Thursday, 31 July 2008

Bhutan : New Paro campsite for Dantak

31 July, 2008 - The Dantak Camp in Paro-Bondey will be shifted to a new location after years of looking for a new site. The present location of the camp will come under Bondey town planning for further expansion. The new location of Dantak is a discreet and pleasant location close to the present site but further off the main road behind Pegyel hotel. The camp, although doing a credible job of road building and maintenance, was an eyesore due to its shabby temporary structures, giving it the look of an overnight imported town.

The structures contrasted with the traditional houses and were an aesthetic problem, especially with it greeting most foreign visitors to Bhutan.

The present location also caused inconvenience to dantak staff with the camp being sliced by the Paro-Thimpu highway running through it with busy traffic.

However, the current location was the third one after earlier choices since 2003 of lands near the Shaba gup’s office and in Nemjo above Shaba school. The first was found to be too close to the river and the second too far from the main road. Officials had hoped that Nemjo would be the new Dantak location because its roads could develop an ideal place but the current final prime location was chosen in the end.

Already office and residence structures have come up in the new location with a blacktopped road leading to the new campsite. Dantak was supposed to vacate the current site by March 2008 but there have been some delays.

Sources say that Dantak had asked for 3 acres of campsite but the current site is smaller due to its well-placed location but limited size.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Bhutan : Session ends, era starts

30 July, 2008 - With the blessings of the guardian deities, the enlightened guidance of the Druk Gyalpo, and the good fortune of the people, Bhutan continues to thrive through the ages, according to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Tshogpon Jigmi Tshultrim. The first session of parliament in the Democratic Constitutional Monarchy system of government, from May 8 to July 29, took some important steps through Bhutanese history.

After the draft was debated, between May 9 and 29, the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan was signed on July 18, an auspicious day identified by the astrologers. In the weeks that followed the parliament passed six bills: the National Council Act, National Assembly Act, Election Act, Election Fund Act, Parliamentary Entitlements Act, and the National Referendum Act.

In addition, the parliament passed the 2008-09 national budget, the agreements for the SAARC Food Bank and the South Asia University. The government was instructed to review the rules on the sale of meat and the ban on the sale of tobacco and plastics to ensure that they were being enforced.

At the closing session of the parliament, attended by His Majesty the King, Tshogpon Jigmi Tshultrim said that, having been given the sacred responsibility of an historic transition, failure was not an option for the parliamentarians. He said that the parliament pledged to achieve the goals mandated by the vision of Gross National Happiness.

In the concluding moment of the session yesterday, the members of parliament gathered around the Golden Throne in a prayer for the continued stability and sovereignty of the kingdom, the health and long life of His Majesty the King, and the happiness of the Bhutanese people.

His Majesty the King hosted a lunch, with games and entertainment, for the parliamentarians to celebrate the conclusion of the historic session and the beginning of a new political era.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Bhutan : Passion fruit from Trongsa hits Thimphu market

July 28: The Agriculture Marketing Unit is helping farmers from remote villages of Jangbe, Phom Zur and Wamling under Langthel geog in Trongsa market passion fruit. The Agriculture Marketing Unit provided free transportation all the way from their village to the weekend vegetable market in Thimphu.

Jangbe, Phom Zur and Wamling villages are remote villages under Langthel geog in Trongsa. Villagers from these villages have to walk at least a day to get to the nearest road point. And of late, farmers from these villages have marketed around five hundred kilograms of passion fruit to Thimphu with assistance from the Agriculture Marketing Unit. The fruit were transported free of charge.

According to the District Agriculture Officer Ngawang Chogyal, the fruit grows well in the villages but farmers could not take it to the market in the past. He said the main purpose of helping the farmers to market the fruit is to increase the income of the farmers.

Ngawang Chogyal said through this programme they will also look at possibilities of marketing the fruits at the weekend vegetable market in Thimphu.

According to the Gewog Agriculture Extension officer Lugdra Wangdi, around 2,000 saplings of passion fruit were supplied to the farmers in 2005 and 2006. He said although the produce was high, the farmers faced difficulties in marketing.

Lugdra Wangdi said if there is good market for the fruit, they will supply more saplings to the farmers.

Meanwhile the farmers said that the initiative to provide free transportation from the Agriculture Ministry has helped them. They said in the past, they would have to carry all the way on horseback and the income would be hardly enough for the transportation charges.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Bhutan : Govt’s own 100-day review

26 July, 2008 - On completing 100 days in office, the DPT government held a press conference at the prime minister’s office on July 24 where the ministers shared the most important achievements, policies and plans in the various sectors.

Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley said that, in the100 days, the achievements were not in terms of material productivity but in the policies to create the environment and facilitate the development process. “We’ve done a lot in that stage and we will continue,” he said.

Of the 100 days, the government spent only 44 days in office, according to the PM, who added that the number got reduced because of the half-day National Assembly sessions and public holidays.

The ten ministers informed the media on the five to six most important achievements in their ministries and the challenges facing them. They also briefed the media on future policies and development plans for different sectors.

Spending about 56 days at the NA session, the government also enacted seven bills, including the Constitution.

A grievance cell at the Lyonchhen’s office received 243 complaints, of which 99 got assistance while the rest are being considered by the concerned authorities and agencies, according to the prime minister. “On matters of kidu, they have been forwarded to the office of Dasho Zimpoen.”

Among various other issues discussed, the government assured that the goal of self reliance would be largely fulfilled by the year 2020, so that Bhutan is not always and perpetually aid-donor-dependent. “One major strategy is to realize the 10,000 MW target by 2020, beyond that we will continue to develop other power plants,” he said.

He also said that the government is committed to promote Bhutan through creating the right laws, policies and plans. “Bhutan will develop into a high quality service centre,” he said.

The prime minister said that the government is not going to measure in terms of how strong a party they have become but in terms how democracy has flourished in the country.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Bhutan : And the matches go on

Some 900 archers from around the country will be aiming for the bull’s eye in this season’s most awaited and popular archery tournament in the country, the Yangphel Open, which began on July 19 in Thimphu and Paro.

The opening match was played between Team Centenary, Dorjee Phalam and Chuuk Samtsi Rang in Thimphu.

The Paro opener featured Vajra, Bernag and Tse Way Charo. The July 20 match in Paro involving the team Hungyel, was one for the record books. Hungyel made a team record score of 43 kareys. The team’s ace marksman, Gem Tshering, made a powerful personal statement by making a record of his own, 14 kareys in 15 rounds. This stands as the highest individual tally so far.

More remarkably, Gem Tshering’s 14 kareys included five dobjis, three of them coming in consecutive rounds. He thus achieved the first Baa-kor dobji of the tournament. Also, four of his kareys were spot on the bull’s eye.

The afternoon match on July 22 in Paro was another treat for archery enthusiasts as team Hungoen Nga equalled Hungyel’s team record of 43 kareys. However, Gem Tshering still retains the highest number of kareys and Wangdi of Hungoen Nga follows in close second place with 13 kareys and five dobjis, one karey hitting the bull’s eye.

On July 23, yet another team played well in Paro. The NTT Construction team hit 40 kareys. Archery fans in Thimphu had to wait until yesterday to see a team play well. Finally, it was a relief for them to see Tob Dhen Dhey score 40 kareys in the morning match played in Thimphu.

This year 150 teams from around the country have registered for the tournament, which is yet another record. Last year there were 112 teams participating. “To think that the tournament started in 1997 with just 23 teams,” said Tshewang Rinchen, the secretary general of Yangphel Archery.

Due to the increasing number of teams registering for the competition the registration fee for each team was raised from Nu 6,000 to Nu 8,000 this year. That’s a whopping Nu 1.2 million in total.

With construction work going on in Changlimithang, this year’s edition of the tournament is being played at the RBP ground in Thimphu and the town range in Paro Each day, four matches are played, two in Thimphu and two in Paro. As of today, 24 matches have been completed involving 72 teams. Every team shoots for 15 rounds in the league stage.

“The management of Yangphel has always seen this tournament as a gift for the people,” said Tshewang Rinchen, adding that the tournament was organised in order to promote the national game. The prizes for the different categories of winning are very attractive, the most alluring being a Hyundai Santro car which the best archer will drive away.
As of today, the leading teams are Hungyel and Hungoen Nga and the rest of the teams are average, according to Tshewang Rinchen.

Yesterday, Norbu Silee, Soo-Naam and Tob Dhen Dhey played in the morning match in Thimphu and Thunder Bowl, Ga Wai- Charo and Tiger Stone played the morning match in Paro. The afternoon match was played between EuDruk Ngoenmo, AA-Roo and Jurwa in Thimphu and Sangay Arts & Crafts, Yoez Graphics and Amankora in Paro.

Today, Drukpa Kinley, Merig Puendru and THPA face off each other in Thimphu in the morning while Trowa, BTCL and Laya Tours & Treks slug it out in Paro. The afternoon match will be played by Dhomsap, Wangkha Bulls and Tshering Chenga in Thimphu and Galing A, Dragon Roots and KTY friends in Paro.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Bhutan : His Majesty grants audience to Lt. General Deepak Raj of Indian Army

July 24: His Majesty the King granted an audience to the Lieutenant General Deepak Raj, General Officer Commanding 33 Corps of the Indian Army at the Tashichhodzong yesterday.

Lieutenant General Deepak Raj is in the kingdom on a five day visit. He arrived on Tuesday.

Lieutenant General Deepak Raj was commissioned into the Indian Army in June 1971.

He has held various important command, staff and instructional appointments throughout his career. This includes the post of the General-Officer-Commanding of Bengal Area.

Lieutenant General Deepak Raj is the recipient of the Sena Medal.

Lieutenant General Deepak Raj also called on the Chief Operations Officer of the Royal Bhutan Army Major General Batoo Tshering at the Tashichhodzong yesterday morning.

Bhutan : Detour to allow widening work

24 July, 2008 - Traffic on the Thimphu-Phuentsholing highway is taking the Pasakha-Manitar route to allow faster progress of widening work at Kamji, 10 km from Phuentsholing.

According to a GREF official, widening work was progressing at a snail’s pace as work had to be halted from time to time to let vehicles pass by.

He also added that the Jumja area was not safe for travellers, as continuous rainfall has made the soil extremely unstable causing unpredictable landslides.

“Without any disturbance in work, widening the road to 10 metres could be finished by September,” he said.

The Pasakha-Manitar road, which connects to Gedu, is 55 km, 10 km more than Phuentsholing-Gedu highway.

However, travellers say that the Pasakha-Manitar road is no better.

At Bhalujora, a landslide prone area near Pasakha, many light vehicles have ended up stranded. The continuous rainfall had increased the level of the stream and some vehicles get trapped in the slush and debris.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Bhutan : The Coronation Celebrations to be held on November 6, 7, 8

23 July 2008 - His Majesty the Druk Gyalpo will don the Raven Crown and formally assume the embodiment of the Supreme Protector.

In Buddhist history, the King was called the Protector Of The People, The Great Elected One, The Upholder Of The Law. In contemporary Bhutan, His Majesty will be the protector of the nation’s security, the guardian of the Constitution, and the inspiration for Gross National Happiness.

His Majesty will receive the sacred dhar of empowerment from the machhen of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in the inner sanctum of the Punakha Dzong at an auspicious date.

The nation will celebrate the enthronement in Thimphu on November 6, the eighth day of the ninth month of the earth male rat year, when the people will have the opportunity to offer the tashi khaddar to the Druk Gyalpo.

This will be followed by another two days of celebrations at the Changlimithang stadium. On November 7 there will be diverse entertainment programmes from every corner of the kingdom. On November 8 it will be a programme of games and entertainment including spectators.

The prime minister, Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley, announced that three enlightened astrologers had studied the stars to select the most auspicious dates and His Majesty the King had granted his approval. This was announced yesterday at Tashichhodzong amidst a special gathering that represented all sections of Bhutanese society.

The transition, according to the prime minister, symbolised the continuity of enlightened guidance from the Golden Throne. “We, the Bhutanese, are indeed a truly blessed people,” he said. “We look forward to the celebrations of the Coronation, an event that will ensure the continued unity, harmony, and peace in our kingdom, usher in a new era that will further enhance our socio-economic prosperity, reinsure our political stability and reinforce our constitutional democracy. It will be an event that will radiate the creation of more opportunities for our people to pursue happiness through the goal of Gross National Happiness.”

The Coronation brings the year-long celebrations of 2008 to a peak.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Bhutan : College of Business Studies in Gedu opens

July 22: The College of Business Studies in Gedu was formally opened yesterday.

As students arrived in Gedu, they were greeted by the familiar misty weather and a slight drizzle.

Our reporter Tenzin Wangda says the college is yet to complete some of the final works like classifying the library books and repairing electricity and water supply lines.

The works on the new clock tower for the college is yet to start.

The college compound is roughly three times that of Sherubtse College in Kanglung. But at the moment the college shares the building with THPA officials who will move out by next March.

The college offers Bachelor Degrees in business administration and has 525 students and 37 lecturers. The students are going to have an orientation programme today where they will be briefed on the do's and dont's during their stay in the college.

The first batch of students will graduate in 2010. The college has plans to offer courses like bachelors degree with honours in commerce, diploma in accounting and finance, hotel management and master’s degree in business administration in the near future.

The classes will begin on Wednesday.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Bhutan : Bhutan's transition to democracy is now complete with the adoption of the Constitution

July 19: Yesterday was a momentous day in our history as we complete an unprecedented democratic transition led by Their Majesties the Kings. His Majesty the King led the nation in a special ceremony in the Kuenrey of the Tashichhodzong that brought the Constitution into effect.

His Majesty the King was received by the Venerable Lopens of the Zhung Dratshang, Thimphu Dzongkhag and judiciary officials at the entrance of the second gate to Tashichhodzong.

Upon arrival at the courtyard of the Tashichhodzong, His Majesty the King was received by the Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigmi Y. Thinley, the National Assembly Speaker Tshogpeon Jigme Tshultim, the Opposition Leader Tshering Tobgay, the Chairperson of the National Council Namgay Penjore and the Cabinet Ministers.

His Majesty the King then proceeded to the Goenkhang and offered prayers. Following this, His Majesty proceeded to the Kuenrey of the Tashichhodzong.

His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, their Majesties the Queens and their Royal Highnesses the princes and princesses also graced the historic ceremony.

Parliamentarians, senior government officials, former ministers, judiciary officials, Druk Thuksey recipients, representatives of the armed forces and members of the international community also attended the ceremony.

Addressing the gathering, His Majesty the King said the Constitution is the most profound achievement of generations of endeavour and service.

Following His Majesty’s address, the Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, the Chief Justice Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye submitted the Constitution to His Majesty the King to affix his hand and seal.

The members of the parliament then appended their signatures on the Constitution.

This was followed by a Zhugdrel Pheunsum Tshogpa and Marchang and recitation of Deshe Tenpa by the members of parliament and others present at the ceremony.

The ceremony ended with the Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigmi Y. Thinley offering khaddar to His Majesty the King. The Constitution was then opened for public viewing.

Later in the afternoon, the appended Constitution was escorted to the National Assembly Hall at the Gyalyong Tshokhang in a simple procession.

At the National Assembly Hall, the Speaker Tshogpoen Jigme Tsultim placed the Constitution before the Golden Throne. The members of the parliament then recited Deshe Tenpa.

Speaking to BBS the people who had gathered in the courtyard of the Tashichhodzong said the day is a historic and solemn occasion to pledge to serve His Majesty the King and the country with unwavering loyalty and dedication.

Bhutan : Hundreds witness history unfold in the Tashichhodzong

July 19: Hundreds of Bhutanese from all walks of life gathered in the courtyard of the Tashichhodzong yesterday to offer their prayers on the occasion and look at the appended Constitution.

On 17 December 1907, the people of Bhutan met at the Puna Dewa Chenpoi Phodrang and unanimously elected Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck as the first hereditary monarch of Bhutan. They signed a genja or an agreement declaring their allegiance and pledged to serve him and his heirs loyally and faithfully for all times to come.

100 years later, history came full circle as His Majesty the King handed the power back to the people.

The historic day began with the unfurling of three sacred Thongdroels of Guru Rinpoche and Neten Chudru at the Tashichhodzong. Hundreds of Bhutanese, young and old, rich and poor gathered at the courtyard of the Tashichhodzong.

By 8 am in the morning there were long queues of people entering the Tashichhodzong. About an hour or so later, as His Majesty the King arrived, the courtyard of the Tashichhodzong was packed with people who had come to witness history unfolding in front of their eyes.

The ceremony which was broadcast live on BBS TV was watched by tens of thousands of people across the country who could not make it to the dzong in person.

Speaking to BBS on this solemn and emotional occasion, the Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye said as history unfolded, all Bhutanese came together united in mind, speech and body to express their gratitude to their Majesties the kings for 100 years of unprecedented peace and prosperity and pray for greater prosperity and success of democracy in Bhutan.

BBS also spoke to some of the people. They said the day is highly significant and will remain forever in the minds of the Bhutanese people for generations.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Bhutan : HRH Dasho Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck arrives in the Kingdom

July 15: His Royal Highness Dasho Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck arrived in the Kingdom yesterday from the US where he led the Bhutanese delegation to the 42nd Smithsonian folklife festival in Washington DC.

Upon arrival at the Paro airport, His Royal Highness Dasho Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck was received by the Home and Cultural Affairs Minister Lyonpo Minjur Dorji, the Opposition Leader Tshering Tobgay, the Education Minister Lyonpo Thakur Singh Powdyel, senior government officials, rabdey and armed force representatives, Paro Dzongkhag officials and grassroots leaders.

His Royal Highness Dasho Jigyel Ugyen Wangchcuk led the Bhutanese delegation to the 42nd Smithsonian folklife festival in Washington DC in the United States. The festival was a huge success attracting more than a million visitors. Visitors described the festival as a once in a lifetime opportunity to get glimpses of Bhutan without having to travel thousands of miles.

Spread over an area of about three football fields, the festival titled, “Bhutan: Land of the Thunder Dragon” gave visitors the chance to see first hand the culture, customs and history of the kingdom of Bhutan. It also gave them the opportunity to explore Bhutan’s rich culture through live demonstrations, dance and musical performances, narrative sessions and a variety of hands-on activities.

Organizers said the festival featuring Bhutanese artists, dancers, cooks, craftspeople, carpenters, farmers and representatives of monastic life was the largest and most comprehensive exhibition of Bhutanese life and culture ever presented outside the kingdom.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Bhutan : Mother-child mortality rates in steady decline

14 July, 2008 - Common cold, skin infections, diarrhoea and skin disorders were the main cause of health problems for children under five years old in Bhutan, according to the annual health bulletin 2008.

Last year 54,781 cases of common cold, 22,472 cases of diarrhoea, and 23,817 cases of skin infections were recorded across the country.

Of the 13,851 children born last year, 61 were stillbirths and foetal death, followed by 98 neonatal deaths. Ten children were born with STD.

A total of 20,4138 under-five children sought health care for injuries and trauma such as burns, poisoning, transport accidents, bites and stings among others, according to the bulletin.

Records also show that infant mortality rate fell from 203 per 1,000 live births in 1994 to 40 in 2006. Maternal mortality rate fell from 380 per 100,000 live births in 1994 to about 255 in 2006.

Presiding over the launching of the UNICEF State of the World’s Children (SoWC) 2008 and the health ministry’s Mother and Child Handbook (MCH) on July 9, the health minister, Lyonpo Zangley Dukpa, said that Bhutan has made commendable progress in the social sectors, particularly in the reduction of child mortality and improvement in maternal health.

The shortage of medical professionals, expensive curative cares and emergence of non-communicable diseases were some of the major challenges, said the health minister.

Lyonpo Zangley Dukpa said that 24 percent of the financial resource allocation was for the social sector in the 10th five year plan. “We’re committed to providing a minimum of three doctors, including a gynecologist to each of the district hospitals and a minimum of two ambulances.”

The health secretary, Dasho (Dr) Gado Tshering, said that, while the state of children’s health, over the years, had improved, the state of care they were receiving was not to the optimum. “The number of street children and their being in conflict with law seems to be increasing, which is an indicator that we have to do something more,” said the secretary.

Worldwide, around 26,000 children die every day before their fifth birthday from preventable and curable diseases like pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria and measles. These diseases are mainly caused by malnutrition, lack of safe drinking water and sanitation, according to SoWC report 2008.

The SoWC 2008 launched in Geneva early this year focusses on child survival, examining the current state of child survival and primary health care for mothers, infants and children.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Bhutan : World population day observed

July 12: July 11 is observed as the World Population Day. Here in Bhutan the day was marked at the RBP ground in Wangduephodrang. The UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador and the Founder of RENEW, Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck graced the occasion.

The theme for the World Population Day this year is, “Family Planning-It’s a right, let’s make it real”. It reinforces the right to family planning.

The Health Secretary, Dasho Dr. Gado Tshering read out the message from Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck on the day.

Her Majesty said the day is an excellent opportunity to take stock and reflect on the critical importance of family planning- a fundamental component of reproductive health that has direct impact on the lives of the Bhutanese people and the lives of millions around the world.

Her Majesty said the collective efforts at the national level supported by visionary leadership, well balanced policies in areas of population, development and poverty has brought significant progress in improving the reproductive health of the Bhutanese people. Her Majesty said statistics reveal reductions in infant mortality, maternal mortality and fertility rates.

Her Majesty said the progress is impressive but there is no room for complacency. Speaking at the function, the officiating UN resident coordinator Gepke Hingst said appropriate family planning has a positive effect on poverty, maternal health, child care and education.

Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck launched a documentary film on population and a Guide book for teachers. Her Majesty also hosted a tokha for the public.

NFE learners of Tencholing, Dzongkhag dancers, women association of Wangduephodrang and the wives of the RBA personnel presented a cultural program.

The event was attended by the Wangdue Dzongda, Dzongrab, Dzongkhag officials and representatives from the international agencies in Bhutan.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Bhutan : One million new friends

9 July, 2008 - As hundreds of people circumambulated the Bhutanese lhakhang on Washington’s National Mall in a final tashi lebey on July 6, Smithsonian officials said that the Bhutan exhibition at the Folk Life Festival was not just a success, it was a triumph.

Many regular visitors to the annual festival described the Bhutanese exhibition as the best international exhibition they had seen over the years. “The Bhutanese presence touched their heads and hearts,” said the curator, Preston Scott. “More than one million people now know about Bhutan and the Bhutanese exhibits saw a record number of visitors as well as sales. “The exchanges with the Bhutanese people reminded us of President Lincoln’s words that our country cannot afford to be materially rich but spiritually poor.”

There is likely to be a surge in the number of visitors to Bhutan as a result of the festival, but one interesting element of the Washington exhibition was that a large number of people were from the American heartland and not the coastal areas where tourists to Bhutan usually come from.

“Bhutan has been well infused into American public perception,” said a Smithsonian veteran, who has helped organise the exhibitions for numerous countries. “We’ve also seen many business ventures emerge from the festival as Americans make contact with people from different countries.”

One sign of success, according to Bhutan’s home minister, Lyonpo Minjur Dorji, was that, with the blessings of the guardian deities, nothing went wrong over such a long period of time with so many people of all ages and backgrounds. Thousands of visitors attended the last day for the goembo tangra ceremony by the Tshennyi Lopon and even the rain, that was impending all day, seemed to wait until the final tashi lebey before it came down in a massive torrent.

After 10 days on the Mall, with the temperature occasionally climbing close to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, Bhutanese artisans, musicians, dancers, and officials said that they viewed the conclusion of the festival with mixed feelings. “It was hot and hard work but also very satisfying,” said a cane weaver from Thimphu.

“We were exposed to the ways of the world and we enjoyed this beautiful country but I started missing my family and food,” said a carpenter, who had been in Washington for more than a month. “We had a good time but we were getting tired.”

The general agreement was that it was time to go home.

The leader of the Bhutanese delegation, His Royal Highness Dasho Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck, said that the success of the festival was good for the Smithsonian Institute, for Bhutan, and for the American people. Most of the people who visited the festival did not know where Bhutan was, so it was an educative experience. “I’m sure that it will be a stepping stone for building stronger relations between the people of Bhutan and the United States,” he said.

Diana Parker, Director of the Festival, said that she was surprised by the number of people who came up to her on the Mall to say “thank you for doing this”. The festival cost about US$ 6.00 million to organise.

The lhakhang, which has been presented to the American people by His Majesty the King, will be dismantled and rebuilt at the University of Texas in El Paso, which has been built in Bhutanese architecture. His Royal Highness is leading a delegation, including a dance troupe, to El Paso for a cultural seminar this week.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Cardamom yield on the decline in Bara geog, Samtse

July 4: Farmers of Bara geog in Samtse say that their cardamom harvest has declined significantly in the last three years. They said their cardamoms are getting wilted leading to low yield.

Each household in the geog owns about an acre of cardamom. Cardamoms are an important source of livelihood for the farmers of Bara. They harvest cardamom from October till December.

Man Maya Gurung of Gongdey village in Bara has about an acre of cardamom fields. She said cardamom yield has been declining for about three years now. She has now switched to maize.

The Bara Gup Rinchen Dorji told BBS that until 2000 cardamom harvest was good. Then a single cardamom plant used to give about a kilogram of cardamom.

Today a single plant bears about 200 grams of cardamom.

The Dzongkhag agriculture officer, Tshering N. Penjore said the major diseases of cardamom are chirky, foorkhey and cardamom wilt.

He said chirky and foorkhey are both viral diseases and use of insecticides is not recommended, since the diseases live inside the soil and it is difficult to kill. It is also not cost effective.

He said the farmers have been recommended to clear the land of infected plants and leave it fallow for five years to practice crop rotation and build a proper drainage system. They are also encouraging farmers to plant new cardamom plants.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Bhutan : Like a dream

SMITHSONIAN FESTIVAL 3 July, 2008 - "So much of Bhutanese culture in such a small space … the spirit, warmth, faith, music, dance … just look at the wonder on the faces of the American people … It is going to leave a deep impression …”

This was Congressman Brian Baird, who visited the Bhutan exhibition on the Washington Mall where, he said, “the nation gathers every year”.

As thousands of people crowded the Bhutan exhibition to look at a culture that was difficult for them to fathom, however, the Bhutanese participants were equally fascinated by the American people and their country.

“I can’t imagine, even after seeing them, that there are so many different types of people on this earth,” said a Bhutanese swordmaker, looking at the crowd of people of all shapes, sizes, and colours. And, in the heat of Washington’s notoriously hot and humid summer, the Bhutanese find the clothing and lack of clothing of the Americans equally astonishing.

Meanwhile, a Laya herder is still in a daze after the amazing 17-hour flight from Delhi which he found to be an ethereal experience. “I think this is how the deities live,” he said. “It’s so still up in the sky. And they bring you food and drink, serving it up to your chin. I chanted my prayers because I think they would have more merit up there.” He also watched every movie on the menu without understanding a word.

A sculptor is equally amazed by a train that travels under the ground. He did not dare step on a long flight of steps that moved on its own but thoroughly enjoyed the ride on the subway that “moved like an arrow”. The group of Bhutanese artisans stood there in surprise when a guide bought them tickets from a vending machine. “She put in the money and out came the tickets,” said a weaver. “Not only that, the right change also came out. At home, even humans sometimes give you the wrong change.”

“I wonder how this machine calculates and what it usually thinks about,” remarked a RAPA singer.

A carpenter saw the Atlantic Ocean and he cannot comprehend its vastness. When he saw it from the aircraft he did not know what it was. Looking at it from the beach he was at a loss for words. His friend prefers the zoo. He thought that all animals lived in the forest but he came across the entire range of the animal world in the Washington Zoo, close up.

The eight-lane traffic, busy sidewalks, and lights that automatically direct vehicle movement are another world, too fast to be understood. Policemen and women, with guns hanging at the waist, conjure pictures from television, that is, for those who have watched television.

A majority of the Bhutanese visitors are too frightened to explore the capital of the United States. “We could get lost in a second,” says a blacksmith. “I don’t think I can trust anyone to take me around. If we get lost, we can’t be found here.”

A mask dancer was impressed by a mechanised 350-acre farm, complete with a multimillion-dollar farmhouse and manicured grounds. It had a scene where even the monks, all equipped with brand new cameras, were clicking in all directions.

As numerous well-wishers and friends of Bhutan, as well as Bhutanese, from all corners of the United States continue to drop by the tents, there are nostalgic scenes. The American visitors are generally interested and questioning. They are also physically expressive and Bhutanese participants are being hugged and kissed more than they have ever been before.

But a resounding impression on all Bhutanese participants is the discipline among the crowds of people, particularly the absence of garbage in public space. Most of them are contrasting this with Bhutanese towns and spaces that are covered by litter. This difference in civic sense has struck every member of the Bhutanese team in Washington. “If we all take our own garbage with us, our streets will be clean,” said a silversmith.

It has also dawned on the delegation that, if every motorist follows the rules, traffic will be smooth.

Juxtapose all these scenes into an experience and it is like a dream. According to American observers, the Bhutanese participants are open and confident and very responsive to strangers. Meanwhile, a resolution has been introduced in the House of Representatives of the U.S. government to commemorate Bhutan’s participation in the festival, to recognize the country’s cultural, artistic, agricultural, and environment achievements, to commend the commitment to change, and to remain committed to working with Bhutan.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Bhutan : His Majesty grants audience to Sri Lankan Foreign Minister

July 1: His Majesty the King granted an audience to the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mr. Rohitha Bogollagama at the Tashichhodzong yesterday. He arrived in the kingdom yesterday on a two day official visit.

Mr. Bogollagama began his career as an attorney in the supreme court of Sri Lanka in 1976. In a career spanning over three decades, he served in various capacities. He became a member of parliament in 2000. He served as the Minister of Industries and Advanced Technology and National Enterprise Development. Prior to his present appointment he served as the Minister of Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion.

Upon arrival at the Kuenga Choeling guest house in the capital he was received by his Bhutanese counterpart Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering.

Later in the afternoon, Mr. Bogollagama called on the Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigmi Y. Thinley and the Foreign Minister Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering. He will be leaving the kingdom today.