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Updated: 50 min ago

Trashigang gets four medical specialists

Thu, 10/13/2022 - 12:17

Neten Dorji | Trashigang

With the arrival of four specialists in Trashigang dzongkhag hospital, the people of four eastern dzongkhags will no longer have to go to Thimphu and Mongar to avail health services.

Trashigang hospital received one gynaecologist, paediatrician, surgeon, and medical specialist a year ago. It further eases the pressure on Mongar Regional Hospital and Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital. 

Trashigang dzongkhag requires four specialist doctors given its population size, proximity to the nearest referral point, presence of other institutions and poverty rate, among others. The hospital receives patients from Trashiyangtse, Mongar, and Pemagatshel.

“Without specialists, we had to go to Mongar and Thimphu for advanced medical services,” said a villager, Sonam Zangmo, from Dramistse.

A patient, Ugyen, said that it was difficult to get appointments in Thimphu and sometimes machines aren’t working. “For many patients like us, it is expensive to go to Thimphu for the services.”

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A mother of three, Pema Yangzom, said she gave birth to her third child in the hospital. “I am extremely grateful to the government for bringing specialists to the hospital. I would have had to go to Mongar otherwise.”

She said that without specialists like gynaecologists, many mothers lost their babies when they were referred to other dzongkhags because of complications.

“When someone comes in with a fracture of bones, we used to refer to Mongar for minor surgery,” a health official said. “But now we are able to treat them here.”

Dzongkhag Senior Health Officer, Lobzang Tshering, said: “ The dzongkhag administration is planning to propose the extension of the hospital’s next five-year plan. Currently, we have adjusted spaces for specialists.”

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Need to bolster disaster management?

Thu, 10/13/2022 - 12:16

Being on the high mountains of the Himalayas, disaster management should receive the highest priority.

As global warming catches on, we are in for a lot of work at home. So, the news that the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) is creating awareness among the people is welcome.

As a country in the Himalayas with a large number of lakes, melting glaciers are a problem. We have not forgotten the October 8, 1994 incident that caused serious damage along the Phochhu basin.

More than the people living along the banks of the rivers, the Department of Disaster Management must fully understand the impact of possible GLOF.

Creating awareness is one thing, preparing for the possible dangers is a different thing altogether.

We know about mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. If these jargons continue to remain on the papers, we are in for a serious big problem.

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That the DDM is working with government agencies such as the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement, the National Centre for Hydrology and Meteorology, and the National Land Commission to develop a disaster risk management portal is some reassurance. But we need much more—hazard-mapping is one. But what is being done beyond this?

Bhutan is sitting on the heart of the seismic zone. One rattle, even a mild one, can wreak serious havoc.

Therefore, DDM’s disaster management contingency plan— based on a historical approach or evidence of a disaster in the area—by involving local governments is to be lauded.

What we lack is an institutionalised channel to disseminate information. This is a serious problem.

Thankfully, the focus or the theme of this year’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction is substantially to increase the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments to people by 2030.

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Learning from the lessons and heeding the warnings, Bhutan has to do a lot more to prepare.

We have legislation, frameworks and contingency plans in place. We have trained and sensitised people about the impending dangers. We continue to conduct simulations, demonstrations, drills and many other activities.

The vulnerable groups like the monastic body and schools are being targeted for specific preparedness risk management and training. Primary school children teach their parents how to duck under the table in case of an earthquake. All these are good but not enough.

 The problem with disaster is that no level of preparedness is good preparation. In times of disaster, dissemination of timely and credible information is crucial in minimising the loss of life and injury. We need to build more on this.

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Bhutanese artists exhibit their work in Brussels 

Thu, 10/13/2022 - 12:15

Chhimi Dema

“Healing With Happiness”, an exhibition presenting artworks of 69 Bhutanese artists is on display at the Belfius Bank in Brussels, Belgium.

VAST Bhutan opened the exhibition on October 5 leading up to the Royal Wedding Anniversary of His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen today.

Artworks capturing Bhutanese cultural and traditional elements, portraits of important figures and scenes from Bhutan are on display at the exhibition.

VAST Bhutan’s founder, Asha Karma, said that the theme was inspired by the innate Bhutanese sense of optimism and strength that is also reflected in Bhutanese art.

“Traditional paintings and motifs signify auspiciousness and goodness meant to bring healing wherever they are placed,” he said.

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A press release from VAST Bhutan states that Healing With Happiness was the largest overseas exhibition of Bhutanese artworks until today.

Pem Lham, an artist, said that artists are blessed to receive love and support on an international platform.

She said, “Now it is on us to express and create more.”

The exhibition organised by VAST Bhutan in partnership with the Royal Bhutanese Embassy in Brussels and the Belifus Bank is open at the Belfius Bank until March 2023.

Bhutan’s Ambassador in Brussels, Tshering Gyaltshen Penjor said, “The opening of the exhibition in Brussels commemorating the Royal Wedding Anniversary is a befitting tribute to His Majesty’s profound vision for ‘art to touch people’s lives’.”

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He added that the embassy was happy to be able to provide a platform for artists from Bhutan to showcase their work and hope that this exhibition will help increase the visibility of Bhutanese art and artists.

Hotel business in Gelephu is hard

Thu, 10/13/2022 - 12:15

Choki Wangmo | Gelephu

With the opening of the border gate after long Covid years, life has returned to some kind of normality but Gelephu Town still wears a deserted look 20 days after the country opened the borders again.

Businesses are yet to pick up. Hospitality industry is the most affected sector.

According to business owners in the town, there was a surge in hotel construction during the Covid-19 times as there was increasing demand for quarantine facilities in the border town. Currently, these hotels are locked away as they have not been able to generate income for rent and staff salaries.

Gelephu today is a town full of hotels; there are more than 50 hotels.

A hotelier, Dotela, who had been in the hospitality industry for more than a decade, said that new hotels in the town couldn’t operate due to a lack of customers.

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“Indian visitors refuse to stay the night in the town as they have to pay a sustainable development (SDF) fee of Nu 1,200,” he said, adding that daily visitors from across the border increased in the earlier stage of reopening.

The window of entry and exit for Indian visitors, he said, was short too.

The owner of Khamsang hotel said that more than incoming visitors, a greater number of Bhutanese are visiting the Indian towns.

Another hotelier, Rinzin Dorji, is struggling to make monthly rent from his business.

“Our businesses will never bounce back to the pre-Covid times. At least, I don’t have loans to repay,” he said.

He also said that Indian visitors are not keen on staying for the night due to the SDF. Some, he said, couldn’t enter the town due to permit issues.

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However, Binod Pradhan, a hotelier, said that his business has improved.  Day visitors from across the border have increased.

“We do not get many customers as the number of hotels in the town has increased drastically during the pandemic,” he said.

There were only about 35 hotels in the past.

On October 10, 548 foreign visitors entered the country from Gelephu, including Indian casual visitors, foreign and day workers, and tourists. A total of 893 Bhutanese, including the inter-dzongkhag travellers, were recorded at the border.

Bhutanese visit the Indian town of Dhatgari on Thursdays and Sundays.

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His Majesty appoints Cabinet Secretary and Dzongdags

Thu, 10/13/2022 - 12:12

His Majesty The King granted dhar to appoint the new Cabinet Secretary, and Dzongdags for Trashigang, Mongar, Dagana, Bumthang, and Tsirang Dzongkhags yesterday. 

Finance Secretary Kesang Deki was appointed as the new Cabinet Secretary. The new Trashigang Dzongdag is Ugyen Dorji, who was serving as Joint Auditor General. Former Executive Secretary of Phuentsholing Thromde, Lungten Jamtsho, is the new Mongar Dzongdag. The new Dagana Dzongdag is Tashi Tobgay, who was serving as Deputy Auditor General. Ratna Bahadur Gurung, Specialist Head III at Department of Livestock, MOAF, is the new Bumthang Dzongdag. The new Tsirang Dzongdag is Sonam, who was serving in the Department of Agriculture, MOAF, as Specialist Head III.

Cabinet Secretary Kesang Deki

Rich Layaps’ poor forests problems

Thu, 10/13/2022 - 12:12

… efforts are underway to help forests recover

Thukten Zangpo

The prosperity of residents in Laya, a remote hamlet in Gasa dzongkhag, has carved a deep scar on their natural environment and is changing the landscape of their habitat. Some elders and foresters worry about the ominous signs that are becoming starker each year.  

Ap Passang, 64, from Chongra in Laya gewog recalls gathering firewood and timber in a day a few years ago. Today, it takes at least two. “Sometimes even three.” 

Residents said that the population in the gewog has been increasing annually. There are about 267 households in the gewog. 

“When the Layaps turn 18 years, they become eligible for cordyceps collection and then they construct houses from the income,” Ap Passang said.  

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Layaps thrive mainly on income from cordyceps collection. They also rear yaks and collect incense shrubs they sell in winter when they migrate to warmer valleys. 

Before cordyceps collection was legalised in 2004, Ap Passang said that the villagers’ depended on a small quantity of illegally-collected cordyceps, incense and medicinal herbs.   

Foresters in the area said that the area has seen forest fragmentation because of the Gasa to Laya road construction, and power transmission lines. 

The electricity came to Laya in 2016. The following year, the construction of the 26 kilometers road from Gasa to Laya began. It has reached Tongchudrak. From there it is a four-hour walk to Laya. Before the road came, it was a two-day journey on foot from the dzongkhag headquarters in Gasa to Laya. 

Commercial timber extractions almost doubled in last one year

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As per the record with Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP), Laya falls within the park, residents felled 18,321.74 cubic feet (cft) of commercial timber and 11,393.52cft of rural timber in 2021.

Senior forester of JDNP in Laya, Norbu Dorji said that usually 10,000cft of commercial timber is harvested in a year, mostly conifer trees.  

He added that harvesting timbers, especially conifer trees in the area could be a threat. “Conifer trees take 100 years to regenerate.” 

A senior forestry officer of JDNP, Rinzin Dorji said that mountainous areas are fragile and trees act as agents that hold the soil and water.  “From the conservationists’ view, the open area and the forested area should be proportionate.”  

However, he added that currently, the park is focused on afforestation because of the high chances of forest degradation. The park planted 1,500 trees in Laya as of 2018.  

Rinzin Dorji claimed that the treeline might have gone up because of lots of conservation efforts and awareness or because of climate change. 

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The Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment Research is going to conduct a study on the treeline this year. 

Norbu Dorji said that the growing of broadleaved trees at the higher altitude could degrade native species like conifer and fir. “In place of fir trees at altitudes of 3,700m to 3,800m, more spruce and blue pines are creeping up to higher altitudes.”

He attributed the increasing incidents of human-wildlife conflicts (HWC) to human activities such as felling timbers at the prime wildlife habitats with increasing housing constructions.

Human-Wildlife Conflict 

Gewog livestock extension officer, Jigme Rinzin said that the snow leopard is a main predator for the yak herders. “Every year, they attack about 100 yaks and kill about 50.”

There are also attacks from Himalayan or Asiatic bears, Tibetan foxes, and wild dogs. In the first week of October, there were six Himalayan bear attacks. 

JDNP records show that 36 yak, 11 mules, and five horses were attacked between 2018 and 2020. Data before that period was unavailable. 

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He said that the Himalayan bears usually attack houses that are on the outskirts of the village or empty homes when villagers set out to collect cordyceps or migrate to lower valleys in winter. There are two to three cases of homes damaged every year.

 To mitigate HWC, electric fencing and solar lighting were provided to the herders.

Jigme Rinzin said that because of the warmer climate, there has been an increase in the forage or biomass in higher altitudes because of changes in rainfall patterns. There has been a delay in the herding pattern too. 

“Earlier the herders migrate to lower valleys before the blessed rainy day (September 23). Now they migrate after that day,” Jigme Rinzin said. 

He also said that ticks were found in yaks in winter. “Ticks are usually dormant in the cold winter.” 

Norbu Dorji said that they recorded 204 Takins in 2011, the highest number recorded in Tshari Jathang in Laya, which is their summer habitat. Today, they could spot a few. “The construction of a road from Gasa to Laya has disturbed the takins’ migratory route near Koina.”

“With the developmental activities like road construction, there are high chances that the native species would be extinct in near future,” Norbu Dorji said.

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A yak herder, Phub Tenzin from Toedkar in Laya, who herds his yaks two days away in Tshari Jathang said that climate change is happening. “We’re receiving heavy snowfall now compared to some years ago.”

Similarly, he said the rainfall now is shorter and heavier compared to light and continuous a few years ago. 

“When there is heavy snowfall for about 4 to 5 days, we are unable to get grass for the yaks, ‘’ Phub Tenzin said. 

He claims that because of the corrugated galvanised iron (CGI) sheet roofing the houses and the advent of electronics, the place has become warmer.

To safeguard the forests, he said that unlike in the past, now the gewog committee would verify if there is a genuine need for timber. Earlier, the households were entitled to commercial timber after every 12 years. 

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Laya gewog mangmi, Pema Jamtsho said that since last year, an individual can construct only one house and not two to three like before. 

As per the non-wood forest products’ management plan, the forest department has allowed villagers to collect 20 kilograms of Pangpey a year.

Norbu Dorji said that by November this year, the villagers would not be able to get commercial timber from any location they choose. 

Yak in the Classroom on TV

Thu, 10/13/2022 - 11:58

Bhutanese will finally be able to watch Lunana: A Yak in The Classroom, the first Bhutanese film to be nominated for an Academy Award in the US, on television. 

The film will be premiering on television in Bhutan on BBS Channel 3, on Thursday, 13th October, at 7pm. 

The premiere is part of BBS Channel 3’s 1 Year Anniversary celebrations, coinciding with the Royal Wedding Anniversary. 

The 1 year celebrations include a TV Quiz, with questions shown during ad breaks, which can be answered using the BHUTAN App. Lead ups to the premiere include exclusive interviews with the film’s producer and director, Pawo Choyning Dorji. 

BBS Channel 3 is Bhutan’s third State television channel focusing on educational content, and was started as a Royal Initiative to make educational television programming more accessible to all Bhutanese. It is also the only HD channel at the moment.

Thousands attend Kuenkhyen Kabum Jaklung

Wed, 10/12/2022 - 12:04

Water and toilets an issue

Nima Wangdi

More than 15,000 monks and devotees are attending the monthlong Kuenkhyen Kabum Jaklung, (Oral Transmission) at Kuensel Phodrang, Thimphu,  which started on October 9 presided by  His Holiness the 70th Jekhenpo, Trulku Jigme Choedra.

Khenpo Thoepa Gyamtsho from Dorden Tashithang Buddhist University said that His Holiness would be reciting three volumes of Gyalwang Je Kunga Paljor’s Kabum and then 24 volumes of Kuenkhyen Pema Karpo’s kabum.

Dorden Tashithang Buddhist University requested the sacred and comprehensive reading initiation of the Kuenkhyen Kabum. The Central Monastic Body is organising the event.

This is the seventh time that His Holiness is presiding over the oral transmission. However,  it is for the first time that both Gyalwang Je Kunga Paljor and Kuenkhyen Pema Karpo’s Kabum are being recited together. Of all the oral transmissions that His Holiness has given until today, most of them were done before he became the Je Khenpo, according to Khenpo Thoepa Gyamtsho.

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The last Kuenkhyen Kabum Jaklung His Holiness presided over was in 2005 at Dechenphodrang monastery in Thimphu.

Kuenkhyen Pema Karpo was the fourth Gyalwang Drukpa, head of the Drukpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. He was the most famous and learned of all the Gyalwang Drukpas.

Pema Karpo authored 24 volumes of writing on philosophy, logic, literature, history, and astrology, which have since formed a widely studied corpus of work. He is also famous for his writings on Mahamudra.

Gyalwang Je Kunga Paljor was the second Gyalwang Drukpa and the fourteenth throne holder of Ralung Monastery.


Logistic issues

Meanwhile, the sheer number of devotees have overwhelmed organizers with many that came from across the country finding a place to pitch tents difficult. A big problem is water and toilets making sanitation and hygiene a big concern.

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Although additional toilets were built and water is being ferried in tankers to supply, the devotees there has a shortage of both. Many are seen to relieve in the open ground and the forest around Kuensel Phodrang.

Devotees camp near Kuensel Phodrang

However, almost all the tents are connected with electricity.

Khenpo Thoepa Gyamtsho said that there is a toilet and water shortage because all devotees are rushing at the same time during the breaks.

A monk said that the toilets remained closed when there was not enough water to flush. “People are then forced to go into the forest.” He also said that they have to walk far from their tents for water to wash their face in the morning.

Another devotee said that people urinate and defecate around the tents at night making the place dirty. “Walking around in the dark is always a risk of stamping on stools along the path.”

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The founder of Bhutan Toilet Org, Passang Tshering, known as Chaplop Passu said that the people camping at Buddha point borrowed all his toilets but he was not asked for building toilets for the event saying that they have enough.

He said people don’t give much importance to toilets whatever the events they organised. “People don’t want to spend on toilets.”

“Even during the events in the past, we had to build temporary toilets with CGI sheets,” he said his office is ready to help if asked.

The devotees are served tea and snacks and all three meals. Some devotees are also sponsoring meals, snacks, and tea.

The session starts at 7am and ends at 5pm.

Lhuentse Rice – mediocre rice import substitute?

Wed, 10/12/2022 - 12:03

Tshering Namgyal | Lhuentse

Farmers’ groups in Kurtoe are striving to produce packaged local rice in the market to give customers not only a better choice but also to reduce import burden.

If you are in Lhuentse, a 5kg rice pack with a logo of Lhuentse Dzong is ubiquitous.

Thuenpay Kuenphen Markhu Detshen has sold about four and a half metric tonnes of red rice branded as ‘Lhuentse Rice’ since the group started production in 2019. The group has also sold about 200 litres of oil.

A kilogram of local rice is sold at Nu 85 and a litre of oil at Nu 160.

The group was initially formed for mustard oil production in 2010 with the table oil expeller machine support from the, which was later replaced with Viking Oil Expeller with a larger capacity. The project was with supported by CARLEP.

The oil production unit was initially started by 11 members and later dropped to three after others left for resettlement program. In 2019, the mustard oil production unit was clubbed with rice packaging unit.

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The chairperson of said the group, Ugyen Rinzin, said the group could not raise production due to raw material scarcity; small quantity produced has been sold in the local area for consumption, to use for chainsaw to replace mobile oil and to use as additive in the pickle.

However, he said the group faces market issue with rice. Without a dedicated sales counter, the group sells rice by carrying in a bolero truck in Lhuentse and Mongar towns.

The members have cultivated mustard in a six-acre paddy field. They also collect paddy from farmers, mill and sell them.

“We’re planning to expand the production capacity with collection from others, but not many are willing to buy although we have fixed a reasonable price,” Ugyen Rinzin, said.

Another challenge the members face is the lack of proper road until the production unit.

Members said it is difficult to carry packaged rice to the road point and have to pay a carrying charge. They said they have requested the gewog several times to improve the road with soling at least but it hasn’t come through.

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Kurtoe Gewog’s agriculture extension officer, Ugyen Wangchuk, said that the group initially started as a mustard oil production unit with funding support from Micro Initiative Fund (MIF) by 11 members who were mostly from economically backward and later diversified the products with rice.

He said the group is thriving to increase the products and the market is being explored.

Preparing for natural disasters

Wed, 10/12/2022 - 12:02

Chhimi Dema

On October 8, 1994, the outburst of Luggye Tsho cost lives and damaged residential buildings and infrastructure along the Punakha-Wangdue valley and parts of Punakha Dzong.

Twenty-eight years after the event, the country faces the threat of more such dangers—particularly glacial lake outbursts (GLOFs).

The Department of Disaster Management (DDM), therefore, is creating awareness among the people.

DDM’s chief, Thinley Norbu, said that people should understand the risk and the coping capacity of the population and infrastructure for disaster reduction.

Risks are assessed and response plans made, he said. “If people do not understand the risk of a hazard, then they won’t be able to cope during a disaster.”

For disaster management, creating awareness is critical as people are the first responders, Thinley Norbu said.

Disaster management can be understood in four cycles—mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.

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For example, in the event of an earthquake, mitigation involves structural designs, policies, and governance. Preparedness and response cycles are the assessment of a disaster’s impact and identifying the roles of agencies to respond to the impacts. Recovery is the start of developmental activities.

DDM as an agency to oversee disaster issues in the country delivers coordination and facilitates services in disaster management and works towards helping government and other stakeholders attain disaster resilience.

The department is currently carrying out awareness programmes on disaster reduction in corporate offices and non-structural measures at home.

DDM is working with government agencies such as the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement, the National Centre for Hydrology and Meteorology, and the National Land Commission to develop a disaster risk management portal that will generate science and evidence-based hazard mapping.

The portal will help in drawing customised hazard-mapping based on a community’s vulnerability.

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The country has identified earthquakes as the number one disaster.

The available records show that there were 29 earthquake events in Bhutan and neighbouring countries that had varying degrees of impact on lives and infrastructures.

The recent earthquake was on April 28 last year in Assam which caused injuries to people and damaged religious monuments, school buildings and houses.

DDM has made disaster management contingency plans that comprise activities that the local governments can carry out in case of a disaster. These plans are based on a historical approach or evidence of a disaster in the area. With the DRM portal, the plans will be science-based and customised to locations for different hazards.

According to Thinley Norbu, a challenge today is the lack of institutionalised channels to disseminate information.

October 13 is the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction. This year’s international day will focus on “Substantially increasing the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments to people by 2030.”

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Capping the hospitality and entertainment budget

Wed, 10/12/2022 - 12:02

The government is in a cost-cutting mode. All efforts are to reduce spending whether it is on meals at meetings, conferences, printing documents or reducing unnecessary travels. With the economy badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and global economic downturn, it is one way to curb expenditure, especially unnecessary expenditure.

There are many unhidden expenditures that cost the government coffer. The so-called hospitality and entertainment budget is one. Left to the discretion of those who are entitled, it could hit the government exchequer hard. The finance ministry revising the Hospitality and Entertainment (H&E) budget is timely and welcomed, especially when the government is hard on funds.

Governments across the world spend a lot of money on hospitality and entertainment. It is a part of the system or governance. We have to spend wherever it is necessary and be reasonable where unnecessary. Entertaining a delegation with food and wine is the norm. But entertaining expenditure for hosting tokha (party), nyendar (offerings) or semso is way too much for those who are eligible for the privilege.

Many say the current government is unfortunate as the Covid-19 restrictions have curtailed travel, gathering and other privileges an elected government or ministers could enjoy. H&E had cost the country heavily in the past. To put into context, between 2016 and 2018, ministries. spent Nu 9.8M in soleranyendar, tshokchang, khaddhar, and semso from the H&E budget, according to the Public Accounts Committee report 2020. It was about Nu 55 million before – more than the total turnover of a medium-size company or worth building a school, buying several dialysis machines or repairing the capital city’s deteriorating roads.

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The revised guidelines is expected to provide clarity on the allowable and disallowable expenditures under the H&E expenditure, standardise the procedural requirements and restrictions governing the manner and extent to which public funding may be expended.

In reality, our Lyonpos and Dashos are expected to dish out soelras, donate generously or host gatherings. It is in our culture to the extent that some even complain of their new “dasho” post being a financial burden. Whether it is an invitation to a rimdo or a birthday or at the duthroe, the expectation is they should contribute more.

The revised guidelines look into this too. If the expenses for hospitality and entertainment must be directly related to, or associated with, the active conduct of official business, it will be entertained. Those entitled could also seek the approval of the Lhengye Zhungtshog with appropriate justification for genuine reasons for spending beyond the ceiling of Nu 1.5M per annum.

However, no rules or guidelines are watertight. At the end of the day it is honesty and integrity that would matter or make a difference. If a minister donates a statue to the village Lhakhang in his constituency and books the expenditure as H&E, it is not right. Nobody will question that.

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Bhutan lost a maestro of musical and cultural legend

Wed, 10/12/2022 - 12:01

Rinzin Wangchuk

Renowned Bhutanese singer, dancer and musician, Ap Dawpel will be remembered by the people of Bhutan, especially his students, as an unparalleled maestro of folk music instruments and performance of traditional Zhungdra songs.

Druk Thuksey (Heart Son of Bhutan) medal recipient, Ap Dawpel passed away at his residence in Motithang, Thimphu on September 28. He was 91.

A relative of Ap Dawpel said that Jojo (great grandfather) was not well because of his old age. “Despite his poor health, Jojo used to sing “Thrungla Ya Ya” (a traditional song dedicated to Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel) when his followers and well-wishers came to see him,” she said.

From Talo Nobgang, Ap Dawpel’s real name was Dawa Peljor also called Kinzang Tshering when he was a mask dancer at the Punakha Dzong.

Ap Dawpel, who picked up his flute at the age of nine,  spent the rest of his life with folk musical instruments- lim (flute), chiwang (violin), and dranyen (lute).

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Ethnocologist Jigme Drukpa and musician Kheng Sonam Dorji, both students of Ap Dawpel, described their master as a great artist and  distinguished folk musician in the country.  They remember him as the most esteemed ambassador of music in Bhutan.

“As a Bhutanese musician and composer, Ap Dawpel was best known for popularising the Bhutanese folk instrument dranyen all over the world. Bhutan definitely lost a master,” Kheng Sonam Dorji said.

He said that Ap Dawpel’s presentations of music, belonging to the house of Talo dangrem style, were very pure and authentic.

“Ap Dawpel was a person, wholly immersed into music, who never competed with or had reserves about any other musician.”

Calling the late maestro Apa, Jigme Drukpa said that Apa was a deeply spiritual person with a high sense of humour, wit and clarity about all things he did. He was a simple man and wanted no material possessions, but would be out to fight against anyone if he knew he wasn’t wrong.

“Bhutan lost an unparalleled maestro of folk music instruments, folk and mask dances, painting, embroidery, song writing, storytelling and performance of zhungdra songs,” Jigme Drukpa said.

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Ap Dawpel’s contributions

After 58 years into folk music, Ap Dawpel’s contribution in preserving traditional music in Bhutan was recognised when His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo awarded him the Druk Thuksey medal on June 2, 1999. After receiving the award, Ap Dawpel said that he got the award because of the blessings of Lhamo Yangchenma (Goddess of music and wisdom).

As a young boy from Talo, Ap Dawpel’s parents enrolled him into the clergy. At the age of 18 he began playing the flute out of his own personal interest. He had said that no one taught him how to play.

Soon, he was recruited for a music group assembled in Dechenphodrang. Even as a young monk, he was often called to play for the Royal Bhutan Army band. He left the clergy at the age of 23 and it was then that he learned to play the dranyen, and took to zhungdra songs from his teacher and friend Sewla Pem Dorji.

Ap Dawpel’s life took a turn when, at 25, he started work as a painter because of his kikhor teacher in the clergy. During the renovation of the Tashichhodzong in the 1960s he was nominated as a master painter and he continued painting for about 25 years before he finally retired.

Ap Dawpel had entertained guests like late Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru and his grandson, Rajiv Gandhi, during their State visits to Bhutan. His music provides the background for the film on Prime Minister Nehru’s visit to Bhutan and other films.

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Some of Ap Dawpel’s well-known songs were Lhasa Norbuling la, Gesar Janglu Joenbe Gang, and Tashi Laso. He also released many dranyen  solo albums.

Ap Dawpel, who was instrumental in propagating zhungdra and dhang (tune), married three times, his first at the age of 25, and had a daughter from each.

Picture story

Wed, 10/12/2022 - 12:00

Defeating FC Takin 5-2  at the Woochu Sports Arena in Paro yesterday, Paro Rinpung FC snatched their first win of the ongoing BoB Bhutan Premier League 2022.  Rinpung FC played eight games as of yesterday  of the nine in the first league round. FC Takin lost all the seven games so far.  RTC FC will face Druk Lhayul FC today at RTC ground at 3pm. 

Picture story

Wed, 10/12/2022 - 11:59

The men’s under-17 national football team  will arrive in the country today after their Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-17 Asian Cup qualification held in Bangladesh from October 5 to 9. Bhutan lost three consecutive games against Bangladesh 2-0, Singapore 1-0  and Yemen 8-0.  The team reached Bangladesh on September 13 following the   SAFF U-17 Championship 2022 in Sri Lanka. 

Smoking in public places is still prohibited: PM

Wed, 10/12/2022 - 11:59

Nima Wangdi

Smoking tobacco and tobacco products in public places is a violation, the Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority (BNCA) called out to the heads of organisations recently.

The authority stated that there has been an increase in people smoking in public places.

The Tobacco Act also prohibits the advertisement of tobacco and tobacco products through any medium. Display of tobacco products on any business premises will be considered an advertisement of tobacco products, which is punishable by law.

With the shortage of human resources, it is unable to monitor public places, No Smoking zones, including entertainment centres throughout the country according to the authority. The authority requested competent agencies to intensify and monitor to protect the health of the nonsmokers.

The organisations are asked to declare their own premises as non-smoking areas or designate smoking rooms. However, the smoking rooms should have closable doors, exhaust fans, and ventilation, no leakage of smoke into the adjacent rooms, there should be signage, fire extinguisher, and health warnings.

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Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that the Tobacco Act was amended during the pandemic and only trading and import are allowed. The rest remains as it is.

He said Bhutan never banned importing and smoking tobacco. People were allowed to import tobacco for personal consumption within permissible amounts by declaring them to customs. 

“However, smoking in public places was prohibited.”

Lyonchhen said to monitor people smoking in public places is the responsibility of law enforcement agencies.

BNCA officials said that their inspectors are always in the field. They will also be visiting places like automobile workshops for sensitisation and inspections.

Religious organisations, commercial centres, recreation centres, public gatherings, institutions, public transportation, public spaces, and private vehicles are no smoking areas.

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Agencies and institutions failing to display ‘No Smoking’ signs will be liable for a fine of Nu 1,000, Nu 500 for smoking in the restricted area, and the person in charge of the place will be liable for a fine of Nu 1,000 per person smoking at the place.

A Thimphu resident said it was annoying to see people smoking along the road permeating smoke to others walking around. “It is agitating when people smoke in the places where children are around.”

Another resident said that he sees people smoking everywhere every day but never heard of them being penalised. “People have the right to smoke but should respect non-smokers by not smoking everywhere.”

Meanwhile, RBP is asked for better coordination according to Prime Minister’s Office.

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Nyendar and tokha not allowed from hospitality and entertainment budget

Tue, 10/11/2022 - 11:23

Revised guidelines provide more clarity

Dechen Dolkar 

Cabinet ministers and senior government officials will not be allowed to offer nyendar or host tokha (granting meals to mass gatherings) from the Hospitality and Entertainment (H&E) budget.

This is according to the revised guidelines for H&E. The finance ministry revised the guidelines for H&E after the Royal Audit Authority (RAA) asked the ministry to revisit the rationale behind the institution of the discretionary grant vis-à-vis H&E budget for prudent and judicious use of scarce public resources.

Ministries spent “unjustified expenses” amounting to Nu 9.8M on account of payments for soelra, nyendar, tshokchang, khaddhar, and semso from the H&E budget between 2016 and 2018, according to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report 2020.

Use of the H&E budget was one of the thrust areas of audit in the fiscal year 2018-19. The RAA report pointed out various inconsistent practices adopted in the use of budget by the government officials. The PAC report also states that in the absence of appropriate guidelines to regulate such expenditure, there is a risk of indiscriminate use and misappropriation of government funds.

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H&E is defined as expenditure incurred on hosting, gifting and entertaining guests, including making other officials expenses during official tours and visits both within and outside the country.

There is no cap on expenses like donations, offerings, semso, tips, soelras and nyendar as they were discretionary in nature.

The new guideline

The revised guidelines are to provide clarity on the allowable and disallowable expenditures under the H&E expenditure, provide clarity to the oversight bodies and standardise the procedural requirements and restrictions governing the manner and extent to which public funding may be expended.

According to the guideline, expenses for hospitality and entertainment must be directly related to, or associated with, the active conduct of official business.

For instance, contributions to trust funds, charity and political party offices are also not covered under H&E budget. However, chagyebs will be allowed only while representing the organisation or agency at the annual kurims and rimdos.

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The guidelines state that only actual and evidenced costs can be reclaimed based on the expenses supported by receipts, bills, invoices, and cash memos verified by public servants concerned.

The budget for the H&E for cabinet ministers and equivalent position holders will be within the prescribed ceiling of Nu 1.5M per annum. However, if it is not sufficient, approval has to be sought from Lhengye Zhungtshog with appropriate justification.


Nu 1 million for travel

Cabinet ministers and equivalent position holders are entitled to Nu 1M for travel purposes both in-country and ex-country. This amount will be adjusted from annual block grants allocated to respective ministries or agencies.

In the event the allocated amount is not enough to suffice the expenses incurred during official travel, respective ministers and equivalent position holders could meet the expenses from the H&E (provided the H&E expenses remain within the prescribed ceiling).

Any unutilised fund at the end of the financial year will lapse.

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For the purpose of the guidelines, the discretionary grant will be defined as a grant to cover expenditures made at the discretion of an entitled public servant in their official capacity. The discretionary grant will be disbursed as and when required, upon receipt of a request for disbursement verified by the public servant concerned.

If a public servant gets transferred or remits from service before the financial year, the public servant will have to refund the discretionary grant on a pro-rata basis. The guidelines will apply to all public servants entitled to the H&E and the discretionary grant.

Picture story

Tue, 10/11/2022 - 11:22

Indian Military Training Team (IMTRAT) celebrated its diamond jubilee anniversary and conducted the three-day Haa Mela (fair) that ended yesterday. Goongloen Gongma Batoo Tshering was the chief guest on the occasion that saw more than 20,000 spectators and the special attraction was the Indian Army Sky Diving Team.

Elephant attack injures a woman in Gelephu

Tue, 10/11/2022 - 11:22

Choki Wangmo | Sarpang

An elephant attack injured a 37-year-old woman from Dzomlingthang in Gelephu yesterday.

Her two elder children escaped the attack unhurt and hid in the pigsty.

The woman came face-to-face with the tusker when she was trying to save her children. She managed to throw the baby on the road for safety.

After hearing her scream for help, the neighbours came to her rescue.

It was raining heavily.

Eyewitnesses claim that people called the Gelephu Central Regional Referral Hospital (CRRH) for ambulance service which never came.

“The ambulance took two hours to reach the site. Neighbours couldn’t drive her to hospital as the threats of attack loomed were serious.”

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The woman is currently recovering  at the Gelephu CRRH.

Dzomlingthang chiwog representative, Ajay Kumar Monger, said that the woman and her three children lived in a temporary shed in the middle of the forest. There are only three houses in the area.

He said it took 45 minutes for the ambulance to arrive at the site. “The attack took place at 4:15am and the ambulance reached the site at 5am,” he said, adding that the driver couldn’t reach on time as they couldn’t locate the site of incident.

The chiwog is about 15 minutes away from the Gelephu Gewog Administration.

Human conflicts with elephants have drastically increased in the dzongkhag. In August, an elephant trampled a man to death. It was the second incident of death reported this year.

The damage to crops and properties are countless.

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One of the local government (LG) leaders said that every night the LG leaders receive call for help to chase away the beasts. Many have filed reports of loss to the gewog administration offices.

Sarpang forest office has developed an app to enhance online reporting through the Human elephant conflict (HEC) project.

Layaps to explore Italian cheese production

Tue, 10/11/2022 - 11:21

Thukten Zangpo 

Highlanders in Laya gewog under Gasa dzongkhag will produce high-end yak cheese called Italian or caciocavallo cheese.

This would add value to their dairy products apart from their usual cordyceps and porter businesses.

The gewog livestock extension officer, Jigme Rinzin said that currently, the Layaps barter 60 percent of their dairy products with red rice and 40 percent are offered as gifts.

“They need to convert their products directly into cash since the income and the market are very good,” he said.

He added that Italian cheese is a high-end premium cheese that could be sold to high-end hoteliers in the country.

The cheese, shaped like a teardrop could fetch Nu 1,800 a kilogram while cow’s cheese gets Nu 1,400 a kilogram. Five litres of yak milk can produce a kilogram of cheese.

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There are 3,500 yaks in the gewog. With 1,500 milch yaks, the gewog has the potential to produce 360,000 litres of milk in a year.

Jigme Rinzin said that the cheese is tastier because it is produced without removing butter after 12 days of ripening. The cheese is usually eaten with wine and bread.

He added that there was potential for cheese production since it could be also used in pizza making, a substitute for common mozzarella cheese.

However, Jigme Rinzin said that Laya Gaki Lanor Tshogpa with 56 herders was not doing well since the herds were scattered.

Passang from Chongra chiwog said that most of the herders are old and the herding responsibility was handed over to the young herders a few years back. However, the 64-year old said that most of the young herders happened to sell the yaks.

In the next 20 years, Jigme Rinzin said that the number of yaks was expected to remain the same. “However, the number of herders would decline because most of the herders are old.”

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Young Layaps are engaged in the cordyceps business because they find it a more lucrative business than dairy farming.

To support the community, the gewog livestock extension office provides dairy produce drying facilities, a cool box to store and a transportation basket. A dairy outlet will be opened in Gasa soon.

Youth and crime 

Tue, 10/11/2022 - 11:20

While we still enjoy the reputation of being the land of the peaceful dragon, some might be a little surprised at the amount of violence we see with increasing regularity in the capital.

A majority of the youth involved are students who antagonise others or are provoked by a mere exchange of words with other youth. Our youth appear to be walking around today in an atmosphere of high tension.

On average, police arrested at least two youths every day in conflict with the law in the past eight months.

While some were involved in trafficking drugs cases, others were involved in battery, alcohol abuse, larceny and other crimes.  Most of them were unemployed.

Last year alone, RBP apprehended 689 youths of which 186 were students. In 2020, 689 youths were arrested of which 162 were students.

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In a recent case, a dispute in a school spilt onto the street. Youths were found in possession of weapons and chasing each other on the streets. There is no school in the world where students do not get into fights. In the world of youth, where competition stirs rivalry, tension cannot be avoided.

Boys will be boys, we have heard. The wild spirit of youth has always got them into trouble with each other, with their schools, and with the authorities. Given the easy flow of alcohol, nobody is surprised to hear about the late-night scuffles. And it would be unrealistic to expect that we will be able to prevent it.

A not-so-healthy trend in many schools is the tendency for bigger youth to bully the younger ones or for larger groups to dominate smaller groups. But this is nearly impossible to avoid, given the young minds that are yet to mature and understand human relationships from a broader perspective.

That is why good schools have rules that are strictly enforced to ensure that such unhealthy trends are not fanned.

But a school fight is one issue, a knife injury is another problem altogether. Any individual who goes out, carrying a weapon of any kind, is a menace to society, particularly a peaceful society. Today frustrated youths attack each other. Tomorrow they will attack the innocent.

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It would be reassuring to know that the standards of decency are established and the innocent are protected. As much as we allow entertainment centres we have to provide protection for the general public. Those who are involved in violence have to be punished, the severity depending on the nature of the act. And it should be known that they are punished.

Amidst all this, the launch of the hospital-based Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Treatment and Care Services, and Anti-bullying Guidelines by the Patron of the Pema Centre Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen yesterday is a timely intervention.

Hospital-based Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Treatment and Care Services would provide an effective referral pathway for persons with SUD through a continuum-of-care approach.

The Anti-bullying Guidelines for educational institutions will enable them to nurture a safe and harmonious learning environment for children and youth. The guideline will provide a strategic reference for educational institutions to support their anti-bullying initiatives.

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With law enforcement agencies tightening their grip on defaulters, it is critical that other agencies working for the youth build on the initiatives of Pema Centre to help our society to become a just and harmonious society.