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Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 - 2:53 PM
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Students display photography skills

Training: After attending a weeklong photography workshop, Jigme Wangmo, 15, studying in Jampeling higher secondary school in Trashigang, claims that she knows how to take good photographs.

When the workshop began, Jigme Wangmo was handed a sophisticated Canon DSLR camera.  She didn’t know how to start it, let alone operate it.

Today, she can take photographs that are as good as those taken by professionals.  Her works were displayed at the Royal Society for Protection of Nature’s hall, along with 20 other participants of the workshop, yesterday.

I realised I loved taking portraits of dogs and nuns, when we visited different places during the workshop, Jigme Wangmo said.

“I learnt how to take good pictures but, at the same time, learnt the importance of telling a story through a picture,” she said.

Jigme Wangmo plans to teach her friends when school restarts.

Tutor and organiser of the workshop, Fredric Roberts, 72, said taking professional photographs was not the only thing they taught during the workshop.

“It was important that students learnt how to be patient and observe all the little things in life happening around them,” Fredric Roberts said. “It was the life changing experience we wanted to give to these students, which I’m sure they’ll cherish for life.”

Fredric Roberts is a former Wall Street investment banker turned photographer.  Six renowned photographers, based in New York, California, Hong Kong and Nepal, assisted him during the workshop.  They are volunteers and teach in different countries.

I am proud of them and they have proved that they are sponges for knowledge, Fredric Roberts said. “These kids are smart and sensitive, and it was shown in their pictures.”

While another tutor, Arthur Ollman, said the students now know how to appreciate and be impressed by all the small things, such as dew droplets and texture of the tree barks.

“They now have a different perspective on everything they see, which is really valuable and such creative thinking can be the solution for problems in the future,” Arthur Ollman said. “They’re now uncovering and seeing thing differently, which were already there.”

Arthur Ollman has been a photographer for more than five decades and is currently the director of the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego.

Impressed by their works, Bhutan Nuns’ Foundation’s Ani Namgyel Lhamo decided to join the next workshop, which will be conducted next year.

“I’m really inspired by their works and I’m bringing along other nuns for the workshop as well,” Ani Namgyel Lhamo said.

Fredric Roberts and his team are travelling worldwide teaching youth the power of expression through photography.  This is the second similar workshop they are conducting in the capital this year.

Fredric Roberts and his team also left behind two sophisticated cameras so that the students can continue learning photography.

About 20 students participated in the workshop and half of them were from rural areas.

The workshop was conducted in partnership with the Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy and Bhutan Foundation with support from Bhutan Airlines.

By Thinley Zangmo

Lauri’s long wait for electricity soon to be over

DSC_6078Villagers of Doongmanma contribute labour by carrying electricity poles to their village

Power: With almost 90 percent of the work completed, Bhutan Power corporation (BPC) expects to electrify Lauri, Samdrupjongkhar’s most remote gewog, by mid this year.

Divided in two packages, work on the much-awaited rural electrification  (RE) project began in 2012 and was supposed to complete by June 2013.

But monsoon and its remote location hindered the installations of trunk line and, the electrification was delayed.

However, BPC is now left to erect a few transformers, wire and charge the system, which is expected to complete by February end.  The RE would benefit about 543 households.

BPC’s RECD deputy manager, based in Samdrupcholing, Choney, said once the work completes, only then electricity would be passed after safety awareness is created among the people.

“We’re hoping and quite sure that we’d complete testing of transformers by the end of this month and then complete the entire work by February,” he said. “Almost 85 transformers have been installed.”

However, he said, it would be possible to provide electricity only if people have already installed wirings in their homes.  To date, only 30 percent of the households have connected wires with the meter box.

“Otherwise, the transformer would remain idle,” he said. “The villagers should install the wirings inside the house on their own expense.”

He said they have already informed the villagers to start installing. “If one household has wiring and the rest 12 households don’t, then it will be time consuming and expensive to pass electricity from one transformer.”

The electricity would be passed from the Kurichu power station via Dewathang power station, which will pass from Samdrupcholing, Pemathang and Serthi gewogs.

Meanwhile, Minjiwoong village in Serthi gewog has already been electrified, while the rest of the villages would be connected after the safety awareness.

Villagers said they would now be able to use electric appliances and light their homes at night so that their children could study at night.  They said it would also cut down the use of firewood and save trees.

Thirty-two-year-old Pema Tenzin from Doongmanma said he had already installed the wires and was eagerly waiting for the connection.

“Many of us have already bought rice cookers and water boilers,” he said. “We’ve worked hard carrying the poles so that we could get electricity, but it took longer than we expected.”

By Yangchen C Rinzin, Samdrupjongkhar 

Gewogs grapple with garbage

The lack of a management plan leaves Chumey overwhelmed by its litter 

Waste: Every time the house’s waste disposal pit gets filled, Tshering Dolkar from Uruk village in Chumey, Bumthang sets the waste on fire against dzongkhag health office’s instruction to refrain from such practices.

“Most villagers burn the garbage to get rid of it,” Tshering Dolkar said.

She said even during the village cleaning campaigns, waste, like plastics, rags and old shoes, is burnt along the village stream.

According to Chumey mangmi, Kezang, lack of garbage truck to transport it to the dzongkhag landfill in Kekila has pushed residents to burn the household waste at home.

The villagers fear that burning clothes and plastic materials causes too much smoke and leaves behind chunks of toxic chemicals. “We get flu from burning the waste,” Tshering Dolkar said.

Wangdicholing general hospital’s Dr Chador Tenzin said burning waste like plastics and fabrics, which causes air pollution, is hazardous to health.  Respiratory diseases, like chronic bronchitis and asthma, are some short-term health implications of backyard waste burning.

“Burning of waste can also cause long-term health implications, like genetic effects and cancers, depending on the content of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals,” Dr Chador Tenzin said.

Mangmi Kezang said that waste, unlike in the past, was a mounting problem today even in villages despite every household maintaining a waste disposal pit.

“Save for clean rooms inside the houses, garbage is everywhere,” he said, adding that, while people mended damaged clothes and shoes before, today they just dump it even if it has a small defect.

Lack of proper waste management and absence of dumpyard in the gewog is also leading to more pollution in the rivers and streams.

“Most people might be dumping their waste into the river, because the river banks are still littered with plastics, pet bottles, rags and shoes,” Kezang said.

Chumey gup, Tandin Phurba said garbage is increasingly become a serious issue in villages located on the highways.

Over eight DCM truckloads of waste were collected during the campaign between Gyetsa and Nangar in 2014.

“Even then, the waste couldn’t be collected completely,” Tandin Phurba, said.

Gewogs said now is the time to plan on waste management.  However, they currently don’t have budget or technical capacity to deal with the waste problem.

“For instance, Tang gewog’s proposal of Nu 0.1m for hygiene and sanitation, which was allocated for different programmes, including waste management, was slashed last year,” an official from Tang said.

The official said because of lack of such technical capacities, waste segregation, recycle and re-use also remain unknown in the villages.

Tang mangmi, Ugyen Lhendup, said the municipality must also deploy a garbage truck to gewogs on routine.

“It’s important to institute at least one recycle unit in the dzongkhag to encourage people to sell recyclable and reusable wastes,” Ugyen Lhendup said.

Municipality architect, Tshering Dhendup, cited lack of budget as one of the main reasons on why the garbage truck could not be deployed to collect waste from the gewogs.

“Also, the dzongkhag’s only garbage truck is too busy to be deployed to villages, when it can barely meet the need of the municipal area,” Tshering Dhendup said.

The dzongkhag however is planning to propose for an additional garbage truck should the waste survey, which is underway in gewogs, indicate a need for one, he said.

“Until then, gewogs are suggested to maintain a landfill to deal with its mounting waste problems,” Tsheirng Dhendup said.

By Tempa Wangdi, Gyetsa

February 15 – the latest launch date for Dagachu

unnamed-1Workers repair the damaged section of the tunnel

A series of hiccups caused the project to overshoot its original target by more than two years

DHP: The 126-megawatt (MW) Dagachu hydropower project will start operating commercially from February 15, according to officials.

The project, which was supposed to have been completed in October last year, was delayed because of the failure of a 10m gravel trap section on October 3.

Chief executive officer (CEO) Thinley Dorji said that 98 percent of the work to re-construct the damaged portion was complete and the rest would be completed in a week’s time. “We’ll start filling the water in the head race tunnel by the end of this month,” Thinley Dorji said.  It will take around 10 days to fully fill the headrace tunnel.  This will be followed by testing of electro mechanical equipment by February 8 till February 15.

“The first unit of commercial operation will happen on February 15 and second unit after one month,” Thinley Dorji added.

The project estimated a loss of Nu 150 to 160 million after further delay of three months after the latest setback in October last year.

Dagachu project, which kicked off in October 2009, was initially set to complete in August 2013.   However, because of geological conditions and breaching of cofferdam (temporary dam at the dam-site) in 2011, work was delayed by a year.

The project, which was later set to complete on May 31, 2014 was, however, further delayed by a few months due to a 20m tunnel collapse in the head race tunnel (north) in January this year.

The project was scheduled to be commissioned in May, but after a portion of the tunnel collapsed on January 5 2014, it was rescheduled.

It was further delayed because of a failure of a 10m gravel trap section on October 3 last year.

However, CEO Thinley Dorji said that they were very hopeful that the project would now be commissioned smoothly.

By Yeshey Dema, Dagachu

Picture story

A group of 20 students from Gaeddu College of Business Studies interning at the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) collected three sacks of old stock garments from around 26 shops in Thimphu yesterday. They plan to distribute the clothes to the disadvantaged. One of the students, Tshering T Dorji, coordinated the collection with help from RSPN and Clean Bhutan.

                                                        

                     

Picture story

Lyonchhoen called on the Vice President of India, Mohammad Hamid Ansari, today in New Delhi.

                                                                    

                                                                        

Indian foreign secretary calls on Lyonchhoen

DSC_00151

Foreign Secretary of India, Sujatha Singh called on Lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay in Delhi today.

Lyonchhoen thanked the government of India for their support in Bhutan’s development. They discussed matters of mutual interest related to hydropower, areas of security, progress of the 11th Plan and other areas of cooperation.

Discussions were also held on working towards realising the target of producing 10,000MW of electricity. They also discussed the issue of recent communal violence in Assam and on improving border security.

Indian External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj also called on the Prime Minister today.

By Tshering Wangdi, Delhi

English II paper will be evaluated

Breaking news: Revoking its earlier decision, the Bhutan Council for School Examination and Assessment (BCSEA) board has decided to evaluate English II paper and award marks accordingly. The board had earlier decided to validate English examination results based on marked obtained in English I.

According to a press release the Council issued today, “the recommended option may not guarantee complete fairness but the board felt that it was comparatively a better option as it will at least ensure timely declaration and fairer exam results since the penalty will be meted out only to the individuals involved in the paper leakage.”

Picture story

Lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay visits Sabarmati Riverfront at Ahmedabad yesterday. The Prime Minister’s stay in Gujarat concluded with a visit to the Global Mission School, the Tata Consultancy Services at Garima Park and the Amul dairy in Anand town.

    

Corporate pay hike to maintain 15 percent difference

The govt. has given the go-ahead to corporation boards to raise wages as they see fit

Salary: Approving the much-awaited hike in salary of corporate employees, the cabinet also clarified that the raise, which comes into effect retroactively from July 1, 2014 should maintain a maximum of 15 percent difference from salaries of civil servants.

This, the finance minister, Namgay Dorji, said was as per the estimation of the second pay commission’s report, that the pay scales of the regular corporate employees would be about 15 percent higher than that of civil servants.

“This is the guiding principle and the state-owned enterprises  (SOEs) can now take the raise based on the boards’ decision,” lyonpo Namgay Dorji said, indicating that the authority now rests with the boards of individual companies. “We’ve given the green signal to SoEs to go ahead.”

The second pay commission report states that, considering their performance and expenditure growth in the past five years, the gross revenue of SoEs will be sufficient to meet the 15 percent increase, except for the Wood Craft Centre, Bhutan Post and Bhutan Broadcasting Service.

But for those SOEs sustaining on government subsidies, the Prime Minister, during a meet-the-press session in October said, will have to justify themselves for the raise.

Pay and allowances of the SoEs comes to around Nu 478.5M annually, which constitutes about 16 percent of their gross revenues.  Should the pay and allowances of SOEs be kept 15 percent higher than the civil service, it would translate into an additional Nu 71.78M.

The pay commission’s report states that, when the first corporations were carved out of the civil service, the pay scales for the corporate sector were at least 45 percent higher than the civil service.

“In recent years, the differential reduced to 30 percent and then to the present 15 percent, which have been reached through certain understanding between the corporate bodies and the Ministry of Finance,” the report states.

This was also because, unless the differentials are maintained within some acceptable limits, more and more professionals would leave the civil service for private and corporate sectors.

The commission’s report also found that the pay scales of those at the top levels in private and corporate sectors tend to be significantly higher than their counterparts in the civil service.

On the contrary, civil service pay at the lower levels is more generous, and thus it continues to be the preferred option for job seekers at these levels.

In January 2011, civil servants got a 20 percent raise on the salary scale of 2006.  Almost a year after, a 15 percent pay hike, with an additional 20 percent corporate allowance, was approved for the corporations.

Meanwhile, DHI has its own pay scales, based on the contractual nature of the appointment of its employees.  DHI’s salary and allowances structure has three levels – professional/corporate, operational, and wage services.

Sources from DHI said a report would be submitted to the board this month for approval.

By Tshering Dorji