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Tuesday, June 30th, 2015 - 10:47 PM
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Pay commission report on council’s 13th session agenda

NC: The findings of the pay commission report, which was submitted to the government on March 12, will be deliberated during the 13th session of the National Council (NC).

The NC and the third session of the second parliament will begin from May 16.  The report will be deliberated on June 11 under the legislative issues.  The assembly will also discuss the same.

The government, as pledged, formed the pay commission on November 13 last year, to look into areas like introducing housing allowances for civil servants, revising salary, and benefits of local government officials.

The report was delayed, due to which it could not be deliberated during the second Parliament session in January-February this year.

Apart from the pay commission report, the upper house will also discuss several bills and international conventions and treaties.

The bills include the National Assembly Act (amendment) bill, the Local Government Act (amendment) bill, the Attorney General Act (amendment) bill of Bhutan 2014, and the Right to Information bill.

The assembly endorsed the LG amendment bill in February that will be deliberated by the NC this time.  The assembly, during the last session, did away with classes A and B thromdes, apart from endorsing the amendment of several other clauses of the LG Act.

Besides the trade and economic cooperation agreement between Bhutan and Thailand, convention on recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards and Kyoto convention will also be discussed.

The council, as per the tentative agenda, will re-deliberate the National Council Act, Tobacco Act and discuss reports, such as of the anti-corruption committee and public accounts committee, among others.

The NC session ends on June 20.

By Kinga Dema

Acting on climate change

The Nu 712.45M project will respond to immediate climate change adaptation needs

NAPA: The world’s largest climate change adaptation project will begin from this year in Bhutan.

UNDP, Gross National Happiness commission and the national environment commission secretariat (NECS) signed the project document at the Tashichhodzong, Thimphu on Friday.

The Nu 712.45M project, titled ‘Addressing the risks of climate-induced disasters through enhanced national and local capacity for effective actions,’ would respond to immediate and urgent climate change adaptation needs, prioritIsed through the national adaptation program of action (NAPA) of 2006.

NECS’s project manager, Sonam Lhaden Khandu, said, “Adaptation interventions for the impacts of climate change on Bhutan were identified in the 2006 NAPA document, and we’re pleased to see steady support to implement these urgent interventions.”

The nine prioritised projects in NAPA 2006 are developing disaster management strategy, artificial lowering of Thorthomi glacier lake, weather forecasting system to serve farmers and agriculture, landslide management and flood prevention, GLOF hazard zoning, and installation of early warning system on Phochu basin, besides promoting community-based forest fire management and prevention.

Flood protection of downstream industrial and agricultural area, and rainwater harvesting were the remaining two projects that were prioritised.

The adaptation needs were updated in 2011, and priority adaptation actions were prepared for the sectors of water and climate related disasters, agriculture, energy, forest and biodiversity, human health, and for glaciers and GLOF.

One of the key areas of focus of the three-year project is to reduce flood and landslide risks in Phuentsholing, and the neighbouring industrial estate of Pasakha.

It would also design and build water harvesting systems in areas such as Mongar that have acute water shortage, where Tarayana Foundation would also work with communities.

The present meteorological stations across the country would be upgraded and expanded to relay real-time weather observations and forecasting, besides strengthening the national weather and flood forecasting and warning centre.

The head of environment and disaster management unit of UNDP, Karma Loday Rapten, said the project would enhance national, local and community capacity to prepare for, and respond to climate-induced multi-hazards, to reduce potential losses to human lives, national economic infrastructure, livelihoods, and livelihood assets.

NECS would coordinate implementing agencies from various sectors with technical support from UNDP.

Glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) mitigation project in Lunana from 2008-13 was the first of such projects in the country.

By Tshering Palden

House fire started by a five-year-old

Fire: A five-year-old boy who was left at home started the fire that razed a two-storied traditional house at Jyenkana, Haa on the afternoon of April 18.

Haa dzongkhag officials said the boy had lit a candle and the light caught on a cloth hanging from a wall, which resulted in the fire.

The son was alone in the bedroom when the incident occurred. The mother had gone to work in the fields, about 35 metres from the house, while the father was in Samtse.

As soon as the fire started the boy ran to the ground floor and hid behind piled planks.

Dzongkhag officials said no casualties were reported but the family lost all their belongings.

Haa police, volunteers, and the neighbors managed to put down the fire. The dzongkhag handed over first-aid kits and tarpaulin sheets to the family.

Alternatives before bans

Banning the use of plastic bags has for far too long been a vexed issue in our small society.  We need only hark 15 years back, to 1999, when we made headlines in the international media by imposing a ban on the use of plastic bags.  Sadly, however, we had to reinforce the ban in less than six years.

But hope springs eternal.  Recently, the business community of Dewathang in Samdrupjongkhar committed to reduce the use of plastic bags by not making them freely available with the goods costumers buy from their shops.  This is expected to gradually reduce the use of plastic bags, and then be dispensed with altogether.  The move, which is supported by the Samdrupjongkhar Initiative, is highly welcome and truly deserving of our commendation.

Our shared prosperity has left us with one of the biggest challenges of our age – mounting waste and our inability to deal with it.  Of the tonnes of waste that go to Memelakha landfill in Thimphu everyday, for example, plastic bags comprise almost half the load.

Plastic bags – made out of synthetic material from a wide range of organic polymers like polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride and nylon, among others – are non-degradable and cause great harm to the environment.  In the rainy season, discarded plastics cause flooding by blocking the drainage systems.   They also destroy soil in the farms, leading to declining crop yields.   As streams and rivers increasingly become dump yards for lack of waste disposal space, plastic bags that constitute the majority of waste, pose danger to aquatic life.  We need only look at our riverbeds today.

Difficult as it may appear, reducing the use of plastic bags isn’t all that herculean.  The ban did not succeed because there were no substitutes available.  If the ban is to really succeed, the government must encourage small and cottage industries to produce bags that are reusable, and introduce tax on plastic bags as Ireland did in 2002.  It helped the country reduce the use of plastic by 90 percent.  Outright banning with no alternatives available will only lead to continued use of plastic bags.

As an environment conscious country, Bhutan has a face to save in the world.  Relishing the fame of being an environment leader and not making efforts to save our land from mounting non-degradable waste will make shameless impostors of ourselves, not champions.

It takes only a small step at a time to reach great lengths, and a beginning has been made.  Let us sustain the will to keep plastics at bay.

Picture story

Around 50,000 devotees from across the country attended the Threma Nagmo oral transmission (great perfection wrathful goddess), which was presided over by H.H Dudjom Rinpoche Sangye Pema Zhepa at the Thimphu national memorial chorten yesterday. In the morning, Rinpoche, accompanied by Dungzin Garab Rinpoche and Kathok Situ Rinpoche performed Threma Namgo tsokhor (offering). Devotees also received blessings from the Rinpoche who has been in the country on a short visit.

     

The gup-GAO overlap

Lack of delineation of their separate roles all too often hampers developmental activities

Symposium: A few provisions in the local government Act and regulations on the roles of gups and gewog administrative officers (GAO) often hampered implementation of developmental works.

The administrative officers raised the issue, while discussing the lack of clearly defined roles of gups and GAOs at the symposium held in Thimphu.

GAOs said, although it was clearer now, several provisions overlapped, which created confusion.  Many GAOs said it was better not to follow the regulations.

Citing several clauses of the local government (LG) regulations, Phuntshopelri GAO in Samtse said roles were defined but it was not applicable.

“It’s more appropriate that GAOs carry out the role of implementing developmental works, as it wasn’t appropriate for gups as elected leaders,” he said.

For instance, the local government rules under section 293 states that a gup, as the chairman of the gewog tshogde, oversees the affairs of the gewog, including enforcement and implementation of development plans, orders, and decisions.

On the other hand, section 348 states that the GAO, under the supervision of the gup, be responsible for the developmental programmes and projects implemented in the gewog.

Bumthang Tang GAO Sonam Dhendup said, such inconsistency in regulations led to issues.

“In the process, we feel gups will monitor the works, while gups feel GAOs would do it,” he said, adding that they don’t follow the regulation due to lack of clarity.

Although the LG Act states that a GAO shall be the joint signatory with the gup for the operation of gewog accounts, except for a few gewogs, it’s otherwise in most gewogs.

Some GAOs said, most of the time, they were left unaware of the budget released.

“If GAOs can sign cheques as mandated by the rules, it would lead to more transparency and accountability,” one said.

LG department’s director general, Dorji Norbu, said the roles were clearly defined, but it may not be the perfect delineation.

Dorji Norbu said developmental works could not be left alone for GAOs.

“It’s important for gups to take charge as they have to participate as an elected representative,” he said. “If not, they won’t take ownership and, if they don’t, then the community won’t take responsibility either.”

Although the existing rules were made as comprehensive as possible, Dorji Norbu said GAOs should know better, as they are the ones implementing it.

“We’re open to feedback and suggestions,” he said.

Meanwhile, the second batch of 94 GAOs from the central and eastern districts attended the three-day symposium, which ended on April 17.

By Kinga Dema

Public road or private parking lot

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Municipal officials agree many buildings in Thimphu violated the parking requirement rules and admit their helplessness

Thromde: While Thimphu residents have benefitted the convenience of the many internal road networks that connect the city, the good is only half reaped.

The other half of the benefit has gone to private individuals.

Either side of the public roads are used as parking spaces of buildings that have sporadically sprouted in various parts of the city today.

Municipal officials said this was because residential buildings were unable to comply with the Bhutan building rules that mandate every residential building to have a parking space in keeping with the number of dwelling units within their plot.

Thimphu thromde officials said they were unable to enforce the rule because the road network still did not connect some buildings because of which it was pointless to create parking spaces at the basement.

An official from city’s urban planning division said the problem existed for years and there is no immediate solution.

“If building owners have not provided parking spaces, where else would tenants park their cars?” he said, adding it was difficult for them to disallow parking on the roadsides if they could not point to a designated parking area.

A city official who requested anonymity said in their drawings, landowners had provisions for appropriate parking at the basement and in keeping with the laws.

“However, on completion of the construction, the basement parking would have turned into a storage space or residential units,” he said.

Municipal officials also said some landowners built additional structures on the provisional parking space after acquiring occupancy certificates.

“When we ask them to dismantle them, they approach higher authorities and prolong the process,” he said.

Thromde’s executive secretary Minjur Dorji said where basement parking have been turned into anything but parking lots were allowed temporarily until they were connected with road.

He explained that a minimum of 13 decimal land was required for construction of a house of which three decimals came under land pooling and other 60 percent was saved for parking space.

Meanwhile, some urban planners said it was difficult for them to work according to their plans and rules because of pressures from different agencies. “Today, we have many elected members who have short term visions against our policy’s long term ones,” he said “Somewhere, we must weigh individual interest against public interest.”

By Nima Wangdi

Talking turkey

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There are plans afoot to rear the bird in Sarpang and Tsirang farms as a pilot project

NPDC: As an alternative to poultry farming, soon, turkey farming will be introduced in districts of Sarpang and Tsirang.

The turkey farming, which national poultry breeding centre (NPDC), Sarpang is going to initiate as a pilot project in the country starting this year, is geared towards boosting rural economy.

About 50 farmers, members of Dunglagang broiler’s and Tsirang poultry cooperatives, were trained and made aware of turkey farming yesterday.

Interested farmers will initially be provided with four female and one male turkey.  NPDC has 250 birds available.  To rear on trial, the centre had brought 16 parent-stock from Thailand’s department of livestock development services in 2012.

Another parent stock of 200 birds will be imported from Thailand.  Only then will the farmers be provided with the birds.

Officials from the centre said the project would start from two south central districts of Sarpang and Tsirang; and in the second phase, which will begin next year, it would be introduced in Dagana, Chukha and Samtse.

“We’re in the negotiation stage with the department in Thailand, and we’re planning to import them soon,” program director of NPDC, (Dr) Karma Wangdi, said.

(Dr) Karma Wangdi said the turkey is popular, particularly for its lean and tender meat. “We have high potential, especially in the high-end hotels, with increasing number of tourist from western countries,” he said.

It is also, he said, more lucrative and easy to manage compared with poultry.  Betsulle and American bronze turkeys are the two types identified for the farming in the country.

“Turkey also has higher return compared to broiler chicken, and consumes less feed, as they depend 50 percent of their feed on grasses,” (Dr) Karma Wangdi said.

He said it costs as high as baht 200 in Thailand. “The price here would be determined by market forces,” he said.

The national breeding centre will be opened at Relangthang under Gakiling gewog, Sarpang.  A shed, which can accommodate 400 birds, has been constructed.

The five districts were chosen based on the performance in poultry farming. “They have a good name established and, besides, the climate is suitable,” (Dr) Karma Wangdi said.

(Dr) Karma Wangdi said, should the project succeed in the farms, there was a plan to form groups and cooperatives in future.

Meanwhile, most of the farmers, who attended training, were curious and enthusiastic to try it out.

“I want to quit poultry and shift to turkey, because it’ll be much easier and cheaper to manage,” a member, Roshan Kafley, who owns a poultry farm with around 150 birds, said.

By Tshering Namgyel 

Volunteer teachers dominate bike race

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The three-time holder of the trophy was pipped to the post by 50 seconds

DANTAK: Three-time DANTAK open mountain bike race winner, Sonam, lost the race this year to Tom Horniblow by 50 seconds.

The 90-km race on Saturday, organised to commemorate DANTAK’s 53rd raising day, saw 121 participants, who raced till Paro from Changlimithang ground and back to the Clock tower square.

Tom Horniblow, a volunteer teacher with the Australian volunteers initiative for development finished the race in two hours 30 minutes and 58 seconds.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said Tom, adding he did not expect to win the race. “When I was riding uphill nearing the finishing point, beneath Lungtenzampa (bridge), I realised I was winning the race.”

Tom, who stood seventh in the Tour of the Dragon last year, said biking was not his first sports, but an interest he developed since childhood.

He said local participants gave stiff competition, which he claims to be the toughest part of the race.  The 38-year old volunteer teacher said he had all the sympathy for a local participant, who rode along with him right from the start to end. “He was supposed to finish second, but he fell off just few metres away from the finish line.”

First runners up Sonam said he was happy that his record of two hours 27 minutes remains unbroken, although he couldn’t win the race for the fourth time.

“I was confident about the race, but it also has to do with luck,” he said.  Sonam said he too fell down before reaching the finish line while overtaking two bikers.

“But I’m happy that I was able to participate and I thank my sponsor in Singapore,” said the winner of last years’ Tour of the Dragon.

Jigme Tenzin came third, completing the race in two hours 32 minutes and 47 seconds.

Two Japanese dominated the women’s category.

Reika Yoshi, another volunteer teacher, came first, finishing the race in three hours five minute and 48 seconds. Emi Tsukamoto, came second and Yeshey Dema came third.

DANTAK open mountain bike race was first organised in April 2011 to commemorate the golden jubilee of project DANTAK.

A total of 121 bikers, including 14 females, took part in the race.  The winner in the men’s category was awarded a cash prize of Nu 50,000, the first and second runners up got Nu 30,000 and 10,000 each.

In the women’s , the first prize was Nu 40,000 and Nu 20,000 and Nu 10,000 were awarded to the second and third bikers.

There were also prizes for the youngest biker, who was 13-years old, and the oldest, who was 57.

By Tshering Dorji

 

City and Drukstar draw in 6-goal thriller

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Football: League leaders Thimphu City thrice came from behind to share the spoils with Drukstar in a nervy 3:3 draw.

Drukstar went in front in the 17th minute when left back Pema Khandu sent a free kick into the six-yard box and found skipper Jigme Tshering who headed the ball into the net.

Drukstar doubled their lead after seven minutes. Striker Ngawang capitalised on a thorough pass from his striker partner Tshering Tobgay.

Thimphu City’s striker Yeshey Dorji got the best chance to pull one back but Drukstar’s goalkeeper Hemlal stopped his solo effort to round up the first half with a 2-goal lead.

“I think in the first half we were not switched on. Our team was very sloppy,” said Thimphu City’s club president, Yeshey Tshering.

League leaders City came back strong in the second half and pulled one back two minutes into the second half.  Winger Tenzin dribbled past two defenders and sent a well-measured cross for striker Biren to just tap it in to make it 1:2.

Two minutes later the game was all-square when City’s centre back, Jamyang headed the equaliser.

Drukstar restored their lead in the 66th minute when striker Ngawang scored his second for the day and left City players arguing the ball had not crossed the line.

Thimphu City’s Yeshey Dorji thought he had scored the equalizer when he headed in a rebound only to be ruled out for an offside. City pressed for an equaliser and their effort paid off when their two wingers combined to score in injury time.

Midfielder Passang crossed the ball into the box from the right flank and his partner Tshering Dorji executed a neat half volley to take one crucial point.

“On the whole the game was ok. Our major problem is we have a very young goalkeeper. I think their tactic was to keep attacking and make him a little nervous,” said Yeshey Tshering.

On Saturday, Dzongree beat 1:0.

Today Drukpol will play U 18.

By Karma Loday Yeshey