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The monsoon woe

Kuensel Feed - སྤེན།, 06/17/2022 - 11:39

The monsoon is here in its all forcefulness. In the kind of terrain we are in, it is a big deal.

Unlike in some places in the region, the monsoon comes to us both as a boon and bane. That’s probably why we do not celebrate its coming.

Being in the mountains, our roads become increasingly dangerous as the rains hit us hard. Landslides are already a common theme along the Bhutanese roads. Soon we will have to contend with flash floods.

As the news of accidents rises by the day, there is a need for us, particularly frequent travellers, to reflect on safety and precautions.

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The problem is that no amount of awareness and advocacy seem to work. The police and the roads department are posting situations and updates along the highways; we read and then forget them almost instantly.

The monsoon is a critically important season in Bhutan, not just because of the amount of rain we get, but also, more significantly, because of the destruction and problems it brings to the people. If the farmers are happy, road users are not.

Some travel plans can be cancelled. Why not? 

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Rivers are swelling; we are constantly getting alert signals. When the monsoon comes forcing down on us, we immediately think about the communities along the major river systems in the country—Are they prepared? Are they safe? 

Being in the heart of a difficult terrain in the Himalayas, the monsoon brings us many challenges. We are also all too familiar with earthquakes and flash floods that leave villages bare and poor. But they are not the only problems. Climate change is a very unique phenomenon that affects us in diverse ways. Its fickleness means that we can be caught off guard.

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Facing such challenges ought not to be the government’s responsibility. The responsibility of securing one’s life falls on the individual. Accidents and deaths can be prevented.

So, as the monsoon hits us hard, we may do well to reflect on the dangers the season brings. Road travel in Bhutan is fraught with risks, particularly in summer. Precaution and care are the only things we can depend on.

Alert notices from the police and the roads department are now easily available and plan your travel accordingly.

Script development grant for quality storytelling

Kuensel Feed - སྤེན།, 06/17/2022 - 11:38

Chhimi Dema

The heart of any film is the script.

To contribute to the improvement of Bhutanese storytelling and to take the film industry to the international level, an initiative called the National Script Development Grant awarded three individuals with a grant to develop their ideas into film scripts.

The award, consisting of financial support of Nu 50,000 for two winners, and Nu 25,000 for a special jury mention, was given on June 15.

Under the initiative, eight finalists from 32 entries attended 10 days training with national and international experts on professional screenplay writing.

The participants learnt observation writing, the concept of storytelling, and screenplay.

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A winner of the grant, Ngawang Choden, said the initiative helped bring her imagination to words.

She said that the most important thing she learned from the class is ensuring the audience could see the visuals in their head as they read the script.

She added that they were taught to internalise, conceptualise and apply the learning in a way that the quality of the script is a priority. “These lessons are imperative to building the quality of Bhutanese cinema.”

The other winners were Dechen Y Choden and Deki Wangmo.

The initiative was funded by the Golan Pictures and Shangreela.

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A filmmaker, Chand RC, said that the Bhutanese film industry over the past 20 years remained quantitative in its growth. “But in the quality of storytelling, we are not on par with the global standards.”

He said that the film industry has the potential to create job opportunities with support from different stakeholders. “One filmmaker can employ at least 45 individuals for five to six months. If the government supports five independent filmmakers, they would be employing 250 to 300 jobseekers.”

International reports state that with the increasing global success and globalisation of the Korean Film industry, the industry “evolved to be a content powerhouse with the popularity of ‘K-Wave’ dramas, film, and music”.

The industry’s worth was estimated to be USD 5 billion in 2019.

Chand RC said that in the global scenario, the creative performing arts and entertainment industry is worth USD 300 billion. “The Bhutanese film industry has huge untapped potential.”

Lauri GC road blacktopping delayed another six months

Kuensel Feed - སྤེན།, 06/17/2022 - 11:37

Kelzang Wangchuk | Lauri

Residents of Lauri gewog in Jomotshangkha, Samdrupjongkhar, will now have to wait another six months for their gewog connectivity (GC) road blacktop to complete.

The Samdrupjongkhar dzongkhag tendering committee (DTC) on June 8 approved and gave the six months extension to the contractors who are executing the Lauri GC road blacktopping work.

The Nu 105 million (M) blacktopping work was supposed to complete in April this year. It now has until  December 31 this year to finish the remaining work.

Jomotshangkha drungpa, Lamdra Wangdi, said the dzongkhag administration issued the work order in March 2020 for 15 months, adding that as per the initial deadline, it was supposed to complete in June last year.

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He said the dzongkhag warned and told the contractors their contract would be terminated because they did not start the work for almost 10 months. “The contractors then started the work in January last year.”

Since the contractors could not complete within the deadline, the drungpa said the contractors were given a time extension for 10 months from July last year to April this year. “They still failed to complete the work.”

He said the DTC decided to give a time extension for another six months as the contractors could not bring materials due to the several lockdowns in Jomotshangkha and Samdrupjongkhar.

“The contractors would be terminated if they could not complete the work on time which is in December this year or they have to continue the work on liquidity damage (LD),” the drungpa said.

Indanila construction’s proprietor, Tshewang Rinzin, said they have completed the laying of the granular sub-base (GSB) and 50 percent drain construction. “Only the laying of wet mix macadam (WMM) and blacktopping are left.”

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He said they could not complete the work on time because the crusher got damaged and had to be sent to Guwahati in India for repair as they didn’t get the spare parts in Bhutan.

Tshewang Rinzin said the frequent power cuts also affect the work because they cannot run the crusher, adding that it is also challenging to construct the drain because the rain damages and wash away them.

“Since we cannot carry out the blacktopping work until October end as the rain would affect the quality of the work, we have requested the time extension until June next year, but we were given only six months. We would work hard but it would be challenging for us to complete in December,” Tshewang Rinzin said.

Muensel construction’s proprietor, Sonam Tshewang, said the work got delayed because they had to transport the materials to the site via Samdrupjongkhar from Phuentsholing as there was no direct escort service.

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“We also like to complete the work on time because it incurs losses to us but we could not because we have to take our machines either to Samdrupjongkhar or India for repairing as the lone workshop in Jomotshangkha lacks the skilled mechanic,” Sonam Tshewang said.

No fuel shortage: Oil distributors

Kuensel Feed - སྤེན།, 06/17/2022 - 11:36

Thukten Zangpo

Although the economic affairs ministry notified the public that there would be no fuel supply interruption in the country, many people were still rushing to fuel depots to refuel their cars since June 14.

After rumours spread in Thimphu that there would be fuel price hikes and supply disruptions, demand for fuel increased.

The notification did not stop people from turning up in large numbers at fuel depots.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) explained that the two Indian principal companies, Indian Oil Corporation Limited and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, supplying fuel to Bhutan have completed successful registration of import and export code at Land Custom Station at Jaigoan on June 14.

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It was mandatory for the exporters and importers to register the import and export code in the new Indian Customs EDI Gateway system at all ports of entry.

According to the ministry, the supply lines of fuel have been normalised and fuel tankers are already on the way from Phuentsholing to replenish the stock in different stations in the country.

Oil distributors also assured that there is a continuous supply of fuel in the depots and would be adequate for all.

The regional manager at Tashi Bhutan Oil Distributors (BoD) in Lungtenzampa, Dendup Tshering, said the demand for fuel surged by more than 50 percent because of the rumour.

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On June 14, about 1,000 cars queued in the depot.

The depot sold 42,000 litres of petrol in a day, unlike 10,000 litres on usual days. Similarly, the depot sold 27,000 litres of diesel from 12,000 litres.

Dendup Tshering said that the depot receives about 29,000 litres of petrol and 30,000 litres of diesel in a day.

An official from Damchen Petroleum in Changzamtok said that because of the increased demand, the petrol finished at 8pm on June 15.

The depot received 4,500 litres of petrol and 12,000 litres of diesel on the same day.

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“This time the demand for petrol increased to 4,500 litres in a day compared to the usual 1,500 litres. The demand for diesel increased to 6,000 litres from 2,400 litres,” an official said.

Meanwhile, MoEA stated that if there were a requirement for emergency fuel supplies, they would supply from the fuel depot at Thinchupangkha, Chunzom, which has 1,000 kilolitres each of petrol and diesel to last for two weeks.

Multiple slides block eastern highways 

Kuensel Feed - སྤེན།, 06/17/2022 - 11:35

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar

The Samdrupjongkhar-Trashigang highway remained closed for traffic yesterday following multiple roadblocks due to the continuous rain for the past few days.

However, the landslides are expected to be cleared and the highway opened to traffic today if the rain subsides.

The Project DANTAK and the Department of Roads (DoR) workers tried to clear the blocks along the highway but continuous rain and bad weather conditions hampered their efforts.

The chief engineer with the regional DoR office in Samdrupjongkhar, Kinzang Wangchuk, said there are numerous minor and about five major blocks at 22 kilometres (km), 39km, 75km, 77km and 83km.

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He said the Project DANTAK and the DoR workers cleared the minor blocks but could not clear the major blocks because of continuous slides and falling boulders.

“We’re carrying out the clearing work and would open the highway for traffic if the rain subsides but the situation would become worse if the rain continues today,” Kinzang Wangchuk said.

Meanwhile, the Pemagatshel-Nganglam highway is closed to traffic with several blocks since yesterday. The Tshelinggor-Khothakpa highway was also closed as a landslide washed away the Khothakpa bypass.

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The chief engineer said that they were trying to mobilise machinery from State Mining Corporation Limited (SMCL) to clear a new foundation of the road. “We hope the SMCL will help us.”

He said the officials and labourers also evacuated the shops and people near the highway at Tsenkari in Nganglam, Pemagatshel, from the flash flood yesterday. “There were no casualties.”

The commuters said that it would help if project DANTAK workers could continue clearing the block after 5pm. “They do not work after 5pm at present,” commuters said.

Project DANTAK officials said that although they are clearing the block, continuous rain and foggy weather at the site hamper the works.

“It’s also important for us to maintain the safety of the labourers as these are landslide-prone areas,” an official said.

Pema Center secretariat  established

Kuensel Feed - སྤེན།, 06/17/2022 - 11:34

On the Royal Command of Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen, the Pema Center Secretariat, an agency to spearhead Bhutan’s national response to mental health, has been established.

Her Majesty graced the inauguration ceremony of the secretariat yesterday morning, where prayers were performed for an auspicious start to the initiative.  

The secretariat aims to help build a society that promotes the mental health and well-being of all Bhutanese. 

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It will support policies and develop programs to support mental health, foster multi-sectoral partnerships, engage communities, and establish a proactive service delivery network. It will also help introduce and improve treatments, therapy and rehabilitation services. 

The secretariat has three core divisions: Self-harm Prevention, Violence Prevention and Response, and Substance Use Prevention and Care. Their collective mandate is to make proactive and reliable mental health services accessible for all. The team’s first steps towards this include setting up channels through which those in need of services can seek help, and systems to support them as well as their families and caregivers. 

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The secretariat is comprised of a board and staff from a diverse set of backgrounds, working under the guidance of Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen.

Science Museum: Uncovering queer stories to inspire new trailblazers

bbc - སྤེན།, 06/17/2022 - 11:12
Two assistant curators have re-examined the museum's collection to mark 50 years of Pride in London.

Gatwick cuts summer flights after staff shortages

bbc - སྤེན།, 06/17/2022 - 10:05
The airport says it will lead to a more reliable service, after a wave of cancellations and delays.

Cosmetics maker Revlon files for bankruptcy in US

bbc - སྤེན།, 06/17/2022 - 09:43
The 90-year-old firm says supply chain disruptions have driven up the cost of raw materials.

Is the UK getting hotter, and what causes heatwaves?

bbc - སྤེན།, 06/17/2022 - 08:52
Parts of the UK are preparing for the hottest day of the year so far.

'Why not have a disabled superhero in a Marvel movie?'

bbc - སྤེན།, 06/17/2022 - 08:41
Arthur Hughes is the first disabled actor to play Richard III - who had a bent spine - at the RSC.

Fuel prices: Could I save money driving an electric car?

bbc - སྤེན།, 06/17/2022 - 08:40
As petrol and diesel prices continue to increase, interest in electric vehicles is rising

Football shirts: 'People put such value on these bits of polyester'

bbc - སྤེན།, 06/17/2022 - 08:40
Football shirt-collecting is booming. Why do some people seem to love the tops as much as the game?

Rwanda asylum policy: Deportee says plan would have deterred him

bbc - སྤེན།, 06/17/2022 - 08:34
But the man - taken off a deportation flight - says he didn't know about the policy before reaching the UK.

Republican Senate gun negotiator walks out of talks

bbc - སྤེན།, 06/17/2022 - 08:17
"We're about run out of our rope here," a frustrated Senator John Cornyn said as he left Washington.

England appoints ambassador to shake up women's health

bbc - སྤེན།, 06/17/2022 - 07:40
The aim of the role for England is to help tackle decades of health inequalities.

'Long Covid' risk lower with Omicron, study finds

bbc - སྤེན།, 06/17/2022 - 07:34
Last winter's Omicron variant was less likely to cause lingering symptoms, researchers say.

Government set to miss air pollution goals - report

bbc - སྤེན།, 06/17/2022 - 07:14
People cannot easily find out how dirty the air is where they live, the National Audit Office says.