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Bhutan's Daily Newspaper
Updated: 1 hour 31 min ago

Picture story

Sat, 11/19/2022 - 12:35

Of the 147 volunteers, who came to donate blood yesterday at an event organised by the Bhutan Australia Alumni Association, 82 donated and 16 cases were deferred.

39 individuals fined for failing to segregate solid waste 

Sat, 11/19/2022 - 12:34

Chhimi Dema  

Thimphu Thromde has fined 39 residents and shopkeepers along the Norzin Lam and in Hongkong Market in Thimphu for not segregating waste during the collection on November 17.

Thromde imposed a total of Nu 19,500 penalty on the violators. The violators were fined Nu 500 each for the offence.

According to the Waste Prevention and Management Regulation 2012, it is an offence if a person fails to “segregate solid waste when segregation facilities are available or provided with”.

Thromde sanitation inspectors, de-suups, police, officials from the National Environment Commission and His Majesty’s Secretariat monitored the waste collection and segregation on the night of November 17.

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The inspection and deployment of the garbage trucks at night along Norzin Lam and Hongkong Market are some of the initiatives that the Waste Management Committee is carrying out for proper waste management in the country.

The committee was formed this month with the issuance of an executive order by the Prime Minister.

Greener Way’s founder, Karma Yonten, said that regardless of advocating waste segregation since 2015, no change has occurred in people’s attitudes.

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The waste handlers observed that some people put wet solid waste below dry.

Karma Yonten said that penalising violators is essential to change their waste management habits. “Everyone has a part to keep our country clean.”

The shop owners along the Norzin Lam said that hawkers and people leave garbage behind at night.

A shopkeeper said that they have to pick up garbage every morning before they open their shops.

“If we leave them, we are penalised. People should learn to take care of their waste,” he said.

Zero Waste Bhutan – a programme to achieve zero waste through 100 percent source segregation ­to deter people from improper waste management – upload “naming and shaming” posts on their social media handles.

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On November 6, a man was caught  dumping waste illegally near the junction of Jambayang Resort. He was fined Nu 9,000 and made to take back waste and dump it at the Memelakha landfill.

According to the waste prevention and management regulation, a person can report to the nearest local authority or the police when he or she has the knowledge of any person “releasing any nature of waste into the environment in a manner other than the prescribed procedures”

People can report illegal waste activities on Zero Waste Bhutan’s website following www.zerowastebhutan.gov.bt

Parliamentarians must rely on evidence-based decisions

Sat, 11/19/2022 - 12:32

This week, the Economics and Finance Committee of the National Assembly made a sketchy recommendation on tax bills causing confusion among fellow members.

The Committee repeatedly justified the recommendation to reduce taxes on tobacco products while increasing, doubling, or introducing new taxes on even essential goods such as butter and cheese. This could further add uneasiness among the public servants since the same Committee is also assigned the Clean Wage Bill.

A need to make decisions based on evidence and not presumption is being felt in the house.

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The Committee’s decision to recommend heavy taxes for numerous essential items but recommending non-essential items like tobacco items is a serious concern if they understood the rationale for the purpose of taxation on these items. The World Health Organization (WHO) records say that “tobacco use kills eight million people yearly and is the leading cause of preventable deaths globally.  Evidence shows that significantly increasing tobacco excise taxes and prices are the single most effective and cost-effective measure for reducing tobacco use.” 

Bhutan, as a member of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, has the mandate to impose heavy taxes on tobacco products under Article six of the Convention. WHO explained that “raising taxes on tobacco products which lead to increases in their price makes tobacco less affordable, people use it less and youth initiation is prevented, and youth and low-income groups are more responsive to increases in tobacco prices and enjoy the health and economic benefits of quitting and not starting”. But the Committee’s reasons for the recommendation were contrary to evidence-based data. Tobacco-related diseases have a huge economic burden on our own healthcare system.

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The Committee’s recommendation which lost only by one vote shows the lack of taxation purpose on tobacco products among the legislative members.  Further, there is no evidence of deaths caused due to withdrawal symptoms of tobacco while deaths due to withdrawal from drug use are high. Should we then legalise the use of drugs since it has more compelling reasons?

Similarly, the increase or introduction of green taxes on vehicles shows the lack of understanding of climate change itself and other situations in the country. First, except for Thimphu, public transport in other dzongkhags, except for taxis, is almost non-existent. Second, waste management is a serious issue causing far more environmental and health hazards compared to the importation of vehicle parts and vehicles in the country. Even developed dzongkhags like Paro lack basic waste segregation facilities and waste collection is done only once a week without segregation.

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His Majesty had to send de-suups to clean Paro town for days recently. Third, climate change is irreversible and developed countries are pushing hard to evade their duties causing huge losses to the least developed countries, including Bhutan.

The best solution to fight climate change is increasingly leaning towards adaptation and mitigation rather than prevention, particularly in a small nation like Bhutan through compensation for loss and damage from the developed nations. COP27, which concluded yesterday in Egypt with over forty thousand delegates and observers, yielded no impressive outcomes to fight against climate change.

At the local level, if we need to fight. We first need to manage our waste as per the existing waste management laws across the country, not just in Thimphu. It is time our representatives moved towards evidence-based data instead of presumptions.

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.

A new dilemma?

Sat, 11/19/2022 - 12:32

A decade and half ago when Bhutan and Bhutanese were gearing up for the first democratic elections, the concern was if there would be enough political parties or if parties would find candidates. The political pendulum has reversed.

With the confirmation of another political party joining the fray to contest the 2023 elections, we have now six political parties, enough to make some believe that there are too many political parties for a small country and population. 

The slow start to politics and political parties was understandable given the uncertainties the transition presented. 15 years after the transition and with six political parties, we are spoilt for choices. 

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However, our voters have matured. They cannot be swayed by the promises of roads, bridges or subsidies. They have learnt that all that glitters is not gold.  

The details of the latest political party is sketchy except that they will register and have 70 percent of the candidates identified. What is sketchier is party ideologies. In most democracies, political parties are known by their ideologies making it easier for voters to choose or support a party. Quite often, it is the aggregation of views or having similar ideologies or political philosophies. In other words, political parties are identified as conservatives, leftist, socialist or liberals. 

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Our political parties try to align their mandates to the Five-Year Plans and the bureaucracy tries to adjust the development plans to their manifestos or pledges. In short, whatever the number, what difference a political party could bring is determined by what our Five-Year Plans prioritise. 

Beyond that it is still the personality that shapes political parties. This is evident from political parties being cautious in choosing the leadership. Smart politicians have studied the voting pattern and know how to win votes. But winning votes alone will not make a political party successful or good for the people and the country.  

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However, as the momentum picks up, many are wondering where the potential candidates and party workers are going to come from. If all the six parties qualify to contest the primary round, the requirement is 282 candidates. Our election rules mandate a political party to ready all the 47 candidates to even get registered. 

The National Council where members end their tenure soon is a happy hunting ground to the extent that it is rumoured that the new political parties have many councilors as its confirmed members. Who the political parties choose will remain a secret until the election period, but what we see is change or transformation in our political arena.

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What many would expect is a political party that can live up to the changes and the transformation happening in the country and beyond. Some are concerned with the election cost. As long as we get a good political party to lead the country for the next five years, cost is secondary. How good a political party is, is subjective and who gets elected to govern still lies with the voters. 

The ball, in other words, is in the hands of the voters. 

NA supports 0.1 percent building tax

Sat, 11/19/2022 - 12:30

…. also 15 percent as vacant land surcharge tax on the annual land tax

Thukten Zangpo 

The National Assembly members supported the 0.1 percent building tax and 15 percent on land tax as vacant land surcharge during the deliberation on Property Tax Bill 2022 yesterday.

If the parliament passes the Bill, the building owners have to pay 0.1 percent of the taxable building value annually.

The tax for the building would be based on the building’s annual rental value and rates of capitalisation (expected rate of return from the property).

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The members expressed the risk of a spillover effect from building tax of 0.1 percent to the tenants.

Khamaed-Lunana MP Yeshey Dem said that the already high house rents in the urban areas could further aggravate and asked the agencies concerned to strictly monitor the unethical practices. Kengkhar-Weringla MP Rinzin Jamtsho suggested reducing the building tax to 0.075 percent.

Finance Minister Namgay Tshering said that along with the increase in the house rents, building tax will increase given that tax is based on the annual capitalised value.

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He added that the ministry is coming up to include deductible expenses while filing the personal income tax. The income tax Bill would be tabled during the summer session next year, Lyonpo said.

The members also expressed to provide tax rebate if there are no adequate basic amenities in the area.

Bartsham-Shongphu MP Passang Dorji said that there is a shortage of drinking water in some areas. “If there is no proper water supply, the tax has to be rebated during tax collection.”

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Lyonpo Namgay Tshering said that Section 57 of the Bill will address the issue of tax if there are no adequate basic amenities.

Section 57 on remission states that the finance ministry may, on the joint recommendation of the ministry responsible for human settlement and the National Land Commission Secretariat, where it is just and equitable to do so, prescribe in the rules that the tax payable in respect of such category of land or buildings for such period shall be remitted wholly or in part, and prescribe the applicable conditions for such remission.

The members also said that the vacant land surcharge tax of 15 percent is too high and only four thromdes should be included in the surcharge.

Ten areas that fall under the surcharge tax are 10 thromdes-Thimphu, Wangduephodrang, Punakha, Trashigang, Gelephu, Samdrupjongkhar, Samtse, Phuntsholing, Mongar, and Paro town precinct.

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The vacant land surcharge tax is applicable if no development has been carried out on the land within two years from the date on which all of the urban services have been made available.

Urban services include water, road, waste management and sewerage and stormwater drainage.

Opposition Leader Dorji Wangdi said that only four thromdes-Thimphu, Phuntsholing, Gelephu, and Samdrupjongkhar, which have elected Thrompons with their administration, could be included in vacant land surcharge tax.

Bartsham-Shongphu MP Passang Dorji also said that some of the thromdes do not have urban services.

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Deputy Chairperson of the Legislative Committee, Karma Lhamo said that there has been a problem of housing shortage in the thromdes because of more vacant land.  Because of this, she said that the implementation of the tenancy act was difficult.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that some urban areas in Thimphu do not have the centralised sewerage connection, and surcharges would not be applicable to them.

He added that including six thromdes would give an opportunity for more developmental activities in these thromdes.

The deliberation on the Bill will continue on Monday.

Imposing annual tax for goongtong owner is ineffective: Local leaders

Sat, 11/19/2022 - 12:30

…lack of income opportunities are the main reasons behind the high migration rate

Neten Dorji | Lumang

The last few years have seen a significant exodus of people from rural Lumang in Trashigang.

In the past three years, more than 30 families of Lumang have left their villages.

With goongtong (empty house) cases increasing in the gewog, the gewog administration has adopted a system of collecting Nu 3,000 annually from the land owners.

Local leaders, however, say that even this measure has not been very effective to curb the rural-urban migration.

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The gewog decided to collect Nu 3,000 annually from goongtong owners during the gewog meeting in 2017 to encourage people to return to their village. However, until now, representatives have been paying taxes on their behalf.

Lumang gup, Sangay Gyeltshen, said the number of goongtong has been rising yearly.

“People are leaving villages,even though they have basic facilities like drinking water and road connectivity. The authorities had started some development projects in the villages but this has not stopped outward migration,” said the gup.

Lumang Gewog has six chiwogs with 950 households, of which 134 are empty.

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Gup said that the goongtong issue in the gewog was mainly due to human-wildlife conflict, less income opportunities, lack of farmhands.

“There are not many young people in the villages. Most of them are either studying or working outside the village,”said the Gup. “It is difficult to undertake any developmental activities when we have fewer households in the gewog.”

Butterflies of Bhutan

Sat, 11/19/2022 - 12:29

Butterfly tourism in Bhutan would really help diversify tourism products and opportunities for the local communities and for our guests because the butterfly species found in Bhutan are diverse, exotic and priceless. 

Swallowtail butterflies are large, colorful and fork-tailed butterflies that compose the family Papilionidae. They are named after the bird the swallow in the naming of the type species Papilio machaon (Common Yellow Swallowtail). Globally, there are over 550 species, and in Bhutan 42 swallowtail butterflies are recorded. Our national butterfly is Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory (Bhutanitis ludlowi) which is identified as endangered species. Bhutanitis ludlowi is commonly known as Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory. It was officially declared as Bhutan’s national butterfly in 2012. It is found at an altitude of 2000 to 2500 meters asl. It is spotted commonly in Trashi Yangtsi Valley during Autumn season. Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory (Bhutanitis ludlowi) is listed as endangered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), not much was known about the butterfly species until recently. The butterfly was first discovered by plant hunters, Frank Ludlow and George Sheriff at Tobrang, upper parts of Trashi Yangtse valley in 1933-34.  Commonly seen in Bumdeling valley in Bhutan, Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory was rediscovered after 75 years in 2009 by a Bhutanese forester, Karma Wangdi. Travelers can visit Trashi Yangtse to see these beautiful species. 

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Common Blue Apollo (Parnassius hardwickii)


Gem Silverspot (Issoria gemmata)

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Japanese Awlking (Choaspes benjaminii japonica)

Purple and Purple (Zographetus satwa)


Narrow-banded Satyr (Aulocera brahminus)

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Forester Karma Wangdi, who rediscovered Bhutan’s national butterfly and also received the prestigious Jigme Singye Wangchuck Outstanding Environmental Stewardship Award, has been an inspiration for many butterfly enthusiasts like me.  His pure passion and dedication motivated me to continue studying and observing diverse butterflies in Bhutan. However, there is a need for some kind of institutional support for the general butterfly-lovers who are genuinely interested in learning and documenting information on butterflies in Bhutan. 

With far-sighted environment conservation vision of our monarchs, Bhutan is blessed with pristine forests and rich biodiversity. What is remarkable is that Bhutan keeps discovering new species to science almost every year, and there are undoubtedly many undiscovered species to be discover before they are extinct, including exotic butterflies and moths which are essential for our eco system. 

In my exertion to learn more about butterflies, I have individually observed 650 butterflies so far and some of them are new species found in Bhutan or India. In the past few years, I have studied life cycles of 10 butterflies. One of which was recently listed as new to Indian Subcontinent. What is exciting about butterfly-watching is that it is not only beautiful mysterious creatures but it teaches you a lot of patience, it is like a meditation. One of the toughest butterfly families to observe are Hesperiinae (Skippers) and Lycaenidae (Blues). 

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As a Bhutanese butterfly enthusiast and butterfly-watching tour guide, I am personally very grateful to Bhutan Ecological Society for supporting to publish a field guide book with aims to create awareness on birds and butterflies of Bhutan among our citizens, students and tour guides. 

I was recently invited to Assam, India, for their 7th Northeast Butterfly Festival to represent Bhutan. It was organized by Butterflies of Northeast India Group in collaboration with the Government of Bodoland Territorial Council and NGOs like ATREE, WWF India, WTI, Aranyak, SEED, Flutters.org, Ngunu Ziro, BECT, BAMOS and Wiki Love Butterflies.  The aim was to create awareness about biodiversity conservation and to boost tourism potential in the region. Attending the meet, I realized there is a need for such events in Bhutan and also a transboundary Indo-Bhutan butterfly survey would actually benefit the countries in butterfly discovery and conservation.  

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I feel butterfly tourism in Bhutan would really help diversify tourism products, services and opportunities for the local communities and for our guests because the butterfly species found in Bhutan are diverse, exotic and priceless. 

Photographs and article contributed by Tshultrim. He is birder and butterfly-watching tour guide with almost a decade’s experience. Tshultrim has also co-authored a pictorial field guide book, “Birds and Butterflies of Bhutan”.

BFF will set giant screen at Changlimithang

Sat, 11/19/2022 - 12:25

Jigmi Wangdi

It is cold in Thimphu, but there are plans to make the FIFA World Cup 2022, moved to winter to escape the desert heat, an exciting experience.

To make it fun for football fans, the Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) will be screening every game on a giant digital screen at the volleyball court at Changlimithang. An official from BFF said that they are keeping options open for the timings.

“Some matches will be played late after midnight, but if there are still people who are interested, we will screen the matches,” the official said. BFF will also be organising activities such as lucky draws during half-times of every match.

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“We want to keep the people engaged during the matches. We will give out prices such as data recharge vouchers, city bus smartcards, etc. through the lucky draws,” said the official. The BFF is also planning to organise more activities once the round of 16 begins.

Fans wanting to escape the winter chill can turn to the numerous  pubs and bars in Thimphu who have their own activities for the World Cup. A popular rooftop bar located in Changlam square, Blackout,  will screen the entire tournament. The owner is planning to conduct lucky draws along with other activities to give their patrons an exciting and fun experience during the tournament.

Last week, three men were seen putting the final touches on their small bar in Babesa. Still smelling of fresh paint, it is turning into a sports bar. “Come and join us. It will be fun,” said one. “We want to make it an exciting experience.”

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Besides venues to watch the matches, fans are also organising online activities among friends and families to make the tournament interesting.

Tashi, 29, is organising a betting pool among his friends. His 16 friends will pick two countries each  for  Nu 1,000 a team. “There is always a different excitement when people have a reason to watch the matches,” he said. The money collected will be given as the prize.

Choden, 26, is organising a similar activity with her family. “We have 32 members who are participating in this year’s World Cup. Each member has been given a country based on a lucky draw with a fee of Nu 2,000 each,” she said. Choden’s luck is not bad. She got Spain, the 2010 world champion. “I am really hopeful they will make it to the finals,” she said.

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A football enthusiast created a website where fans can register with a Nu 1,000 fee and predict winners of the day’s fixture, goals scored to accumulate points. “I want to make it fun for other football enthusiasts and rather than betting on a country, I wanted to create a platform where people can predict scores of the matches. The individual with the most points at the end of the tournament will be the winner,” he said.

The first game between host nation Qatar and Ecuador kicks off on Sunday at 9:30 pm. Bhutan is three hours ahead of Qatar.

World Cup matches on Sports 18 channel cable tv

Sat, 11/19/2022 - 12:24

Thinley Namgay  

Football enthusiasts around the country can watch the FIFA World Cup on Sports 18 1HD channel as the international tournament kicks off on November 20.

Sports 18 channel is provided by Viacom18 broadcaster based in India which caters to the Indian subcontinent.  The channel is available on all Bhutanese cable networks.

An official from the Norling Cable said that one has to do an auto search if the channel does not appear on television. “In the set-top-box remote, one has to press the menu button. After that, press channel search and then auto search. If there is a password requirement, press all zero.”

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Cable operators said the necessary help will be provided if someone has difficulty finding the channel.

Host Qatar will take on Ecuador at Al Bayt Stadium in the opening game.  For Qatar, it will be their first ever world cup appearance in history. Qatar has made a mark in Asia defeating four-time champions Japan 3-1 in the Asian Cup final in 2019.

It will be the fourth World Cup for Ecuador. The last time the South American country competed was in 2014 in Brazil where it played against France, Switzerland, and Honduras. The country snatched four points with a win and a draw from three games, but couldn’t proceed to the knockout stage.

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World Cups in the past usually took place in May, June or July, but due to the intense heat in Qatar in these months, the tournament is shifted to November with a reduced time frame of 29 days.

The 2022 World Cup will take place in five cities of Qatar at eight venues.  Qatar won the World Cup bid in 2010.

Bhutan receives more travel awards

Fri, 11/18/2022 - 11:49

Dechen Dolkar  

Bhutan has picked up several prestigious international travel awards in the past two weeks, underscoring the country’s efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic to improve the overall tourism sector and guest experience.

On November 16, Bhutan was awarded the Editor’s Choice Award in the ‘Best Emerging Destination’ (international) category of Travel + Leisure India’s Best Awards 2022 in Delhi.

T+L India’s Best Awards 2022 felicitates the best in travel, hospitality and lifestyle, and the winners are chosen through an online voting platform, culminating in an evening gala that brings together the travel, hospitality, and lifestyle community during the awards ceremony.

Earlier this month, the Trans Bhutan Trail won a ‘Special Achievement Award’ at the Wanderlust event for the ‘Best Sustainability Initiative’, in addition to a ‘one to watch’ prize at the World Travel Mart awards ceremony in London.

The Trans Bhutan Trail has also been selected by the New York Times as one of the 52 places to go next year.

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Recently, Travel Lemming, a US-based online travel guide read by more than 6 million travellers has also named Bhutan as the best place to travel to in Asia next year, as well as the World’s second  Best Place to Travel in 2023 on its annual list of the world’s 50 best travel destinations.

Department of Tourism Director General Dorji Dhradhul said, “While we are excited with these awards, we are also mindful that these recognitions have entrusted us with added responsibility to deliver an even better experience to our guests.”

“I am happy to share that Bhutan’s newly adopted Nation Brand – Bhutan Believe, offers inspiration for us to offer a truly world-class holiday for our guests, and help them to connect with us and reconnect with their inner-self and inspire wellness,’’ Dorji Dhradhul said.

He said that these are the country’s commitments guided by the time-tested golden tourism policy of High Value(s) and Low Volume, knowing that for Bhutan, tourism is beyond revenue and receipts.

“It’s instead more about sustainable and ethical sources of revenue and investment, and about enhancing and protecting our social, cultural, environmental, natural and economic dimensions,” he said.

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11 monks of Takti bus accident discharged

Fri, 11/18/2022 - 11:49

Jigmi Wangdi 

Five days after the accident near Takti Koti on the Phuentsholing-Thimphu highway which claimed six lives, 11 of the passengers who were admitted to hospital for various injuries were discharged yesterday.

Of the 11, eight monks were discharged from the Chhukha hospital and three were sent home from JDWNRH in Thimphu. Six monks are still admitted at JDWNRH. They are reported to be in stable condition.

The bus accident on November 12 killed six monks and injured 17 of the Kanglung Thubten Choekhorling Shedra in Tashigang.

Meanwhile, the driver of the bus also remains admitted with a broken leg.  He is scheduled to undergo orthopaedic surgery today.

According to the Royal Bhutan Police, the statements collected from the 11 monks who were discharged alleged that the cause of the accident was speeding.

The police will also collect statements from the six admitted monks once they are discharged.

The police will also collect a statement from the bus driver after the driver recovers from the surgery. The statements are expected to assist in determining the main cause of the accident.

Illegal increments in house rents should be reported: MoWHS 

Fri, 11/18/2022 - 11:48

Nima Wangdi

An increasing number of tenants living in rented apartments in major urban centres said that landlords are increasing the monthly rents out of turn and beyond the permissible limit of 10 percent in some cases.

The Tenancy Act of Bhutan, 2015 states that the increment of the rent shall not exceed 10 percent of the monthly rent. “The owner shall not increase the rent before two years from the day on which a tenant occupies the house.”

A tenant, living in Changbagdu said that she received a notice from her house owner saying that the house rent will be increased by Nu 1,500 lump sum. The notice also provided an option for the tenants to move out before the rent increased if they don’t want to pay the increased rent.

Another resident said house rent had increased by more than 20 percent. He was also asked to think if he wants to continue living in the same apartment paying the increased rent or move out.

Tenants said that some house owners are increasing more than 10 percent of the house rents claiming to have not increased during the pandemic. “This is unfair,” she said.

Tenants did not want to reveal their identities as they could be asked to move out of the apartments if the house owners knew.

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“We have to live under the mercy of the house owners given the housing shortage in Thimphu,” another tenant said.

Some residents said that the house rent hike was triggered by the talks about the government’s salary revision. People said they knew this was coming and it is here already.

Sonam, a corporate employee, said that uncontrolled house rent in the country is the main factor that forces people to go abroad. She said that most of the young people, who have just found a job, can barely survive in places like Thimphu.

“Many of my civil servant friends pay more than half their monthly income as rent in Thimphu,” a tenant said. “The house rent is killing us.”

Given the present trend, only the house owners will grow rich and all the youth will leave for abroad.

Given the situation, the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement issued an executive order requesting all the building owners to abide by the tenancy Act of Bhutan 2015. The building owners are also reminded to submit tenancy agreements to the respective implementing agencies.

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The implementing agencies and the local governments are also asked to ensure that the house rents are revised as per the tenancy agreements.

The tenants are also asked to file cases with their respective local governments in case of illegal increases in house rents. Tenants can also contact MoWHS in case implementing agencies fail to monitor.

“Failure to implement the provisions of the Act will be an omission of responsibility imposed by the law and will be held accountable,” the executive order stated.

NC quizzes minister on agricultural production and human-wildlife conflicts 

Fri, 11/18/2022 - 11:48

Chhimi Dema  

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forests has identified chain-linked fencing as a major solution to tackle increasing cases of human-wildlife conflict and allotted Nu 500 million in this fiscal year, the agriculture minister said. 

Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor said that the ministry is providing chain-linked fencing to farmers based on proposals from the Dzongkhag Tshogdus and to places with high agricultural production potential.

He said this in response to Member of Parliament of Sarpang, Anand Rai’s question on the dwindling cereal production during the National Council session on November 16.

MP Anand Rai said that the cereal production, sown and harvest area in the country has decreased in the past three years according to the Agriculture Statistics Report.

He said that the decreasing trend in cereal production is concerning, and questioned the minister on interventions from the ministry to reverse the trend and increase production.

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Lyonpo said that farm production has decreased but productivity has increased.

He said that cereal production has declined because of several factors such as human-wildlife conflict, irrigation water shortage, rural-urban migration,  labour shortage, land fragmentation and climate change, among others.

“So far, the governments focused on increasing agriculture production and none looked into market accessibility and strategy,” he said, adding that the lack of market discourages farmers from producing.

The ministry has been working on land development and management making it technologically friendly, according to the minister.

The ministry developed about 400 acres of land, made terraces on 270 acres and revived 522 acres of fallow land. It is also exploring an additional funds from donor agencies.

Lyonpo informed the House about the ministry’s plans and the various initiatives that it is carrying out to increase food production.

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Some activities he highlighted are introducing technology to chase wild animals through smell and sound, identifying priority crops to grow in the country, bringing timely weather advisory services and strategising a market-led production.

People want tshogpa replaced

Fri, 11/18/2022 - 11:47

Nima Wangdi

The people of Phulingsum Chiwog in Guma Gewog, Punakha submitted a complaint letter to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) on November 14 accusing their Tshogpa of being corrupt. The letter contains eight points justifying how the Tshogpa has been involved in corrupt practices.

People say that the Tshogpa in collusion with other gewog officials diverted the budget for the chiwog’s farm road construction without consulting with the people. “The budget, Nu 1 Million (M) was diverted for the construction of an irrigation channel that benefitted his sister-in-law.

“Another 0.5M allocated for irrigation channel construction was also diverted to a different place where his relatives and friends benefitted.”

People also accuse the tshogpa of not announcing the availability of electric fencing poles in the chiwog. The tshogpa, people say, kept the required number of poles for himself and shared the rest with some villagers. “The Tshogpa was supposed to announce to the public about the availability of the poles and call for the applications which he did not do.”

People also complain about the unfair distribution of drinking water from Okuluma source. Five people in tshogpa’s village had five pipes connected directly to the water tank while 15 households have to share water from a single pipe.

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“The fruit tree plantation training was held at tshogpas house and a greenhouse was also constructed on his field,” a villager said. “Tshogpa also brought all the saplings to his house and distributed them after keeping all healthy plants for himself.”

Tshogpa also collected Nu 20 from each villager who received saplings as transportation charges, according to the villagers. 

Green nets that the chiwog received last year were not distributed to the people. Reportedly, the tshogpa gave green nets and pipes to a villager this year. 

A villager said that they complained about the Tshogpa storing green nets and pipes at his home after which he dropped one of the green nets at the school. Tshogpa is also accused of asking the school’s principal to say that he received it last year. 

Tshogpa is also accused of illegally constructing about 70-metre farm road leading to his land while constructing the Tenpakha farm road.  Dzongkhag slapped a fine of Nu 6,400 for building the road illegally.

Villagers say that the tshogpa used the public budget to construct 70-metre farm road and was fined and let go.

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People say that the village will not benefit from such a leader and that the tshogpa should be replaced.

There are about 27 households in Phulingsum Chiwog.

People who came to Thimphu to complain said that they also appealed to dzongkhag administration. “Dzongkhag’s resolution was all based on Tshogpa’s statement.”

“Had the dzongkhag administration been fair in handling the case, we would not have come to Thimphu seeking ACC’s intervention,” a farmer said. 

Punakha dzongkhag administration could not be contacted.

Tshogpa Samdrup said: “The Committee found that I was clean. I stand by their decision.”

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Need to grow enough to feed ourselves

Fri, 11/18/2022 - 11:46

Agriculture development seems to be picking pace only on paper. There are various plans and programmes but the overall production rate seems to be decreasing.

In this context, MP for Sarpang, Anand Rai’s question about decreasing cereal production in the National Council session on November 16 is significant.

Human-wildlife conflict is the biggest pall facing the farmers. Electric fencing hasn’t really worked. So, chain-linked fencing, an option being adopted is expected to reduce the issue of human-wildlife conflict. This is expected to be effective, particularly in the dzongkhags where agricultural production is high.

When talking about agriculture and production, we might do well to do away with useless demagoguery.  If there is a rise in productivity but a fall in production, Bhutan’s agriculture is in muddy waters.

If agriculture is affected by factors such as human-wildlife conflict, water shortage, rural-urban migration, labour shortage, land fragmentation and climate change, among others, there is a need for a cross-sectoral approach to solving the problem. If the government so far focused only on increasing agricultural production and omitted marketing accessibility and strategy for the farmers, a change and workable solution have been long time coming.

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The good news, as the agriculture minister stated at the National Council, is that the ministry has been working on land development and management making it “technologically friendly”. According to the minister, the ministry developed about 400 acres of land, made terraces on 270 acres of land, and revived 522 acres of fallow land. It also allocated Nu 500 million for chain-linked fencing and an additional fund will be secured from donor agencies.

Identifying priority crops, providing timely weather advisory services, and strategising market-led production, among other measures that are being planned for implementation, cannot wait.

Bhutan’s agriculture development is beset by several problems, but the problems are not of a nature that cannot be fixed. The lack of right policy interventions at the right time has aggravated the challenges over the years.

As an agrarian country with a large percentage of the population in the sector, it is about time we really gave a leg up to the sector.

Of the total arable land in the country of just 7 percent—664,000 acres—only 2.93 percent is under cultivation. On the other hand, the fallowing of land is increasing. On the last count, in 2019, total fallow land constituted 66,120.32 acres.

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Having stopped the real challenges, prompt and earnest actions must now follow. One of the biggest challenges facing the sector today is the shortage of farmhands. Mechanisation of agriculture has the potential to attract a large number of jobless youth.

Attempts are being made to address these issues, including compensation to the farmers for crop loss to wild animals. Even conservation laws are being studied and changes proposed.

Agriculture development needs a new turn; it is not only about being able to feed ourselves. In the long run, it is about securing our national sovereignty. Dependence on food imports, starting from salt and oil and cereal will land us in a very difficult situation.

NA in favour of 0.1 percent property tax 

Fri, 11/18/2022 - 11:45

Thukten Zangpo 

Going by the deliberations on the Property Tax Bill 2022 in the National Assembly, property owners would likely have to pay 0.1 percent annually on the taxable value of the land (rural and urban), which will differ from area to area.

A majority of the National Assembly members yesterday supported the proposed tax rate of 0.1 percent on the taxable land value with the raise of hands during the discussion on the Property Tax Bill 2022.

Deputy Chairperson of the Legislative Committee, Mongar MP, Karma Lhamo said that the work on the property tax revision draft had started 10 years ago in 2012 with the tax and economic experts including international experts.

She said that the current property tax was based on the Revised Taxation Policy 1992. “A resident in Debsi Phaka, Thimphu and Lunana in Gasa was paying the same land tax.”

Since 1992, Karma Lhamo said that the country has seen many developmental changes and the value of the property has changed too. “The tax revision will not only benefit the taxpayers but also generate revenue for the country.”

Drametse-Ngatshang MP Ugyen Wangdi and Bardo-Trong MP Gyambo Tshering suggested imposing a tax rate below 0.1 percent.

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The rationale behind pegging the tax rate at 0.1 percent of the land value, Finance Minister Namgay Tshering said, was following international best practices.

He said that the developed countries have maintained the tax rate between 1 to 2 percent and underdeveloped and developing countries between 0.2 to 0.5 percent.

He added that the country’s tax accounts for only 12 percent of the gross domestic product, which is the lowest in the world. “Property tax contributed only 0.26 percent of the total tax revenue in Bhutan while the tax contributes 80 to 90 percent in other countries,” he said.

Lyonpo said that the land tax revision based on the new Property Assessment and Valuation Agency (PAVA) rate would be applied to the value of assets to bring equity and fairness.

The PAVA rate is derived after averaging the government’s prevailing PAVA rate 2017, the current market rate, and the bank rate or collateral land to loan value.

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With the difference in the value of urban and rural land, Lyonpo said that the tax amount would be different.

For buildings, the tax rate of 0.1 percent would be based on the building’s annual rental value and rates of capitalisation or the expected rate of return from the property.

Bartsham-Shongphu MP Passang Dorji suggested including a new section: “The taxable value of the land shall be the PAVA-determined compensation value of land,” after Section 8 of the Bill.

The committee was asked to look into adding a new section and report back to the house.

On reducing the tax for agricultural land, Opposition Leader Dorji Wangdi said that the country’s total arable land has been reduced to 3 percent from 7 percent with developmental activities.

He asked if the agricultural land-wetland, dry land and orchards could be exempted from taxation to encourage agriculture and support meeting the country’s goal of food self-sufficiency in future.

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The committee proposed for revision in Section 9 of the Bill which states the PAVA shall revise the compensation rate in line with Section 154 of the Land Act of Bhutan 2007 after every three years.

MP Karma Lhamo recommended revising the compensation rate from time to time, as and when required since the land price would change drastically in three years.

Some members did not support the committee’s recommendation, reasoning that a change in the compensation rate will change the amount of tax payable.

The deliberation on the Bill will continue today.

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Picture story

Fri, 11/18/2022 - 11:44

Residents and business owners in Thimphu thromde were fined for not segregating solid dry waste from wet during collection yesterday night. The violators were fined Nu 500 as per the Waste Prevention and Management Regulation 2016. Based on the recommendation of the Waste Management Committee waste collection was scheduled at night in core thromde areas starting October 24. Greener Way deploys five trucks for waste collection three times a week.

141 violators fined in a day for waste offences in Thimphu

Thu, 11/17/2022 - 11:57

Chhimi Dema

10:25am—A pile of wooden planks and cardboard boxes are left outside in the parking lot at the back of a hotel along Chang Lam.

Thromde sanitary inspectors meet with the hotel manager to confirm if the waste is from the hotel. It is. Queries follow. According to the offence and fine schedule of the Waste Prevention and Management Regulation 2016, the hotel is fined Nu 500.

Thromde inspectors yesterday fined 51 business owners and seven institutions in the Thromde for violating waste prevention and management regulation.

Similarly, a team of officials from the Waste Management Committee fined 79 business owners and four landlords for littering in the public places from the Thimphu Gate until Khasadrapchu satellite town.

The Waste Management Committee will henceforth enforce strict waste management system in the country.

The committee was formed this month with the issuance of an executive order by the Prime Minister.

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Thromde inspectors yesterday fined 51 business owners and seven institutions


The committee consists of officials from His Majesty’s Secretariat, Office of The Gyalpoi Zimpon, National Land Commission, Ministry of Works and Human Settlement, De-suung Office, Thimphu Dzongkhag, and National Environment Commission Secretariat.

The chair of the committee, Karma Yonten, also the head of the Office of Performance Management under His Majesty’s Secretariat, said that His Majesty The King mentioned that waste is a concern and that we need to take care of it. “The Waste Management Committee is created to see how we can improve the waste situation in the country.”

He said that so far, all the soft measures have been tried, awareness and mass cleaning, too, which were not very successful.

“Going forward, we need to take a much tougher approach; fining people for littering is only the best option,” Karma Yonten said.

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The committee will review and recommend changes in policies, regulations and institutional structures to improve waste management practices in the country and explore suitable and environmentally-sound solutions to manage waste.

The committee will ensure that facilities, services, and incentives are provided to encourage better waste management practices and instil a sense of ownership in the public.

The National Environment Commission revised the waste offences and fine lists which will be implemented soon.

Three new offences applicable to all the dzongkhags, namely failure to prevent spillage of any waste, including construction materials and excavated soil, failure to provide three colour-coded waste storage facilities or bins at construction sites, and failure to co-operate with officers on duty, are liable for hefty fines.

Bhutan at risk of dropping to Tier 3 of Trafficking in Persons Report 

Thu, 11/17/2022 - 11:55

Chhimi Dema  

Since 2020 Bhutan was ranked on Tier 2 Watch List in the Trafficking in Persons Report. This means that the country is not fully compliant but making significant efforts to be compliant to eliminate the severe forms, nature and scope of trafficking.

The ranking also risks the country losing loans or aid from multinational financial institutions, according to Home Minister Ugyen Dorji who introduced the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC) to the members of the National Council (NC) on November 14.

Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji also introduced the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children (TIP).

UNTOC is considered the main international instrument in the fight against transnational organised crime.

The convention is supplemented by three protocols which target specific areas and manifestations of organised crime: the Protocol to Prevent; Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons; Especially Women and Children; the Protocol against Smuggling of Migrants by, Sea and Air; and the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition.

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Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji said that if the country becomes a member of the UNTOC it will help the country’s reputation and sovereignty.

A total of 190 countries signed the UNTOC and nine UN member states are not a party to the convention including Bhutan.

Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji said that the ratification was tabled as the country falls under the Tier 2 Watch List in the Trafficking in Persons Report ranked by the US Secretary of State.

The US State Department, according to the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, publish an annual report to rank various countries on their anti-trafficking policies and efforts to eradicate the problem.

Once reviewed, the country is given a ranking: Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List, and Tier 3.

Tier 1 ranking is given to countries for fully complying with the minimum standards for the elimination of severe forms of trafficking in persons. Tier 2 is for not fully complying, but making “significant efforts” to comply with the minimum standards.

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Tier 2 Watch List as determined by the US Secretary of State is given to countries that require special scrutiny during the following year, and Tier 3 for not fully complying and not making “significant efforts” to comply with the minimum standards.

Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji said, “As Bhutan is on the Tier 2 Watch List, there is a risk of the rank dropping to Tier 3. The country could face difficulties in acquiring loans from multinational banks which the US could have authority over.”

UNTOC has 41 articles and the TIP Protocol has 20 articles.

From the 41 articles of the convention, Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji said that the government has reservations about articles 16.5 A and 35.4.

Article 16.5 A of the UNTOC is on whether the country would take this convention as a legal basis for extradition and Article 35.3 is on whether or not any dispute between the nations would refer International Court of Justice or not for settlement.

Chairperson of the social and cultural affairs committee of NC, Mongar Member of Parliament Sonam Pelzom, said that the convention will ensure the safety of Bhutanese working abroad.

MP Sonam Pelzom said that 15,904 Bhutanese are living in 88 countries today.

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As of December 2021, about 12,000 people are in Australia and 7,388 people are working in the Middle East through the overseas employment programme.

MP Sonam Pelzom questioned the Home Minister on why the convention ratification comes before amending the nine laws as required by the convention.

Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji said that there were two options – to ratify the convention first and then amend the other nine laws or to amend the laws first and then ratify the convention.

He said that either would not make any difference. “A reason for choosing to ratify the convention first was considering the country’s rank on the US States Department’s TIP report.”

The House will convene the deliberations on ratifying both the UNTOC and TIP Protocol in the coming sessions.

RBI provides an additional currency swap facility of USD 200M to RMA

Thu, 11/17/2022 - 11:55

Dechen Dolkar 

RBI and RMA signed an agreement to extend the validity of the Bilateral Currency Swap Agreement signed on January 31, 2020 and also to provide additional swap support to Bhutan, yesterday.

This agreement enables the RMA to avail an additional swap amount of up to USD 200M or equivalent in Nu 16.57B from the RBI.

This support of USD 200M INR equivalent is in addition to the existing currency swap support of USD 200M INR equivalent extended by the RBI.

This agreement was facilitated by the government of India at the request of the government of Bhutan. The agreement will be valid till June 30, 2023.

The swap agreement between the RBI and the RMA is intended to provide a backstop line of funding for the RMA for short-term foreign exchange liquidity requirements or to meet any balance of payments and liquidity crises. The INR swap arrangements have benefited Bhutan in managing the INR liquidity. This facility has also helped to promote trade and investment between the two countries.

In the past, the RBI and the RMA signed bilateral currency swap agreements in 2013, 2016, 2019, and 2020. Under the SAARC Currency Swap Agreement, the RBI offers an agreement amount of USD 2B both in foreign currency, USD, Euro and in INR to the requesting countries.

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Additionally, India is currently providing two Standby Credit Facilities (SCF) to Bhutan, of Nu 3B and Nu 4B, whose settlement period was recently extended by another 60 months with a reduced interest rate of 2.5 percent with effect from  July 1, 2022. The SCFs also serve to promote bilateral trade by facilitating payments within India and meeting INR requirements in Bhutan.

India and Bhutan enjoy exemplary ties of friendship and close cooperation based on trust and mutual understanding across all sectors, including financial cooperation as brought out above.

The official from RMA said that this will not be exchanged with any other currency but it will help us in terms of building our reserve temporarily.

RBI signed the first Currency Swap Agreement with the RMA up to USD 100mn to further economic cooperation between the two countries,  in New Delhi, India in 2013.

During the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi’s visit to Bhutan in 2019, at the request of the RMA through the government, India agreed to double this to USD 200M under the Standby Currency Swap Arrangement.

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