Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 - 11:35 AM
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Lightning strike kills one

Mechetar: A 36-year-old man was killed and seven members of his family were injured when a lightning struck their house at Mechetar in Samtse on the night of March 18.

The wife, 24, was referred to Phuentsholing hospital while the rest were treated for minor injuries. Among the injured are children aged five to 12 years and the deceased’s aunt.

Except for the aunt, the others were in the kitchen for dinner when the incident occurred.

Police were informed around 7.45 pm.

The family was immediately taken to Samtse hospital, said police.

Samtse hospital officials said, the deceased who had also suffered minor burns and a cut on the ear, could have been hit by the firewood stacked in the kitchen.

“He could’ve died of cardiac arrest, which is usually the cause of death when lightning strikes a person,” an official said.

Hospital officials said the wife, who had also suffered minor burns on her back, was referred to Phuentsholing sensing high chances of suffering a cardiac arrest.

As of yesterday, the wife was in a stable condition, according to Phuentsholing hospital officials.

Meanwhile, the Samtse dzongda, on behalf of His Majesty’s Kidu office, handed over a semso of Nu 10,000 to the bereaved family.

This is the first reported incident of the year.

Last year, a 35-year-old man was killed on the spot when he was struck by lightning that left another man unconscious for half an hour in Dungtoe gewog in Samtse on March 16 evening.

By Yangchen C Rinzin,  Phuentsholing

Gasa’s spent bird dilemma

IMG_0512Still good for me: Rinchen selling eggs at Gasa tshachu

Poultry: Backyard poultry farms were instant hit in Goen khamae gewog, Gasa when in 2010 eight farmers started rearing chicken.

But only two farms survive today. Disposal of the spent birds, the layer birds that have completed the active egg-laying period, is the main problem.

And the strong religious sentiments of farmers do not encourage slaughtering of hens.

Gasa’s officiating Livestock officer, Tshendu, said: “That’s why farmers are at a loss how to dispose of the hens.”

Rinchen from Jashitengkha, a poultry farmer, used to sell the spent birds to the neighbours at Nu 150 earlier. There are no buyers anymore.

“Now, even if we distribute for free, there are no takers,” he said.

His wife, Tandin Wangmo, said the older hens when kept together peck on each other and have to be separated. “After they cross laying period, they are of no use,” she said.

The spent chickens have to be fed a mix of Karma Feed and boiled cereals.

A bag of Karma feed costs them Nu 1,450, and a bag of feed is just enough to feed their 100 hens for a week.  The birds don’t live more than three years.

Poultry was identified as the product from the gewog under the One-gewog-three-products programme in the tenth plan.

The government provided free corrugated galvanized iron (CGI) sheets and cement to build poultry coops besides providing subsidised pullets.

Rinchen collects a minimum of 35 eggs every day. He sells the eggs to Bjishong MSS and civil servants in the gewog.

“Of course, selling eggs brings in decent profit, we simply don’t know what to do with the old birds,” Tandin said.

The rising cost of feed has compelled the farmers to shift their focus on dairy.

There are three dairy groups in the gewog. The first one was established in 2007 in Khailog chiwaog, which has now 17 members.

Yeshey Wangdi, the gewog’s livestock extension officer, said that farmers have proposed to the government for assistance to obtain jersey cows for their group.

“Dairy is gaining popularity in the gewog, and Damji is the latest village to for a dairy group,” he said. It has 30 members already.

Dairy was identified as the product of Goen khatoe gewog. Even the farmers of Khamae gewog are now interested to take up dairy.

Meanwhile, the Goen Khatoe farmers have started poultry seeing that selling eggs bring good profit. There are 15 backyard farms – the biggest one containing about 150 birds.

By Tshering Palden, Gasa

Too much monkey business around Thrapangsa landfill

monkeys-around-the-disposalMonkeys at the disposal site

Wildlife: The landfill at Thrapangsa in Mongar has curious visitors coming in every day, and that’s causing problem for the people of six households near the disposal site.

The monkeys come to scavenge at the landfill and stray into the houses. Then there is full-scale raid by the wild.

The marauding primates come to the landfill early in the morning and disappear. They come back by 4 pm, always.  “We have no time to eat because of monkeys. They take away our entire year’s food,” said Choki Wangmo, a farmer. But the landfill cannot be shifted, neither has any solution been worked out in the favour of the farmers. The while, the monkey business is growing intense.

The monkeys have become so brazen that they jump on children and women like they hope from a branch of tree to the other. And that adds a lot of burden to the rural families of Thrapangsa. They have to guard the fields the entire year, and the children have to be prepared to face a group of attacking monkeys anytime of the day.

Authorities concerned ought to consider this problem and move the landfill away from the village, said a farmer. “What we work for the entire year the monkeys take away. What do we eat?”

Thrapangsa is a village that is surrounded by dense forest. And besides monkeys, rodents, wild boars and porcupines continue to attack the fields. Villagers say that the number of monkeys have increased after with the coming of landfill in the village.

The landfill, however, has not only brought monkeys to the village. Sanitation is a big problem.

Mongar dzongrab Sangay Wangchuk said that after complaints from the people of village, the dzongkhag officials went to the site and stopped dumping the waste there since March 17.

The dzongkhag authority is looking for the new landfill site. Meanwhile, all the waste collected from the Mongar town will be taken to the Gyalpoizhing landfill site at Tshokor, which is around more than 20 kilometres from Mongar town.

By Dechen Tshering, Mongar

Picture story

Not snow: Samdrupjongkhar town briefly turned white when a hailstorm, with hail as big as tennis ball, pounded the town for about half an hour (Photo: Pema Wangchuk, Digital media enterprise)


Picture story

About 25 women attended the launching ceremony of Cocacola retailer training program at Hotel Druk yesterday.
The program is Cocacola’s initiative to impart business skills training to retailers on shop, stock, customer and financial management.


Drukstar Vs Thimphu City – 2-2

FbA Drukstar defence clears a danger at the goalmouth

Football: Thimphu City FC managed to retain the top most position even after it drew the match with Drukstar 2-2 yesterday at the ‘A’ division league.

Thimphu city’s goalkeeper did not show up for the game and was replaced by striker Chencho. Despite the absence of main goalie, Thimphu City put up a good challenge.

In the 30th minute, Thimphu City’s Yeshey Dorji scored the first goal. He picked up the ball from right corner of the opponent’s box, dribbled past a defender, and made the shot that went into the net.

Towards the end of the first half, light in the stadium went off and the match was stopped. However the power failure lasted only for few minutes and the game resumed. Just then, Drukstar responded with an equaliser.

In the 51st minute, a Thimphu City defender took down Drukstar player inside the box resulting in a penalty shoot out. Ngawang Tshering gave Drukstar a 2-1 lead.

Attack from the City came full-on as Chencho took his position in the attacking side and his shot in the 78th minute brought the scores to a 2-2 draw.

By Tshering Dorji

Post-2015 – why should Bhutan care?


If I told people that my position is called “Post-2015 National Coordinator”, majority wouldn’t have the faintest idea what such a person actually does. This article tries to explain what post-2015 means, and what is its relevance to Bhutan

Today the world celebrates the UN International Day of Happiness, marked for the second time. Bhutan initiated the Day to raise awareness on the need for a more holistic approach to development.

The happiness day is essentially linked to the ongoing discussion led by the UN, commonly called “Post-2015 development agenda”. Leaders all over the world, from governments to civil society organisations and businesses are debating what the future global development priorities should be after the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire in 2015.

Like MDGs, the post-2015 development goals – tentatively named as “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) – will steer the development policies and funding in Bhutan. Besides local issues, Bhutan also faces the effects of climate change and other issues that require global solutions.


Bhutan’s role in post-2015

Bhutan has already contributed to the post-2015 development agenda in multiple ways.  Last spring the UN System in Bhutan, in partnership with the GNH Commission Secretariat and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, heard from Bhutanese people through the post-2015 national consultations, one of the 88 such consultations conducted worldwide. These consultations consisted of televised debates in five different dzonkhags, an online discussion and individual interviews. The final report stressed the importance of GNH thinking: placing happiness as the ultimate goal for development and the need for equity and sustainability.

At the UN level, Bhutan has also been very active. After initiating the General Assembly Resolution titled Happiness: Towards a holistic approach to development in July 2011, Bhutan hosted a High-Level Meeting on Wellbeing & Happiness at the UN Headquarters in New York in April 2012. This led to the establishment of the New Development Paradigm (NDP) initiative and the GNH-inspired report Happiness: Towards a New Development Paradigm that was submitted to the UN in December 2013. Public forums called Imagine Change are currently being held in Thimphu to gather feedback for the NDP report, to catalyse discussion and to spark solutions for action in local communities.

Bhutan’s efforts have stirred discussion on measuring development more holistically, in terms of societal happiness and the wellbeing of all life forms. Other domains that Bhutan has previously highlighted on, for example the role of culture and spirituality in development are still largely missing from the proposed SDGs in the post-2015 conversations.


UN wants to hear from you

MDGs were criticised for having been drafted by a few experts through a very top-down process. Now the UN has vowed to go about it in a different fashion, trying to hear as many voices as possible, even from those living in extreme poverty. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stated: “I want this to be the most inclusive development process the world has ever known.”

Opening up the discussion comes with a price: a countless number of different actors are involved in the post-2015 consultations, trying to push for their own agenda. For example my organization, United Nations Volunteers (UNV), is advocating for stronger acknowledgement of volunteerism and civic engagement in the post-2015 development agenda. Many simultaneous consultations are taking place online and offline, from New York to Thimphu, perhaps making it harder to understand what the common thread is.

This complexity of the post-2015 process could be a reason why it has been less discussed in the media or among the public in Bhutan. Even after dedicating several months to understand who the different actors are, how the process works and when should one act to influence things most, I am myself still puzzled by this famous “post-2015”.

How could we expect ordinary people to understand it at the grassroots level?

Yet it is crucial for people to know what is going on globally, and how it will affect their future locally. How can an ordinary citizen participate? One way to start is the MY World global survey by the UN, through which anyone can vote for their six personal priorities for development, either online or offline. In many countries volunteer groups have collected MY World offline paper ballots, particularly to reach those who are usually not heard.

More than one and half million have voted in the MY World survey so far. Bhutanese voters – currently 217 of them – have chosen better education, better healthcare and honest and responsive government as their top three priorities at the moment.


From subjects of development to active citizens

Although the MY World exercise looks like a seemingly simplistic method to make people participate in a superficial way, it can trigger more long-term engagement. A volunteer from India says: “The best thing I found about the survey is that our students have started thinking beyond cricket and mobile phones – about critical issues that affect them.” The aim is not only to hear from people in this consultation phase, but also to have them involved in the implementation of the future development goals later on.

The UN Member states will start negotiating on the precise goals and indicators next September, hopefully reaching an agreement by the end of 2015. Although an individual cannot do much to influence this high-level discussion, groups of people can. Thousands of people passionate for issues such as youth participation, environment or human rights have mobilised themselves for example through civil society organisations, and reached out to their governments who have the final say on the post-2015 development agenda.

The post-2015 process has shown that people no longer want to be mere subjects of development, but active citizens able to influence the decisions affecting them. Ultimately it is a choice of either at least trying to engage and understand the process, or leaving the power to others. Ideally this process would build a movement of civically engaged people around the world who want to make a difference: not only by checking how well governments and businesses keep their promises, but also by acting as agents of change in their own communities.


For more information: myworld.org




Riikka Suhonen works as a UN Volunteer at the Secretariat for the New Development Paradigm (SNDP) in Bhutan. The articles represent the personal views of the writer and do not reflect the position of the United Nations nor SNDP.

Collapsed tunnel delays Dagachhu

DSC04979Blocked: The section of the tunnel that collapsed on January 5

Rectifying the tunnel will cost additional Nu 80m

Project: The 126MW Dagachhu hydropower project, scheduled to be commissioned in May, will be delayed by more than a month, after a portion of the tunnel collapsed on January 5.

A poor geological condition had triggered a section, about 20 metres, of the 7.78 km tunnel to collapse, which is estimated to cost the project an additional Nu 80M.

The last time this paper reported on the delay, Dagachhu was scheduled to be commissioned next month. Officials at the project site said civil structures of the project will be completed by June 30, and commissioning of the operating units will be done by July 31.

The project’s chairman Dasho Chhewang Rinzin said it took about a month to remove the sludge and clear the tunnel clean.

“The section collapsed because of poor geological conditions in the particular section of the tunnel,” he said.

After discussing the best possible ways to ensure the stability of the tunnel, the project decided to change the initially planned concrete lining to steel lining. This was done particularly in the section where the tunnel was geologically weak and had collapsed.

“Instead of just addressing the tunnel area that had failed, we have decided to steel line about 150 meters section of the tunnel,” Dasho Chhewang Rinzin said.

Officials in Dagachhu said during the initial excavation of the tunnel, there was a kink (sharp curve) in the alignment of the tunnel in the area where it collapsed. “After the breakthrough of the tunnel, the contractor had attempted to correct that kink. While attempting to correct it, the major collapse happened.”

Officials said the collapse had blocked the entire tunnel for a stretch of 20M. In consideration of long-term stability, project officials said the project management has decided to install steel lining, which is why the project would cost an additional Nu 80M.

“We were working on the final lining (finishing works of the head race tunnel), the collapse happened and it hampered the finishing works,” said the official.

However, the project has completed other parts of work including construction of dam, desilter, surge shaft, pressure shaft and underground powerhouse. About 95 percent of the works on installation of electrical and mechanical equipment were also completed.

Cleared: The tunnel today

Engineer with the Hindustan construction company said that it took around a month for the tunnel team to complete the ratification of the collapsed part. “While focusing on the repairing, we had to leave aside other works for a month as about 65 people were working on the tunnel,” said the engineer.

Repairing works on the collapse was completed successfully and final finishing works are running at the full pelt.

A run-of-the-river scheme developed on the left bank of Dagachhu in Dagana kicked off in October 2009 and was initially set to complete in August 2013. However, due to bad geological conditions and breaching of cofferdam (temporary dam at the dam-site) in 2011, work was delayed by a year.

The project was later set to complete on May 31 this year.

The initial cost of the project was set at Nu 8.16B. The completion cost of the project may go up to Nu 12.26B, officials said.

By Rajesh Rai, Thimphu  and  Dawa Gyelmo, Dagana

Comprehensive medical screening before entry

Health: All foreign workers entering Bhutan to work for more than three months are required to undergo a comprehensive medical examination, said department of medical services (DoMS) officials.

The medical screening, in the past, only physically examined construction workers and not other expatriate workers. Screening was done at the border entry points of Phuentsholing, Gelephu, Samdrupjongkhar, and Samtse.

With the new regulation,  expatriate workers will undergo several laboratory and x-ray tests, which will be valid for two years. They will be examined for medical conditions such as mental illness, hypertension, epilepsy, diabetes mellitus, and heart diseases. Authorised diagnostic centres in the country will carry out the tests.

Every year, the government spends more than Nu 97M on treatment of non-nationals. There are more than 70,000 non-national construction workers in the country today.

“A comprehensive checkup will reduce health expenditure,” director general of DoMS, Dr Ugyen Dophu said. “This would also help prevent entry of communicable diseases.”

Expatriate workers are usually treated for emergencies like accidents and injuries followed by sexually transmitted diseases and other communicable diseases.

Health officials said medical screening done in the past wasn’t comprehensive as only a few expatriate workers came to Bhutan.

Since 1997, the number of foreigners coming to Bhutan have increased and so did the expenditure on health.

Phuentsholing started following the new regulation since March 15, while in Gelephu the approved diagnostic centre is yet to be fully operational. Hospitals will do the screening in Samtse and Samdrupjongkhar without private diagnostic centres in the two dzongkhags.

Dr Ugyen Dophu said they made the regulation  after consulting with the experts and stakeholders like the immigration, labour, and the trade ministry.

“We’ve been working on it for two years,” he said. “After the tests, if an expatriate is declared unfit, work permit will not be issued.”

With workplace injuries incurring cost, Dr Ugyen Dophu said they were also concerned about Occupational Health Safety (OHS).

Health officials said despite OHS regulation in place, enforcement was still poor. “We support the labour ministry and if they enforce the OHS at workplaces, it will increase productivity at work and cut cost on health,” Dr Ugyen Dophu said.

Before the new regulation, all expatriate workers entering Bhutan underwent a physical examination in hospitals at the border towns. The contractor or the employer bore the Nu 150 per consultation fee after which a medical certificate was issued.

Such medical screening existed since the 1990s mainly to prevent communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, chronic illnesses, and HIV/AIDS, but no laboratory tests were done.

In the past, construction labourers had to get an X-ray, blood, and urine tests done from laboratories in India and show the report to the Bhutanese doctor. The requirement for such tests was done away with and just a physical examination was carried out.

By Kinga Dema

Highlanders disagree with officials on cordycep rules

IMG_0776Laya gup raises concerns at the meeting

Permit fee, royalty and number of collectors dominates issue

MoFA: Local leaders from the highlands are not happy with the agriculture ministry’s move to increase permit fee for cordycep collectors, royalty for exporters and reduction in the number of people allowed to collect the priced fungi.

At the annual stakeholders’ workshop on cordycep value chain in Thimphu yesterday, forestry officials announced that the permit fee for cordycep would be increased to Nu 1,000 from Nu 350 per person. The number of collectors from each household was reduced to one from three.

Forest and agriculture marketing cooperatives officials said the royalty fee would be increase to Nu 22,500 from Nu 7,000 a kg.

They said the increase in permit fee was based on the affordability of the highlanders, while the number of cordycep collectors was reduced for sustainable harvesting. Cordycep collection time, however, would be increased from one month to 45 days to compensate for the reduction in number of people allowed to collect cordyceps.

But the gewog leaders were not happy with the proposal.

Naro gup, Wangchuk, said the change in rules and regulations is undemocratic. The right to decide, he said, should be given to people.

He said that as poachers from across the border come in hundreds to collect the fungus and it is unfair to restrict the number to one collector from each household.

Laya gup Kinley Dorji said it is not fair to increase the permit fee for the highlanders as they also provided security to the country while collecting the fungus.  “Such move would deprive poor people of their main income,” he said. “It’s not necessary to increase the collection time and reduce the number of collectors.”

Dangchu gup Sonam Dorji said it would be wrong to increase the permit fee based on the general perception that highlanders have become rich by collecting cordyceps.

“People should also understand the difficulties the highlanders have to go through while collecting cordyceps,” he said. “People crawl for days, sustain injuries, and even risk their lives.”

The gups pointed out that the cordyceps collection was liberalised in 2004 by the Fourth Druk Gyalpo as kidu to the highlanders.

Lingzhi gup Wangdi said highlanders feel that cordyceps collection should be free as it was a kidu. He said only 240 people from the gewog collect cordyceps, where as 500 to 600 poachers from across the border come annually to collect the fungus. “Should foresters really stress on sustainability when poachers from across the border is a bigger threat?”

Meanwhile, the exporters said it was not fair to increase the royalty to Nu 22,500 directly.

A Thimphu-based exporter, Tenga, said increasing the royalty by 10 to 20 percent is understandable but 300 percent increase is not realistic.  Other exporters said highlanders would have to bear the royalty as exporters pay Nu 7,000 as contribution.

Agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji said the decision to allow only one person to collect cordyceps was made based on the 2004 decision whereby only one person was allowed to collect. The number was increased to three to tackle the poaching issues.

“But we learnt that some households did not have three people are selling their permit,” he said.

Meanwhile, after much debate, officials said that permit fee will be increased to Nu 510 and the royalty will be increased to Nu 8,400. “But the proposal is still a draft,” said Dorji Dradul, the director of department of agriculture marketing cooperatives. “The cabinet will make the final decision on how many people will be allowed to collect cordyceps.”

By Tashi Dema