ground level was not at the standard mark. The lines had been hanging low, nearly touching the ground.

The height between the electric lines and ground was more than six metres. But with flash floods washing down debris downstream of Baunijhora, the floods had filled  up the riverbed level. The distance was narrowed down to 1.8 metre between the line and the ground.

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Police sources said that  if anyone came within 0.7 metre sphere, one gets exposed to an electric flashover voltage even without any contact with the line.

Although the ground level had increased due to the continuous rain and debris filling up the river, sources claimed that the accident occurred due to “negligence” from the Bhutan Power Corporation’s (BPC) side.

Two BPC technicians from Pasakha were detained, but were later released with surety. Phuentsholing police will file a case to the court to fix accountability.


BPC’s stand

A senior divisional manager with BPC office in Phuentsholing, Chhejay Wangdi, said BPC management always maintains the required ground clearances as per the requirement of the standards.

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“However, due to recent flooding and continuous rain, the ground clearance of the existing 11kV line became low due to sand and debris deposition under the line,” he said.

According to BPC officials, a day before the incident, dredging was carried out as a mitigation measure under the supervision of BPC staff. The  ground clearance was maintained as per the required standard, they claimed.

Chhejay Wangdi said BPC staff at Pasakha and Rigsar’s construction site supervisor conducted awareness and sensitisation to the public passing by on the associated risk since the entire area was risky.

“The incident happened with the flashover voltage. While visiting the site after the incident, it was observed that the ground clearance had become low due to deposit of sand and debris under the 11kV line, which BPC did not foresee for such immediate re-deposition within a short duration,” he said.

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It  was an unfortunate accident, he said.

BPC also initiated mitigation work the same day of incident by dredging and standard distance was maintained. The site was also barricaded. On June 26, further mitigation works were carried out.

“We are keeping in constant touch with the victim and their family, including the doctors attending the students,” said Chhejay Wangdi.

Meanwhile, observers are saying that the incident should not pass as an “unfortunate incident.”

“The incident happened because of negligence,” one said. “Those responsible should be taken to task and fixed accountability.”

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Another Pasakha resident said that two innocent lives were at stake because of negligence of authorities.

“If awareness were carried out, it would not have caused a student to nearly lose his life,” he said. “Will the corporation (BPC) take accountability, if he had succumbed to the injuries?”

Incessant rain affects work progress at Namling

Tue, 06/28/2022 - 10:47

Tshering Namgyal | Namling

For Tshering Wangdi, a dozer operator at Namling area, the last few months have been daunting.

Land and rockslides are frequent, triggered by continuous rainfall.

“Every now and then the cleared road is damaged by new slides. Visibility is poor because of thick fog. Work progress is slow,” a contractor said.

Sherub Dorji, site engineer of M/s. Biky Construction, involved in widening and blacktopping 12.83km stretch from Yongkola to Namling bridge, said that the continuous rain hampers the work progress.

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He said that the widening work would continue after the expatriate operators who are in the quarantine reaches the site soon.

Sherub Dorji said that frequent breakdown of machines also hampers the work.

Contractors said that work continues from dawn until dusk and timings are strictly observed between 11.30 am to 1.30 pm. If travellers miss this timeline, they must wait until 6pm.

Construction officials last week kept the road open to traffic throughout the day because the widening works were completed in almost all the stretches between Yongkola and Ura.

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A roadblock near Namling bridge recently due to rockslides stranded several vehicles for about a week; two vehicles (Suzuki Celerio and Bolero) were crushed by falling boulders. Sonam from Saling, who recently returned from Thimphu after medical treatment, said the road condition is so bad around this time at this stretch.

Construction officials are advising road users to avoid travelling at night as the stretch from Yongkola to Namling area gets continuous rainfall.

The stretch between Yongkola and Ura was awarded in eight contract packages for the period of 24 months each with different timing. Except for one or two contractors who have been affected by harsh weather conditions, the rest are expecting to meet the deadline.

At the National Assembly recently, Human Settlement Minister Dorji Tshering said that about 50 percent of the road was ready for blacktopping and that monsoon was hindering the progress.

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Biodiversity Bill sails through NA with NC’s recommendations

Tue, 06/28/2022 - 10:46

Chhimi Dema 

The National Assembly yesterday passed the National Biodiversity Bill of Bhutan 2022 with 43 Members of Parliament voting “Yes”, and one abstained.

The Bill is expected to emphasise the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. It ensures that people and communities have access to benefits from the use of genetic and biological resources available in the country.

The Bill was forwarded to the National Council (NC) in December last year, and NC after deliberation returned it to NA with 65 recommendations.

The Environment and Climate Change Committee’s chairperson, Gyem Dorji, said that the committee reviewed and accepted all their recommendations.

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The House debated on amendment of Section 11 of the Act which states that the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests is the competent national authority and shall discharge the functions conferred on it through the secretary of the ministry.

NC, after its review, recommended that the national authority shall be established with the seven members consisting of representatives from the National Environment Commission, National Biodiversity Centre, and the agriculture ministry including the minister.

The national authority as per the Bill is responsible to ensure enforcement of the Act; creating conditions and incentives fostering the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources and traditional knowledge; ensuring the protection of plant variety and the right of farmers and breeders, among others.

Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor said that the NC’s recommendation on the national authority in Section 11 of the Act could delay public service delivery.

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He said that decisions on procuring equipment, conducting studies or research related to the genetic resources if routed, as recommended, through the national authority with members from other agencies could impact service delivery.

“The involvement of other agencies in the national authority could prove challenging to make decisions,” he added.

Opposition Leader, Dorji Wangdi, said that clarity is critical in legislation supporting the amendment in Section 11 recommended by NC.

“About 90 percent of the country’s laws have clarity [with specifications] in them and NC’s recommendation is similar to other laws,” he said.

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The Bill will be submitted to His Majesty The King for Royal assent.

The Bill includes new sections which permit the use of research results and accessed biological resources for academic research within the country and publication purposes.

It also has new sections such as the National Focal Point to regulate access to and utilisation of genetic resources; strengthen national gene banks; and enhance plant taxonomic and systematic research.

Picture story

Tue, 06/28/2022 - 10:46

A total of 11 entrepreneurs completed the six-month Springboard Plus course in entrepreneurship in Thimphu on June 24. The course organised by the labour ministry and UNDP provided participants with a platform to acquire funding and a mentorship ecosystem.