Friday, May 29th, 2015 - 12:05 PM
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CCTVs on campus – Safety device or invasion of privacy?

DSC_0621Extra eyes: The CCTV in one of the hostels

Security: The recent installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) on college campus and some hostels in Sherubtse didn’t go down well with students, some calling the latest facility invasion of private space.

The college was fitted with CCTVs in various strategic locations and this, according to the dean of student affairs, Sangay Dorji, was to reduce the incidence of students involving in “unhealthy habits”.

“CCTVs can help us maintain the 8:30pm curfew strictly,” he said.

A second year student, Passang, said installing CCTV would help monitor college resources, but said that CCTVs in the hostels are limiting individual freedom.  Another student, Sonam Penjor, said the college was being too strict and the facility was making students uncomfortable.

“Installing CCTV’s in the public areas such as library and IT labs, is good, but in the hostel it’s not really needed,” he said.

“I feel like someone is watching me all the time,” said Sonam Choki, a second year student.

However the college director, Tshering Wangdi, said invasion of privacy was not true as no cameras were fitted in rooms or bathrooms. “Cameras in common places like common entrances in the hostels is not intrusion into privacy,” said the director.

Dean Sangay Dorji added the CCTV was for student’s own safety.

Students said there were other facilities that the college was really in need of.  The CCTVs, some said, was a wastage of the college’s scarce resources. “There are water taps, electric sockets to be fixed first,” said a student, Sangay.

Deki, a third year student, said that college could improve internet services in the college. “Installing of cameras are just for show off,” she added.

Sangay Dorji said that the budget for other facility development is not hampered by procurement of the cameras.

Director Tshering Wangdi said the CCTV would save the college money.  This installment of CCTV will reduce the number of damages done to properties and other facilities.  He pointed out around eleven projectors were damaged last year alone, which was worth between Nu 50,000 and Nu 60,000.

The director also said that this was a long-term investment and students should look at the positive side as well. “We’re investing thousands to save millions,” he added.


Contributed by Tshetrim Dorji

Poor roadwork perturbs Bajo residents

road-bajoEyesore: Potholes on the recently blacktopped road

A few days after blacktopping, potholes have appeared on the surface

Connectivity: Surprised Bajo town residents were quick to point out potholes in the town’s road a few days after the road was blacktopped.

The blacktopping was much awaited, but residents said they had to point out the mistakes as it is not even two weeks since some portions of the town’s road was blacktopped.

“To spot potholes a week after its been resurfaced is a concern since we had been waiting for so long,” said a resident.

“We were happy and even endured the dust pollution caused by cleaning of the existing road before it was blacktopped, ” he said. “If the quality of black topping is suffering within less than a month, what can we expect in the long term.”

Tshering, another resident, said authorites should monitor the quality of work. “We also wonder why the work was temporarily kept on halt,” he said.

The resurfacing work started recently with a budget of Nu 6.4M. The work includes, 50mm of surfacing work, repair and maintenance of dividers between two roads in the town and drainage.

According to Wangdue dzongrab, Pema, the road resurfacing work came to halt as majority of the skilled labourers, expatriates from India, had to leave the country to vote in the Indian Lok Shaba elections.

“We were informed by the contractor that about 30 skilled labourers are on their way back yesterday,” Bajo’s municipal engineer Lobzang said.

Officials said water flowing over the newly surfaced portion below the fuel station had damaged the road. “We don’t know whether it is residents’ negligence or if it is from the fuel station area,” said an official.

“Thinking that the water might be flowing from the BoD fuel station area, we told the BoD staffs to monitor  from time to time, as it was damaging the newly surfaced area,” he said.

Dzongrab Pema said the dzongkhag is concerned with the quality of work and had called people from department of roads to check the quality when the work began.

The dzongrab blamed residents for not cooperating and said whatever maintenance works they carry out are damaged because of negligence.

Following the initial road maintenance work, residents requested for resurfacing as the road within town was left with dust and all broken apart, officials said.

Officials said people always complain, but never think of contributions. They think it is the responsibility of the government to even clean their surrounding.

“We started resurfacing work despite budget constraints. People couldn’t tolerate the dust pollution caused by cleaning of the old road for fresh resurfacing, and they started to complain,” officials said.

However, they said the damage could be because of the increasing number of vehicles in the small town.

Dzongrab Pema said the work has not stopped completely and will resume as soon as the labourers are back. The contractor was issued warning and asked to complete the work before the fiscal year end in June.

By Dawa Gyelmo, Wangdue

Druk United back on top

Football: Druk United have climbed to the top of Thimphu ‘A’ Division League, at least for 24 hours, after securing an electrifying 7-0 victory over Dzongree yesterday.

There were not many changes in the starting 11 from the one that dismantled Thimphu City in last weekend’s title showdown to take charge of the league.

Dzongree had a brilliant start but it was Druk United that broke the stalemate in the 21st minute. It was two of their striking trio that were proving to be the deadliest in the league. Kesang Tshering benefited from strike partner Diwas’ first touch pass inside the box to take the lead.

Winger Sonam Yoezer was also in his dream form as he scored a brace and created the other two. “I am happy with my performance today. But I am happier because we won as a team and that is very important” he said.

Midfielder Thinley Dorji, substitute striker Kinley Dorji, centre backs Pema Rinchen and Mon Bdr Gurung all netted a goal each to make the 7-0 score. “We could have scored more but we could not capitalise on some of the easy chances,” Druk United skipper Karun Gurung said.

Dzongree might have succumbed to their heaviest defeat so far, but they have already climbed out of the relegation zone and they were going nowhere with a win. However, Dzongree head coach Namgay Dorji was quick to point out that the performance of this match had nothing to do with this game’s inability to make any difference to their position in the table. “We were not taking this fixture lightly. We were without our key players who are injured. I think that affected our performance today” he said.

Today, Thimphu City will face Drukpol as they continue to take the title decision up until the end.

By Karma Loday Yeshey

Diplomacy expansion in deep-freeze

The govt. would rather focus its attention and resources on immediate domestic issues

Relations: With the government suspending all efforts to expand Bhutan’s diplomatic relations, countries interested in establishing embassies, consulates, or even honorary consuls in Bhutan will not be entertained.

This was clarified by the prime minister and foreign minister at the last Meet the Press on Friday.

They were responding to a query on what had become of a Japanese politician, Katsuyuki Kawai’s interest to establish an embassy in Thimphu by this month.  Mr Kawai, who visited Bhutan in August last year as the chairman of the standing committee on foreign affairs of the Japanese house of representatives, had said, during his visit, that the Japanese lower house would support the Japanese government’s initiative to set up an embassy in Thimphu.

This, he had said then, followed a “mutual agreement” between the two countries.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay explained that the government had suspended the expansion of diplomatic relations with all countries. “We put on hold any or all requests for expansion in diplomatic relations,” he said.

“It has nothing to do with Japan,” he pointed out. “Japan is a very close friend, tried and tested, and they’ll be an important part of our development success, so it has nothing to do with Japan. It has to do with the government’s deliberate decision to put on hold the expansion of diplomatic relations.”

Foreign minister Rinzin Dorji also pointed out that Bhutan valued Japan’s relationship and assistance. “We’re fully aware that we have had a very good relationship with Japan and we’ve had lots of assistance from Japan for the past many years,” he said. “We also accept the fact that Japan has been a very close development partner, that’s the reason why we have a JICA office in Thimphu, which acts as an arm of development cooperation.”

It was pointed out expansion of diplomatic relations had to be suspended, so that the government could concentrate on solving issues at home, especially the economy.

“We took a deliberate decision not to divert our attention from the main problems at hand, at home, to international diplomacy,” said lyonchhoen.

Lyonpo Rinzin Dorji said that the former government had established relations with 53 countries.  He added that, for a small country, this was “very ambitious” and “beyond the means of the country and the government.”  He also said that, while aware of the importance of relations with Japan and other countries, it is also important to review how relevant it is for Bhutan when it expands diplomatic relations.

“If our government finds that we have more to gain, we have every reason to give second thought, not only with Japan but other countries as well,” said lyonpo Rinzin Dorji. He said that the pros and cons, and the costs of expanding diplomatic relations have to be examined before moving forward.

Lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay pointed out that the measure would be in place, until the “pressing issues at home”, especially the economy, are resolved.

The Japanese embassy in New Delhi clarified in an email that Mr Kawai expressed from the legislature’s standpoint, the delegation members’ intention to “urge” the Japanese foreign affairs ministry and other relevant Japanese authorities, to prioritise the opening of an embassy in Bhutan when they consider establishment of new overseas missions in 2014.

“Whether or not we should open overseas missions in new locations, including Bhutan, is studied, taking into consideration a larger picture of how they should be placed around the world,” the embassy said in its email. “The ministry of foreign affairs of Japan will continue to strengthen its comprehensive diplomatic capacity, including its personnel and overseas missions, in order to deal with diverse diplomatic issues.”

By Gyalsten K Dorji and Tshering Palden 

OL asks for PM’s clarification

Politics: Leader of the opposition party, Dr Pema Gyamtsho had, in writing, asked the prime minister to clarify the statement he made to the people during his visit to Bumthang.

Following the PM’s visit, the opposition leader wrote on his Facebook page, that the prime minister had told people in Bumthang that his government would not be responsible for the town development, since he was informed that OL, who represents the constituency, has already sourced funds.

However, lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay, during the meet-the-press session on Friday, said, what OL announced on his page was based on hearsay. He clarified that government needed to know whom to thank, if resources for development were already mobilised.

The government, he said, would prioritise the Bumthang town development as a role model for other towns, if funds were not sourced as yet.

Dr Pema Gyamtsho denied that neither it was based on hearsay and nor was he misinformed. “I revealed all the identity of the people, besides mentioning where and when it was said and on what occasion.”

He said, as a representative of the constituency, he should not be the reason for compromising the development of the town, and this is why the issue needed clarification.

He said similar issues may arise in other dzongkhags too if not clarified. “The government may use this as excuse for not being able to mobilise resources,” he said, adding that it was a divisive approach.

“I’ve never mentioned that I’ve mobilised the resources in any forum,” he said, adding that he supported the development plans. “If I’m proven wrong, I have no business representing them (people). I’m prepared to take any consequences and I expect the PM to do the same,” said the OL.

He maintained that he was not just opposing for the sake of opposition because he was involved, but for the town that was long overdue and similar trends may continue if not clarified.

Dr Pema Gyamtsho said, the works and human settlement secretary, during a public consultation meeting, acknowledged him for supporting the town development master plan with the help of the Zurich City in the 10th plan.

The works and human settlement ministry is taking up the local area plan.

Although people are in hurry to implement the plan, the OL said, he asked them to not to rush.  He said that, as of now, every one has a roof and the current Chamkhar town was better than other towns.

But, he said, he urged the people to think long term – building a town that is ecologically friendly, commercially viable, socially appropriate and culturally attractive.

As far as the fund is concerned, the OL said it was the government of the day’s duty to mobilise.

However, both the prime minister and the opposition leader said that the dzongda, dzongkhag officials were there to present the truth.

Bumthang dzongda, when contacted yesterday, couldn’t comment, as he was unwell.  The dzongrab refused to comment, stating that the dzongda was the “right person” to speak to.

By Tshering Dorji

From climate alarmists to skeptics

Environment: From a caution not to romanticise Bhutan’s environment before visiting Pasakha industrial estate to subjectivity and objectivity of science and its findings on climate change, a debate on ‘human and climate change’ left those participating skeptics rather than alarmists.

The debate was held in the capital yesterday with two presenters voicing out their views on the topic, and participants gathered at the conference hall.

Climate alarmists are those who point to positive feedback mechanisms, which would lead to an accelerated warming toward catastrophic levels while skeptics are ones who question cause and effect of climate change.

The deputy resident representative of UNDP Bhutan, Hideko Hadzialic, said climate change is real and it’s a threat to the survival of earth.

“Climate change is happening faster now than at any point in recorded history,” she said, adding, “Human beings are the main cause and we have the power to do something about it.”

Presenting graphs and studies to back her argument, Ms Hideko said the global community should do something to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow down industrialisation.

“It was science that put a man on the moon and that put the internet here in my phone. Not theologians. Not politicians. Not businessmen. It was scientists,” she said.

The deputy resident representative said it was science and the scientific method that explained to us the motion of the planets around the sun, the inner workings of cells and other living organisms, and the secrets of the atom.

“It is estimated that if sea levels increase by only 50 centimeters by the end of the century, 72 million people living in coastal areas, river deltas and island atolls will be displaced. Where will they go?”

Ms Hideko said while many skeptics say climate change mitigation can be costly, the cost of inaction could be more costlier. “We can do something and we must act now.”

But an economist, Christopher Lingle, questioned the objectivity of science and said science should not be about consensus.

He said while alarmists believe human interventions can halt climate change, skeptics question whether policy responses are necessary or sufficient.

The economist then detailed out the problems of UN IPCC 2007 report, alleging its false claims about Himalayan glaciers, Amazon rain forest, African agriculture and water shortages.

“Environmentalists join lobbyist, litigants, impact assessors, bureaucrats to warn disasters as a way,” Christophen Lingle said.

He said green regulations benefit large firms and harm small firms.

The economists also asked if human action cause, stop or accelerate climate change.

Ms Hideko said future is important for future generations, climate change and poverty are linked and that poverty alleviation is not possible without sustainable development.

The participants, however, turned out to be skeptics than alarmists, questioning why United Nations is not swapping land cruisers to electric cars if they believe in climate change and why climate change conferences are always held in Rio and not in places where problems occur.

QED consulting group and Bhutan chamber of commerce and industry organised the debate.

By Tashi Dema

Picture story

Up in flames: A family of seven in Nashidang village, Mongar was left homeless within hours after their two adjoining houses, one used as a kitchen, were razed to the ground around 11am yesterday. Family members were out in the field when the fire, suspected to have been sparked by an electric short circuit, started.


An exchange of culture of Himalayan region

IMG_2906Through pictures: As a part of the seminar, the photo exhibition will continue until April 30

Seminar: Various scholars and researchers from India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan shared with one another its unique culture, and customs in the Himalayan region during a two-day seminar that ended yesterday in Thimphu.

A research assistant from India, Muktikam Hazarika, 24, said like in many other countries, languages in eastern Himalayas were dying.

There are more than 50 languages in the Himalayan region, each with it’s own distinct way of life.

“Therefore, it’s an absolute necessity for us to revive our languages and to conserve them,” he said. “Languages are our heritage, our cultural identity and we can’t let our languages die.”

Muktikam Hazarika also talked about on the folk tales of Assam, its preservation and evolution of oral tradition in multimedia society.

“When folk tales are adapted into modern textual formats such as movies, films, television, the real essence of society goes missing and it is a matter of concern,” he said.

While the only participant from Bhutan, a retired civil servant, Sangay Wangdi talked about why Bhutanese offered water at the altar in the morning, how Buddhism shaped people’s mindset and explained GNH to the participants.

While the rest of the participants shared their knowledge on preserving and safeguarding artifacts and folk traditions of different ethnic groups of the Himalayan region followed by challenges and issues of safeguarding intangible heritage.

Himalayan heritage research and development society (HHRDS) president and event organiser Professor Omprakash Bharti said this was the fifth international seminar the centre organised. The previous seminars were held in India.

“The seminar is being organised to showcase the Himalayan culture and also to provide a platform for cultural dialogues to establish harmony among the Himalayan state and countries,” he said.

He said the centre was planning on an international museum in Sikkim based on Himalayan theme later this year, for which they collected about 300 musical instruments, 265 masks, costumes and ornaments of the Himalayan ethnic groups.

“The next seminar will also be held in Bhutan in October this year because the real traditional knowledge has been preserved in its original form,” he said.

Fifty-five researchers and scholars participated in the seminar.

By Thinley Zangmo

What people want

The stock of issues People’s Democratic Party (PDP) coordinators from across the country brought with them to the recent annual meeting sends a strong message.

The Bhutanese electorate has not forgotten what to expect of the government they elected.

In fact, it was based on the pledges the government made during the election that helped swing favours to their side in many constituencies.

Never mind if the people cannot get to their elected representatives, they have the local party coordinators to grab, should the government forget what it pledged them a year ago.

Like coordinators, who are left to face the fire said people will decide the next government in 2018 based on the list of promises they have already committed to memory.

The promises are not difficult to remember. They are fairly simple, like taking banking facilities closer to villagers, similarly automobile workshop, a fuel station and a pick up truck.

This is quite a graduation for the electorate, who now know how to make their votes count and it is all thanks to the political parties for creating this awareness.

The other issue the coordinators pointed out was the lack of communication between the elected representatives and the people because of which, even some of the pledges the government did fulfill have not been relayed to the beneficiaries.

But the most heart-rending one was about the division being created in the communities following the recent election. The good thing is, as coordinators said, that is not what people want.

Right from the beginning, when preparations were being made for the country’s transition to a democracy, people foresaw such a time that they pled against it.

It took much convincing for political parties to emerge and for people to finally embrace this process to a democracy.

The two political parties that still play the government and opposition roles today made a promise then. They assured the people that they would never allow for community and societal division to ever arise.

After the first election in 2008, there were differences, there were rifts and then came about gradual division in communities.

That amplified in the last election.

Today, people in various parts of our country are realising the fears they presaged then.

Perhaps the leaderships of the two political parties have the responsibility to fulfill a pledge far greater than the ones they made, or have been making, which will be in the larger good of the society eventually.

Biogas makes a strong comeback

Project plans to install 2,800 family-sized plants by 2015

Energy: About 2,800 homes across the country will be using biogas energy source as an alternative to LPG and electricity by 2015.

The Bhutan Biogas Project (BBP), which commenced in December 2011, has already connected 1,009 homes of farmers in five southern dzongkhags with biogas plants.  The energy is used in cooking and lighting.

Chukha, Dagana, Samtse, Sarpang, and Tsirang are the five dzongkhags BBP has connected with biogas plants so far.

Biogas plants are a convenient source of energy, which provide non-toxic gas for clean, hygienic cooking, and the manure obtained after extraction of the gas is rich in nitrogen and humus.

The project that initially targeted to connect 1,600 homes across the country by February this year has expanded its scope to install 2,800 family-sized biogas plants by 2015.

All six dzongkhags in the east will also be explored now.  Wangduephodrang and Punakha will also be included.  People’s interest and feasibility in these dzongkhags, livestock officials say, is the reason for expansion.

BBP’s project manager, Dorji Gyeltshen, said the project was started to reduce dependence on fuel wood consumption, as Bhutan is still considered one of the highest fuel wood consumers in the world.

Bhutan consumes about 1.2M tonnes of fuel wood per year.  Households use 70 percent of this for cooking and heating.

Livestock officials say BBP’s overall objective was to contribute to national aim of poverty, by improving the livelihood and the quality of rural farmers’ life.

“It was also to save farmers’ time and hard earned cash spent in buying LPG and electricity,” he said, adding that using biogas also reduces risks of getting respiratory diseases farmers usually get burning firewood.

With growing scarcity of firewood and kerosene, biogas was first introduced in Bhutan in 1979, when cheap electricity wasn’t generated yet.  The hydel directorate had then started the pilot project on the extraction of gas from cowdung at a breeding farm in Awakha in Chhukha.

Two types of biogas plants were constructed in Gelephu in 1985.  Three years later, the government, along with UNICEF, chose 54 houses at Kalikhola in Dagana for biogas plant installation.

None of the efforts received lasting impression.  Its use was once again revived in 1997 but it soon lost its track.

Lack of organised service delivery provisions and poor user selection were among the many reasons, a SNV findings pointed out.

The findings point out that, when something went wrong with the plant, users quickly lost interest in it.  Further, users were not informed on the benefits and limitations of the technology, neither were they trained in operation and maintenance of the plant.

There were also not many masons in the past trained to build biogas plants, which eventually led to building of poor quality plants.  Many trained masons quit for other jobs.

A national biogas advisor, who works with SNV, Nar Bdr Khatiwora, said, lack of proper studies and capacity building were the main reasons why biogas projects in the country never succeeded.

“There was no follow-up on the installations,” the advisor said, adding there were no back-up supports to repair, provide spare parts, and convince people to continue using. “Wait and watch concept among the farmers also led to the failure.”

A biogas plant costs between Nu 25,000 to Nu 40,000 depending upon the size and the location.

BBP gives farmers a subsidy of 45 percent, while the remaining 55 percent invested on an equity based, in which its 50 percent is loaned by BDBL without any collateral at 10 percent interest.

An ordinary biogas stove with a single burner consumes 350 to 400 litres of gas per hour.  In other words, 10kg of cattle dung will be enough to produce enough gas to burn a stove for one hour.

By Rajesh Rai