Friday, March 27th, 2015 - 7:54 AM
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Six black-necked cranes spotted in Tshokona

Tshokona-15-1Cranes, but not black-necked, below the area where the birds were spotted (Photo: NRDCL)

Wildlife: A Tshokona resident, Nado, woke up to a familiar sound yesterday morning. When he looked out of the window, he spotted six black-necked cranes below his house near the river (Punatsangchhu).

“At around 6:30am, my niece called me after hearing the sound made by the birds. “It’s been almost 15-20 years since we last spotted these cranes here,” said Nado. “Out of excitement, I called the neighbours and shared the news.”

At around 7am, forestry officials at Tshokona went to watch the cranes, on hearing their sound. “When we went down, they were already flying away,” forestry officials said.

The birds flew towards Bajo, and landed in the paddy fields of Lhamiluma after turning from Bajo. “We followed the birds, and found them feeding on grains in the harvested paddy fields,” said a forestry official.

At about 11:30am, the last bird flew from Lhamiluma crossing Wangdue bridge.

Nado said they used to spot at least 20 birds together, singing and dancing in and around the river in Tshokona around this time.  Black-necked cranes, according to Nado, were known as “Lhabja,” back then. “It isn’t just a bird but a sign of good luck coming into the community,” he said.

A Lhamiluma villager said the paddy fields between Tshokona and Lhamiluma used to be a feeding ground for the birds. “They probably stopped coming because their habitat is disturbed,” she said. “There’s a lot of activity after the Tshokona sand quarry was opened,” she said.

Another resident said the birds used to flock between Tshokona and the present day Bajothang township area. “They’ve lost their feeding grounds to urbanisation,” he said. “We have trucks rumbling down to the river side as early as 5am and the road passes through the paddy fields.”

By Dawa Gyelmo 


First Bhutanese woman to compete in world fitness championship

DSC_0090In shape: Yeatoeh gearing up for the competition

Fitness: Not long ago, Yeatoeh Lhamo Penjore and her mother hit the gym to “shed some weight”.  Soon, both of them became passionate about fitness.

Yesterday, at Planet Gym, Yeatoeh walked to a slow music, stretched her arms and flexed her biceps.  She posed to reveal her six packs and, as the posing session ended, those working out in the gym paused to applaud her.  Yeatoeh had been practising this move for months.

On November 17, a year and a half after her first visit to Planet Gym, the 22-year-old Thimphu Primary School teacher, will represent Bhutan in the World Bodybuilding and Physique sports Championship to be held in Hungary.

“I’m proud to represent the country for the first time, but am a little nervous at the same time,” she said.  Measuring 171cm tall, Yeatoeh said she was never into sports before, despite being born into a family, whose passion for sports is profound.  It was only after she started working. “Today, I find confidence in my own body,” said Yeatoeh, adding that fitness is all about living a healthy life.

Every bodybuilder at the gym, Yeatoeh said, was encouraging.  But none of these men have an experience of fitness competitions, because all of them were into bodybuilding, where mass and muscles matter.

Yeatoeh’s mother said her daughter had to even undergo training in Bangkok, from where she gained more confidence. “Although the fitness journey has been very hard, I’m so lucky to have a very supportive family,” said Yeatoeh, eldest of three siblings.  Her mother added that the whole family comes to the gym regularly to work out. “We have a good time in the gym,” she said.

Her trainer, Sonam Dendup said Yeatoeh has a perfect body and can do 60kg leg press, 40kg bench press and 20kg on her arms with ease.

The president of the Bhutan bodybuilding federation, Sonam Tobgye Dorji, said bodybuilding was considered to be a “man’s domain” so far. “Now things have changed,” he said, adding that it was a good beginning for Bhutanese athletes.

By Tshering Dorji

What the by-election means for the parties

Analysis: With the first ever by-election to the National Assembly due in three days in Nanong- Shumar, Pemagatshel, two candidates contesting for the seat are making the best of the campaign, which closes tomorrow morning.

But equally enthusiastic about the election are the parties the two candidates are representing, Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

While PDP is pitching Pema Wangchuk, a familiar face having this year alone contested in three parliamentary elections, DPT has a young businesswoman, Dechen Zangmo.

It is understandable for the two candidates to go all out to secure a seat in the Parliament but what many beyond the constituency are wondering is why the two parties are trying so hard.

To assist the two candidates in the campaign process, the parties have deployed, whom some call their top men, in the field.

The ruling party has its two ministers, Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk and Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji helping shore up winning votes for their candidate, while it was Khar-Yurung member Zangley Dukpa and Kengkhar-Weringla’s Rinzin Jamtsho from the opposition lending a hand to their candidate.

With election commission’s approval and in keeping with the law, the said assembly members are out in the field in the capacity of party president and vice president.

Many are of the understanding that a win for either candidate is not going to make any difference to the role of the parties they represent in the Parliament.

With more than 30 seats in the National Assembly, PDP will continue being the government even if its candidate loses.

Some also said the election was just for the constituency that is deprived of an assembly representative following resignation of their former elected member Jigmi Y Thinley, the former prime minister and DPT president, in August.

But why are the two parties trying so hard for the Nanong-Shumar seat?

“We feel it’s important for the government to have a party representative in Pemagatshel,” Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said, adding PDP had at least one representative from all dzongkhags except Pemagatshel and Thimphu.

He said the need to have a presence of the ruling in the constituency was also felt considering the development stage of Pemagatshel.

“It needs to be developed and having a representative would make a difference,” he said.

While he assured the dzongkhag would receive same level of attention even otherwise, he said the need to win the by-election was driven more by the fear of disconnection between people of Pemagatshel and the government.

“It’s important for people to have confidence in the government,” he said, adding PDP candidate managing to secure a win could foster that.

For now, Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said in Pemagatshel, people were habituated to voting for DPT and the effort was being made to break that.

For DPT, which won all three constituencies in the recent general elections, attempt is being made to “maintain the stronghold”.

Opposition member Zangley Dukpa said Pemagatshel proved to be a DPT stronghold in two parliamentary elections so far, but since a seat was vacated following former prime minister’s resignation, it was important for the party to maintain that.

“This election is also important because there is this prevailing perception among people that opposition doesn’t have much role in development of a dzongkhag,” he said.

People were told, he said that there was a difference of “sky and earth” between ruling and opposition.

Through this election, he said they got to clarify roles of the government and the opposition.

“Respecting people’s choice, we are happy to work as opposition and perform our roles,” he said. “For that, we have 14 but one more would fulfill one third of the total.”

Efforts, party members said, was also to have a woman member in the opposition, which would help add to poor women representations in the Parliament.

However, observers keeping abreast of the election said some of the unspoken reasons for the opposition party in wanting to win the elections could be emotional aspects like treasuring the constituency of the party leader.

It was also about responding to the sentiments of ardent supporters that emerged in the constituency, which took pride in delivering the first prime minister of the new system of governance.

However, for PDP, winning from one of the constituencies in Pemagatshel would mean perforating some of the last of DPT bastion, thus clearing its way for future elections.

The Nanong-Shumar voters go to the polls on November 9.

By Kesang Dema

Dungsam to earn Rs 6B annually

IMG_0820The Dungsam cement plant

The electricity, the plant will consume, will push the country to import a significant amount of energy  

Cement: Dungsam cement plant, which in a month’s time will begin selling its produce in India and within the country, its officials reckon, will earn the country a gross revenue of Rs 6B annually.

The plant started producing cement last month and to begin exporting the produce to India and sell in the domestic market, the project today is awaiting license from the Indian Standards Bureau, which project officials expect will happen next month.

Of the total produce, plant officials estimate that 85 percent would be sold to India and the remaining 15 percent in the domestic market.

Dungsam cement managing director Dorji Norbu said the ratio would, however, depend on the market demand.

“If the demand is higher in India, the plant will sell more to India,” he said.

The projected gross revenue, plant officials said was based on assumption that the product would be sold at an ex-factory rate of Rs 4,400 a metric tonne.

Ex-factory rate is the price charged at the factory site and does not include any other price changes like inflation or taxation.

Based on the market study, Dorji Norbu said Rs 4,400 was the expected price at which the project will be able to sell today.

The plant has a capacity to produce 1.36M metric tonnes a year.

On a daily basis, the plant will earn Rs 1.8M a day. However, the project will also be required to use certain amount of its earnings to pay loans it took from local banks and Indian financial institutions. While the project was built at a total cost of Nu 10.8B, its loan component is Nu 7.7B, the remaining Rs 3B came as grants from India.

It borrowed Nu 2.1B from local banks, Nu 2B from Indian commercial banks at 10 percent interest rate and Nu 3.6B was sourced from the subsidiary company of Druk Holding and Investments.

Dorji Norbu said they had yet to study how much annual repayment the plant would be making.

“This is a mandatory exercise for the project and once the project becomes fully commissioned, the management will be carrying out the exercise on a quarterly basis,” he said. “We had done a few studies in the past but the figures are highly subject to change because the market remained highly volatile.”

He said the figures which was calculated a month ago did not apply anymore the following month.

The plant will also be floating an initial public offer. Officials of its parent company, DHI said no study was done so far on Dungsam’s IPO float.

The plant may also use the money it raises from IPO float to finance some portion of the debt amount.

It is not known whether the shares will be sold at a premium or at a face value.

Once fully commercial,   Dungsam will create around 2,000 jobs and earn Indian Rupees.

But on the other hand, the plant will consume 26MW of electricity at all time. That capacity of power has the potential to light 26M bulbs of 100 watt each.

This means, this winter, Bhutan’s import of electricity will increase significantly putting the country into a net energy importer for the first time.

By Nidup Gyeltshen 

100-day pledges progress

PDP: The cabinet deliberated at length yesterday on the People’s Democratic party’s pledges for the first 100 days in office that completes today.

It will formally declare its achievements on Friday.

Of the 34 pledges it made during the election campaign, the prime minister declared 11 as fulfilled, including one partially fulfilled, during a meet the press forum on October 28.

Since then a few more pledges were fulfilled, as ministries launched their programmes.

The ministry for information and communication launched designated seats in city buses for the elderly, pregnant women and disabled people in Thimphu, and 30 percent discount in fares for students, while labour ministry revised the national minimum wage.

Ministry of labour and human resources officials on November 4 presented their proposal on the youth employment policy, which was endorsed and now only needs the cabinet approval.

It had also submitted proposals on building homes for the elderly near monasteries and allowances for senior citizens.

“We’re doing further studies on these issues, which, in principle, have been approved by the cabinet,” labour secretary, Pema Wangda, said.

The government initiated meet the people program, tabled the right to information bill, cancelled pedestrian day, initiated Nu 2M annual grant to every gewog, cut down on the government’s wasteful expenses, and provided free electricity to rural homes, some of the pledges it claimed as accomplished.

Exemption of taxes for small and rural businesses has been fulfilled, but waits endorsement in the next parliament session.

The rest were reflected as work in progress.  The lone pledge of doing away with the preliminary exams of civil service could not be fulfilled.

Cabinet secretariat officials said the government would finalise the details to share with the media towards the end of this week.

By Tshering Palden

GNH taking root in Japan

IMG_0401JICA vice president Toshiyuki Kuroyanag with Nancy Strickland

The JICA vice-president says the Bhutanese development philosophy has struck a chord in his country

JOCV: The prime minister, Tshering Tobgay, during his first foreign visit to India last August, took pears as one of the gifts to Indian prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh.

These pears, according to the vice president of Japan international cooperation agency (JICA), Toshiyuki Kuroyanagi, were grown with support from Japan’s farm mechanisation project for horticulture research and development in Wengkhar, Mongar.

“It is our pleasure and pride to know that the pears were among the gifts,” he said.

Toshiyuki Kuroyanagi, who is in the country for the 25th anniversary of Japanese overseas cooperation volunteers (JOCV) in Bhutan, said bilateral relationship between Bhutan and Japan in the past was mainly technical transfer from Japan. “Now it’s more of mutual cooperation and collaboration between the two countries,” he said.

The vice president also said JICA would align its support to Bhutan in line with government’s priorities of 11th plan.

Projects on horticulture research and development, assistance for underprivileged farmers, strengthening farm mechanisation and rural electrification, Toshiyuki Kuroyanagi said, would address poverty on a multidimensional basis and narrow inequalities in income.

For economic development, projects of community entrepreneur capacity and rural enterprise development, he said, would help to generate employment and income to small and cottage industries.

“The government’s proposal to replace ambulances is under consideration,” he said. “JICA will continue to send volunteers for midwife, intensive care unit nurse and other specialised nurses.”

Toshiyuki Kuroyanagi said, following the historic visit of His Majesty and Gyaltsuen to Japan in 2011, there has been tremendous growth of interest in gross national happiness philosophy among politicians, universities, non-governmental organisations, research organisations and JICA.

Calling it a GNH movement in Japan, the vice president said, 13 governors of Japan established a network called Hometown’s Governor Network to change Japan through self-sufficiency and decentralisation.

“Following the example of GNH, the 13 governors adopted local hope index at Fukui prefecture meeting last year,” he said.

The Fukui prefecture, according to the vice president, is ranked the number one happiest prefecture by a study done by Hosei University in Japan.

“Bhutan Museum was opened to inform the Japanese people about Bhutan’s history and culture in the prefecture,” he said.

Toshiyuki Kuroyanagi also said a premier academic institution, called Japan Society for GNH Studies, was established in 2011, with the objective to research Bhutan’s practical approach to socio-economic development according to GNH, and promote GNH philosophy in communities, local governments and central government in Japan.

“GNH has become a major topic for research at the cabinet office of Japan and economic and social research institute,” he said.

The vice president said about 10 universities agreed to have academic exchanges with Bhutanese universities and colleges. “Discussions are going on for other universities and colleges.”

Toshiyuki Kuroyanagi said, while JICA would continue to assist Bhutan and maintain the same level of grant aid and technical cooperation, JICA’s cooperation would contribute further social and economic development in Bhutan based on GNH philosophy concept, and foster the strong friendship between the two countries.

By Tashi Dema


National broadband master plan implementation almost complete

Delay due to ongoing rural electrification scheme to which fibre optic network is tied

DITT: Almost 90 percent of the national broadband master plan implementation project, which includes connecting all dzongkhags and gewogs with a fibre optic network, has been completed, according to the department of information technology and telecommunications (DITT).

“About 88 percent of the national broadband master plan implementation project scope has been completed,” said DITT infrastructure head, Karma Wangdi.

Optical fibre cables, which allow high speed and large amounts of data transfer, currently connect all 20 dzongkhags and 174 gewogs.  There are 205 gewogs in Bhutan.

“As per contract agreement, the project was to be completed by October 2013, however, as the fibres are strung on electricity infrastructure and, since the rural electrification project is still ongoing in a number of gewogs, there has been inevitable delay,” said Karma Wangdi.

The broadband master plan project is expected to be completed three months after the rural electrification project is completed.

While work to connect the remaining gewogs with fibre optical cables is still ongoing, telecommunications companies, Bhutan Telecom and Tashi InfoComm, are already using the network to provide mobile and fixed line services, and internet.

“Bhutan Telecom has shifted services from their microwave technology,” according to Karma Wangdi.  He added that the optical fibre network was also “instrumental” in Tashi InfoComm extending their services nationwide.

“Customers are benefiting from better reliability and I’d like to believe some price reduction, especially rates for connectivity within the country, has dropped a lot,” he said on how end users may be benefiting. The fibre optic network was switched on in December 2011.

Karma Wangdi also pointed out that the government is receiving a “huge cost saving” on internet charges for the community centre.  So far, 151 community centres have been connected with optical fibre cables and, of those, 131 are connected to the internet.

“The fibre optic infrastructure that we have, and are putting in place, is an investment for 20-30 years into the future,” said Karma Wangdi. “We’ll be able to reap more and more benefits from it with every passing year, as the use of ICT becomes more entrenched, and demand for data and ICT services grows in the country.”

By Gyalsten K Dorji

One seat much to vie for

A by-election, it is believed, can be worth campaigning for if the ruling party had a small majority.

For the minority party, to gain one more seat becomes crucial if it helped in balancing power at the Parliament.

Apparently neither seems to be the case with regards the by-election in the offing for Nanong-Shumar constituency in Pemagatshel.

Yet, not only candidates of Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP), but senior members of the party are bestirring harder than the candidates themselves, to win that seat.

This has many wondering why the pull of the lone seat.

Logically, the ruling government, the PDP already enjoys the majority occupying 32 of the 47 seats in the assembly against the opposition’s 14.

Winning a lone constituency seat does not really have all that much bearing for either of the parties.

But why the adamence?

It seems more like, how in schools, teachers try to inculcate the value of one among confused students and present this one in a million case of it earning them the pass mark.

It is not that they have poor representation in the east that the ruling government has to strive so hard to plant another of its presence there.

In fact PDP has five representatives holding ministerial positions, including the speaker and several Parliament members.

But what is true about the constituency is that during the parliamentary elections so far, it was candidates representing DPT that trounced those of the ruling party.

While both party candidates and those helping them in the campaign use various strategies to lure voters to their side, it is up to the voters eventually to decide whom they vote in.

While the tussle between the two political parties might seem fierce some times, both parties actually mean good for the constituency, its people, the dzongkhag and the country.

What they seek from the voters is a chance to show just how much they feel for the communities that brought them up, which they intend to do by fulfilling the promises they make the people based on their needs.

To get people to repose that trust in the candidates, or one party over the other is not easy.

What our political parties must understand and bear in mind is that the country cannot afford the division they seem to have created between themselves.

Give people the choice and to win their trust, trust they will choose wisely.

Pilot caponisation project underway in ‘chicken capital’

capon1At work: 10 young roosters castrated

The scheme involves castrating roosters to improve quality of flesh for food

Poultry: As a part of a research-based programme, 10 cockerels (young roosters) of a poultry farm in Tsirang were caponised by a team of veterinary doctors from Tsirang and Wangduephodrang, yesterday.

Caponisation is the process of turning a cockerel (young rooster) into a capon through castration to improve its quality of flesh for food.  It is either done by surgically removing the testes or using estrogen implants.

Perhaps the first of its kind in the country, veterinary doctors said the programme was initiated on a trail basis to conduct a comparative study between capons and ordinary cockerels in the farm.

Veterinary doctors said all cockerels were weighed and the weight recorded before the surgery. “They’ll be under observation for about three months,” said Tsirang district hospital’s vet, Dr Pema Wangchuk. “If successful, we’ll be conducting the programme in other poultry farms as well.”

A capon’s meat is said to be moist, tender and flavourable, compared to that of a broiler, and gained weight much faster, said livestock officials.

Located at Changchey Doban, there are about 500 broilers and over 500 layers in the poultry farm where the caponisation was carried out.

The farm owner, Neykorm, 56, said she has been facing issues in marketing poultry products.  The increase in the price of feed was another issue. “We’ve been told that capons could fetch a better price, so we expect a good business,” she said.

Known as the country’s poultry capital, Tsirang has 190 poultry farms and two cooperatives, a layer and a broiler cooperative group.

Tsirang’s district livestock officer, Dorji Wangchuk, said, as Dunglagang broilers’ cooperatives are able to sell about 850 to 900kg of chicken in a week through their sales outlet at Damphu town and Bajo town in Wangdue, the market shouldn’t be a problem.

However, he said, non-member farms could face some difficulties. “We keep encouraging poultry farms to join cooperatives to have access to a better market,” he said.

Dorji Wangchuk said the sales outlets were supplied a deep freezer, defeathering machine and cool box, with support from the government. “A processing plant has also arrived recently, which will be set up soon,” he said.

By Tshering Namgyal, Tsirang

Minister hears out engineers’ grievances

minister-Dorji-Choden-with-copyAll ears: works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden listens to engineers

Mostly to do with double standards w.r.to further studies 

Tour: Many junior engineers in Mongar, who possessed diploma certificates, said there was no uniform application of law when it came to them wanting to upgrade by pursuing degree courses.

In raising the issue to the works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden on November 4, they said, while some got opportunity to study degree course without spending a penny, others were asked to resign from service to be able to go to college.

The minister is on an eastern tour in her capacity as the works and human settlement minister after the second parliamentary elections.  She met with dzongkhag engineering staff and sector heads of Mongar at dzongkhag tshogdu hall.

Junior engineer, Kinley Penjor, said diploma holders from the college of natural resources receive opportunity to study degree with a monthly stipend, but engineers wanting to study degree in the college of science and technology in Rinchending were asked to self-finance, that too after resigning from service.

“If government could look into the matter, it would really benefit us,” he said. “Even if we don’t get stipend, it would really help if the government could consider tuition fees.”

Another junior engineer said they have friends, who resigned from service and joined college as self-funding students, while diploma holders from other colleges in the country were pursuing government-sponsored degrees.

“Because of such a practice in the country, many engineers with diploma certificate couldn’t afford to continue their education,” he said.

In response, minister Dorji Choden said such rules should not prevail, since all colleges are under one university, Royal University of Bhutan.

She said she has no idea of such practices and, if true, something should be done.

As civil servants, she said, there should be same rule governed by the Bhutan civil service rules and regulations.

There are around 21 engineers in Mongar.

Minister talked about roles and responsibilities of engineers as nation builders and stressed on importance of ensuring quality while building infrastructure.

By Dechen Tshering, Mongar