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དུས་མཐུན་བཟོ་ཡོད: 7 min 24 sec གི་ཧེ་མ།

PHPA II commissioning delayed by more than a year

ལྷག, 07/26/2022 - 11:08

Dechen Dolkar  

The 1,020MW Punatsangchhu II Hydroelectric Project Authority (PHPA II), which is scheduled to commission by July 2023, would be delayed by more than a year.

The chairman of the project, Lyonpo Loknath Sharma, said that if everything goes on track, the project would commission from October 2024 unit-wise.

The  PHPA II management has appraised the authority of the delay in commissioning the project during the 16th authority meeting of PHPA II in India recently.

The project was supposed to commission in July next year after several deadline extensions for, 2020, 2021, and 2022.

PHPA II started in 2010 and it was supposed to be completed in 2017. But due to the massive landslide in the powerhouse in 2016 and due to the pandemic, it has been further delayed.

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Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that during the meeting, the management had mentioned that due to the two years of pandemic and lockdown, there was a shortage of workers at the project site, which delayed the work progress.

“The management estimated the project to complete from October 2024 unit-wise and be able to complete all units by January 2025,” he said.

Lyonpo said that authority members urged management to expedite the work before October 2024.

He said that the critical part left of the project is to excavate the downstream surge gallery (DSSG). In 2016, the DSSG collapsed in the powerhouse following loose soils being dislodged.

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that the main challenge is to excavate at DSSG because the rock condition in the tunnel is fragile. “The management has said that it will take one and half years to excavate both sides of the tunnel.”

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He, however, said that the construction of the dam will complete in December this year. “The water defiling and the gate will then be tested.”

Meanwhile, during the authority meeting, the PHPA II cost was also revised to approximately Nu 93B. The initial cost of the project was Nu 37.7B.

In July 2016, the Union Cabinet approved the revised cost estimate of Nu 72.9B.

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that the authority has indicated that this will be the final cost and no further cost revision.


The government of India (GoI) has entrusted an independent committee to review the barrage detailed project report (DPR) for Punatsangchhu I (PHPA I) and has requested the government of Bhutan to provide time until the independent committee submits their finding.

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Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that the independent committee might visit the PHPA I site soon to review.

He said that GoI has also been impressed that their decision will be based on the outcome of the independent committee. “It is also agreed that the pending decision on PI has a cost and overrun to both sides and efforts will be made to conclude including the authority meeting in a month.”

He also claimed that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, face-to-face authority meetings couldn’t be held for more than two and half years. “There were several pending project-related issues to be discussed and decisions to be made to enable the project management to push the project forward.”

The minister also said that the project authority was supposed to meet twice a year at an alternate venue between Thimphu and Delhi. “The next authority meeting will be held in Bhutan in November or December this year.”

Meanwhile, the National Council members recommended the government stop extending deadlines of the hydropower projects, thereby increasing the cost impacting the economy during the last parliament session.

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New rule impacts livestock farmers

ལྷག, 07/26/2022 - 11:06

Farmers have to buy refrigerated vans to transport meat 

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Livestock farmers from Tading, Samtse, are unable to supply meat in Phuentsholing.

This is because the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) has asked meat suppliers to have a meat delivery van with refrigerating facility to keep the meat fresh.

Farmers said BAFRA’s requirement is a hassle given the short distance between Tading and Phuentsholing. Tading is about nine kilometres from Phuentsholing.

A poultry and piggery farmer, Leela Bahadur Bhujel, said they never owned a van with a refrigerating facility before to ferry meat to Phuentsholing.

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“The rule was implemented recently.”

He said they have not been able to supply any meat after the rule was implemented.

Leela Bahadur Bhujel said buying a meat van was expensive as farmers are already facing financial problems.

“Considering the distance between Tading and Phuentsholing, supplying the meat in ordinary vehicles was not a problem.”

Another livestock farmer, Kul Bahadur Ghalley, who has invested in a poultry (broiler) farm, said it is five years since he got into the business and they never ferried meat products in a van equipped with a cooling facility.

“The last two years have not gone well with us due to the pandemic-led lockdowns and restrictions. My financial status is not good enough to buy a meat van,” he said. “And right at the time when business is picking up another problem has struck us.”

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Kul Bahadur Ghalley said that he had availed the priority sector lending (PSL) loan and has to repay the loan.

“But the primary market is inaccessible now.”

As per BAFRA’s regional office notification on July 19, meat suppliers have been asked to transport fresh local meat only in standard meat vans with effect from August 1.

The notification said that local meat transported in other vehicles than standard meat vans would be treated as unsafe and the product would be seized and discarded.

According to the BAFRA, frozen meat has to be transported in refrigerated vehicles and fresh meat in standard meat vans.

The notification also stated that the frozen meat transportation has been streamlined, but the local meat supply transportation has not.

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The Amochhu police checkpoint doesn’t allow Tading livestock farmers to supply any meat.

Another farmer, Ugyen Lhamo, said she is having sleepless nights.

“Chickens eat three bags of feed daily. One bag of feed cost Nu 3,000. After 45 days, the chickens won’t grow but they will need feed,” she said.

Ugyen Lhamo said she has taken a loan of Nu 1.7 million.

She said bringing the meat with ice is difficult as there are none supplying ice cubes.

“Recently, chicken meat worth more than Nu 100,000 got spoiled while I was trying to process the permit,” she said.

Meanwhile, residents claim that such a move by the authorities will impact farmers in the country.

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A supplier, Nirmal Ghalley, said he returned from overseas to do something at home, but it was not favourable with such rules.

The 28-year-old man said this is not motivating youth who want to work.

Tading gup Yam Bahadur Ghalley said the gewog has high meat production with many piggery and poultry farms.

“Farmers take 20 to 100kgs as per the demand from meat shops. They pack the meat with clean plastic sacks and use trays,” he said, adding that some suppliers have their own vehicles (Bolero).

“This new rule came out suddenly. Though this is done for safety, farmers can’t afford to buy such vans.”

Yam Bahadur Ghalley also said the rate of meat in the market is still the same, while the fuel and feed price has increased.

“Meat suppliers are demotivated now. We are requesting an immediate response from the concerned authority,” he said.

JDWNRH should treat only referred cases

ལྷག, 07/26/2022 - 11:05

Multi-disciplinary super-speciality hospital to conduct organ transplants, cosmetic surgeries, heart surgeries 

Nima Wangdi

Providing some insights into upgrading the Thimphu national referral hospital to a multi-disciplinary super-speciality hospital (MDSSH), Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said the only cases referred from other hospitals should reach the MDSSH.

Lyonchhen was sharing the details with health professionals of Wangdicholing hospital in Bumthang last week.  Once the hospital is upgraded to a MDSSH, there should be services for organ transplants, neuro surgeries, heart surgery, high-end reconstructive surgeries, cosmetic surgeries, formal infertility services, and kidney and liver transplants.

The project worth Nu 5 billion, as of last year is the biggest project in the health sector. It is also one of the pledges of the government.

“We should be able to treat all patients who currently have to be referred abroad at the national referral hospital. We spend about Nu.1B on referrals every year,” Lyonchhen said, adding that the government is also planning to construct a 60-70 bedded hospital in Taba, Thimphu.

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Lyonchhen said that JDWNRH continues to see the same kinds of diseases and provides treatments that hospitals do without referring to Thimphu.  “With the specialists in place, regional referral hospitals should make sure that the patients that could be treated at regional referral hospitals are not referred to JDWNRH.”

Health officials had been saying that most cases are self-referral, meaning people feel services are better than JDWNRH, overwhelming the hospital. Patients usually come to JDWNRH expecting better services even if the disease could be treated at the Basic Health Unit, dzongkhag and referral hospitals.

Meanwhile, Gidagom hospital will also be upgraded to a formal 100-bedded infectious diseases hospital. Of these, 50 will be dedicated for infectious diseases and the other 50 will be for general cases.

In making JDWNRH a national referral hospital, Lyonchhen said the institution of cluster hospitals started in 2020. For the cluster hospitals, Trashiyangtse is clubbed with Trashigang, Punakha and Gasa are clubbed with Bajo in Wangude, Lhuntse is with Mongar with specialists added to the hospitals wherever required and whenever possible.

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“We are installing CT scan and dialysis in Samtse and Dewathang hospitals in addition to Mongar and Gelephu hospitals,” Lyonchhen said, adding that five CT scan machines should be enough for 700,000 people.

He said that for a population of less than one million, one MRI centre should be enough, but given the long distance, the government is mulling a new MRI centre.

Bhutan will soon start a MBBS college and send doctors out for subspeciality courses that we don’t have here. “In about 10 years, Bhutan’s health care will be one of the best in the world,” said Lyonchhen.

The hospital would provide high-level services in oncology – medical-oncology, psycho-oncology and hospice care, among others.

In the field of medicine, services like enteroscopy, high-resolution manometry, fibroscan services, and breath test facilities would be made available.

A rare rearing culture

ལྷག, 07/26/2022 - 11:04

Our pastoral communities are losing interest in rearing sheep. Besides better alternate sources of income, the economic return from the once thriving practice is minimal. Highlanders also face challenges of wild animals and feral dog predation. They have also lost pastureland. 

Sheep rearing is a labourious and tiring job, but it has huge cultural and environmental importance. Woollen products were valuable and available even when our economy was small and closed. If it kept us warm, it was an important part of our culture and a source of pride.

Sheep have been known for making farming more dynamic. In places where chemical fertilizers were unknown, sheep manure ensured better harvest and yield. It contributed to the sustainability of a farm and farmers.

Now with easily available imported commodities, the practice of weaving woollen blankets and clothes is dying. Many communities have stopped rearing sheep. Those who are into the practice are also selling sheep to depend on imported or artificial materials. 

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Without intervention, sheep rearing practice could also disappear. We cannot afford it.

Understanding the sociocultural and biodiversity conservation aspects, there should be enabling policy and financial support to encourage highlanders to rear sheep and preserve a tradition that had been passed down for generations. 

The agriculture ministry had already dedicated a centre for national highland research development. Research could focus on making sheep rearing practice more viable. There should be strategies that encourage sheep rearing into the highlander livelihood system.

Sheep dairy should be introduced and encouraged. Our farmers rear sheep only for wool, but sheep dairy products are popular in the global market. We hear stories of highlander groups in Phobjikha and Merak Sakteng trained to felt wool to make toys. They should be encouraged to use emerging markets in innovative ways. Value adding to sheep products could replace a lot of imported toys and handicraft items. We need not then sell scarves made from fake “baby yak” hair.  

The highland programmes should not only focus on yaks, but could include other livestock. Sheep help in the diversification of farms, which make them more resilient in the face of climate change. 

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If we want to promote a harmonious and socioeconomically vibrant highland community, we have to include highlanders in all aspects of our developmental plans and activities. Making highlanders understand the importance of soft cultural values will bring better results.

Looking at high-value tourism from handicraft sector

ལྷག, 07/26/2022 - 11:03

Thukten Zangpo

After more than two years of restriction on international travel, the handicrafts sector will find its businesses booming again with the re-opening of tourism from September this year.

But then, at a time when Bhutan is redefining tourism, what services and products are we giving to convince visitors that Bhutan offers something truly different?

In the handicraft shops, for example, every item pretty much is imported from Nepal.

The government revised the sustainable development fee from USD 65 to USD 200 for every tourist per night.

Executive director of the Handicrafts Association of Bhutan, Chorten Dorji, said that the cheap and imported handicraft give no space for the growth of local products.

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Cluster development officer of Agency of Promotion of Indigenous Arts (APIC), Cheki, said that some handicrafts imported from Nepal such as thangka, jewellery items and beads are in fact similar to those made by Bhutanese craftsmen.

Chorten Dorji said that the government has not been able to find a proper solution. “We see at least some hope with the new reform in the tourism sector.”

He added that if the import of handicraft items is not controlled, Brand Bhutan will have to take a severe beating in the markets at home and abroad. “We will lose identity. The government must do something serious to address it.”

Chorten Dorji said that the Brand Bhutan should be monitored and regulated strictly.

According to a press release from the Tourism Council of Bhutan, the regulations are being drawn up for the Bhutanese handicraft industry to authenticate its genuineness.

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Chorten Dorji said that the Association should strive to focus on high value, better quality, and authentic Bhutanese handicraft items to match with tourism policy of promoting high value. “It is not about meeting international standards.”

The association has trained about 150 individuals in product designing and development.

Chorten Dorji said that Bhutanese handicraft items need to be semi-mechanised and marketing and promotion strategy improved.

He pointed out that the Bhutanese artisans have the skills but lack design concepts for product diversification. “With improved product designing and finishing, we need to set our own standards.”

The quality monitoring officer of APIC, Pema Loday, said that most of the handicraft items do not meet the product standardisation and certification.

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One of the shopkeepers in the crafts market, Rinchen Dema, said that her stalls still have old stocks to clear.

She said that before the pandemic imported products were her main concern because tourists visit only the bigger craft shops and tour guides take a huge commission for bringing tourists to the shops.

Another shopkeeper in the craft market said that new products are emerging in the market from decorative-based to those that are utility-based which can help the Bhutanese handicraft industry.

Banking on dog programme to address dog issue

ལྷག, 07/26/2022 - 11:02

Chhimi Dema

Residents of Phobjikha and Gangtey, who lived with stray dog problems, are expecting the nationwide accelerated dog population management (NADPM) and rabies control programme (RCP) to address dog issue in the community.

For the last few years, residents had been raising safety and hygiene concerns about increasing stray dog population in the communities.

Stray dogs also attacked domestic animals and posed risk to the residents.

The programme was launched last year to achieve 100 percent sterilisation of free-roaming dogs, register, and vaccinate all pet dogs, and control feral dogs.

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Gangtey Gup Kinley Gyeltshen said that in the past, stray dogs from other places were dropped at Lawla, who then walked to the two gewogs and increased the dog population.

“The stray dogs feed on frail or dead horses in the field and then look for similar prey such as calves and sheep,” he said.

Gup Kinley Gyeltshen said the community will be safer with the neutering and vaccination activities of the dog population management programme.

Last year, a pack of free-roaming dogs entered a pigsty and killed a piglet and injured one piglet in Gangtey.  Even the endangered Black-necked cranes often fall victim to packs of dogs.

However, a farmer from Phobjikha, Passang, said the number of stray dogs has decreased compared to a few years ago.

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“The gewog livestock extension and the NADPM’s sterilisation programme is proving beneficial in reducing the dog population,” he said.

Locals said that increasing waste in the gewogs from campers leaving behind waste and hotels serve as a food source for the dogs.

Pema, 53, from Phobjikha, said that dogs feed on waste and loiter around posing risk to young children and domestic animals. “Some dogs even snarl at people, and tackle calves.”

The programme recorded 4,006 dogs in Wangdue dzongkhag during a survey.

Picture story

ལྷག, 07/26/2022 - 11:01

Bhutan Badminton Federation conducted “Shuttle Time for Teacher Course” at the Gesarling Central School in Dagana from July 23-24

United Ladies to face Green Taras  in woman’s football final today

ལྷག, 07/26/2022 - 11:00

Thinley Namgay     

United Ladies will play Green Taras Women FC in the final of the Thimphu Women’s Open Football Championship 2022 at the Changlimithang Stadium today.

United Ladies booked the place for the final after defeating Panchali Women FC 3-0 in the semifinal on July 24 at Changlimithang Stadium.

The skipper of the United Ladies, Kezang Pema, said they are very happy to reach the final. “Our team has former players of Taktse college and some known players, but no club players.”

She said that Green Taras has competent players comprising former national players, coaches and club players. “But we will give our best.”

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Kezang Pema said the team took part in the tournament through sheer interest and winning is not important.

With seven points from three games, United Ladies won the pool B in the league.

Green Tara’s captain, Tshering, said that her players are confident to win. “We are very happy and proud of our team to reach the final.”

She said the motive of her team was to gather old friends, who loved playing football and reminisce old memories.

Green Taras topped pool A with nine points by winning all the three games played in the league.

The eight participating clubs are divided into a pool of four teams each and the league round ended on July 21.

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Organised by the Bhutan Football Federation,  the competition is to foster women’s participation in football.

Thimphu Women’s Open Football Championship commenced in 2019, but they could not play in  2020 and 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

National players are not allowed in the tournament, but three club players in each team were permitted.

The tournament began in July.

Nu 16.9M irrigation canal non-functional in Drujeygang

ལྷག, 07/26/2022 - 10:58

Choki Wangmo | Dagana

Constructed at the cost of Nu 16.9 million (M), an irrigation canal from Thangna to Pangna in Drujeygang, Dagana, remains idle.

The 12km irrigation canal is covered in dense thickets today.

The canal was expected to benefit more than 130 households in Thangna, Boodepang-Pangna, and part of upper Pangserpo chiwogs.

First started in the early 1980s by local residents, the formal canal construction was completed between 2018 and 2019, but there is no water running through the canal, leaving most of the agricultural fields fallow. Some farmers depend on rainwater for cultivation.

Villagers said that despite huge project costs, they did not irrigate their land even once after the canal construction was completed.

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Despite the presence of other water sources around, it was not directed into the canal

They claimed that rather than benefitting, rainwater collected in the canal overflowed in monsoon, washing away land.

Residents blamed the contractor who did not follow the initial drawing and made mistakes in canal alignment.

At the site, it was found that the improper drain slope of the canals didn’t allow the natural flow of water. Ironically, despite the presence of other water sources around the canal, it was not directed into the canals.

Thangna tshogpa Ugyen Lhendup, said that the mistake was evident in the initial phase of the project from where a concrete canal was connected to the source. “If we use pipelines instead of concrete drains, the water would flow.”

Of the 12km, the initial five kilometre is concrete, after which the remaining canal was joined by pipelines or dug-up canals. In between, about 400m of pipelines were used as part of the maintenance project.

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Residents claimed that at certain points, pipelines were installed within concrete canals, which was not only expensive, but unnecessary.

The water source is located about three hours walk from Thangna chiwog.

The canals were clogged with leaves and other forest materials. Pipelines had disjoined at several points.

A farmer, Tandin Wangchuk, was preparing his field for paddy cultivation. He was using a private water source. “We have to grow our own food. We cannot wait for this failed project to start our cultivation.”

However, many farmers are waiting for interventions from the dzongkhag administration.

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“We can modify the alignment, but we would need resources and labour,” tshogpa Ugyen Lhendup said.

Many farmers are worried that the water source would dry up.

They claimed that they even formed a group and collected Nu 300 for maintenance earlier.

According to the accountant of the group, the money collected is currently saved with the banks.

Dagana dzongkhag’s principal engineer, Jamyang Dorji, said that the dzongkhag had handed over the completed project to the communities three years ago.

“The communities wanted the canal until Yonsibji, but the budget allocated was sufficient to construct the canal until Pangna chiwog. “I have suggested them to propose the budget in the next Plan.”

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He said that the communities wanted budget for drilling a water source from a cliff, which is beyond the budget available.

Further, he added that all irrigation canals in the dzongkhag are functional.

Ask Mr Bhutan

མིག, 07/25/2022 - 11:16

Hi Mr Bhutan,

I would like to know your thoughts on Yoga? How good is it for us?

The availability bias fuelled by the flash light of media has led to a very narrow and distorted view of Yoga. The word Yoga is now synonymous with a picture of a Yogi in an impossible looking acrobatic and often contortionist like pose.

There are 8 Limbs or branches of Yoga. The “Asana” or physical poses are only one branch. Yoga is a  practical guide towards preparing a human being to transcend the world of matter. The word “Yoga” simply translates to “Union”

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It is a systematic method to help guide an individual to realize the “TRUE SELF” one indivisible entity, one with everything and everyone, there is no separation, it is a path to end of this illusion created by our incessant association with mind, body and matter. Albert Einstein called it “mans optical delusion of his consciousness”

The oldest known text on Yoga. The Yoga sutras of Patanjali describes Asana as a “comfortable and steady pose” a pose that enhances comfort and alertness, not discomfort, challenge and exhaustion, it is not meant as an exercise to work the body. Asana purpose is to train the body to sit still in alertness and comfort, it’s a prerequisite foundation to steady the mind. Through mastery of the body and mind one can transcend the world of matter and reconnect with the “TRUE SELF/ATMAN/ENGLIGHTENMENT/BUDDHA/SATORI/CHRIST CONSCIOUSNESS”

I highly encourage the study, understanding and practice of Yoga to everybody who wishes to walk and experience the path to self mastery.

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If you apply yourself completely to Yoga, you will transcend all suffering and reside in eternal peace. You will continue to live on this earth but not be of this earth.

“The SELF was never born hence can never die.” – Bhagavad Gita

Chhokhor residents discuss their issues with PM

མིག, 07/25/2022 - 10:57

Nima Wangdi

Villagers from Chhokhor gewog asked the Prime Minister about the progress on the pledge to connect their area with a cellular network during Lyonchhen’s visit to the gewog last week.

During the bye-election of the National Assembly, member from Chhokhor-Tang constituency, the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa candidate and now MP, Dawa pledged mobile network for the highlanders. 

A resident of the gewog, Pema Wangchen, 40, said that in absence of mobile network coverage the highlanders have communication problems. 

“Herders have to travel from Gangkar Puensum to Tshampa and from Gomthang till Paksamlum when there are problems,” he said.   

“Currently, if a cordyceps collector suffers from high-altitude sickness, she or he has to be carried on the back from Gangkar Puensum. If people could instantly contact emergency services, lives could be saved.” 

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He said there are wireless facilities with the security personnel at the borders but the messages can’t be immediately and efficiently conveyed.

Chhokhor-Tang MP Dawa said the gewog has reminded him repeatedly and that he had submitted an application to the Minister of Information and Communications (MoIC). He said that Lyonchhen had also instructed the minister to work on it. “MoIC then wrote to Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) as the authority has to ask Bhutan Telecom and Tashicell to bid for the work.”

“BICMA told me that they can’t do it immediately due to budget constraints but they would try to do it from September. I have also requested them not to delay it any further.” Dawa said.

Chhokhor Gup Sangla said that potato was the main cash crop for the people of the gewog and different agencies have supplied a variety of seeds. 

He said the fertiliser shortage was more severe last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Farmers were unhappy as they could not get fertiliser on time. I request the government to help us get it on time.” 

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Lyonchhen said that Bhutanese have been buying fertilisers from India despite the Indian government’s export restrictions. The import became difficult due to strict customs inspection during the pandemic. 

Lyonchhen said the government was in the process of preparing documents with a European country to buy fertilisers but it could not be realised due to the Ukraine-Russia war. “The fertiliser problem might get more severe if the war does not end and we have no control over it.”

Lyonchhen said: “For now, the agriculture ministry is testing a fertiliser from India on how effective it would be. We will supply it if it is good.”

Human-wildlife conflict has been a major issue for the highlanders in the gewog. 

Farmers said that they could not match the intelligence of the wild animals. A chain link fence could be the answer. 

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However, Lyonchhen said that it was not a new idea but was stuck due to financial constraints. 

“We thought the project should start and have allocated Nu 500 million for this. Fencing work will begin after discussing the project with the local leaders in all the 205 gewogs,” Lyonchhen said. 

Lyonchhen also assured that all the activities that could not be done in the past two years will be completed in the remaining one year and four months of the government’s tenure. “We will not leave anything undone in the name of the pandemic.” 

Rain stops Chhokhortoed farm road blacktopping

མིག, 07/25/2022 - 10:55

Nima Wangdi | Bumthang 

Chhokhortoed and Dhur farm roads, as promised during the bye-election last year, will be blacktopped after monsoon.

With frequent rainfall, the road is wet but pliable for all kind of vehicle as wet mix macadam (WMM) has already been laid.

While Chhokhortoed farm road is ready to be blacktopped, GSB and WMM on the Dhur farm road is being carried out.

Contractor Tenzin Choda said that Chhokhortoed road would have been blacktopped by this time but due to the early monsoon, it had to be delayed.

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“We brought 20 labourers paying around Nu 500,000 for their quarantine and other expenses,” he said but had to be sent back since the rain did not stop.

Chhokhortoed farm road is 15 kilometres and Dhur 8.5 Killometres.

Choda said blacktopping of Dhur road will start after Chhokhortoed road.

The blacktopping work will likely begin from September end. The work has to be completed by March 2023.

Tenzin Choda said there has been huge cost escalation due to the pandemic. A barrel of bitumen, he said now cost Nu 12,000. “The price of diesel has also increased.”

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Meanwhile, Tang farm road blacktopping work is also on track. It has to be complete by February 2023.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering visited the site on his way to Chokhortoe on July 21 after meeting the people at Chokhor gewog centres at Dawathang in the afternoon.

Lyonchhen met the dzongkhag and Thromde officials yesterday.

Lyonchhen said that in all the 204 gewogs, the biggest project is laying GSB on the farm roads. “Just having a road is not enough, they should be good.”

Sheep rearing declining in Gangtey-Phobjikha

མིག, 07/25/2022 - 10:54

Chhimi Dema  | Phobjikha 

Sati, 54, from Phobjikha, had 100 sheep a few years ago. The number of sheep gradually dropped to 20 last year. The last flock of sheep was sold to others in the village last year. 

Like Sati, many villagers have sold their sheep because of increasing attacks by wild animals and with no one to look after them.

The Jakar-type sheep, found in Phobjikha, is among the four native breeds of sheep in Bhutan besides Sakteng, Sibsoo and Sarpang.

According to the Livestock Census 2021, there are 10,694 sheep in the country and 757 of them are in Wangdue.

The number of sheep in the country dropped from 11,466 sheep in 2019 to 10,793 in 2020.

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Passang Tobgay, 35, from Namphey village, said that compared to previous years, the number of sheep has been dropping.

He said that some households in the gewog have sold their sheep to farms in Bumthang, Merak and Sakten. “People sold the sheep because it was difficult to manage them, and the wild and stray dogs attacked and killed the sheep.”

Last year, from the group, 90 sheep were sold to Merak and Sakten, and 40 sheep to Bumthang.

Incidences of wild dogs entering sheep pens and killing some of them have been reported in Phobjikha for some years now.

Locals say that there is hardly any income from sheep farming.

Research from 2017 by three researchers from the agriculture ministry pointed out that sheep farming is increasingly becoming less attractive in the face of better alternative income sources such as potatoes and cordyceps.

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Passang Tobgay said that it is difficult to manage the flock and without financial gains, people lose interest.

He added that the practice of weaving woollen blankets and clothes has died with the advent of easily available imported commodities.

The country, in 2021, produced 5.8 metric tonnes of wool, a decrease of five percent from 2020.

Gangtey Gup Kinley Gyeltshen said that in near future, the sheep rearing practice could vanish altogether.

He said that working out solutions to address the predator issue and making sheep rearing economically viable could revive the interest of the villagers to continue sheep rearing.

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In Phobjikha gewog, the Samdrup Phuentsho Lug Detshen (sheep rearing group) has 21 members today. The group was formed in 2016 with support from the livestock department.

The members were trained to make wool felt toys which were sold during the annual Black-necked Crane festival.

The livestock department provided machines to process wool, roof and fencing for sheep pens. Currently, sheep graze in a place called Radhi La near Trongsa.

Japan provides grant for more scholarships 

མིག, 07/25/2022 - 10:54

Staff reporter   

The Government of Japan will provide a grant of Yen 194 million to Bhutan to support 9 Master’s and one PhD courses for young civil servants in Japanese universities in 2023.

This is the second phase of the Project for Human Resource Development Scholarship between Bhutan and Japan. Under this phase, a total of 36 Master’s programs and 4 PhD programs will be offered to Bhutan between 2023 and 2026.

Ambassador of Bhutan to Japan V. Namgyel and Ambassador of Japan to Bhutan Suzuki Satoshi signed the exchange of notes under the second phase of the Project for Human Resource Development Scholarship in New Delhi yesterday.

The Royal Civil Service Commission in consultation with various agencies has identified two broad areas for the scholarship courses: i) improving administrative ability and institution building which includes economic policy development, public policy and administration and international relations. ii) Building a strong base for sustained economic growth which includes agriculture and rural development policy, countermeasures for climate change policy and disaster risk management, and infrastructure development policy for sustainable economic growth. Priority areas for PhD program are economics, engineering, seismology, flood disasters and data analytics, mining and artificial intelligence.

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In the first phase between 2018 and 2022, the Government of Japan provided grant to support scholarships for 36 Master’s degree and four PhD courses for Bhutanese officials.

A press release from the foreign ministry stated: “The Government of Japan has been generously supporting Bhutan in many different areas, such as agriculture, telecommunications, rural electrification, construction of bridges, building of schools, providing fire engines, police patrol cars, compactor trucks, ambulances, and medical equipment and farm machinery.

“The Royal Government of Bhutan also received generous support from the Government of Japan to fight against the spread of Covid-19 and help with the economic recovery effort of the Royal Government.

“Like all the other projects supported by the Government of Japan to date, this project too will further strengthen the excellent bonds of friendship, understanding, and cooperation between Bhutan and Japan.”

Ambassador V. Namgyel conveyed the deep appreciation of the Royal Government and people of Bhutan to the Government and people of Japan for their steadfast and generous support of Bhutan’s socio-economic development for many years, and for their assurances of continued support in the years ahead.

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Ambassador Suzuki Satoshi said that the Project for Human Resource Development Scholarship will impart advanced knowledge to young public officials of Bhutan which is essential for the country’s development, and will further enhance mutual understanding between Japan and Bhutan.

For a meaningful intervention

མིག, 07/25/2022 - 10:53

Schools in Thimphu have begun a system of random testing for controlled and harmful substances in school by asking parents to sign a consent letter. While the education ministry’s decision is aimed at curbing drug use among students, it has generated debate among teachers and parents.

Many seem to view this threat to incarcerate children as a regressive policy. Some argue that the State does not have the authority to arrest anyone without following due process of law. One went put it with certain vehemence. “Any arrest not authorised by law will be unlawful, procedural arbitrary and unconstitutional. The authority to grant or reject bail only rests with the court, not police. No law enforcement including police has authority to operate at whims and fancies.”

While the debate is inevitable, we must also see it as an opportunity. Healthy discussions lead to meaningful solutions. So, let there be a serious debate on this pertinent issue.

Although we do not have figures, we are being told that drug use among school-goers is growing, especially in bigger urban centres such as Thimphu and Phuentsholing. Well aware that such trends can destroy health and future of young people, the education ministry’s intervention makes sense. The Chief of Police has also said that “extensive” patrolling would be launched to address assault, battery and abuse of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances (NDPS) cases involving students.

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What this indicates is that although the problem is yet small it is growing at an alarming rate to necessitate such interventions. The chief of Police, Major General Chimi Dorji said: “At any point if anybody is caught while carrying out a criminal act, [he or she] will be arrested, detained and prosecuted without any opportunities for bail or sureties. At such times the police might also question the teachers on their accountability towards the student.”

Parents largely support the move but disagree with the way it is coming. Some are already asking what would happen to children after they are found to have used controlled substances? What happens to their education, their future? These are important questions.

Treatment and rehabilitation must be seen as equally important options. Society has the responsibility to ensure wholesome development of a child through reformative, social-reintegration and restorative solutions. Otherwise, we would just be criminalising children which could have a profound impact on young lives and their future. Schools must make efforts to reduce or eliminate drug use among students but society must also have meaningful interventions in place.

Country’s top export item attracts more investors

མིག, 07/25/2022 - 10:51

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing 

With 11 ferrosilicon industries in operation, three under construction, six new construction approved and 10 new applicants, Bhutan will have more ferrosilicon industries in the coming years.

While Pasakha Industrial Estate (PIE) doesn’t have space, the new plants will come up at Motanga Industrial Park (MIP) in Samdrupjongkhar and Jigmeling Industrial Park (JIP) in Sarpang.

From the 11 existing ferrosilicon industries, 10 are in Pasakha and one in Motanga. Of this, only one, Ugen Ferro Alloys is a Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).


Is it feasible?

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Ferrosilicon is Bhutan’s top export commodity today. In 2021, Bhutan exported ferrosilicon worth Nu 15B, the highest so far. In 2020, Bhutan exported Nu 7B worth ferrosilicon, Nu 9B in 2019, Nu 13B in 2018, and Nu 9B in 2017.

In 2020, records show India imported the highest share of ferrosilicon from Bhutan- a 16.6 percent worth USD 101M. India also imported ferrosilicon from China, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Observers said the lucrative nature of business and the record price as high as Nu 280,000 per metric tonne (MT) in 2021 attracted investors.

While there are concerns if too many are venturing into the business, investors are positive.

The promoter of Chukha Ferro Alloys Private Limited (CFAPL) said the talk doing the rounds in the steel and ferro industries around the region is that if Bhutan cannot produce ferrosilicon or power-intensive products, no other country can produce it.

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“Another issue is the Russia-Ukraine war, which will see demand for steel in the coming years coupled with post-pandemic plans of developing countries. The ferrosilicon industries will do well,” he said.

CFPL is a foreign direct investment (FDI) and its construction is ongoing at the moment in Motanga. It will take another 15 months before the plant starts production.

Meanwhile, Economic Affairs Minister Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said he discussed upcoming ferrosilicon industries and markets with India in his recent visit.

“They say it is promising as India is trying to enhance its steel production. They say their steel production is being enhanced and might increase by 300 times in another 10 to 15 years. So the market for ferrosilicon might be there.”

He, however, said the problem is with the raw materials such as coal and semi-coke as both are mostly imported from India and China.

“Also, our power tariff will progressively be increasing and the same rate as now may not be feasible,” Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said. “Also, if India does not reach what they are aiming at, then the market is closed.”

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He said that they are advising all proponents to look into these factors properly. India, Nepal and others might also come with large alloys plants, he added.

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said the government cannot distort and disturb where private investors want to put their money, but they need to do their homework properly rather than put it all into one sector.

He said investors might be thinking of bumper profits looking at the recent past during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“But this was because the whole shipping and value chain was disturbed so Bhutan got the opportunity to export to India.”

The economic affairs ministry also carried out a study on the global ferrosilicon industry in relation to Bhutan.

The report stated that with India’s current 120 million (M) MT production of crude steel, the consumption of ferrosilicon is projected at 600,000MT. India imports around 125,000MT of ferrosilicon from Bhutan and the rest from Malaysia, China, and other countries.

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Picture story

མིག, 07/25/2022 - 10:50

His Majesty’s Secretariat organised a ceremony to offer 1000 butter lamps and prayers for the late His Serene Highness Prince Bhisadej Rajani of Thailand at Simtokha Dzong yesterday. Lyonpo Chenkyab Dorji, Chairman of the Royal Privy Council, Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji, former Ambassadors of Bhutan to Thailand, senior government officials, officials from the Royal Thai Honorary-Consulate General, and Thai nationals in Bhutan attended the ceremony. 

Prince Bhisadej was a member of the Thai Royal Family. He passed away at the age of 100 years at the Siriraj Hospital on July 23.

Focus point

ཉིམ།, 07/23/2022 - 16:54

Random tests for controlled drugs in schools 

ཉིམ།, 07/23/2022 - 16:53

… both teachers and students have to undergo the tests

Tshering Palden 

Schools in Thimphu are asking parents to sign consent letters to allow their children to attend random tests for controlled drugs.

This comes after the officiating education secretary Karma Galay’s notification on July 20.

The notification stated that the ministry and Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency (BNCA) will be testing staff and students for illegal controlled drugs and substances in schools soon.

Schools through a previous notification from the ministry were working on drawing up Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for drug-free school programme.   

Karma Galay asked schools to strategise stringent approaches and inform students and parents of the misconduct and consequences.

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His notification made reference to the recent arrest of 16 students arrested for alleged gang fights in Thimphu. “It must be taken as a wake-up call for the entire education fraternity, parents and our communities. Moreso, our schools must ensure proactive programs and services to prevent and curb such incidences. It is our responsibility.”

The school, parents or guardians and teachers will be held accountable for the lapses, for

which, the ministry directed dzongkhag, thromde and school to involve parents or guardians and relevant stakeholders concerned in preventing and curbing such incidences.

Police Chief Major General Chimi Dorji on July 13 wrote to Karma Galay saying that the police will carry out extensive patrolling to curb the increasing number of students’ involvement in assault, battery and abuse of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances (NDPS).

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He said that police records show that students arrested to date for the above crimes were also in possession of weapons such as knives, clubs, rods, knuckledusters and sticks.

“It is also learnt that students very often engage in these violent crimes in groups (gang) which is an impediment to society,” the Chief’s letter stated.

He said that with the country opening up for tourism, the police will be carrying out a series of activities towards rooting out youth violence by rigorously arresting, detaining and prosecuting them. “The RBP Is also gearing up towards cleaning up the towns by setting things in order before the arrival of the tourists.”

Since most of the youths comprise students, the police chief asked the education ministry to issue directives to all education officials in the dzongkhags and heads of schools to inculcate the right values and a sense of civic responsibility “by not engaging in fights, forming gangs and carrying weapons of offence”.

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Major General Chimi Dorji said: “At any point if anybody is caught while carrying out a criminal act, (he or she) will be arrested, detained and prosecuted without any opportunities for bail or sureties. At such times the police might also question the teachers on their accountability towards the student.”

Thimphu schools  respond 

The heads of schools in Thimphu, thromde officials and experts on anti-drugs met for two days to chalk out a school-based substance use prevention framework and Standard Operating Procedure for drug-free schools. Schools are also working to form a prevention Leadership Action Team.

Schools are preparing action plans and SOP on how to carry out drug tests. Tests will be carried out only after these systems are in place.

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As gang fights are on the rise, the schools are now asked to report disciplinary matters to the thromde office immediately.

In case a student comes in conflict with the law the concerned school has to admit them only after they produce an undertaking or “concern letter” from the police or BNCA. All schools are asked to plan and work for academic rigour and discipline in the school.

Schools also have to create awareness about the ill effects of drugs and institute a prevention framework policy strictly.

Eastern and southern dzongkhags prepare to welcome tourists amid limited infrastructure 

ཉིམ།, 07/23/2022 - 16:52

MB Subba

Amid limited infrastructures, eastern and southern dzongkhags are preparing to welcome tourists as the country is scheduled to reopen its borders to tourists on September 23.

In addition to the Phuentsholing gate, the government will open Samdrupjongkhar, Gelephu and Samtse gates as new entry and exit points for tourists, according to Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji, who is also the chairperson of the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB).

He said that tourists would be allowed to travel to any place after paying the SDF except for some places that are being identified. “We are preparing a list of places tourists will not have access to,” he said.

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The TCB is marking areas within which tourists can enter without paying SDF. Currently, tourists who come to border towns return on the same day.

However, the foreign minister said that TCB was considering allowing tourists to stay overnight at the border towns without paying SDF. This, officials said, would boost businesses in the border towns.

The TCB chairperson said that the required infrastructures for facilitating the entry of tourists at the gate were already in place and other facilities, if required, would be put in place before the country reopens for tourism.

A hotelier in Samdrupjongkhar said that implementation of the SDF should be deferred for eastern dzongkhags. He reasoned that the benefits of tourism had not reached some of the dzongkhags.

However, the TCB chairperson said that the government would not defer the implementation of SDF. “The question of deferring the implementation of SDF would not arise as the tourism levy Bill is an Act passed by Parliament,” he said.

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Dr Tandi Dorji said that even international tourists would be allowed to enter through the new entry points. Road conditions, he said, were “good” in most of the places and that the country was ready to welcome tourists.

Some tourist-based entrepreneurs are of the view that financial institutions should provide soft loans to develop for development of infrastructures in the dzongkhags that are backward in terms of tourism development.

They say that it is not possible for eastern dzongkhags to compete with other dzongkhags without help from the government and financial institutions. Some hotels across the are being renovated to welcome tourists.

Tourists coming from India through Samdrupjongkhar will have easy access to eastern dzongkhags.

Gangzur Minjey MP Kinga Penjor in an earlier interview said that he did not expect a huge number of tourists to visit eastern dzongkhags initially. The number of tourists, he said, was expected to increase gradually with the improvement in infrastructures.

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However, a businessman in Samdriupjongkhar said that some of the eastern dzongkhags lacked adequate infrastructure to host high-end tourists. He said that while the east-west highway was under construction, the Yonphula domestic airport had not been able to operate regularly due to weather conditions.

MP Tek Bdr Rai from Shompangkha in Sarpang said that infrastructures like hotels had been built during the past few years in the dzongkhag. He said that allowing tourists to stay overnight in the border towns without paying SDF would benefit the businesses.

The opening of the Gelephu gate, he said, would benefit not only Sarpang but also the neighbouring dzongkhags, including Tsirang and Dagana. “Damphu town itself is an attractive tourist destination because of the flowers that make it beautiful,” he said.

The Gelephu gate is also expected to provide access to Zhemgang.

Dagana, officials say, is one of the central dzongkhags with tourism potential.

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The chairperson of Dagana Tshogdu, Bal Bdr Rana, said that tourism infrastructures were being developed in the dzongkhag.

Some of the families, he said, had converted their houses into farmhouses in gewogs, including Tseza. S youth group was also working out tourist-based businesses like rafting and farmhouses, he added.

He said the Dagala track, which starts from Tseza near Daga Dzong to Genekha in Thimphu is also being revived as part of the tourism development programme. “Dagana also has religious and cultural sites,” adding that sections of the Sunkosh river could be developed as rafting sites.

It would be easier for tourists who come from India through Samtse to reach Haa, which is one of the popular tourist destinations in the country. In the past, regional tourists who travelled to Haa came through Phuentsholing.