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Sunday, March 1st, 2015 - 9:02 PM
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Patients flock to reopened physiotherapy unit

monk-on-fitness-training-on-tredmill,-a-woman-getting-treated-for-arthritis-The unit has seen 250 patients in a month

Those with lifestyle ailments find the facilities on offer particularly helpful

Health: Tsirang’s present lam neten, its former lam neten, the umze, civil servants and a few farmers are some of the patients visiting the recently re-opened physiotherapy and rehabilitation unit.

They make up about 250 or so patients, who visited the one-month old unit at Damphu hospital so far, most of whom suffer from lifestyle diseases.  They come to exercise on a treadmill, to shed weight or check their vitals to ensure the numbers are right.

The unit was opened nine months after it was shut down, and the number of patients visiting is ever on the rise.

Health officials said about 40 people suffered from mechanical back pain, caused by imbalance (weak or strong muscles) in the body or obesity (excess body weight).

“Lack of knowledge to maintain one’s body, fuelled by change in lifestyle, has caused the problem,” the health officials said.

Thinley Dorji, a monk of Tsirang rabdey, who was suffering from mechanical back pain and breathing problem because of severe obesity, said he felt much better after visiting the unit and undergoing physical therapy.

“Though I prostrate hundred times every morning and evening, besides circumambulating stupa regularly, my health never improved,” he said.

But with guidance he received from physicians, he managed to lose about 5kg in a little over a week.

“I’m feeling light and am able to breath well now,” he said.

Another patient, Thinley, who was suffering from severe backache that made it difficult for him to move, said a week’s treatment was all it took to reduce the pain drastically get his life back to normal.

Tshering Dorji, 50, is also happy to have his chronic pain cured.

“I explored all remedies, including performing rituals and traditional treatments, but it was only getting worse,” he said, adding a five-day treatment with the physio unit and he was all right.

Health officials said all muscular and neurological related problems were treated in the unit, both manually and with the help of heat, cold and other electrical stimulator machines.

“As a part of rehabilitation, any patient with weakened or tight muscles, and also patients with physical impairment are made to undergo gymnasium or exercises to improve their functional activities and regain normalcy,” an official said.

Some officials also said people were increasingly becoming health conscious and coming for consultation to “live it right”.

Meanwhile, the unit also received cases of frozen shoulder, muscle strain, ligament sprain and rotator cuff tendonitis.

Neurological disorder like sciatica, stroke, peripheral neuropathy, spinal cord injury, developmental delay in child and gait and respiratory problems were also recorded.

By Tshering Namgyal, Tsirang

Despite hike, still the lowest tariff by far in the region

As per a BEA comparative study with rates in bordering Indian states

Power: Although domestic power tariff has increased by 15-20 percent for different categories of consumers with the recent revision, it is still lower than the tariff in the neighbouring Indian states, according to officials of the Bhutan Electricity Authority (BEA).

BEA officials said a detailed study has been done to compare power tariff within the region.

For example, in the neighbouring Indian state of West Bengal, the lifeline block, meant for rural households, has a cap of 75 units, with a tariff of Rs 3.19 a unit.

In the bordering state of Assam, the lifeline block is capped at 30 units and the tariff is Rs 2.75 a unit.

In Bhutan, the lifeline block has a ceiling of 100 units at Nu 0.98 a unit, the new revised rate for 2013-14.  Besides, it is free for rural households, if consumption is under 100 units a month.

The cap for low voltage (LV) users in West Bengal is 350 units, with tariff averaging at Rs 5.69 a unit.  For the same category, the tariff is Rs 4.59 a unit in Assam.

In Bhutan, the revised rates for LV users consuming more than 300 units is Nu 2.45 a unit; for LV bulk users, it is Nu 2.56 a unit for 2013-14.

When it comes to medium voltage (MV) consumers, the tariff is Rs 6.97 a unit in West Bengal, and Rs 3.25 a unit in Assam.

In Bhutan, the energy charge in this category is now Nu 1.98 a unit for the current fiscal year, which will reach Nu 2.43 a unit in 2015-16.  MV users in Bhutan also pay a demand or power booking charge, which has not been considered when comparing the rates.

High voltage (HV) consumers or factories in West Bengal pay Rs 6.13 a unit, while in Assam it is Rs 4.18 a unit.  Bhutanese factories pay Nu 1.67 a unit, starting October this year, not counting the demand charge.  This reaches Nu 1.96 a unit in 2015-16.

BEA’s chief executive officer said tariff is determined purely by cost of supply.

According to the tariff revision proposal put in by the Bhutan Power corporation (BPC), cost of supply for the LV consumers is Nu 6.11 a unit.  For MV consumers, it is Nu 4.29 a unit, and Nu 2.40 a unit for HV consumers.

But BEA calculations put the cost of supply at a slightly lower figure.  According to BEA, the cost of supply is Nu 5.26 a unit for LV consumers, Nu 4.42 a unit for MV consumers and Nu 2.16 a unit for HV consumers.

But the tariff charged to low voltage and medium voltage consumers is much lower than the cost of supply, because of the subsidy provided by the government through the 15 percent of total generation it receives as royalty energy.

The tariff revision, a BPC official said, was mainly on account of inflation and cost of supply.

He however said that he could not comment on revised rates without going through the calculations BEA has done.  Officials of Druk Green Power corporation, the generating company, also said the same thing.

An official from BEA said BPC’s and DGPC’s calculations were higher because of the certain factors, like the higher projection of inflation.

A BPC official said that, if tariff is lower than the proposed rate, some planned activities might have to be cut, because some of the costs were to be met from the proposed tariff revision.

Meanwhile, according to a research conducted by an official from the economic affairs ministry, Bhutan not only has the lowest tariff in the SAARC region, but also the installation cost of the hydropower plant is lowest in the region.

The cost per megawatt (MW) for Chukha hydropower project, with a capacity of 336MW was found to be USD 0.13M.  In case of the 60MW Kurichu, the cost per MW was USD 1.7M and for Basochu I and II, it was USD 0.93M.

For the 1,020 MW Tala it is USD 0.74M a MW.

Considering the present total installed capacity of 1,480MW, the average cost a MW comes to is around 0.87M.

The research also says that, for hydropower projects in India the installed costs is generally found to average a little higher than USD 1M a MW for every 1,000MW.

In the United States, according to research findings of cost analysis specific to hydropower, installation costs ranged from USD 1.05M a MW to USD 7.65M a MW for larger hydropower projects, and between USD 1.30M to 8.0M a MW for smaller ones.

It is, however, mentioned that “the installation costs in MW terms pertaining to various electric plants varies from country to country due to various factors, such as the size (installed capacity) of the power plant, technologies, price of raw materials, regulations, financing, time of commissioning, socio-economic value, amongst others”.

Among the South Asian nations, Maldives has the highest electricity prices, since it uses diesel plants and has a low customer base.

By Tshering Dorji

Revised domestic power rates announced

Power: The cost of electricity for low voltage or household users will increase by almost 15 percent every year, over the next three year cycle until June 2016, according to the revised domestic power tariff announced yesterday, and is effective from October 1.

For the lifeline or block I (0-100 units) users, the rate has been revised from Nu 0.85 a unit (kilowatt-hour) to Nu 0.98 a unit for the first year.  This gradually increases to Nu 1.28 a unit by the third year in 2016.

For rural households, the first 100 units will be provided free, as pledged by the new government.  But rural households will be charged, like urban households, for every additional unit beyond 100 units.

“This is a smart way of providing free electricity to the rural households,” the minister for economic affairs, Norbu Wangchuk, said. “The cap ensures that free energy doesn’t get misused.”

 

For block II (100-300 units) consumers, which is where most urban households fall, the tariff has been revised to Nu 1.86 a unit from the existing Nu 1.62 a unit.  This gradually increases to Nu 2.45 a unit by the third year in 2016.

For block III (more than 300 units) consumers, such as sawmills and cottage industries, the new rate is Nu 2.46 a unit, up by 32 cheltrums in the first year.  By the third year (2015-16), it goes up to Nu 3.23 a unit.

For bulk LV consumers, such as RBA, RBP, institutions and big hotels, the rates are up by 42 cheltrums to Nu 2.56 a unit in the first year.  This goes up to Nu 3.68 a unit by 2015-16.  For this category, the increase is almost 20 percent every year.

For medium voltage (MV) consumers, the energy charge has been revised to Nu 1.98 a unit from 1.79 a unit for the first year.  It goes up to 2.43 a unit in the third year.  The demand or charges for booking in advance a certain quantity of power has been increased by Nu 40 to Nu 155 a kW of power a month.  This goes up to Nu 235 a kW a month by the third year.

For high voltage users, such as the steel and ferro silicon factories in Pasakha, the tariff has been revised from Nu 1.54 to Nu 1.67 a unit for the first year, and goes up to Nu 1.96 a unit by the third year.  Demand charges are up by Nu 105 to Nu 130 a kW a month in the first year.  This goes up to Nu 180 by the third year.

While there is no subsidy component in the tariff for high voltage users, which has been the case since the last revision cycle in 2010, the government is subsidising low voltage and medium voltage users with the 15 percent royalty energy it receives from Druk Green Power corporation.

An official from the ministry of economic affairs explained that the 15 percent royalty energy translates into 1,049M units of energy and, going by the new domestic generation rate, it amounts to about Nu 1.45B.  Of this, Nu 1.27B is allocated for low voltage consumers.  The remaining Nu 186M is provided to medium voltage consumers.

Going by the calculations of the Bhutan electricity authority (BEA), the cost of supply to rural households is Nu 5.26 a unit.  So, for 100 units of free electricity to rural households, the government will have to pay Nu 526 a household a month.

 

In its tariff revision proposal, the Bhutan Power corporation (BPC) had proposed the rate to be revised to Nu 1.0 a unit for block I users,  and thereon Nu 4.10 for all LV consumers using more than 100 units.

BPC also proposed a downward revision of energy charges, while increasing the demand charge for both MV and HV consumers.

For both MV and HV consumers, they proposed energy charges to be brought down to 1.20 a unit.  But the demand charge for the MV was proposed to be increased to Nu 856 a KW per month and Nu 441 for HV.

Its proposal to charge for the first 100 units, even if the consumption is less than 100 units, was also shot down.

DGPC, the generating company, had proposed to revise the domestic generation tariff from Nu 1.2 a unit to Nu 1.99 a unit, but the approved rate is Nu 1.39 a unit.

Economic affairs minister Norbu Wangchuk said that, earlier, the government did not inject the entire 15 percent royalty energy to subsidise rates. “This time the government decided to use the entire 15 percent royalty to subsidise all users that need it,” he said.

Royalty energy is also expected to increase after injecting 12 percent royalty from 126MW Dagachhu project, which is scheduled for commissioning in April 2014.

Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said, while deciding on the tariff “fairness, affordability and reasonability” to different segment of consumers was taken into account.

The tariff revision was made in line electricity Act, which authorises BEA to determine the rate in consideration to the proposal put in by BPC and DGPC.  The final proposal from the BEA is to be approved by the cabinet.

Correction: An earlier version of the article had incorrectly put the existing demand charge for high voltage users as Nu 115 kW a month instead of Nu 105 kW a month. 

By Tshering Dorji

Farmers harvest in haste in fear of Phailin

The tropical cyclone had caused extensive crop damages and power and communications outages in India 

Cyclone: News of tropical cyclone Phailin in India has had many farmers in the central and western parts of the country hard at work trying to harvest as much of their crops before the cyclone’s peripheral effects spread to the country.

What they had to leave unfinished in the fields left many farmers spending sleepless nights yesterday.

Farmers, who harvested their crops and usually left it dry on the sides of the fields, had to stack the crops to avoid any rain damages.

In India the Phailin had left some dead, damaged power lines, houses and uprooted trees. It had also caused large-scale power and communications outages, extensive crop damages and shut down road and rail links.

Sangay Lhamo from Drujeydingkha in Paro said many people in the locality had covered the paddy ricks with tarpaulin sheets.

“I prayed that the sun shine today,” she said. “I cannot accept the thought of my year’s hard work rotting while I stay at home, watching helplessly.”  Sangay Lhamo said rain at the time of harvest came at a heavy price.

“Harvested paddy crops rot if not dried properly,” she said. “But if sun shines after a day of rainfall, the damage is not much, as it is only the paddy stalk that is affected and not the yield.”

There were also farmers who did not harvest paddy and were worried about the rain.

“The weather should improve by today, or the farmers are doomed,” Tshewang, 46, from Khangku said.

In Punakha, farmers who finished harvesting, or those that are about to begin harvesting are worried the sudden change in weather would destroy their priced crop.

“My father and I had tirelessly harvested the crop and now the rain is damaging it,” a corporate employee, Nidup, who drove to Wangduephodrang yesterday to help his father save the crops, said.

In Trongsa, farmers took the chilly sky overcast as a sign to harvest their paddy, which they did and piled them covered with tarpaulin sheets.

“Everyone here is so worried a down pour any moment would damage our crops,” Dorji Wangdi from Bemji said.

Officials from meteorology division, however, said the country would have minimal peripheral effects of the cyclone and that damages of crops was unlikely.

Hydro-met services’ chief Singay Dorji said Phailin had its centre over northwest of Gopalpur, near latitude 19.50N and longitude 84.80E, at midnight of October 12.

But the latest observation yesterday, he said showed the system was slightly bending towards the north-northeast.

“Under this influence, the southwest and western parts of Bhutan may experience peripheral effects,” he said.

Light to moderate rainfall, he said was expected over southern and western parts of the country and the same effects would also bring isolated rainfall across rest of the country between yesterday noon and today morning.

Singay Dorji also said precipitation over high passes in western parts of the country like Jumolhari was expected to experience sleet or snow during the period.

Meteorology officials, however, said it might be prudent to issue an advisory to tour operators who might have tourists trekking along high passes.

Meanwhile, cyclone Phailin, is believed to be the second strongest after Super-cyclone of 1999. It struck the Odisha coast on October 12, followed in the wake of torrential rains and wind speeds of over 200km an hour.

By Tashi Dema

Two ministers ‘meet the people’ in a park

DSC_8957All ears: The two ministers listen to people at Changjiji

Changjiji: Carrying a plastic bag full of documents in her hand, Dorji Bidha, in her late 60s, approached the health minister seated under a gazebo at the Changjiji park in Thimphu.

Referring to the minister as lopon (sir), the woman from Dotey in Paro went on to explain about some issues she had with her land and sought help.  In between, the woman, slightly on a petite side, offered him doma.

After listening to her for 30 minutes, the health minister Tandin Wangchuk told her that he would look into the matter and communicate with the concerned gup for further details.

Dorji Bidha was one of the little less than hundred individuals, who showed up to meet the government, represented by health and economic affairs ministers, at the weekly “meet the people” program held on October 12.

Besides land issues, there were unemployment topic as always, citizenship identity card and housing problems that people brought along to the ministers.  But there were many other problems people presented.

Sangay Tenzin, 36, who has been working as an immigration messenger for nine years, said, while he was neither regularised nor kept on contract so far, lately he was given a contract form that doesn’t mention contract allowance for them.

“My salary was Nu 7,500, and our future seems dark without any pension or allowance,” he said.

Another woman, a mother of two, came requesting for a job at Punatsangchhu hydropower project.  She was asked to meet the prime minister.

A couple, who had come to seek citizenship identity card for the wife, was asked to put up an application to the prime minister’s office.

They were followed by some youth seeking employment, and two women, who got admission in Stanley college, Australia, coming to request for a bank statement of Nu 3M.

“We’ve produced the bank statement but, after October 10, we withdrew the amount as it was borrowed from our uncles,” one said.  But soon after, the authority asked them to resend the bank statement.

“We don’t need money but require a bank statement for some time,” one of the women said.

To this, economic affairs minister, Norbu Wangchuk, all smiles, said he would have if he had that much money.

“But I don’t,” he said.

Seven shop owners of Nobding, Wangduephodrang, who were issued court notice to dismantle their one-storied houses constructed on government land, also brought their issue to the ministers.

“As the place is likely to be developed into a town, we’re pleading to be allowed to stay until it’s done so,” one said.

Meanwhile, some had come in even bigger groups.

Comprising 21 non-formal education (NFE) teachers under Thimphu thromde, their list of requests included pay increment and daily allowance.

The NFEs are paid Nu 6,000 a month, and work two hours a day in the evening.

The health minister didn’t appear positive and said their pay increment was not reflected under pay-commission’s structure.

By Dawa Gyelmo

Picture story

Despite the rain yesterday, devotees thronged the National Memorial Chorten in Thimphu to offer prayers and receive blessings from Namkhai Nyingpo Rinpoche.

 

Sugaring the pill

The revised power tariff for the next three-year cycle that was announced yesterday should come as a relief for the end users.

While there is definitely an increase, it is not to the extent as proposed by the power generating and distributing companies to the Bhutan Electricity Authority (BEA) earlier this year.

When the revision proposal first came to light earlier this year, it indicated that electricity bills for urban consumers could triple from the existing rates.

Among industrialists, some said they would have to shut down because the increases, mainly in the demand or booking charges for power, were way over the top.

Since the tariff discussion emerged in the months leading to the second general election, it also became a campaign issue, with the contesting parties saying that they would never allow such a drastic increase.

Today, the final revised rates show that, for the urban household consumers, the rates would increase by a little under 45 percent over the next three years until June 2016.

For medium voltage users, the energy charge increases by 10 percent every year, while the demand charge or power booking charge increases by 34 percent annually.

For the large scale factories in the south, which consume 70 percent of all domestic requirement, the increase in the energy charge is the lowest, at an average of seven percent a year.  The demand charges increase by an average of 13 percent over the next three years. Since the last tariff revision cycle, there has been an emphasis on hiking the demand charges on industries, mainly to prevent hoarding of power so that other industries can also start up.

At the other extreme, rural households get 100 units of free power, as promised by the new government.

It appears that those in the middle, which are the urban consumers and institutional users are the ones to pay more.

While the numbers might appear that way at first sight, it is propped up through huge subsidies, mainly for household consumers and, to some extent, medium voltage users such as cottage industries.  The high voltage users do not get any subsidy.

This subsidy is possible with the 15 percent of total generation that must be given to the government as royalty charges by the generating company.  As it happens, lighting up a far-flung rural household is extremely expensive, because households are few and scattered and overall consumption is low.

On the other hand, most industries and factories are clustered together in one location, and they draw their own power from the common power substation built nearby.  Therefore, it is cheaper to give power to industries.  Yet some contend that, going by the volume of business and profits made, they should be obliged to pay more.

While the new tariff rates should generally go down well with the users, it is definitely not good news for DGPC and BPC, who have made their proposals based on actual cost of supply, future investment plans and rising operation and maintenance costs for greater efficiency that everyone demands.  How it might hamper them remains to be heard.

Picture story

Lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay attended the closing of the annual nine-day Durja Puja at the Durja mandir yesterday in Thimphu.

 

Senior citizen CSO to provide free legal service to needy

IMG_3992Service: The society will provide free legal service to the disadvantaged

The RSSC was launched on the occasion of the Royal Wedding anniversary

PBO: At around 10am yesterday, five elderly people were gathered at the Royal Society for Senior Citizens (RSSC) office in Thimphu.

At a glance it looked like it was meeting of old friends, but their discussions were centred round civil and criminal cases, courts, jabmis and lawyers.

Four of them were retired drangpons, who were initiating a free legal service under the umbrella of RSSC.  One was former economic affairs secretary, Dasho Karma Dorjee, who is now president of RSSC.

Retired drangpons Gagay Lham, Sithar Namgyel, Thinley Yoezer and Tshering Wangdi are providing their legal expertise every Tuesday and Friday from 9-5pm.

The service is to be rendered to the needy and economically disadvantaged people, who cannot afford to hire the service of jabmis or lawyers.

The RSSC president, Dasho Karma Dorjee, former secretary of economic affairs ministry, said there were many needy people, especially in the villages, who were not well informed about legal procedures, or bullied or tricked into going to courts when there was no case in hand.

“They can come here and consult or seek counseling,”Dasho Karma Dorjee said. “If it’s not advisable to go to court, they’ll be saving money, which will otherwise be spent unnecessarily.”

To hire a jabmi or lawyer costs anywhere between thousands to hundred thousand ngultrums over a period of time and depending on the type of case.  The charges are made on an hourly basis.

“Getting legal services, especially in land cases, was expensive, because land is valued highly,” Dasho Karma Dorjee said.

Retired drangpon Thinley Yoezer, vice-president of RSSC, said, having worked in the courts, they knew the issues confronting general public who come to court.  Unable to pay the fee for legal service, some people represent themselves in the court.

“They’re unaware of court procedures and don’t know how to submit petitions,” he said. “They’re also unaware of legal procedures and aren’t able to understand the crux of the case in consonance with legal provisions, or able to identify if there is a case.”

This, he said, leads to panicking, time wastage, or loss of money, or an outcome, which is not in their favour. “By coming to us, they can clear the first obstacle of knowing if there is a case, and whether they should go to court,” he said.

Adding to the conversation, retired drangpon Tshering Wangdi said, often people, who cannot read, were also forced or lured into signing genja (contract), which were not in their favour.  RSSC’s service, he said, could help people by making them aware of the contents of the contracts before they sign it.

The retired drangpons will begin work starting this Tuesday.  The service is not limited to those in Thimphu, although the office is located in building 22, below the trade ministry. “Anyone can come and fix an appointment through Monday to Friday during office hours,” said retired drangpon Tshering Wangdi.

The service’s launch commemorates the Royal Wedding anniversary.

Eighteen senior citizens, comprising retired civil servants and armed force personnel, founded the RSSC.

The organisation was formed after His Majesty, during an audience in January 2011, advised them to form such an organization, so they could be productively engaged and, in the process, contribute to the community.

The organization, registered as a public benefit organisation (PBO) with the civil society organisations authority (CSOA) was offered, as soelra, Nu 500,000 by His Majesty.

So far, Dasho Karma Dorjee said the organisation has organised health checkup for elderly people and participated in CSO meetings.  The RSSC has also carried out, with assistance from UNDP and the service of a private consultancy firm, a baseline survey of senior citizens.

By Kinley Wangmo

Denchukha Delight!

IMG_4613Horses carrying electric transmitters and cables to Denchukha earlier in March this year

In the twilight years of his life, this grateful village-elder cannot restrain his delight: “At this stage of my life, I never imagined that a road would run through my little hamlet and that there would be light to brighten our homes. I see them both in my own life-time. This may be what people call heaven”.

This is the common refrain throughout the remote villages of Denchukha, Dumtoe, Dorokha and Tading gewogs, especially among the older citizens who have known what it was like to trudge up slippery slopes, climb life-threatening rock-faces and wade across roaring rivers with knee-twisting loads on their back, finally arriving home dimly lit by precious kerosene lamp or short-lived wood-shaving.

Our Denchukha compatriots were getting rather impatient when, on the other side of Amochhu, they faced Dorokha all lit up two years ago.  Today, light meets light beyond the mighty river over which the construction of a near-400ft long permanent bailey suspension bridge was launched in 2012. Mobile communication facility links the gewog to the rest of the world today.

The opening of Gawaling Extended Classroom, now upgraded to Primary School, initiation of an ECR at Pungthra, elevation of Denchukha Primary School, provision of school meals have ensured universal enrollment in the gewog. NFE centres have been a boon to many who missed the bus when they were young. Substantial input through the agricultural, health, and construction sectors is bringing rapid improvement to the life of the people. Clean drinking water is at everybody’s doorstep.

The planned rural remote community development project under the auspices of the World Bank is expected to usher in visible improvement in the community including those in Dumtoe and Tading. Provision was also made to secure the spiritual life of the people through construction of religious facilities in all the four gewogs, some of which have already received their fair share.

Overall, there is a heightened sense of comfort and well-being across the gewog despite some persisting challenges emanating largely from ignorance or prejudice. Otherwise, Denchukha is richly endowed with tremendous potential not only to be self-sufficient in organic production, but to spare as well. The inter-gewog cultural festival that was organised in 2010 show-cased the rich cultural diversity of the gewog as did the citrus fruit fair in highlighting the value of mandarin gold.

Denchukha is on the move thanks to the many initiatives launched over the years and to those planned for the days to come. This time though, it was my turn to celebrate the joy of Denchukha Delight on the other side of Amochu this late Autumn eve as light-bulbs illumine the slopes and augment the bliss of this festive season. My heart leaps up with joy as my eyes feast on the delight beyond.

I am the village-elder now!

 

Contributed by  Thakur S Powdyel

Former Education minister