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དུས་མཐུན་བཟོ་ཡོད: 11 min 25 sec གི་ཧེ་མ།

Wild animals damage 8,250MT of crops annually

སྤེན།, 08/12/2022 - 10:29

Nima Wangdi 

Farmers in the country on average lose about 8,250 metric tonnes of crops worth Nu 171.75 million (M) every year to wild animals.

A senior forestry officer from the nature conservation division, Namgay Wangchuk said that the human-wildlife conflict (HWC) is transboundary and very common. He said that in Bhutan, wild herbivores including monkeys destroy crops. Likewise, wild predators also killed about 155 livestock every year.

He presented the report at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development’s (ICIMOD) Bhutan country consultation meeting for co-designing the Medium-Term Action Plan V (2023-2026), yesterday in Thimphu.

Namgay Wangchuk said Asiatic black bears mauled about seven people and elephants killed about five people in a year. The wild animals also damaged properties.

He said, on the other hand, retaliatory killing by people and poaching are major issues. Around 206 wild animals have been rescued annually.

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Namgay Wangchuk said that the division is planning to use more hybrid fencing – Chain-link, stone wall and electric fencing. Solar corrals are being used to protect Yak calves from wild predators and feral dogs. 

The division is also planning to promote live fencing and update the HWC hotspot map.

He said, while the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the progress of the interventions, delay in access to funds has also contributed to the problem.

The senior forester suggested implementing successful HWC mitigation measures, capacity building of field staff and communities, improving collaboration and coordination among the stakeholders at the regional level, and timely mobilisation of funds as the way forward.

Namgay Wangchuk said that HWC is a global issue and it is common in all the Hindukush Himalayan range countries. He said greater regional cooperation is needed for both mitigation measures and to enhance wildlife habitats and corridors.

He said, in 2018, ICIMOD had facilitated Siliguri Dialogue, which recommended several actions to deal with HWC management in the Kanchenjunga landscape. Some actions related to the literature review, data updates, hotspot mapping, implementation of mitigation measures and capacity development are in progress with the regional HWC committee having formed.

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The regional task force was formed and some actions are being implemented. “HWC has also been one of the priority activities in the 12th Plan at the national level.”

ICIMOD’s Director General, Pema Gyamtsho (PhD) said that the region is posed with many calamities and challenges resulting from climate change. “No one country can prevent them and it requires efforts of all the member countries. Regional collaboration and cooperation are crucial.”

He said that the member countries can also exchange ideas and learn from each other in countering the challenges.

Earmould lab to help detect in time

སྤེན།, 08/12/2022 - 10:26

Kelzang Wangchuk

An earmould lab was launched at Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) in Thimphu yesterday. 

The first lab established through a hear, listen and speak programme would enhance the timely detection of preventable hearing difficulties in children below 14 years. Health officials have started screening newborn babies in the JDWNRH.

Health Minister, Dechen Wangmo, during the launch said in line with the government’s vision to narrow the gap, they targeted to address the two major disabilities- visual and hearing impairments when the government approved the national disability policy in 2019.

She said that they managed to screen 99.4 percent of children with visual impairment and provided the eyeglasses under the visual impairment programme. “It is a huge achievement for the disability programmes.”

Lyonpo said that it was estimated that 2.2 percent of the population has some form of hearing disorder.

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She said the ministry also targets to have similar labs in the two regional hospitals as people may not have the resources to come to Thimphu to avail of services. “Together we must envision a Bhutan where no child shall endure hearing loss due to preventable causes.”

“We need to have in-house competency and capability when we talk about sustainability. Invest in our Bhutanese to build their competencies and capabilities so that our doctors and technicians should be able to fix any issues,” Lyonpo said.

The health ministry in collaboration with the UN Technology Bank, Medtronic Labs, GNResound, MEDEL, and the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) established the lab at JDWNRH.

The ministry’s officiating public health director, Rixin Jamtsho, said the disability programme in the past almost remained idle and stagnant due to lack of mentorship, inadequate budgetary support, and late identification of hearing issues due to the lack of screening technology and shortages of expertise.

He said 2.1 percent of the Bhutanese population live with some form of disability, and the overall prevalence of any disability in children aged two to nine years is 21.3 percent, that is one in every five children living with disability in the country.

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Rixin Jamtsho said audiologists and specialists have been trained and the sustainability and continuity of the services were also discussed and the implementing partners and stakeholders are ready to support.

The earmold impression and hearing aids services for children will now be available at the JDWNRH.

Erratic egg prices discourage poultry farmers

སྤེན།, 08/12/2022 - 10:25

Choki Wangmo | Sarpang

Most poultry farmers in Sarpang are on the verge of closing as feed prices continue to increase and the price of eggs decrease.

At the Sarpang Dzongkhag Tshogdu yesterday, local government (LG) leaders raised the issue of egg price and marketing challenges.

Shompangkha gup, Suk Dorji Yonjan, said that although egg production increased, low egg price was a disincentive to the farmers.

“Most of the poultry farms are closing as the farmers cannot repay loans,” he said.

According to the gewog mangmi, Ashman Rai, about nine poultry farmers have decided to close their farms.

Dekiling mangmi, Leki Gyeltshen, said that it was difficult for the farmers to reduce the price of local eggs due to increasing feed prices.

Most of the poultry farms are in Shompangkha and Dekiling gewogs.

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Deputy chief dzongkhag livestock officer, Dorji Wangchuk, said that egg production was very high in the district and that the marketing challenges were resolved.

“A tray of egg now costs between Nu 230-350, which is not less than Nu 1,700 for a carton of egg. The price hasn’t decreased,” he said.

Sarpang produces 61,500 eggs per day.

The prices of imported feeds reportedly increased five times a month.

Gakiling gup, Nim Dorji Sherpa, said that such challenges require coordination among farmers and agencies. “The policies should be aligned with the ground realities. There is a need for proper research to establish marketing linkages.”

Senior marketing officer of the Regional Agriculture and Marketing Cooperative (RAMCO), Dawa Dakpa, said that the marketing challenges would be there because of rising supply and falling demand.

He said that RAMCO explored export market in Guwahati, India but there were no takers for Bhutanese eggs as it costs Nu 9 per egg compared with India’s Nu 6 per egg.

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“We cannot reduce the price as the cost of production is high,” he said.

Poultry farmers are currently linked with schools to address marketing challenges. Each week, 100 cartons of eggs are supplied to each school in the district.

There are 147 poultry farms in the dzongkhag.

Thromde dismantles properties built on State land

སྤེན།, 08/12/2022 - 10:24

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Phuentsholing Thromde yesterday took over four structures from private individuals who had constructed and owned them illegally on the State land.

Despite serving several notifications to the individuals since last year, there was no action, due to which thromde was forced to take firm action, thromde officials said.

One of the structures was initially operated as a dairy cooperative booth. However, the cooperative dissolved and the space was subleased and the earnings didn’t come to thromde. It was also located right beside the new Northern Bypass highway and didn’t serve any purpose for thromde. So, it was dismantled yesterday.

Another was a government property, which was once owned by the trade office. However, a private resident stayed there later. Kuensel learned that although the private resident had stated in the court that he had purchased the house, the Supreme Court maintained that it was a State property. Chukha dzongkhag court then ordered the thromde to take over the property.

The house was not dismantled. It will be repaired and put to use for other purposes. However, a small storehouse made of CGI sheets, which was constructed illegally just below the house, was dismantled.

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Phuentsholing Thrompon Uttar Kumar Rai said that demolition of structures built on encroached State land will also be carried out in other parts of the thromde and the land or properties will be utilised properly for benefit of all the thromde residents.

“Encroachment on State land by illegal or unauthorised structures in the past was rampant. It has become quite challenging for us to demolish and free the State land from the private encroachers,” he said. “It is our responsibility to implement the order of demolition once received from the relevant authority.”

Thromde officials said they are forced to demolish the structures as it is an offence as per the Land Act of Bhutan 2007. They said encroachment on the State land also hampered public infrastructure development.

Despite issuance of several notices, thromde officials said only a few have complied, pointing out that those who failed must act fast.

Uttar Kumar Rai added that those who have leased government land, including land for industrial purposes, are not allowed to sublease to other parties.

“They have to operate only for the approved activity on the leased land. Defaulters will be served one-time notice and failure to act accordingly within the given deadline shall be terminated,” he said.

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RTC FC to face Thimphu City FC in BPL opening match

སྤེན།, 08/12/2022 - 10:24

Thinley Namgay 

The leaders of the Bhutan Premier League qualifiers, Royal Thimphu College (RTC) FC will face Thimphu City FC in the opening game of the 2022 Bhutan Premier League (BPL) at the Changlimithang Stadium tomorrow at 6pm.  

RTC FC topped the 2022 BPL qualifier tournament among 11 teams that ended last month. Thimphu City FC are the champions of the 2020 BPL and one of the dominant teams in the country.   

Many say it would be difficult to forecast the outcome of the game as both the teams are equally good. Recently, the two teams ended the friendly match with a goalless draw at the RTC ground. 

RTC FC’s coach Ugyen Dorji said the team is ready. “Thimphu City FC is a competent club and has a good squad. My players are all young and college-going students, but we will definitely ensure a tough game.”

Organised by the Bhutan Football Federation among 10 teams, the 10th season will witness audiences on a full scale after almost three years of disruption by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Spectators will have to pay Nu 50 to watch a game.

City’s president Hishey Tshering said: “We’re very excited to feature in the BPL. For the last two seasons, there were no spectators. Clubs have signed foreign players this time.”

“We have signed two foreign players but the core of our team still remains Bhutanese players,” he said.  

RTC FC has a goalie from the Netherlands. He is also a student at RTC.

Meanwhile, Paro FC signed five international players from Cameroon , Ghana,  Ivory Coast and Japan. Chencho Gyeltshen also joined the club. 

The Coronation Cup champions Druk Lhayul FC and Transport United FC recruited three and five foreign players, respectively.  Druk Lhayul’s foreign players are from Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and Liberia. Transport recruited from India, Cameroon, and Ghana. 

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FC Takin has five international players from India.

Waste not time to deal with waste

སྤེན།, 08/12/2022 - 10:23

Waste is a major problem in the country. The many interventions have all gone in vain. We cannot let the problem of waste busy us.

Recently, close to 1,000 people launched a cleaning campaign in Thimphu. The amount of waste they collected was a sobering reminder that urgent action is needed to address the issue of mounting waste.

Organised by the National Environment Commission and other relevant agencies, including civil society organisations, the campaign’s aim is to keep the momentum so that, in the long run, our people are educated and aware of the hazards associated with mindless dumping of waste.

Henceforth, there will be a proper monitoring system in place and defaulters will be fined. We have tried this approach before. There is a need to ensure that such a system does not fail again. 

Bhutan produced 172 metric tonnes of waste a day; 45 percent of it is kitchen waste.  

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We know what doesn’t work. We have not been able to effect a behavioural change which can only be achieved when people start accepting the responsibility for their waste.   

National Environment Commission’s idea to create a circular economy where waste would be recycled is also not new. The implementation of ideas has been lacking.

Another major problem is the collection of waste in the major thromdes. Residents of thromdes say that waste collection is erratic. Some hire vehicles to dump waste, which is expensive. That’s probably why the problem of waste never goes.

In Thimphu, there is a plan to construct a sanitary landfill to replace the open dump yard in Memelakha is welcome. The waste disposed of at the landfill increased by about 4,800 metric tonnes in 2021 compared with 2019. The lifespan of a new sanitary landfill is dependent entirely on the segregation and recycling of waste. That means there is an opportunity for us to invest a lot in waste recycling, which is a very profitable and clean business.

The flagship programme is expected to introduce waste segregation, collection, transportation, treatment, recovery, and disposal facilities throughout the country in a phased manner, starting with Thimphu. This is the way to go. When the population increases, waste also increases. Recycling is the only way forward.

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What we need to remind ourselves is that the impact of unmanaged waste on the country’s fragile ecology will be costly.

27 tourists confirmed visit with USD 200 per day

སྤེན།, 08/12/2022 - 10:22

Many are waiting

Dechen Dolkar 

Amid fears that tourists would find Bhutan expensive because of the new sustainable development fee of USD 200 a day, 27 tourists have confirmed to visit Bhutan as of yesterday.

Nine tourists are in the country, three are yet to come and 15 tourists already left. The first tourist paying USD 200 per day arrived in the country on July 13, according to the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB).

The tourists made their bookings after June 20 this year. TCB has announced that if tourists confirm their visits before or on June 20, they could pay the old SDF, but they should visit Bhutan within December 2023.

Similarly, 46 regional tourists have also been confirmed to visit Bhutan after paying the SDF of Nu 1,200 a day. Of the total, 19 are in the country, 22 left the country and five are yet to visit Bhutan.

According to TCB officials, all tourists are supposed to come through tour operators until September 22 this year, even if they have paid the fee of USD 200.

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Tour operators denied sharing how much they charged tourists. However, most of the tour operators were able to get only a few tourists who booked their visit before the revised SDF rates.

MyBhutan, a tour operator, received a tourist from Singapore on July 15. The tourist came for a month-long religious retreat. 

The agent said that tourists used to visit Bhutan twice a year before the pandemic for retreats and holidays. 

According to the agent, the tour was sold at USD 450 per day, inclusive of hotel, guide, meals and transportation. The tourist travelled as far as Trashigang. This means the agent can keep USD 250 a day after paying the USD 200 SDF a day.

The agent said that they also charge service fees since they provide high-end services to tourists. “Our clients are also high-end.  We pay our guides Nu 2,000 a day.”

The tour operators also claimed that it is a very long process to get tourists in the country in the new system. Tour operators were asked to submit travel insurance, Covid-19 undertaking letter, air ticket and vaccination certificate of the tourists to TCB. 

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Another tourist from Singapore arrived on August 6 for a two-week vacation. The agent said that their cost was  reasonable since they have their own hotels and vehicles. 

A tourist from Singapore, Yu Song, said that services are good. “At the arrival hall at the airport, I was guided by volunteers to do the RT-PCR test and could come out smoothly in a short period of time,” Yu Song said.

Yu Song said that the trip is well organised and the services provided are as expected. The food are delicious and the guide is experienced.

It was learnt that many tourists have confirmed their booking under both the new and old SDF. However, tour operators are worried about the shortage of three-star hotels in dzongkhags outside Paro and Thimphu. Currently, most of the three-star hotels are not ready to open and are under renovation. 

The tour operator said that they might have to keep tourists at five and four-star hotels and some are fearing it could cut into their profits. “These hotels charge more than USD 200 a night.”

Some tour operators said that they could sell packages for USD 350 to make a decent living. “We have to play around with USD 150 after paying USD 200 in SDF,” said one.  “This could compromise the rates we pay to hotels and guides as we have to make the most of the little we earn.”

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Specialised tours like birding and trekking are waiting to see how the new SDF would affect them. “We could sell for USD 350 and save from lodging costs, as birders need not stay in luxury hotels. But bird watching takes many days and the daily SDF could discourage such tourists,” he said.

Major cleaning campaign calls for sustainable waste management

པ།, 08/11/2022 - 10:25

Thinley Namgay  

Close to 1,000 people, including 487 de-suups gathered waste in a mass cleaning campaign in Thimphu yesterday. 

Waste will be collected from as far as Dochula, Chuzom, and Tango.    

Organised by the National Environment Commission (NEC), other relevant agencies and civil society organisations are part of the event.  

Volunteers collected waste and educated residents to take care of their waste.    

Unlike other cleaning campaigns, this campaign will continue beyond next month. Officials said that there would be proper monitoring after the place is cleaned and defaulters will be fined.  

Despite many cleaning campaigns in the past, Bhutan grappled with increasing waste management problems due to the carelessness of residents and the lack of proper enforcement of laws by the authorities.    

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NEC’s Secretary Sonam P Wangdi said that Bhutan produced 172 metric tons of waste a day and 45 percent of it is kitchen waste.  

He said that the waste issue was a concern and the programme would ensure that the community is involved and sensitised. “Behavioural change is necessary. That can be only achieved when people start accepting the responsibility for their waste.”   

He said that NEC is working on creating a circular economy where waste would be recycled. “NEC is trying to turn kitchen waste into biogas. We’re making poles using plastic.”

Chief of waste management division at NEC, Thinley Dorji, said that the public could download a ‘ZW Bhutan’ app from the play store and get information regarding penalties and other information. 

He said that one of the factors for ineffective enforcement of waste-related laws could be due to a lack of alternatives.  

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A shopkeeper at Khasadrapchu, Mon Maya Monger said that a waste collector vehicle hasn’t come to their area for almost a year now and managing waste has become a big challenge. “We burn some waste.  Bottles are taken to Gidakom dumping site.” 

Another shopkeeper said she used to hire a bolero pickup truck to carry waste which charged Nu 1,500 a trip.  

Meanwhile, some residents said that it would be good to hand over a certain area to the community with strict instructions to dispose the waste. They said cleaning campaigns were not sustainable.

Plastic use was first banned on April 20, 1999.  The trade ministry had then banned the use and sale of plastic carry bags, doma wrappers and homemade ice cream pouches. 

 After decades of notifications and diligent efforts by the relevant agencies, the implementation of the ban still remains a challenge.  Towards the end of 2018, NEC consulted with relevant agencies and decided to reinforce the ban, which came into effect on April 1, 2019.

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Litigant confused with inconsistent judgments denying justice

པ།, 08/11/2022 - 10:25

Nima Wangdi

A man from Genekha, Thimphu, Drukpa Kinley fought a court case for his family-owned land at Genekha in Thimphu but lost it completely at the Supreme Court (SC) in June.

SC passed judgment on June 30 stating that the transaction of the land was legal and his complaint of being unaware of the matter could not be entertained.

The kamzhing (Dry land) 1.794 acres registered under Drukpa Kinley’s mother’s name at Genekha was exchanged with a one-acre wetland in Gaseng Tshowom in Wangdue, which was registered under another person’s name, who defended the transaction as legal. The Thram had also been transferred when Drukpa Kinley came to know about it.

Drukpa Kinley, the eldest of the six siblings, said, “The land may have been transacted but the documents and forged thumbprints could not be verified. Thumbprints were initially sent for forensic tests with the Royal Bhutan Police for which the result came out neutral.”

He said that there were two clearances dated differently, one with the national land commission (NLC) and the other that the defendant submitted to the court. He said the clearance with the NLC contained a witness, who is the defendant’s daughter and it is unacceptable by law. The copy the defendant submitted to the court did not contain a witness.

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He said that for any transaction of the family-owned land clearance from all the family members must be sought. “None of my siblings including me gave the clearance but both the clearances have all thumbprints of my family members.”

He said that the land transaction agreement also contained mismatching names of the witnesses.

He said that the court did not even question the legitimacy of the two types of clearances dated differently.

The judgment also stated that, as per the Land Act, the land transaction case was kept with the gewog office for one month on hold in case there were objections from the family members. None of the family members has filed a complaint to any relevant agency according to the judgment.

Drukpa Kinley said none of the family members was aware of the land having been exchanged and there was no way they could object.

Drukpa Kinley lost the case at the dzongkhag court, which found that the transaction was legitimate. While he appealed to the High Court (HC), the ruling was in his favour stating that the family members were not consulted during the land transaction. However, he lost again when the defendant or the person who exchanged the land appealed to the Supreme Court.

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BPC terminates director convicted of sexual harassment 

པ།, 08/11/2022 - 10:24

Staff Reporter 

Bhutan Power Corporation has terminated the contract of its director, Sandeep Rai, who was convicted of sexually harassing a support staff by the Thimphu dzongkhag court on August 2.

The contract termination comes into effect on the day the court issued the judgment.

Thimphu Dzongkhag Court on August 2 convicted and sentenced the director  to eight months in prison. He can pay thrimthue of Nu 30,000 in lieu of the imprisonment term within 10 days from the day the judgment was issued. The court also ordered Sandeep Rai, 43, to pay Nu 45,000 as compensation to the victim within 10 days.

The director was on a three-year contract with the company and his term was going to end in October this year.

BPC Chief Executive Officer Sonam Tobjey said that the decision was taken during the board meeting held on August 9.

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“The court has convicted the director so the board decided to terminate the contract,” he said.

When asked if he would be given benefits, the CEO said that would depend on the contract provisions and the company’s service rules.

The director was convicted of a petty misdemeanour.

Meanwhile, some BPC employees were disgruntled that the human resource department of the company continued to pay the director 50 percent of the contract allowance until March 2022 on top of the 50 percent basic salary that he was given as subsistence allowance.

The director was paid Nu 48,982 for January 2022, and Nu 38,438 every month for the next 6 months until July while he was on suspension.

The director earned a gross monthly salary of Nu 149,822 before he was suspended in September 2021.

The BPC service rules entitled an employee on suspension to 50 percent of basic salary as subsistence allowance.

The CEO said that his office order on the suspension of the director was clear and the payment should have been as per the service rules. “The problem was the HR employees misunderstood and continued to pay 50 percent of the contract allowance as well.”

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He said that he asked the department head to stop the payment of the contract allowance when he found out about it. “It has to be recovered and we have communicated it to the person.”

The director was also paid the subsistence allowance until July 2022. He was suspended on September 24, 2021. The service rule state that the internal committee has to decide whether to retain or terminate the employment of the employee involved in the case within three months.

BPC a few years ago suspended its accountant in Paro who was involved in an embezzlement case, which is a major breach of the code of conduct in the BPC service rule, while the case was investigated, forwarded to the Anti-Corruption Commission and then to the court.

“We also paid her subsistence allowance beyond six months like in the present case,” Sonam Tobjey said. “We’ve to go by the rules.”

The CEO said that since an outside agency was involved in the sexual harassment case, the board of the company as per the service rules decided to pay the director the subsistence allowance for more than three months. 

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Trashigang local leaders ask for dialysis machine

པ།, 08/11/2022 - 10:23

Neten Dorji | Trashigang

Local leaders of Trashigang requested dialysis service for kidney patients at the dzongkhag hospital during the recent dzongkhag tshogdu.

Given the size of the dzongkhag and its population, Kanglung gup, Kinzang Dorji, said that kidney treatment services are needed in the dzongkhag hospital.  “Without dialysis services at the hospital today, most patients end up going to Mongar or Thimphu for the service.”

Kinzang Dorji said that it is a burden for patients who are economically disadvantaged, adding that service will not only reduce pressure on family members but also help address the economic and social difficulties faced by the kidney patients in dzongkhag.

Local leaders said that the service would also benefit dzongkhags such as Mongar, Trashiyangtse, and Pemagathsel.

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Leki Dorji, who is a relative of a kidney patient, said that it was difficult to get appointments in Thimphu and sometimes machines aren’t working. “For many patients and families, it is expensive to go to Mongar for dialysis service.”

He said that without dialysis service in the nearby health facility, they are facing problems related to transportation, food, and lodging.

Dzongkhag Senior Health Officer, Lobzang Tshering, said that the prime minister had promised a dialysis machine for the hospital. “We expect to receive it soon.”

He said that 10 kidney patients from Trashigang, five from Samdrupjongkhar, and two each from Pemagatshel and Trashiyangtse are currently availing dialysis services in the regional referral hospital in Mongar.

Dialysis treatment is a process where the function of a kidney is replicated by a machine. The machine removes body waste by pumping a patient’s blood into the machine, filtering the toxic substances, and sending it back into the body.

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Sports for women empowerment

པ།, 08/11/2022 - 10:22

The teams of Bhutanese chess players return home today having outdone our expectations. We have to applaud and cherish their accomplishments, especially that of the women’s team. 

This is yet another big step toward women’s empowerment. This one win will lead to another. 

Every time one kicks a ball or shoots an arrow, it will demonstrate not only physical strength but also leadership and strategic thinking, taking them a step closer to gender equality.   

It has been recognised the world over that sport can be a force to amplify women’s voices and bring down gender barriers and discrimination in its various forms. Women in sport defy the misperception that they are weak or incapable. There are ample evidence that participation in sports can help break-down gender stereotypes, improve girls’ and women’s self-esteem and contribute to the development of leadership skills.

Our girls and women are far more visible in sports today than at any previous point in history. Archer Karma, Cricketer Anju Gurung, Shooter Lenchu Kunzang, and Paralympian Sapuna Subba have come to the fore and excelled in their disciplines in recent years. That is not to say that women and girls do not face problems in accessing sports as athletes and spectators, inequalities in professional sports, media coverage and sports media, among others. 

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Our grassroots sports programmes over the years have gone beyond the urban areas into the dzongkhags. We cannot be content until each gewog or community schools has quality sports facilities and qualified instructors. 

Ensuring the safety of girls and women at our sports facilities and avenues from sexual abuse or harassment is one major task at hand. If we are unable to address it from the beginning it will breed like cancer and kill many budding talents before they can realise their potential or force promising athletes to quit untimely. A nation can lose a gem to the folly of a few insensitive people. 

The completion of the sports academy for girls in Gelephu can bring on board a lot of talents and groom them in time. There is already an increasing number of women certified to officiate as referees and coaches. 

In other parts of the world, women and girls have to fight for their right to engage in sports. The advantage in Bhutan is that our women and girls don’t experience half the problems that other women elsewhere do. That in itself is a huge milestone and springboard for more investment and emphasis. 

Gyalpoizhing: A model riverside town

པ།, 08/11/2022 - 10:20

The small sleepy town has suddenly boomed bringing business and hope

Tshering Namgyal | Gyalpoizhing

A well-maintained park stretching for more than 16 acres, smooth roads divided by a line of flowers, a football ground in artificial turf, neatly maintained footpaths and many more have transformed Gyalpoizhing beyond recognition for visitors coming after a decade to the town.

Business is thriving with the once sleepy hot town becoming the preferred place for business, as more and more government institutions, regional offices of corporate bodies, and state-owned enterprises bring with them people, business and hope.

Once a mosquito and snake-infested place, Gyalpoizhing town, is poised to become the commercial hub of eastern Bhutan if it is not already. The town’s growth began in the mid-1990s following the commencement of Kurichhu Hydropower Corporation Limited (KHPCL) in 1992.

It is now not the town that many would have even imagined. And it has evolved over time.

The completion of the 77-km Gyalpoizhing-Nganglam highway has become the lifeline of the easterners cutting down travel time and distance by 220km between Mongar and the border town of Phuntsholing.

Residents attribute the transformation to His Royal Highness the Gyaltshab who chose Gyalpoizhing to establish the office of the Gyaltshab to administer kidu for the eastern region.

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The coming of projects like the FDI company, Mountain Hazelnut, a subsidiary factory of the Bhutan Agro Limited besides regional offices for poultry and piggery breeding centre, regional office of department or road and Construction Development Corporation office at the adjoining Lingmethang town all added to the buzz of the town.

The latest on the list is the ongoing Gyalsung project at Bondeyma, one of the five national service centres in the country envisioned as a one-year integrated training programme for the youth. Each service center is expected to house about 2,600 youth, 300 non-commissioned officers and 32 officers.

“Where there are people, there is business,” says one of the few early settlers of the town, Tsheten Dorji. He recalls the town area as a hot place where once paddy fields belonging to farmers of Drepong gewog were overgrown with thick undergrowth when he first came to settle down in 2000.

The 73-year-old said around five shops were run from makeshift huts in line at the current KHPC colony area. “Most of them had come to seize business opportunity after the project began.”

Tsheten Dorji, who was among the first seven businessmen to come up with buildings when the government allotted plots in 2001, said almost all the businesses were small grocery shops, eateries and bars to cater to the project employees.

Another early settler, Seldon, said she had never imagined the town to become like what it is now. The 64 -year-old owner of Hotel Trashigang started a small restaurant when she followed her husband to Gepshing (as they call it) who was doing small contract work. “There was nothing. “ We could all see trucks and foreign labourers employed at the project,” she recalls.

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The hotelier is glad she stayed and believes that the future is even more promising.

The early settlers identify themselves as Trashigangpa, Tsamangpa, Sherchupa etc.

Of the 57 private plots excluding institutional plots, there are around 20 buildings today and with the town’s population increasing there is even a housing crunch. Construction is booming. There are around nine three-storeyed buildings being constructed.

A land owner whose building is under construction said people are coming to check her building for both residential and business purposes. “I’m not promising anyone as of now,” she said.

Land prices have also soared over the years. The price of a decimal of land has increased from about Nu 300,000 about five years ago to Nu 600,000 now.

Water shortage is no more an issue with the town connected to a proper water supply system and numerous roads crisscrossing the road. “Foreign dabugila ai (It is like in a foreign land),” says a resident appreciating the infrastructure.

There are more in the pipeline. There are plans to develop Gyalpoizhing into a lakeside model town with boat service over the river along the dam site.

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With the artificial turf and an Olympic hall, Gyalpoizhing could be the winter sporting hub with a series of sports and games coaching and tournaments. The former soldiers of the three armed forces built a massive choeten (stupa) in the middle of the park, which could host religious programmes in the pleasant Gyalpoizhing winter.

Entering Gyalpoizhing will be a different experience too. The 7.3km highway between Kurizampa and Gyalpoizhing is being widened and improved under the DeSuung National Service project in collaboration with the Department of Roads.

Well established with businesses dealing in groceries, garments, hardware and services like hotels and restaurants, Gyalpoizhing town today caters to the people of Kengkhar, Jurmey, Silambi, Tsamang, Saling gewogs in the dzongkhag and some from Lhuentse, besides travellers along the Gyalpoizhing-Nganglam highway.

His Majesty addresses RIM graduates 

པ།, 08/11/2022 - 10:19

His Majesty The King granted an Audience to the 2019-2022 cohort graduating from the Royal Institute of Management today.

In an informal conversation with the 746 graduates and RIM staff, His Majesty spoke about our challenges as a nation, concerns over issues we face today, and our way forward if we are to secure a bright future for Bhutan.

Before addressing these topics, His Majesty shared some advice especially for the younger graduates, who have much of their lives and careers to look forward to.

His Majesty said that to achieve all our goals and aspirations, it is of utmost importance to be consistent and persevere- with discipline, even our smallest daily efforts can add up to big results.

His Majesty pointed out that if a person works 8 hours a day for 30 years, they spend roughly 80,000 hours of their lives working. It is, therefore, important for people embarking on their careers to choose something they are passionate about, as they will be spending so much of their lives engaged in doing what they have chosen.

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Finally, His Majesty advised them to choose a career that enables them to continue learning and growing- in these changing times, if we are not constantly upgrading our skills, we will invariably fall behind.

His Majesty said that Bhutan is going through a transformation because we have a window of opportunity in which to forever change the course of our future, and ensure that our children inherit a successful nation.

“There can be no greater act of compassion than to be strong, resilient and unwavering for the sake of our children’s future,” His Majesty said.

His Majesty’s foremost concerns were about the economy- individual prosperity is held back because of the size of our market and because of a lack of substantial export of goods and services.

While infrastructure and education are the foundations for building a strong future, these are our weaknesses at present, His Majesty said. There is a great deal of work to be done to improve physical infrastructure and our regulatory environment before planning a more vibrant economy.

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We can no longer rely on hydropower to be our sole source of revenue, due to greater competition and uncertainty in the sector. In addition to this, the cost of delivering services in Bhutan is very high– there is a lot of inefficiency in how we manage public funds which are meant to the people.

These are challenges we need to address if we are to change the course of our future. However, His Majesty expressed confidence in the bureaucracy and government of the day to seize the opportunity and take whatever steps are needed to ensure that Bhutan is successful. His Majesty also expressed confidence in the people of Bhutan, who, above all, love our country, to make all the sacrifices necessary to take on challenges with strength and determination.

Our advantage, His Majesty said, has always been that Bhutan enjoys a degree of goodwill and interest from the rest of the world. There is a quality about Bhutan and her people which has inspired others to see us as unique and special.

This is a source for optimism, and something we must build upon. In a world where knowledge and skills are increasingly becoming cheaper and more accessible, values are still precious. In such a world, our true advantage is being dependable, reliable, and trustworthy.

This must become our anchor– something to build as our national identity as Bhutanese, His Majesty said.

The 24th Convocation ceremony of RIM was held earlier this morning with the Prime Minister as Chief Guest. This was the first convocation ceremony held by the institute since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The graduates belong to Masters of Business Administration, Post Graduate Diploma in Financial Management, Post Graduate Diploma in Public Administration, Post Graduate Diploma in National Law, and Diploma in Financial Management. In addition, graduates from two additional courses- Graduate Diploma in Accounting and Certificate in Accounting, which targeted de-suups in collaboration with the De-Suung Skilling Project, were also part of the convocation ceremony.

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White-bellied heron population at risk  

ཕུར།, 08/10/2022 - 10:56

Chhimi Dema   

The country recorded 23 white-bellied herons (Ardea insignis) this year in nine prioritised habitat zones from 15 priority zones surveyed in March.

The population increased by one bird this year compared to 22 white-bellied herons (WBH) recorded last year.

WBH is a rare and critically endangered species of bird found in Southeast Asian countries—Bhutan, Northeast India, and Myanmar.

Globally, the bird population is less than 60.

According to the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN)’s Annual WBH Report 2022, from the 24 WBH recorded, 22 individuals were observed in the wild including one dead carcass and two individuals in the WBH conservation centre.

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The survey covered more than 600 km of four river basins in the country.

The highest number of WBH, which is seven herons, were found in priority zone III covering areas such as Burichuu, Sunkosh-Dagachhu, Relangthang, Wakleytar, Balwani, Malbasey, Kalikhola, and Middle of Punatsangchhu.

“The analysis of population trends within zones indicates that the population is disappearing from Zone I that extends from Phochhu and Mochhu to Kamichhu near Punakha and Wangduephodrang,” stated the report.

Data from 2003 until today indicates the declining trend of the WBH population in Zone I (Phochhu to Kamichhu) and II (Kamichhu,  Ada, Harachhu to Taksha). The last herons sighted in the zone was in 2018.

It was also noted that no herons were sighted in Zone I for the past two consecutive years.

Similarly, no sightings were recorded in Kurigongri basin.

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“WBH birds, which are completely associated with the riverine ecosystem are at high risk of extinction due to habitat loss and degradation,” the report stated.

The WHB population is also constrained by the impact of climate change, natural calamities, diminishing food resources and limited knowledge of the bird’s ecology and biology.

Negligence, lack of awareness and knowledge is also driving the species to the edge, the report stated.

The report gathered that more than 438 sites along the river basins show that the birds faces threats from human activities such as fishing, natural resource extraction, infrastructure development, habitat degradation, timber and firewood collection, and hydropower development.

The survey was conducted by 95 surveyors from the Department of Forests and Park Services, members of local conservation support groups, and staff of RSPN.

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The survey observed 2,599 birds belonging to 66 families and 244 species, and 712 mammals in the WBH habitats.

RSPN launched last year a five-year nature-based project aiming to stabilise or increase the bird population while also strengthening the livelihoods of the communities along its habitats.

A long wait for a boarding facility

ཕུར།, 08/10/2022 - 10:55

Gangzur gewog waits for a boarding facility for Thimyul PS

Tshering Namgyal | Mongar

The development of school education has come a long way. Some schools have introduced relevant subjects like information technology, a few private schools are talking about 21st century curricula like artificial intelligence, robotics, and quantum computing while some are mulling digital textbooks and using laptops or desktops at school to replace notes and textbooks.

The requirement is different in remote schools in the dzongkhags. In Gangzur gewog, Lhuentse, the immediate requirement is a boarding facility for the Thimyul lower secondary school. It is high on the residents’ agenda and they have been pushing for it in every possible forum – gewog tshogde and dzongkhag tshogdu, during meetings with members of parliament and high officials visiting the gewog.

Kilung-Somshing Tshogpa, Sonam Dorji, said the people have been requesting the gewog and dzongkhag, for more than a decade, since the school was established. He said the school benefits students from two chiwogs of Nimshong-Tongling, and Kilung-Somshing. A boarding facility, according to Sonam Dorji, would help the parents of Tsholing village, which is more than three hours’ walk.

There are 12 students studying in higher schools outside the gewog. Similarly, parents of Shawa have also sent their children to boarding schools outside the gewog in the absence of a boarding facility nearby.

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The boarding facility would also benefit students from Ney chiwog. Ney Tshogpa Pema Tsheten said students completing primary school from Ney primary school are currently placed in schools in Minjey middle secondary school and Tangmachhu higher secondary school.

Local government officials said it’s not just about the distance but the risk involved in students having to cross streams, especially in summer. The Lingabi stream that flooded in 2019 claimed the lives of a mother and a pregnant daughter. Sonam Dorji said the stream swells suddenly when it rains and the chances of children getting washed away anytime are high.

The need for a bridge over the stream was discussed in the dzongkhag tshogdu last year and the Department of Road officials from Autsho Sub-division proposed Nu 1 million to construct a concrete culvert bridge. It has not come through this financial year.

Parents also submitted the request to Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering during his recent visit to the dzongkhag. Lyonchhen informed the public that the need was genuine and the government would look for funds.

Dzongkhag education officials said a feasibility study was carried out and that they are planning to submit the proposal to the education ministry soon.

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There are about 50 students who walk for more than an hour to the Thimyul lower secondary school. The dzongkhag education sector is proposing two 32-bed hostels, each for girls and boys. There are 168 students.

Koufuku International Ltd. records first profit 

ཕུར།, 08/10/2022 - 10:54

Neten Dorji | Trashigang

After suffering losses for six years, Koufuku International Ltd. (KIL), a dairy processing plant at Chenary in Trashigang earned a profit of Nu 1.77 million(M) last year.

Its revenue rose from Nu 25.4M in 2020 to Nu 56.25M last year from the sale of dairy products which was double the revenue from the previous year. The revenue was from the sale of processed dairy products like block cheese, butter, and yoghurt in domestic markets.

KIL declared a profit after tax of Nu 1.77M indicating a promising future for dairy industries and opportunities for sustainable rural livelihoods for the dairying communities in the eastern region.

The selling of Druk Zambala Cheese earned Nu 43.16M followed by income from yoghurts at Nu 4.56M and selling unsalted butter earned Nu 2.72M. More than 80 percent of the income was from Druk Zambala Cheese sales.

In 2021, the company collected a total of 678.05 metric tonnes (MT) of milk and produced 46.6MT of Gouda cheese, 100.06MT of processed cheese, 10.43MT of butter, 213,808 cups of 100 ml stirred yoghurt, and 22,047 cups of 400ml  premium yoghurt.

KIL’s Chief Executive Officer, Tshering Dorjee (PhD) said, “The installation of milk chillers and deep freezers in various collection centres has helped to prevent milk quality deterioration. We have zero milk quality deterioration today, which saves the company from losses.”

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Initially, given the low quality of milk, the company had to dispose of the gouda cheese it produced. “Now with the improved quality of milk, KIL produces almost 100 percent yield in the form of gouda cheese.”

He said that the increased flow of milk and the sale of processed cheese also contributed to the company’s performance. KIL collects an average of 3,083 litres in a day from 24 collection and chilling centres under four eastern dzongkhags.

As of 2021, KIL expanded milk supply chain linkages to 250 new dairy micro-farms which makes a cumulative total micro-farms linked with KIL to 1200 households. The income gained by farmers also increased to Nu 23.41M in 2021 from Nu 12.88M in 2020 which KIL directly benefits the livelihoods of rural farmers of eastern dzongkhags.

KIL is venturing into this business as the import of cheese is the highest among other dairy products in the country and the company plans to substitute the import of processed cheese.

KIL produced 1162.97MT of processed cheese in 2020 and 1228.68 MT in 2021 which replaced four percent of imports and eight percent respectively. The sales growth of Druk Zambala cheese also increased over the years to Nu 43.16M in 2021 from Nu 21.46M in 2020.

Tshering Dorjee said that Druk Zambala cheese produced from the farmer’s cow milk is appreciated in the market owing to its authentic production in Bhutan.

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“We manufacture processed cheese as naturally as possible which is safe to consume. We use preservatives as per World Health Organisation standards. Unlike imported cheese there is no complaint of side effects such as sinusitis, headache, and allergic reaction in Druk Zambala Cheese,” he said.

He said that Druk Zambala processed cheese captured at least 8.9 percent of the local market share by substituting imports.

KIL expanded its market networks in 16 dzongkhags and aims to capture at least 15% this year. However, one of the key challenges is huge imports of dairy products and market competitiveness.

Meanwhile, Bhutan imported almost all dairy products worth Nu 1096.73 million in 2021, of which 1,128.65MT was processed cheese worth Nu 518.98M as per Bhutan RNR statistic 2021.

The dairy processing plant was established in 2015 as a joint venture between Druk Holding and Investments and its Japanese counterpart SNBL. KIL is an ISO 22000:2005 and BAFRA certified dairy processing company.

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Kamji gets BHU Grade-II

ཕུར།, 08/10/2022 - 10:53

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

A Basic Health Unit (BHU) Grade-II was inaugurated at Kamji, Geling gewog, Chukha yesterday. It will benefit about 1,215 residents, including teachers and students of Kamji MSS, business community of Kamji and Suntalakha areas. It will also benefit the Phuentsholing-Thimphu highway commuters.

The Member of Parliament (National Council) Sangay Dorji and the First Secretary, representing the Embassy of India attended the event, along with Chukha dzongkhag tshogdu chairperson, other dzongkhag officials, and villagers of Geling gewog.

The BHU was funded by the Small Development Project (SDP-II), Government of India. A fund of over 14.4 million was invested.

The Senior Dzongkhag Health Officer, Gopal Hingmang said the construction took about two years and was delayed due to Covid-19 pandemic situation.

“Presently, one female health assistant and a caretaker are posted,” he said, adding that another senior health assistant will join soon as he has been transferred from Tsimakha hospital in Chukha.

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Although the health unit has to have five bed capacity, this one in Kamji has three beds.

Gopal Hingmang also said that a BHU-II usually carries out preventive and promotive health services. They can also provide basic health services like immunisation, family planning services, sanitation and hygiene programmes and treatments, he added.

“Complicated health cases are referred to the nearest hospital in Gedu hospital, which has 20 beds,” he said.

Geling gup, Kinley Dorji said that all five chiwogs will benefit from the BHU but three among them will benefit more.

“Highway commuters will benefit too,” he said.

Lost paradise?

ཕུར།, 08/10/2022 - 10:52

Known for strict conservation policies, some endangered species found our forests, riverbeds and grasslands as a safe habitat. Notwithstanding our size, Bhutan is one of the top biodiversity hotspots in the world. We have several endangered species, both flora and fauna survive, if not thrive. But this is coming under threat with development becoming a priority over conservation.

In hindsight, it was the policy of the past that was conservation-friendly. The greed for economic prosperity has pushed some of the wise policies into the background. Rare birds are being scared away from their habitat because of road-widening projects, tigers are being hunted, even if illegal, for skin and bones. The black-necked crane population is dwindling as they find their roosting grounds converted into concrete jungles.

The white-bellied heron (WBH) is a rare bird in the world. There are only about 60 in the entire world. Bhutan has about 13.8 percent or 23 of the total birds. The bird is so elusive and sensitive that the slightest disturbance to its habitat could result in extinction.

Listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List since 2007, WBH is losing its habitat. A recent RSPN analysis of population trends within the zones where the birds flock indicates that the population is disappearing from Phochhu and Mochhu to Kamichhu near Punakha and Wangduephodrang. Called Zone I, this was once a thriving habitat.

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The hydropower projects and developments along the banks of Punatsangchhu river have scared the birds away. The last herons sighted in the zone was in 2018. No herons were sighted in Zone I for the past two consecutive years. Going by the study, it is evident that disturbance caused by construction activities is affecting their breeding grounds. The Kuri-Gongri basin until Bumdeling, Trashiyangtse was once a rich habitat. No birds were sighted in the last two years. It coincided with the construction of the Kholongchhu hydropower project.

It is proven that human activities like natural resource extraction, infrastructure development, timber and firewood collection and hydropower development are a threat to their survival. As a developing country that is dependent on the construction and hydropower industry for improved GDP growth, not many would think of preserving bird habitats. Only a few would value the worth of rare species.

With elected governments having to deliver promises and prove economic growth, conservation of the environment and rare species are not on the priority list. We are rich in biodiversity because of the wisdom of our past leaders who always ensured balanced development.

The birds’ cry is not loud enough for the government to hear. It is subdued by the loud noises of turbines or vehicles running through their habitat. However, for the sake of conservation, it would be worthwhile to relook into preserving rare habitats of rare species including the white-bellied heron.

Economically, bird watching, especially rare birds, could provide the high value we are chasing after increasing the sustainable development fee to USD 200 a person per day. Even if not economically viable, we could help save some of the rarest species for our future generations. At the rate of extinction of rare species, our children will read about the WBH only in school textbooks.

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Machines to ease farming drudgery

ཕུར།, 08/10/2022 - 10:51

Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

As an organic capital, Tsirang is one of the biggest winter vegetable producers in the country.

The dzongkhag has more than 30 farmers’ groups and 21,000 acres of arable land. The climatic conditions have enabled commercial vegetable production in the district.

However, like farmers across the nation, commercial producers in the dzongkhag still practice labour-intensive farming. This has not only affected efficiency and production but it is also expensive.

With the introduction of bed-making machine, days of drudgery could be coming to an end.

The dzongkhag agriculture sector handed over four sets of power tillers and nine sets of bed-making machine to gewog agriculture extension officers yesterday. The Japan-made machinery was procured from the Farm Machinery Corporation Limited at the cost of Nu 1.8 million.

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Some of the farmers were visibly thrilled and hopeful.

Tashi Tshering is a progressive farmer  in Tsiragtoed gewog. He said that it was difficult to even cultivate a small portion of his five-acre land as it was challenging to get labourers.

“The minimum daily wage rate is not less than Nu 500. To cultivate an acre of land with 15 labourers, it would cost Nu 10,000,” he said. He now hopes that with the help of bed-making machines, he would cultivate an acre with five litres of fuel. “When the cost of production is reduced, the prices of crops and vegetables would decrease too.”

Bholanath Chapagai from Kilkhorthang gewog said that the mechanisation would benefit farmers. We can now cultivate a field that takes two days in the past within an hour, he said. 

In the past, even with the helpers, we can cultivate only 60 decimals of land a day, Lal Bdhr Neopani from Gosarling said. “Commercial farming currently is labour-intensive.”

Besides, bed-making, the machines can be used for ploughing and laying mulching plastic.

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According to the senior dzongkhag agriculture officer, Dorji Gyeltshen, the machines were handed over to the gewogs with high potential to produce winter crops. 

Phuentenchu, Mendrelgang, Kilkhorthang, Sergithang, Dunglagang, and Gosarling gewogs got each machine each.

Although machine operators are deployed, gewog agriculture extension officers of 12 gewogs in the dzongkhag are expected to be trained in how to use the machines.

“Our farmers practice labour-intensive agriculture. Bed-making is a tedious process. These machines could help them save time and resources in the farm,” he said.

It could also help encourage youth in farming, he added.

A Terms of Reference was also developed. It highlights the guidelines on the proper use of machines, management, and sustainability.

The users have to pay Nu 300 an hour to use the machines, from which Nu 200 is paid to the operator and Nu 100 is deposited in the savings account of the group for machine maintenance.

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Online sources state that as climate change makes farming far tougher and more young people reject it as a career, giving small-scale farmers access to the right-sized farm machinery, for instance, can help reduce backbreaking labour and keep more people on the land.

Last winter, Tsirang produced 4100 metric tonnes (MT) of winter vegetable, from which 450MT are chillies.