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Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 - 6:01 AM
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Proposed Orong-Dewathang farmroad displeases the latter

The cons of the alternative route suggested appear to outweigh the pros 

Connectivity: Dewathang community members are disgruntled over the approved plan of constructing a 22km farm road that will connect two gewogs of Orong and Dewathang.

Orong gup Khawjey first proposed the road and it was approved during dzongkhag tshogdu in September last year.  However, people of Dewathang gewog had raised issues and objected to the proposed road.

They also recommended another proposal, which they claimed would benefit both gewogs.

The approved plan was to construct the road from Batsazam in Orong till Bhutan power corporation (BPC) station at Ngelang in Dewathang. But Dewathang community called for a road from Batsazam to Bangtsho.

More than 30 landowners in Dewathang gewog would have benefited if the proposal comes through.  The community would also be saved from bringing sand and stone from across the border, for they would then be able to collect it from Deori river, which is about three kilometers away.

Going by survey reports, the approved plan would benefit at least 20 households of Orong.

“Linking the two gewogs is important, but the road should benefit maximum number of people from both gewogs,” a resident of Dewathang said. “The public of Dewathang is equally important, and the proposed plan doesn’t benefit us at all.”

Other residents of Dewathang alleged that no proper consultation was done with the gewog.

“Before seeking clearances from public, meetings from chiwog level should be carried out to explore maximum benefit,” said another resident.

“After a series of discussion with gewog administration, the  plan was approved in the tshogdu, and it was disappointing.”

However, Dewathang gup Sangay said since it was a party pledge, consultations with the people was not required.  The road, he said, was a pledge made by their member of parliament, education minister Mingbo Drukpa.

“When it was discussed during the DT, they should have brought up this issue. Things could have been different,” Sangay said. “People didn’t approach me on time even after the tshogdu.”

Gup Sangay said he had then put forth the matter to dzongkhag administration.

A team then visited the second proposed site to carry out technical feasibility studies.

Dzongkhag’s junior engineer Sangay Wangchuk said the second proposal was not feasible because of poor soil stability, and it also infringed into the royal Bhutan army territory.

“There are high chances of the highway sliding down because of poor soil stability,” Sangay Wangchuk said, adding the shedra located just above highway and the GREF officials complained about the proposal.

Orong gup Khawjey explained that the idea of the road was first conceptualised by Orong people, raised during the gewog tshogde and then proposed during the DT.

“I spoke with Dewathang gup and later upon the recommendation of Dewathang people, we had to carry out another study, but the engineer’s report didn’t support it at all,” Khawjey said.

Denying allegations from people of Dewathang that he has diverted the farm road and extended it unnecessarily, Khawjey said, when the road construction begins, they will look at the shortest distance possible.

“This farm road will benefit not just two gewogs but all 11 gewogs of Samdrupjongkhar,” said Khawjey.

The construction of the farm road will reduce the travelling distance between Dewathang and Orong by about 48km.  Presently, Orong is almost 70km away from Dewathang, and with the new farm road the distance will be about 22Km.

So far, about 16.5km has been surveyed and. A survey report states approximately 4.5km of the stretch remains to be surveyed.

The survey team attributed the delay in survey completion to rough terrain and thick vegetation.  The gewog administration had failed to provide required workers and timely support.

Although Orong gewog has committed a budget of Nu 2M for the first year of the 11th plan, junior engineer Sangay Wangchuk expects the total cost to come to about Nu 30M.

By Tshering Wangdi,  Samdrupjongkhar

Indian buyers pay in Ngultrums at auction yard

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Currency: To encourage Indian buyers to pay in Rupees at the vegetable auction yard in Phuentsholing, an electronic point of sale (PoS) was installed, but it has proved to be of no use.

The Royal Monetary Authority, with an aim to generate rupees, installed the PoS last year.  Buyers, however, prefer to pay in cash, that too in Ngultrums.

“While it’s expected that Indian buyers will pay in rupees, it hasn’t been the case,” head of food corporation’s agriculture marketing department, Sangay Wangdi, said.

Before the rupee crunch hit the country, a majority of the payments were made in rupees, although a certain percent was paid in Ngultrums too.

“But auction is happening within the country and we can’t ask buyers to pay in rupee,” he said. “Ngultrum is our legal currency note and we can’t demand for the other.”

Sources said that the buyers are exchanging rupees with Ngultrums in Jaigaon for a commission.

Sources also said buyers from as far as Assam, Bihar, and West Bengal, including few from Nepal, Kalimpong and Darjeeling, come with rupees but before they enter Phuentsholing gate, they exchange Ngultrum with rupee with the merchants in Jaigaon.

“With buyers paying in Ngultrums, what was being sold or auctioned at the auction yard couldn’t constitute as export,” Sangay Wangdi said. “We put up the PoS so they could use their VISA debit card and we could earn rupees, but it failed because many refused to use it.”

Sangay Wangdi said, almost 100 percent of the payment was made in Ngultrums last year. “Each bidder pays almost more than Nu 1M at the auction year,” he said.

Buyers, he said, refuse to use PoS because it was seen as a hassle. “They say they have to go to the bank, deposit the money and then pay farmers using the PoS,” he said.

Moreover, having to pay a standard international service charge of 3.5 percent for a transaction also deterred them from using the service.  This would mean if a buyer spent Nu 1M at the auction yard the person would be charged Nu 35,000.

Buyers, Sangay Wangdi said, are usually small time Indian farmers, and they do not have accounts with banks or big businesses.

A buyer, based in Falakata, Balchand Prasad, said they accept Ngultrum from Bhutanese buyers who visit Falakata. “We bring the same Ngultrum to the auction yard,” he said.

The buyers make payment to the corporation and, later, the corporation pays farmer after deducting service charge.

“Before we used to pay Ngultrums to farmers and deposit rupees in the bank,” he said. “But this time it was different since all the payments were made in Ngultrum.”

This year, Sangay Wangdi said, buyers will be requested to make at least 50 percent of the payment in rupee. “This is just a measure FCB is considering as an option,” he said. “We haven’t informed any buyers.”

Last year 20,028MT of potatoes and 2,924MT of vegetables were auctioned at the Phuentsholing auction yard, earning Nu 337M and Nu 55M each.

By Yangchen C Rinzin

Tackling old problem new way?

Narcotics: Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency (BNCA) is sensitizing school counsellors and law club coordinators on policies, ill effects and ways to tackle narcotic-related problems in an effort to dissuade youth from abusing narcotics.

BNCA’s tobacco control officer Chimmi Dorji said the agency is seeking support from teachers and counsellors “to reach larger audience”.

BNCA’s director general, Phuntsho Wangdi, said that the agency could not conduct as many campaigns as it wanted to. “It stretched the agency’s small human resource and budget.” Even if the counsellors are able to reform just one or two youth, it is a big achievement because the person could take his family’s responsibility and contribute to the nation building in the end, he added.

Youth abusing narcotics, he said, is a serious concern for the country.

“Almost everyday, there are between three to five cases. It’s very difficult to handle them because of the porous borders. The only way is through reducing the demand inside,” said Phuntsho Wangdi.

BNCA officials said scare tactics to deter youth from tobacco and drug consumption are not effective any more. An official each from the agency and Department of Youth and Sports are undergoing master trainers’ training to implement evidence-based advocacy.

The agency’s demand reduction official Dorji Tshering, who is one of the trainees, said: “ We hope to train the teachers from next year in these methods.”

In the first training program last week in the capital, some 11 law club coordinators and 20 counsellors from Thimphu, Punakha, Chukha, Paro, Bumthang, Wangdue, Trongsa, Haa, and Gasa attended a day-long workshop.

One of the counsellors said that the agency needed to do research to find out what control methods will best suit Bhutan. “Things that are successful elsewhere might not work here because of many reasons such as diversity in culture and not have the right impact,” said a counsellor.

Counsellors said students involved in drug cases should be referred directly to the police.

“But we try to counsel and correct the person ourselves and let the parents know. If the individual does not improve then we have no choice than to hand over the individual to authorities,” a counsellor said.

Counsellors said they would try and get the message across to the community that they live in too.

Chimmi Dorji said that while increasing literacy rate and ceasation facilities have brought down tobacco consumption in developed countries, the trend is opposite in the developing countries.

“In the past few years, tobacco consumption has increased from 12 percent to 16 percent, which is a concern,” he said.

BNCA officials said youth have long been the target of tobacco companies as replacement to those who quit or die from tobacco.

Tobacco kills more than Tuberculosis, HIV, and Malaria combined each year.  Tobacco is the single most death-causing factor in the world. It is estimated to kill eight million in each year by 2030.

Dorji Tshering said that curbing tobacco consumption was imperative to address the whole narcotics issue in the country.

“Tobacco consumption is the gateway to drugs. Thus, we need to have interventions at various stages,” he said.

Parenting programs and social skills development in children, and life skills for users among other measures are some of the measures required.

By Tshering Palden

Druk United wins against struggling Yeedzin

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‘A’ Division: Two goals in the second half was just enough for Druk United to see off Yeedzin and close the gap to just one point behind the league leaders.

Thimphu City and Drukpol has 20 points each, city leading the league by goal difference.

The win against Yeedzin has been a huge step for United as they prepare to face Thimphu City this weekend, in what could be considered the title decider match.

United’s Captain Karun Gurung said that the win was a boost to their title hopes. “Our boys were brilliant and our fate is now in our own hands,” he said.

It was only in the 64th minute that United’s skipper broke the goalless dreadlock from a free kick to take control of the game. Six minutes later United doubled their lead when left footed striker Kinley Dorji found the net in the 70th minute.

Yeedzin managed to pull one back in the 80th minute from their star striker Sonam Jamtsho, who just came on pitch from a 2 game suspension. However, it was too little too late for Yeedzin equalise the score.

Yeedzin’s manager, Ngawang was satisfied with the way his team fought “We just needed a little bit of luck,” he said. “My boy gave 100 percent and we were looking for at least a draw.”

U18 will face Thimphu City in today’s game as they continue their quest to register atleast a point in this campaign.

By Karma Loday yeshey

Academic dreams through sports

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MoU: Bhutanese students who are good in sports and cannot qualify for diploma courses or undergraduate studies will get a second chance with the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) and Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC) signing a memorandum of understanding yesterday.

RUB and BOC jointly agreed to provide up to 20 scholarships a year to study diploma or undergraduate programs in colleges of RUB.

The scholarship, a press release from the BOC stated was to encourage deserving young persons who demonstrate the highest level of achievement and potential in sports, and give them an opportunity to pursue their academic dreams, while also simultaneously enabling them to participate actively in sports.

“Recognising young people who excel in sport and providing opportunities for improvement in both sports and academics would contribute to promoting a vibrant values sporting culture, crucial for the broadening of the sports base,” said BOC secretary general.

The MoU is for a period of three years.

GoI agrees to develop four JV projects

GoI agrees to develop four JV projects

Indian companies to partner with DGPC have been identified for Bunakha, Chamkharchhu and Wangchhu projects

Hydropower: An inter-governmental agreement was signed yesterday between India and Bhutan on development of four hydropower projects yesterday.

The 700MW Chamkharchhu, 600MW Kholongchhu, 570MW Wangchhu, and the 180MW Bunakha were the four projects for which the Government of India agreed to develop under joint venture through public sector undertakings between the two countries.

Under such a scheme, the financing will be done on 70 percent loan and 30 percent equity.

The Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC) and the Indian Public Sector Companies will finance 70 percent with loans they will avail and they will invest an equity of 15 percent each to make up the remaining 30 percent.

Hydropower project officials said the 600MW Kholongchhu hydroelectric project would be implemented “shortly” because the Government of India had approved grant financing for DGPC’s equity component of 15 percent.

Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited is the Indian public sector company that will partner with DGPC in development of the two projects.

Druk green managing director Dasho Chhewang Rinzin said it would take them around three months to negotiate and finalise the shareholders’ agreement. A joint venture (JV) company will be registered subsequently.

“The JV company will then start pre-construction activities,” he said, adding that a memorandum of understanding would be signed for that. “We’ve already initiated the discussion as the Satluj team is here.”

Acquisition of land, environment clearance, construction of road for accessibility and construction of labour camps are the activities that will begin before the signing of shareholders agreement.

With regards to the other three JV projects, detailed project reports (DPR) for Chamkharchhu-I and Wangchhu would be cleared by this month.

Thereon, it would be submitted to the Indian government for approval of DGPC’s equity grant financing.

Bunakha’s DPR, meanwhile, has been cleared by the Indian government. The approval for grant financing of DGPC’s equity is under process.

For the 2,560MW Sunkosh project, the DPR has already been submitted to the GoI for review and approval.

A DPR has yet to be prepared in the case of the 2,640MW Kuri-Gongri project.

While Satluj is DGPC’s joint venture partner for Kholongchhu and Wangchhu, Tehri Hydro Development Corporation limited will partner with DGPC for Bunakha project.

National Hydroelectric Power Corporation limited will partner with DGPC to develop the Chamkharchhu hydropower project.

Meanwhile, economic affairs minister Norbu Wangchuk, who was also present during the agreement signing said the event would bring about positive impacts to the lives of peoples in the two countries.

“Many people in India and Bhutan have worked hard for this day,” he said. “It is significant and it is nothing short of a landmark.”

Lyonpo said it was significant in terms of further strengthening of India-Bhutan friendship and the two countries’ hydropower sector development.

Economic affairs secretary Dasho Sonam Tshering and India power secretary PK Sinha signed the agreement.

Other projects collaborated with India are the 1,200MW Punatsangchhu-I, 1,020MW Punatsangchhu-II and the 720MW Mangdechhu. The projects are under construction today and are scheduled for commission in 2018.

Today, the operational power projects of Chukha 360MW, Kurichhu 60MW and Tala 1,020MW generate a total of 1,416MW of power.

By Rajesh Rai

By admin

Contention over substitute land

Compensation: To learn to have been issued lagthram (ownership certificate) was sad news for some 14 villagers of Chanchey under Tshogoam gewog in Wangduephodrang.

The villagers lost their land to Punatsangchhu project for road and dam construction.

Although the receiving of the lagthram, meant the villagers were given a substitute land, they were unhappy because of the location.

Landowners claimed the substitute land was surveyed without their consent from an area called Langlopang within the gewog despite their denial to accept the land substitute right from the beginning.

One landowner, Chador said it was in 2013, the land officials called them to a meeting to survey land for substitute.

He said when the affected landowners reached the venue land officials were planning to survey Langlopang area.

“We requested the officials not to survey from that area because it was uncultivable,” he said. “Land officials told us that irrespective of whether we liked it the land substitute was going to be from that area.”

He said the landowners came across available land within the gewog and approached land officials, requesting them to conduct a survey of that area for land substitute.

They refused to survey the area the landowners had chosen because they had already conducted one.

“Land commission officials had surveyed land at Langlopang despite our refusal to accept the substitute and they had not even informed us,” another landowner said. “Land officials have sent photographs of the surveyed land to our gup.”

She said they were told the land substitute lagthrams had reached the dzongkhag authority and were waiting to issue them to the landowners.

Neither the gup nor the landowners, she said knew about which plot belonged to which landowner.

An elderly landowner said when their land was initially taken for the project, they were told the land substitute would be given before the project began.

“But we’re being forced to accept a land substitute that land officials have identified,” he said.

“Authorities also agreed to compensate what agriculture production the landowners might have lost with the land,” another villager said. “But the promises were a mere lip service.”

Tshogoam gup said he submitted the report of available land at Langlopang because that was what the dzongkhag officials had asked of him.

He also felt the land was identified and surveyed without his or the landowners’ knowledge.

Having lost all hope in the dzongkhag and gewog authorities and land commission, landowners said they had to approach the office of His Majesty the King, their last hope.

Requesting anonymity, official sources said initially landowners had identified available land on their own, but the land commission had rejected that because the land was in another gewog.

“A majority of the landowners want land substitute from Thetsho gewog, which falls under town,” he said, adding land Act disallowed land substitute from other gewogs, especially when there were land available for substitution within the gewog.

Following that official sources said they asked landowners several times to look for vacant land within their own gewog, which they could survey. “They never responded to us,” he said.

Officials also said it was following the former prime minister’s visit to the gewog, where landowners had asked for land substitute that he sought asked officials to give land substitute at the earliest.

“We took pictures of excess land from within the gewog and distributed them among landowners,” the official said. “When we showed Langlopang area, which has about 18 acres of land, landowners refused citing water problems.”

He said since the landowners refused to sign or accept the land substitute despite several notifications, they had to conduct a survey of the identified land and submitted a report to the land commission.

“That’s how land commission has approved it and the lagthrams have been forwarded to the dzongkhag,” the official source said. “Thereon, it’ll go to the gewog office.”

However, some landowners have taken the substitute land on the 18-acre at Langlopang.

By Dawa Gyelmo, Wangdue

Dzongkhag takes 12 house owners to court

Law: Trongsa dzongkhag administration earlier this month took 12 house owners in Langthel to court for their failure to observe the “right of way” rule.

The 12 houses, gewog officials said loomed closer to the 111km Trongsa-Zhemgang road than the prescribed 50-metre distance they were required to maintain.

The houses were constructed after the enactment of the Roads Act in 2004.

Langthel gup Lham Dorji said the dzongkhag had sent numerous letters to the house owners asking them to dismantle their houses because it violated the Roads Act.

The 50-feet distance was supposed to be maintained so roads could be widened should need arise in future.

He said the 12 house owners also refused to comply with the dzongkhag’s directive to dismantle their house.

Lham Dorji explained that the dzongkhag had directed gewog to take the 12 households to court in 2013.

“But house owners appealed to the dzongkhag saying they would dismantle their houses after the National Council and National Assembly elections,” he said. “Since the house owners did not keep their words, the dzongda directed the gewog to bring all details of the house owners and took the 12 people to court.”

Of the 12 houses, two are two-storied traditional ones and others are single-storied houses built with wooden planks.

However, house owners said they built their houses on their own land of which they had thrams (ownership certificates) and that the gewog and dzongkhag officials did not say anything at the time of construction.

A house owner said she added a room to her two-storied traditional house in 2005, in which she runs a restaurant.

“I don’t know where the dzongkhag and gewog officials were until today,” she said. “I had to extend my house towards the roadside, as there is slope on the other side.”

A Langthel resident said asking the 12 people to dismantle their houses did not make sense because the road through Langthel would only be a subsidiary road once the 16km Samcholing-Koshila bypass opened to traffic by mid this year.

“I don’t think the road will ever be widened, so houses need not be dismantled,” he said. “Besides, theirs is not the only houses in the dzongkhag that falls within the road’s 50 feet.”

Meanwhile, court officials in Trongsa said preliminary hearing of the case was already conducted.

“While dzongkhag officials said the houses fell within 50 feet from the road, house owners argue they were constructed much before the rule came in,” a court official said.

By Tashi Dema

Picture story

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India Shri Shashi Kant Sharma and Auditor General Dasho Ugen Chewang renew the cooperative memorandum of understanding in the capital yesterday.
The MOU will strengthen bilateral cooperation for improving work methodologies and exchange of information in the field of audit of public finances. It also aims at improving professional knowledge and skills of staff members of the two countries in the field of audit by exchange of experience and strengthening their knowledge.

       

The KRII grant irony

The power tiller has become so popular among many Bhutanese farmers that it is no exaggeration to say the po-tella or potel, as they fondly call it, is a synonym of Japan to most farmers.

If our farmers are increasingly seeing the impact of decades of planned development in their villages, one agent of change is the po-tella.  Talk to a farmer, who owns it, or his neighbour who hires it, and we will hear stories of how it had helped to reduce farm drudgery, ease the labour shortage and improved farming.

This was made possible through the KRII grant.  Bhutan has received more than 2,500 power tillers so far.  Recently, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) committed to provide about 140 more. Bhutan needs an estimated 6,000 more power tillers.

So, the informal talks of withdrawing the KRII grant comes not only as a surprise, but a big loss to Bhutanese farmers if not to the government, which have promised one power tiller in each of the 205 gewogs.

Talks are on that there are enough grounds why the grant should be discontinued.  The Japanese government gives the grant as part of the food security project for underprivileged farmers.

It is said that there are more deserving countries than Bhutan.  Bhutan’s higher per capita income, at more than USD 2, 400 (2012 figure) is among the highest in the region.  Bhutan is also aiming to be a middle-income country by 2020.

As we know, neither the per capita income or gross domestic product is a good tool to measure growth or wellbeing.  While we may have bigger figures on paper, our citizens, especially the farmers, are not as well off as the figures suggest.

Withdrawing the grant would come at a time when we are building more farm roads than ever.  The power tillers had benefitted mostly farmers in the west, where accessibility was not an issue.  For instance, Paro has about 500 tillers to 51 in Trashiyangtse.

It would be sad to see no tiller plying the farm roads constructed in the hope of improving livelihood in remote Bhutan.  This is because the power tiller is not only used for ploughing.  It is used for pumping water and propelling post-harvest machines like threshers, winnowers, and rice and flourmills.  It can also be used for general transportation.

Bhutan would still need the grant.  There are needy farmers, who don’t have a single tiller in the village.

With development, Bhutanese farmers are beginning to afford to hire or buy the power tillers that are highly subsidised through the grant.  It would be an irony to have roads and the means to buy or hire the tillers, and the Japanese pull out a grant that is benefitting the underprivileged farmers.