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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

A welcome reversal

porter-pony-servicesThere are about 200 mules and 1,500 yaks in Soe

Does the return of a few educated youth to Soe mark a new urban to rural migration?

Time out: Nim Tshering dropped out from Class X after he couldn’t qualify for a government school.  But what the porter learnt at school is coming in handy in the highlands of Soe in north Thimphu.

As an English speaking porter, Nim Tshering has a slight edge over other porters. “Being able to communicate in English with tourists has some advantages, but not monetarily,” he said. “Some tourists, who love to interact, ask if we can speak English, and that’s how a conversation begins.”

After completing Class X from a high school in Thimphu, Nim Tshering, 28, couldn’t continue. “Coming from a poor background, it wasn’t possible for me to continue schooling in a private school,” he said.

Since 2004, he has been transporting tourist luggage and trekking equipment.  Nim Tshering earns about Nu 40,000 a month and, during the off-season, he invests the amount in operating small-scale businesses.

Nim Tshering said he mostly operates on the Drugyel-Jhomolhari trail, taking around three trips a month.  When catering to tourists, Nim Tshering said they are gifted clothes, edible items and are tipped handsomely at times.

Although an arduous job, Nim Tshering has no regrets. “It feels good to be able to help our aging parents, when there are many unemployed graduates today,” said Nim Tshering, a father of one. “That way, we consider ourselves lucky to be able to stand on our own feet.”

Jhomolhari base camp at Jangothang

Nim Tshering is not alone.  A class VIII drop out porter, Sangay Dorji, 24, said he chose to return to his village, as income opportunities were better than in towns. “I came back in 2009, and have been catering to tourists since then,” he said.

Sangay Dorji said he understands English better than he can speak. “But we don’t interact much, as guides do all the talking,” he said.

Sangay Dorji is hardly home during the peak season, travelling to places like Laya and Dodena. “If we have more mules and yaks and make more trips, we can earn a substantial amount,” he said, adding he earns up to Nu 80,000 a month during peak seasons.

Today, these “educated” porters have become the pride of the community, where migration in search of better opportunities has become increasingly challenging.

“It’s good that they’ve come back to their community and are doing well,” said Soe gup, Kencho Dorje. “It’s difficult to see people come back, once they experience an urban lifestyle.”

Gup Kencho Dorje said in Soe, they see more tourists, over 500 at times, than government or local visitors. “With increasing tourists, we hope to provide better services to them.”

Services, such as farmhouse, and establishment of guesthouse at campsites with proper toilets and bathrooms are necessary to cater to tourists and further improve income of the nomads, said the gup.

At present, the two campsites at Thangtanka are managed by a caretaker from Paro, and the four households of Jangothang under Soe manage the Jangothang campsite, charging about Nu 100 to Nu 150 per night per tent pitched.

By Kinga Dema, Soe

A problem of plenty

IMG_4277Hard work: Farmers resort to making chugo to save milk

Where milk products supply outstrips demand, a dairy group takes recourse to … chugo

DMDG: After being unable to sell fresh milk, butter and cheese in the local market, the Domkhar Manthung diary group (DMDG) has started processing chugo or hardened cheese to increase the life of dairy products.

The increased production of fresh milk, butter and cheese in Trashigang area is now exceeding the demand from its target in Kanglung.

DMDG, with 42 members from Domkhar village, produces over 90-100 litres of milk everyday.  The group became operational from last month after it started in 2011.

But the group could sell only around 20 litres of milk a day and, to ensure the remaining milk didn’t turn sour, they tried processing cheese and butter, demand for which, however, remains slim. “Even the cheese was going to waste with fewer takers,” DMDG chairman, Langa Dorji said.

Three farmers’ groups, including Pam dairy cooperative and DMDG, market their dairy products in Kanglung.

Pam dairy cooperative alone produces over 260 litres of milk everyday, of which 80 litres are sold to Kanglung, because of limited demand of fresh milk in Trashigang town area.

Pam dairy cooperative sells only over 40 litres of fresh milk a day in Trashigang bazaar.  The cooperative also sells butter and cheese in Kanglung.

Another dairy group from Rongthung also sells fresh milk, along with cheese and butter in Kanglung.

With all dairy groups targeting the market in Kanglung, it has become challenging for DMDG to penetrate the market. “The group has trouble even selling off cheese and butter because of competition from other diary groups from Rongthung and Pam,” Kanglung livestock extension agent, Sangay Rinchen said.

Which is why chugo processing was taken up to diversify the dairy products and make their business viable, he said.

Assistant dzongkhag livestock officer, Kinga Dechen, said the farmers came to the dzongkhag asking them to stop dairy groups from Pam and Rongthung from selling milk, cheese and butter in Kanglung.

“That we couldn’t do and instead we came up with an idea to diversify fresh milk to other viable products non-existent in the east, chugo,” he said.

DMDG chairman, Langa Dorji, said he is hopeful that chugo processing would stimulate market opportunities. “People were also beginning to lose interest in the group, because of lack of market for the products,” he said.

The members are now relieved as they won’t have to see the milk, butter and cheese go to waste, he said.  DMDG is targeting the upcoming Younphu and Trashigang tshechus for its chugo market.

Kinga Dechen said marketing of fresh milk wouldn’t be a problem, once a milk-processing unit in Chenari goes operational.  The milk-processing unit would take up to 2,000 litres of fresh milk everyday.

By Tempa Wangdi

For want of a better classroom

IMG_9210A mixed bunch: Students of classes II and III of Dipujora school

An extended classroom awaits renovation

ECR: Teaching two classes in a room, at a time, is an inconvenience teachers at Dipujora, Samtse, like many of their colleagues in other parts of the country, put up with everyday.

But having to worry about the students that fill up the hut-like classroom that has, over the years, grown unsteady concerns them all the more.

The only extended classroom in the village, about half-an-hour drive from the gewog center of Norbugang schools 70 students.

Norbugang gup Kinga Wangdi said the foundation of the structure was being damaged everyday and the cement that held it, were coming off because of rain and water that seeped through walls.

“If this classroom falls apart, students here will not have a place to study,” he said.

Built in 2010, the classroom was constructed by the people of the community that comprises about 100 households.

Kinga Wangdi said after two years of its constructions, the bamboos, which were used arranged on the mud floor before giving it a cement coating grew damp, peeled of the cement coating and today exposed the bamboo and the mud beneath it.

The extended classroom was approved and built after it was found out children of the community had to walk an hour to either of the schools located at the gewog center or in Khandothang village.

In absence of a budget set aside for a new construction, he said villagers and the gewog authorities were left not knowing what to do next.

“We had to request education ministry for CGI sheets for the school and they did provide us some old CGI sheets from other schools,” he said. “We have used the CGI sheets to cover the foundation, so rain will be drained out instead of entering the cement.”

The gup said their only hope was to wait for the Gewog Development Grant, so a portion of grant could be used for the school.

The extended classroom was built with Nu 100,000, villagers volunteering to contribute in terms of labour.

The classroom accommodates students from class PP to class III. Students of classes II and III take their lessons together in the same classroom sharing same benches.

The school’s teacher in-charge, Dili Ram Biswa said they were trained to handle two classes together, what was called multi-grade teaching, in which teachers plan lessons, similar to two classes.

“Otherwise, we teach class II today and class III tomorrow,” he said.

Gup Kinga Wangdi said they had requested for an additional teacher, or to upgrade the extended classroom.

Dzongkhag education officials said the extended classroom could not be upgraded to primary level because the requirement was to have at least 100 students as per education guidelines.

“The only option would be to relocate this classrooms to another location,” he said. “May be we can adjust the budget to renovate the classroom with villagers taking over its management,” an education official said.

By Yangchen C Rinzin, Samtse