KuenselOnline

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 - 10:40 AM
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Climate change a threat to Bhutan’s food security

Conference: Bhutan has shown impacts of climate change increasingly over the years, but the agriculture sector, the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, has a long to-do list.

At the ongoing regional climate change conference in Thimphu yesterday, agriculture department’s deputy chief, Tenzin Drugyel said a glacial lake outburst flood in 1994 affected 94 households and washed away 16 metric tonnes (MT) of food grain.  A rice blast two years later cost farmers 80 to 90 percent of their rice harvest.

In 2000, Phuentsholing received 449mm, Tala 500mm, and Gedu measured 520mm of rainfall within 24 hours, close to or more than the mean annual rainfall of the country, which is between 500 and 1000mm.

Heavy rainfall, he said, caused flash floods in 2004 that claimed nine lives and damaged 162 houses, 39 irrigation channels, and washed away 22 bridges in eastern districts.

In 2007, northern corn blight ruined 50 percent of total production.  The following year, the country experienced severe windstorms directly affecting 320 households.

Climate change scientists say such incidents would only increase if measures are not taken promptly.

Today, self sufficiency in rice is 48 percent, beef 39 percent, pork 40 percent, chicken 76 percent, fish two percent, egg 63 percent, and vegetables 56 percent.

“We’re at a high risk should there be any climate change impact because we’re not food sovereign,” he said.

The country has 69 percent of the population depending on the agriculture sector, and 56 percent are farmers.  Only 2.93 percent of the country is arable land, of which 31 percent are slopes with a gradient of more than 50 percent.

Between 2007 and 2008, when the major food producing countries banned their exports, Bhutan suffered, he said.  A Food and Agriculture Organisation report then said food is on the shelf, but people are not able to access food.

Climate experts say there is not much time to implement  measures against climate change.

The sector has to invest more in research.  From the meagre outlay, only 0.5 percent of the budget is allocated for research.

Tenzin Drugyel said, “We lack specific research agenda to address the effects of climate change.”

He said important topics, like soil and water management, and collection and analysis of time series climate data in the light of climate change, have not caught the attention of local researchers.

The country’s food storage facilities also need fixing, as most of Food Corporation of Bhutan’s (FCB) storage facilities are old and a large portion of food is lost during storage.

FCB, as mandated by the government, maintains 320MT of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) food grain reserve, and 1,600MT of food grain as national food reserve.

But the country does not have storage facilities for other food crops or of small capacities. “Or even if they’re being built, they are small.”

“Good storage facilities with efficient management are crucial for timely food supplies during unforeseen food shortages,” he said.

The 1,307 existing irrigation channels are mostly open canal where water seepage and evaporation rates are high, and are only 30-40 percent efficient.

“Municipal water demand projection shows it will increase from 25.6M cubic metres (cum) in 2010 to 41.7 in 2020 and likewise irrigation demand from 460cum in 2010 to 498cum in 2020,” he said.

Sheet erosions are a common feature, sustainable land management technologies are being promoted, but with limited adoption by the farmers, the deputy chief agriculture officer said.

He said besides evaluating and adapting genetic resources (both plants and animals) resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses, including drought, pests and diseases, the country had to develop an integrated planning and network management system.

“We have to improve availability of water for food and animal production, develop and institutionalise pest and disease surveillance and forecasting system for crop and livestock across agro-climatic zones,” he said.

There is also a need to establish a reliable network for food distribution and cold storage facilities in each region. “Despite poor investment, the agriculture research centres have developed and released eight climate resilient rice varieties,” he said.

The country has discouraged shifting cultivation, which is one of the highest contributors of greenhouse gases.

The country has 70 percent forest cover, 10.43 percent shrub land, and bare areas make up 3.2 percent.  Less than 18 percent of the land is under irrigation and 60-90 percent of farmland is dry land.

Meanwhile, scientists say the large tree cover, especially fruit trees, could provide some respite to Bhutan in the future.

Dr Syed Javed Hasan Rizvi, of South Asia World Agro Forestry Centre, said, “Trees provide a safety net for farmers because, while crops are vulnerable to climate change impacts, trees can bear much more of such changes.”

“If everything fails, a farmer could survive on fruits for a few months if he has fruit trees,” he said.

He said agro-forestry could help in production of food and the peoples’ access to food.  While food production may not be a problem in the region, peoples’ access to it would be a serious concern, according to him.

“The supermarkets are full of foods, but people don’t have money to buy; this is where agro-forestry has a big role,” he said.

 

By Tshering Palden

Ex Chang gup clarifies origin of land

All land transactions were above board, he claims, and vetted by the authorities concerned

Update: The Anti Corruption Commission need not go to Shar Phangyul in Wangduephodrang to verify the source of the 33-decimal at Lungtenphug, registered in the name of the former Chang gup, Naku’s daughter.

Speaking to Kuensel, the former gup said that the transfer of the land was done following all rules and procedures (jawi neychoe) and the commission could verify it from where the documents are stored. The gup said that the land, initially measuring 12 decimal, increased to 33 decimal after a survey based on “a 1988 map.”

“The size increased after officials surveyed the land, which measured to 33 decimal,” he said. “It was done following all procedures and in the presence of officials representing government agencies.”

The former gup said that a gup didn’t have the authority to register somebody’s land in his thram. “If there are issues with the land, officials won’t sign the document,” he said.

He also accused Kuensel of distorting information and defaming him and his family.

On the origin of the land, the former gup said the land was registered in the name of one Namgay Bidha.  He didn’t reveal who she was, but admitted that he bought the land from Namgay Bidha, but reflected as a gift, as is recorded in the Chagzhag thram.

He said that most land transactions were reflected as gift because of two reasons, which everybody including ACC officials are aware of. This he said was because people tried to avoid the law, which states that no land below five acres can be sold, according to the 1979 Land Act.

The other reason, he said, was because Nu 5 was charged for every Nu 100 of the cost of the land. “The transfer was done through the court and the commission can penalise me for saying that the land was gifted to me,” he said.

ACC is investigating the origin of the land, but the former gup said that no land in Thimphu is without an owner, and registering land in one’s name was impossible.

The size of the land increased or decreased during surveys in the past, he said. “It was a very common case. People had five decimal registered in the thram, but when surveyors surveyed the land, the excess land was considered, especially if there is no claimant and no issues related to it.”

Contradicting the complaint lodged against him, Naku said that there weren’t any complications and nobody, including the tshogpas, raised any issue when the land registered in his daughter’s name was surveyed.

According to Naku, it was difficult to acquire land with representatives of different officials present during the survey.  He said officials, including tshogpas, during the sathram compilation in 2002, signed the documents on the spot and on the same day of the survey.  The rest with issues, he said, were forwarded to the dzongkhag. “Mine wasn’t even referred to the dzongkhag as everybody signed it.”

He also said that the Kapa thram, which is made after the survey, could be made only after everybody agreed that there was no issue related to the land surveyed.  The Kapa thram has to be signed by the officials representing land commission, forestry department, gup, and tshogpas. “If they felt there was problem with my land, they wouldn’t sign,” he said.

The Land Act, the gup claimed, allowed people to readjust the size of the land if it was registered in the thram based on boundary.  Excess land was also adjusted after paying the cost of the excess land, if there were no claimants and no issues related to the excess land.

By Ugyen Penjore 

Gearing up for the Visit Bhutan year

Tourism: The tourism industry looks forward to a good year ahead, with this year declared as Visit Bhutan year, to commemorate the 60th birth anniversary of His Majesty the Fourth King.

Tour operators have started developing various packages to attract more visitors this year.  They said their counterpart agents abroad have been informed of the Visit Bhutan year, besides carrying out marketing and promotional activities along the same line.

The Visit Bhutan year highlights a series of tourism events across the country to attract regional and international tourists.  It also serves as a platform to promote domestic tourism.  The Visit Bhutan year website (visitbhutanyear.com) and the calendar of events for 2015 were launched in November last year.

The calendar of events and the website facilitates information on the Visit Bhutan year, during which many events and activities are planned across the country.  The website also provides information on planning trips and how to get in touch with tour operators.   Visitors can also choose the itinerary packaged by local tour operators.

The Visit Bhutan year 2015 is accompanied by the tagline, ‘celebrate happiness.’

A tour operator said his company has designed the itinerary in line with the Visit Bhutan calendar, based on which the promotion would be done.

“We’re also exploring new source markets, taking advantage of the Visit Bhutan year,” he said. “We expect a better year ahead and the response, so far, has been good.”

Others are also looking at promoting the lean season months of summer to attract visitors this year.

A tour operator said his company would be visiting the US soon for marketing, especially to promote the lean season months.

“Business should be good this year and I remain optimistic,” he said, adding, last year, with the Bhutan-Thailand friendship offer, he was able to bring in more than 1,000 clients.

Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) officials said there was no change in the daily minimum tariff of USD 250 and 200 a day for tourists visiting this year.

However, there are some tour operators who feel that, without any special promotions for the Visit Bhutan year, it won’t be any different this year.

“During the Bhutan-Thailand friendship offer, there were discounts on airlines, hotels and the daily tariff,” he said, adding there were no such discounts for the Visit Bhutan year, which is why they remain skeptical.

“But we’ve announced why we’re celebrating the Visit Bhutan year to our agents abroad and we’ve been receiving many inquiries,” another tour operator said.

As the announcement for the Visit Bhutan year came quite late, some tour operators feel that there is not much they can do with the itineraries already planned and developed.

“We aren’t sure how the Visit Bhutan year would help us bring more tourists as the announcement came late,” a tour operator said.

Visit Bhutan 2015, according to TCB officials, is an opportunity to promote Bhutan in celebrating the 60th birth anniversary of the Fourth King who opened Bhutan to visitors with the policy of responsible tourism.

“There are many exciting events organised throughout 2015 which gives tour operators a good reason to promote Bhutan,” TCB’s media spokesperson said. “We all know that 2015 is a special year for us which gives the tourism industry a special reason to welcome our guests.”

Officials also said that 2015 would be another good year because of the increasing perception of Bhutan as a high-end destination.

“Moreover, having declared 2015 as visit Bhutan year, there are more reasons to promote Bhutan thus being able to create more awareness on Bhutan,” the official said.

Meanwhile, records with TCB show a total of 44,424 regional and 43,714 international tourists visited Bhutan until September last year.

By Kinga Dema

Big Brother lurking?

Traffic problem is growing in the major cities of this country, particularly in the crowded place like Thimphu. That’s why there is now the talk of setting up Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) – advanced applications that will allow users to be better informed to make safe and more coordinated and smarter use of transport networks.

This is an idea that has come of age. At the same time, this very idea could lead us to problems bigger than we are facing today. What can be gained out of this initiative, we must deeply meditate on and weigh with the options available to us today. Problems do not just arise. Often they are brought to be.

Social and economic progress that we have achieved since we embarked on planned development initiatives decades ago has been remarkable. The reality that we are facing today – vehicles choking the roads and pollution spreading far and wide and deep – stand testimony to our growth, to say nothing about the rising rate of crime that the society is grappling with.

Changes are difficult. What is important is how we deal with it. There are options right and choices wrong to pick from. That’s why there is the need to stop and think before we take certain decisions.

The technologies that are considered for installation in Thimphu are 24/7 control centre, traffic lights at some junctions, parking guidance systems, CCTV cameras and speed monitoring cameras, among others. All these sound highly cutting-edge, but what is good for the public could undermine individual’s privacy.

We do not want Ayatollahs under our bed sheet or Big Brothers ever ready to stamp their cold boots on our faces even as we are settling down for a family dinner at home. It may be a low-emission project, but what could come out of it is highly nefarious and toxic.

We hear that the study will develop a plan to set up travellers’ information system at bus terminals in places like Thimphu and Phuentsholing. This is highly welcome.

But things have in their nature to shift to the most convenient of uses they can be put to. It is CCTV on the roads today. Tomorrow, highly improved and invisible cameras will feed images and information from our bedrooms to those controlling and scanning data on the other end.

Of what value are our rights like privacy, dignity and security then?

If the planners of these measures to bring down crime and accidents think that people are going berserk with the idea, you are massively mistaken. We are just asking you to make the system as friendly as possible that will not encroach into individual’s privacy.

We will stand and watch how you bring all these together.  Yes, of course, you have all our good wishes and prayers !

 

Inadequate fuel supply irks Dagana residents

unnamedA common sight in Dagana

Fuel: Residents of Dagana are frustrated that they have to either fill up their vehicles with fuel stored in jerry cans or travel up to 47 km to fuel their vehicles in Dagapela.

In a small fuel station in Dagana fuel is stored in two plastic barrels with a capacity of 230 litres each.

A corporate employee, Lhendup Gyeltshen said that while they do have a small fuel station in Dagana town the cost of petrol per litre is almost Nu 80 which is significantly more expensive when compared to the Dagapela fuel station.

“We get it for Nu 60 per litre from Dagapela but we can’t go there all the time, so we have no option other than to fuel our car from the only fuel station we have in Dagana town,” he said.

He added that he is suspicious of the quality of the fuel and also concerned that his vehicle may eventually be damaged.

Lhendup said that two weeks prior, the small fuel station in Dagana was shut down as the owner went on pilgrimage and once the fuel in his vehicle was exhausted he actually had to hire a friend’s vehicle to get fuel from Dagapela in two jerry cans of 10 litres each.

Another civil servant in Dagana said that most of the people fill their vehicles manually with fuel stored in jerry cans. They said they are not sure if such a practice is safe.

“I don’t know whether it is safe to fuel our car manually but we don’t have any alternative than fueling our car manually,” he said.

He added that the fuel station in Dagana also uses a five litre can to fill the cars which is time consuming.

However, the owner of the fuel station in Dagana, Rinzin Lhendup said that it is challenging for him to run a fuel station in Dagana. He said that he too has to get fuel from the Dagapela fuel depot once in a month in three plastic barrels each with a capacity of 230 litres.

“I know that people in Dagana complain of price being little higher than Dagapela but they also have to understand I am paying Nu 3,000 to bring the oil from Dagapela to Dagana and I also have to pay the lease fee of the license, land and taxes too,” he said.

Rinzin Lhendup said that he has applied to the dzongkhag to grant him land in which he can apply for the license either from Tashi or Damchen to set up a proper fuel station in the region.

“If I am granted with the land and if I get an independent license than I know I can sell the fuel at a reasonable price,” he said.

He added that it is his sixth year of supplying fuel in Dagana. He sells about a barrel each of diesel and petrol every month.

Dagana Dzongda Tenzin Thinley said that so far he has not received any proposal from the oil distributers to set a fuel depot in the region.

“Setting up a fuel depot is a private thing and the private party should find a location and come forward to put a proposal,”  the dzongda said.

By Yeshey Dema, Dagana

Community forest mangt, the best defence against environmental degradation

unnamed-4

Symposium: Involvement of local communities is important in the management of mountain forests and preventing environmental degradation, it was pointed out by representatives of countries of the Hindu Kush Himalayas at the ongoing Transforming Mountain Forestry symposium in Dehradhun, India.

It was also pointed out that the bottom-up approach of co-managing forests has been in existence for the past three decades, and has increased participation of communities in planning, research, development, management and policy-making of forests.

The community forest model has been successful in countries like Bhutan, India, and Nepal, it was also highlighted by member countries.

However, it was also pointed out that, despite successes, co-management is fraught with multi-layered challenges.

For instance, while community-based forest management has contributed to forest conservation, limited access to forest resources and skewed sharing of benefits havE not allowed for maximum livelihood gains.

Centre for People and Forests, also referred to as the Regional Community Forestry Training Centre for Asia and the Pacific executive director Tint Lwin Thaung said the decision-making and management of community forest at the local level provides for realistic solutions to become available to communities.

“But development is very slow because of a lot of issues; adequate legal frameworks are very complicated, difficult and complex bureaucratic processes are involved including time consuming,” he informed the audience. “We should give a chance and trust people to remain as a custodian of the forest.”

A panelist, Lobzang Dorjee, from the department of forests and park services from Bhutan said the government has provided 100 percent of the total area of forest to the communities for management, which include community forests.

“Although we’re in the learning stage but we’ve totally handed over the management of forest to the communities, which is why Bhutan almost has more than 500 community forests across the country,” he said. “But many challenges were faced since the start, and once the community forest program was (halted) but was resumed about three months back.”

He added that office bearers of the community forest management committee indulge in malpractice without the knowledge of members and communities are not informed about what has been sold and earned.

Many of the members acknowledged that information to local communities must be passed, preferably in a local language, without legal or technical jargons.

S Aminullah Fakhri of Afghanistan remarked that community participation is easier to achieve in dense forests, but has been difficult in degraded open forests for lack of income accruing from them.

Many shared that co-management needs a bottom-up approach, collaboration, sharing of information, transparent decision-making, accountability, well-defined property rights, and a proactive forest management.

More than 200 regional and global experts – including cross-sectorial policy makers, scientists, practitioners, donors, civil servants, media, market actors, and legal experts are discussing to outline options for sustainable forest management practices and policies that address the changing conditions in the Hindu Kush Himalayas at the symposium.

Organised by the Forest Research Institute, in collaboration with International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), the five-day symposium ends tomorrow.

By Yangchen C Rinzin, Dehradun

Study to tackle traffic problems

Traffic lights at certain junctions may be considered

Management: In an effort to address Thimphu city’s growing traffic problems and improve the quality of transport services, a feasibility study for an Intelligent Transport System (ITS) will begin next month.

An ITS is a traffic management system that uses technology to manage traffic more effectively and efficiently.

Some of the technologies that will be considered for installation in Thimphu are the establishment of a 24/7 control centre, traffic lights at some junctions, parking guidance systems, CCTV (closed circuit television) cameras, and speed monitoring cameras, among others, according to a document published by the UN.

It is also pointed out in the document that the ITS CCTV system should complement the Royal Bhutan Police’s (RBP) project to install CCTVs in Thimphu city. The RBP’s “Safe City Solution” which is currently in a very early stage but could result in a number of CCTVs installed throughout Thimphu as a crime prevention and detection tool. RBP will be working with Bhutan Telecom to install the CCTV system.

The UN in Bhutan is supporting the ITS feasibility study under a low-emission capacity building project funded by the European Commission and governments of Germany and Australia.

The study will also develop a plan for the setting up of a traveller information system, which displays bus arrivals and departures at bus terminals and even at certain bus stops in Thimphu and Phuentsholing.

Other technologies that the study will consider are weighing stations, automated vehicle identification systems, incident detection systems, real-time road and weather information systems, among others.

An ITS for Thimphu was proposed a year back but lack of funds delayed its study and implementation.

Information and communications chief administrative officer, Sonam Dhendup, who is also the project manager for ITS, said that funding support for the study has been acquired from the UN.

An international expert will carry out the study between February and June and the recommendations will be submitted to the government.

Implementation of the recommendations will again be subject to budget availability however.

Asked if traffic lights will be installed if recommended by the study, Sonam Dhendup said that such a recommendation would be subject to further discussions to determine if the need is timely.

A Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) official said that the study should result in improvements to the public transport system such as new and improved bus stops, along with equipment and training for those involved in the public transport system.

The official also said that the installation of CCTVs would aid in collecting accurate traffic data, which could be used by the thromde and other agencies when it comes to road design.

Observers, including the traffic police, have pointed out in the past that better road design can bring down the number of accidents in the country.

“Right now, information collection is a problem,” said the RSTA official.

A total of 791 vehicle accidents occurred in Bhutan last year with 76 percent of them taking place in Thimphu city alone. Road congestion is expected to worsen with thirteen new vehicles being imported daily since the ban on imports was lifted last July.

By Gyalsten K Dorji

Umsang – A village of yathra-weaving women

unnamed-5Weavers of Umsang at the Gakid yathra weaving centre

A centre, first set up by YVIA, and later constructed by YDF, has helped transform lives

Lifestyle: Leading a village life as a single mother of two school-going children is difficult for Lhamo Yuden of Umsang village in Chumey, Bumthang.

Lhamo has been a single mother for the past 10 years, after she divorced the father of her children.

While farming is already tough for Lhamo Yuden, increasing wild animal attacks on crops and Umsang’s steep topography make the profession look even bleaker.

Umsang is a small hilltop village located behind Tharpaling monastery.

“Even if crops were cultivated, the wild animals would damage everything,” Lhamo Yuden said.

And sharecropping which the villagers of Umsang practice cannot be relied upon for half the harvest has to be shared with the landowners.

“Since majority of the adult population in Umsang is either divorcees or widows, yathra weaving is the only doable and reliable source of income for us,” said Lhamo, adding most of the six households have at least two or three school going children to raise.

Only two or three households have male family members.

“Even these men hardly stay in the village, as most leave for construction works,” a weaver from Umsang, Dechen, said.

Eventually the community gave up farming completely to rely on yathra.

Weaving yathra, however, had also become a problem without a proper shelter for the weavers of Umsang.

According to the weavers, yathra weaving earlier was possible only outside, as its presence inside homes produced wool dust, causing illness for family members like the flu.

“But weaving outside was also affected by unfavourable weather conditions like cold, rain and snow in winter,” Dechen said, adding it took almost a week to complete three metres of yathra in the open, as frost and rain in the mornings prevented weaving.

The villagers could also not weave at night.

But circumstances changed for the weavers in 2010.  Students of Young Volunteers in Action (YVIA) from Chumey middle secondary school helped to build a small house as an interim centre for the village.

Conditions further improved when Youth Development Fund president, Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Pem Wangchuck visited Umsang in early 2011 and instructed that a better centre be constructed.

Accordingly, a single storied centre was constructed which the weavers started using from 2012.  Known as the Gakid yathra weaving centre, it has provided weavers with shelter from rain, cold and darkness.

“After the YDF constructed the centre, the weavers are completing the three-metre long yathra in two days,” Dechen said, adding the weaving is expedited by the centre, as the weavers can weave round the clock even late into the nights.

With the establishment of the centre each weaver can complete at least 15 pieces of yathra monthly.  According to the weavers their monthly income has risen to Nu 10,000-15,000, depending on sales from just over Nu 7,000-8,000 before.

“Though it’s still difficult to make ends meet with the income from the weaving, it’s far better than before when I was financially worse off,” Lhamo Yuden said.

The centre has also helped students from Umsang to earn cash from weaving in winters.

“Every winter, the school-going girls from here weave yathra to earn cash to finance school expenses,” a student from Usang, Sangay Choden, said.

With the establishment of the centre, the yathra tradition is also likely to continue in Umsang, as most of the children from the village are females, she said.

Meanwhile, the community is now challenged with a dropping profit margin from the rising costs of raw materials like wool.

“Difficulty in selling the products and rising costs of the raw materials are our new constraints now,” Namgang Dema said.

YDF coordinator, Chimi Dhendup, however, is working on improving the marketing network of yathra from Usang.

“We’ll also try to explore dairy farming as an alternative source of income for the community,” Chimi Dhendup said.

YDF handed over the Gakid yathra weaving centre to the community recently.

By Tempa Wangdi, Umsang

Court allows re-test of accused cop’s mental state

RAPE: A second test to re-examine the mental state of the police constable, who is accused of attempted rape, was conducted yesterday at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck national referral hospital.  The results are expected soon.

The defense’s lawyer at the first hearing requested for another test, as his client, the constable, was not satisfied with the police’s test, which had found him to be in a stable condition.  He also said that his client had a history of abnormal behaviour in the past few months.

The bench IV court on January 19 granted the accused a re-test.

During the evidence hearing presented by the prosecutor from the office of the attorney general’s office yesterday, the defense lawyer requested the court to serve his client with a minimal sentence.

Presenting the records of the constable, the prosecutor said, the accused had no record of mental instability and criminal record during his service. “He was a hard working person,” the prosecutor said.  The record is based on an individual’s annual work assessment, which is recommended by an officer in command.

The prosecutor submitted the chronology of the case, along with a summary of the statements, submitted by the accused, the victim and witnesses in the case.

The prosecutor requested the court to serve the accused, as per law, because the way he had tried to run from the scene, when others saw him committing the crime, itself proved that he had committed the crime intentionally.

The clothes worn by the victim during the crime were also brought in the courtroom.  Rebuttal to the evidence hearing will be made on January 28.

The police constable was accused of attempted rape and murder of a 20-year old woman in Thimphu on December 1.  He was denied bail.

By Tashi Tenzin

Entry level for dzongda raised …

… from the earlier division head at P1 level to a director at EX3 level

RCSC: The Royal Civil Service Commission will, henceforth, nominate candidates for the dzongda position from director level (EX3) and not from division heads at P1 level.

To ensure that only “proven people” are appointed to the important position of a dzongda, the commission in its 16th commission meeting last month decided the position level for dzongda at executive position categories EX2 and EX1 from the existing EX3 and EX2 categories.

A January 19 notification from the commission states that, nominees for dzongda position will, henceforth, be from the existing civil servants in position level EX3 and above.  The notification has come at a time when the dzongda posts of three dzongkhags – Thimphu, Wangduephodrang and Bumthang – are vacant.

Until now, dzongdas were placed at EX3 level after the commission nominates the candidate from the professional and management position category P1 level.

As of June 2013, there were 89 civil servants at EX3 position level and 383 at P1 level.

“This meant that civil servants, who were mainly managing affairs at a division head level, were being thrust to this important position, where non-performance carries great risk,” the notification stated.

The commission said it allowed civil servants to enter the executive service position category without going through open competitive selection process.  This, according to the notification, undermined the integrity and rigour of entry into civil service leadership positions. “As a system that seeks to build a foundation on meritocracy, this is not desirable,” the notification stated.

The new dzongda position is also expected to recognise new developments, such as the status of a thrompon, who is an elected public servant, being equated to an executive position EX2 level.

One of the commissioners said that, for a dzongda’s position, there is a need to have someone, who has knowledge of work at an executive position.

“It’ll empower dzongdas to carry out the decentralised responsibilities, and for that it’s important that the person has knowledge on policies,” the commissioner said.

The commissioner also said that, while the implementation part would be done phase wise, it does not ensure that all existing dzongdas would be elevated to the new position.

Civil servants currently serving as dzongdas will have to go though a screening process, fulfil certain criteria before they are elevated to the new EX2 and EX1 position levels.

“It’ll look at the candidate’s potential and performance,” the commissioner said.

RCSC will also ensure that, in consultation with the cabinet, executive level civil servants are regularly transferred between dzongkhags and central agencies.  Regular transfers, according to the commission, are expected to shape the civil service with executives, who have greater depth and breadth of managerial expertise that will enhance the delivery of the civil service in general.

“Most executives, especially those with potential to rise to the highest positions in the bureaucracy, should expect to serve in this important position,” the notification stated.

By Nirmala Pokhrel