Friday, 28 August 2009

Bhutan : Gold in Bhutan?

27 August, 2009 - The department of geology and mines (DGM) has come across a rock sample with traces of gold in it in an area between Phuentsholing and Pasakha.

The department has around a hundred more samples and will be conducting further tests to find out the economic potential or viability of the deposit.

This is part of the DGM’s search for potential gold mines in Bhutan, which has received a big boost with this finding and, though no big deposits are confirmed, some promising clues have been found.

“The particular rock sample was tested in a laboratory of the United States geological services (USGS) and they have found 0.134 parts per million trace of gold, which is above average,” said the chief geologist and acting director of DGM, Ugyen Wangda.

In fact, the letter from American geologist Klaus J Schulz in 2008 says, “ 0.134 ppm gold is at the high end of the range found…and may warrant further examination of the sample area.” He also says that such iron-rich rocks can be a good host for gold lode deposits.

A Netherlands professor and minerals exploration expert, Westhoff, after visiting and studying the rock formation in southern Bhutan, had said in 2006 to DGM that there was a good potential for the presence of gold there.

DGM has also received information on the likelihood of gold being found in the region from a foreign mining expert. Simon, a United Nations educational, scientific and cultural organisation (UNESCO) staff and former USGS geologist, had recommended to DGM to send the rock samples to the USGS lab.

Though not made public, the first ever clues provided to DGM on the likelihood of gold was by Jang Pangi of the geological survey of India (GSI) that was exploring mineral content in Bhutan until the early 1990s. “He said that traces of gold could be seen in the Siwalik rock formation and its source must be the older Buxa rock formation above it,” said Ugyen Wangda. “Commonly the chances of gold and minerals being found is in the Buxa rock formation, which is around 10-15 km in thickness, and runs for around 200 km from west to east in the south.”

However, the key point will be finding gold in economically viable amounts or which can be extracted in an economically viable manner. Normally, the gold value in most rocks is 0.02 and anything above it is sign of gold, but one has to find gold deposits above 4.0 ppm to be economically viable.

The gold ore or rocks are normally crushed to powder and then melted at high temperature. Since gold is a heavy metal, it settles at the bottom.

DGM for now is pinning its hopes on the Phuentsholing- Pasakha area and also other areas near Gurung Khola in Sarpang and the Black Mountain area in Trongsa.

“We’ll look at these areas first, as they are potential sites, but there’ll also be other areas we will follow up later on,” he said. The chief geologist said that the key would be to finding the source or ‘provence’ of gold along the Buxa rock formation stretch.

DGM currently has a budget of Nu 800,000 for exploration of heavy metals like gold, but expects more resources with the mineral development policy, which is in the final stages of being sent to the cabinet for approval. “The policy will encourage the exploring of such resources in more detail,” said the chief geologist.

He said that, though GSI had in the past done some surveys, it covered only 33 percent of Bhutan, which was accessible.

DGM, however, faces a challenge with the lack of adequate equipment and trained manpower. The machine used to test for gold, the atomic absorption spectrometer, was defective for the last few years and only recently was a new one purchased to carry out tests.

By Tenzing Lamsang

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Bhutan : Swine flu tests on upward spiral

17 August, 2009 - The number of people getting themselves tested for influenza A H1N1 (swine flu) has increased to an average of 35 a day from 10 a month in mid July, say public health laboratory officials.

“Since the first confirmed cases in Bhutan were detected on July 20, a lot more people are getting themselves tested,” said the head of public health laboratory, Sonam Wangchuk. Since then, six Bhutanese have tested positive, two outside the country.

All of them have recovered.

Eleven locations, including two regional hospitals and the border areas, are equipped with rapid testing kits for influenza like illness. The samples collected are sent to Bangkok, Thailand, for confirmation, depending on Drukair’s schedules. While testing is free, sending a sample for confirmation costs about Nu 3,000.

“We have collected around 800 samples since the start of surveillance from September last year,” said a technician at the public health laboratory, Dorji Tshering. “Every week, around 100 samples are sent for confirmation.”

The medical superintendent of Thimphu referral hospital, Dr Pandup Tshering, said that confirmation takes about 24 hours. “But our main problem is sending the samples from here. We don’t send on weekends and at times there are no flights,” he said.

Depending on their health condition, patients waiting for confirmation, are given antibiotics or Tami flu, the medicine for H1N1.

“We don’t wait for lab results,” Sonam Wangchuk. “Pregnant mothers, children below five and those above 65 years are straightaway given Tami flu.”

Sonam Wangchuk feels that the flu virus must have already reached Bhutan by the first week of June, although the first samples were confirmed only in July.

The flu is not fatal unless one’s immunity is weak, say officials. But health officials stress on personal hygiene, like frequent hand washing.

For a developing country like Bhutan, which doesn’t have expensive testing equipment in place, personal hygiene is the best form of prevention.

“To prevent influenza virus spread, cleaning hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub is imperative both at community level and in health-care settings. The simple act of hand hygiene will contribute to reducing spread of infection,” according to the world health organization (WHO). As of August 6, WHO reported 177,457 cases, with 1,462 deaths in 170 countries.

In terms of awareness, Dr Pandup feels that the public health department is doing enough and doing more would only cause panic. “It’s nothing serious. Observe hygiene and see a doctor if you catch flu.”

Meanwhile, investigations to trace the source of virus in the first two confirmed cases have been dropped because no link could be found, said Sonam Wangchuk.

As for the 65-year-old man, one of the second two positive cases, it has been confirmed that he had acquired the flu from a relative, who had travelled outside the country. The whereabouts of the other positive case, a 30-year-old man, is not known because the hospital forgot to note his contact address.

By Sonam Pelden

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Bhutan : Luck, not merit, gets job

Punatsangchu Hydroproject I10 August, 2009 - When Punatsangchu hydroproject I was finalised, the job prospects it offered came to the rescue of many unemployed vocational graduates from institutes around the country.

For Sonam Dema (name changed on request), it was a motivation to work harder and top the class so that she would be preferred when looking for a job. Sonam came fifth in her class and was confident that she would get the first job offer. On August 4, standing in a hallway of the labour ministry office in Thimphu, Sonam was ruing her fate.

She was not among the 10 “lucky” graduates selected.

The employment department had announced 10 vacancies for plumber to work for the Punatsangchu project, but the selection was done on a “lucky dip” system. Three construction training centre (CTC) graduates were selected along with seven VTI graduates.

There were 11 VTI candidates, who competed for the seven slots. “Four of us had picked up the wrong piece of paper. We were among the best students at the institute,” said another Sonam, 23, who graduated In July. “We had 16 students in our class and I stood 5th but that didn’t make a difference because I wasn’t lucky.”

VTI candidates told Kuensel that it took about 10 minutes for officials to choose the best suitable candidate for the job. The employment officer had asked us whether the selection process should be merit and interview-based or through lucky dip, said a graduate.

“A majority of the candidates, including those from CTC, voted for a lucky dip,” said a 24-year-old VTI graduate. “The selection process wasn’t only unpleasant but very unfair.”

“There were rolled paper with ‘Yes’ written on some. But I picked up a blank paper,” he said. “We’d worked extremely hard at the training centre to have a better chance in getting employed, but the officials didn’t even go through our mark sheets.”

Candidates, who never made the cut, said that they have never seen any organisation recruit people on a “lucky dip” basis. “We were the unlucky lot, who’d actually performed better than most at the training institute,” said one of them. “We had a lot of expectations.”

Employment officials could not be contacted for comment.

Meanwhile, the selected candidates will soon be leaving for Punakha to work at the Punatsangchu site. Singye, 23, said that the ‘lucky dip’ selection was fair. “I was lucky. We didn’t have to go through any process of interview,” he said.

Last year, there were about 1,500 VTI graduates in the market, most of who struggled to find employment. The unemployed VTI graduates said that they are exploring other options. “I hope I pick the right piece of paper next time,” said a girl, who was trained in plumbing.

By Phuntsho Choden

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Bhutan : His Majesty commends good work

His Majesty the King graced the closing ceremony of the third session of parliament yesterday. Addressing the members of parliament, His Majesty congratulated Druk Phuensum Tshokpa government on the completion of one year and four months in office. “In these early days of a new political system while bearing great responsibilities you have, despite the limited resources, successfully carried out the difficult duties of government in service of the Tsawasum, His Majesty said. His Majesty said that the opposition, though comprised of only two members, had through diligence and commitment, fulfilled the important duties of the opposition party as enshrined in the constitution.

His Majesty also expressed gratitude and appreciation to the government and the members of parliament.I must express my deep gratitude and appreciation to the His Majesty commends good workgovernment and the members of parliament. It is with complete trust and faith that I look upon you to serve the people and country. In doing so, you have my wholehearted support,His Majesty said.We must also acknowledge that in preparation for democracy we had entrusted immense responsibilities on our civil servants and judiciary as well as on constitutional bodies such as the Royal Audit Authority, Anti-corruption Commission and Election Commission, which they have fulfilled in the service of the nation. Henceforth, for a vibrant and successful democracy, we must continue to support and strengthen these institutions.

His Majesty emphasised the role of media in bringing about a vibrant democracy.Media “ newspapers, television, radio and the internet“ must play a very important role. I appreciate that while some of the media agencies are young and lack adequate resources they have strived to perform their duties with Phuentsholingcomplete commitment. Speaking about his visits to the villages, His Majesty expressed his contentment in being a part of the ordinary people’s lives. “It is when I sit in the houses of my people, eat our meals together and discuss the lives and aspirations of each family, that I am most content. And while I am there I try, in small ways, to help them with their most pressing problems.Addressing the parliament, Opposition Leader said, alHis Majesty commends good workthough the complete parliament proceedings were not broadcast live, because of the good work done by the media, most people were aware of the parliament proceedings. The Speaker said some of the most critical issues that needed to be emphasized were eradicating poverty and providing employment to the youth. He said that the government should wholeheartedly support His Majesty granting kidus.

Prime Minister in his vote of thanks expressed his grievance over the recent death of the seven children. He said that he was thankful to His Majesty for sending his condolences and kudu to the bereaved families through Her Royal Highness Dechen Yangzom Wangchuck. National Council Chairperson expressed his gratitude to His Majesty for congratulating the parliamentarians and Druk Phuensum Tshogpa government magnanimously.

Tag : bhutan,bhutan,bhutan travel,bhutan news

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Bhutan : A new kind of a bakery in Thimphu

July 30: Located in Kawanjangsa in Thimphu, Big Bakery was formally opened today. It is a special bakery. A special bakery, because, the bread, cookies and the cakes sold here are baked by physically disadvantaged children.

It was established by Draktsho Vocational Training Institute. Speaking at the opening, Jigme Wangmo from the institute said the bakery will provide gainful employment for Draktsho graduates.

The bakery is already a success with guests who gathered at the opening.

Jigme Wangmo expressed hope that the bakery will encourage private entrepreneurs to come up with similar ventures.

Currently seven physically disadvantaged children work with the bakery. They were trained by Mr. Seikson a Japanese expert in food processing unit.

Tag : bhutan,thimphu bhutan,paro bhutan,bhutan king

Monday, 27 July 2009

Bhutan : First retrofit in Thimphu

27 July, 2009 - It is not much of a building to look at. The floor and the walls facing the street have been torn down as if the entire structure is to be demolished.

But it is a work in progress towards, what engineers of the standard and quality control authority (SQCA) call, a prototype retrofit building that will be less vulnerable to earthquakes.

Retrofitting in buildings is normally done to strengthen the building, by adding new material and equipment.

The three-storied building near the SNS restaurant, above the archery ground in Changlimithang, is the first one in Bhutan to go for retrofitting, with support from SQCA. The modifications on this building, built 20 years ago, started from this April. It’s expected to be completed by next year.

The building-owner’s nephew, Thinley Palden, told Kuensel that a total retrofit is being done on the building. “We’re working on the foundation, strengthening the pillars and adding two more floors. It’s like building a new one altogether. Given the situation and the location, it’s better to retrofit rather than to demolish and rebuild.”

With this building, the SQCA is hoping to create awareness among other building-owners to promote retrofitting, as Bhutan is in seismic zone V, as per the Indian seismic zonal map, which is severe, said SQCA officials. Buildings built before 1997 do not have the seismic design concept incorporated in building construction.

A seismic designed building is built to resist the tremors of an earthquake. The seismic design concept requires all building drawings in urban areas to incorporate features, such as deeper foundations, more dense bindings around metal rods inside pillars, stronger beams and columns and the right mix of cement, sand and gravel.

Buildings in Bhutan mostly fall under two categories - reinforced cement concrete (RCC) and load bearing buildings. It is now mandatory for all new constructions in urban areas to incorporate ‘seismic design’ features.

Whether retrofitting is cost effective is not known, as of now. “It’s a bit early to comment on the cost. But studies done in India and Nepal show that it’s just 15 to 20 percent of the total cost of the building,” said the chief executive engineer of SQCA, Rinzin Namgyel, adding that it could be costlier in Bhutan as the material and labour are imported from India.

SQCA started in 2005 an earthquake risk management project, funded by UNDP. Phase I of the project began with preparatory assistance for studies to be carried out. Phase II focused on assessment of 15 buildings in Thimphu in 2007, of which two buildings had to be selected for retrofitting. The two buildings were from the NPPF colony. However, it did not happen, as the management wanted to demolish and build new ones instead.

Under the present phase III, funded by UNDP, with support from the government of Japan, SQCA carried out a rapid visual assessment of buildings in Samdrupjongkhar and Phuentsholing. The report is still in preparation.

Since the initiation of the project, SQCA made numerous announcements to provide free technical assistance in retrofitting, but response from house owners was poor, said officials.

The chief executive engineer said, “The present model building will be the only building and, in future, we won’t be able to do it because of the project deadline.”

Meanwhile, construction of a two-storied model earthquake resistance building will soon begin in the SQCA premises. The building, according to the chief executive engineer, will demonstrate earthquake resistance features to be incorporated in rural types of building.

By Kinga Dema

Tag : bhutan,thimphu,paro bhutan,druk air

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Bhutan : Totality starts at 06:58

21 July, 2009: A few hours after the sun comes up tomorrow, darkness will descend, temperatures will drop and, for about four minutes, it will feel like night, even stars may be visible, as the moon completely eclipses the sun.

Bhutan is one of the few countries, apart from parts of India, China and the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, where one of nature’s grandest spectacles, the longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century, will be visible. As Bhutan falls in the path of the eclipse, the phenomenon can be seen from almost anywhere in the country.

The moon will start eating into the sun at around 5:58 am (Bhutan time), when the shadow of the moon starts falling somewhere in the Arabian Sea. The entire phenomenon will last for about two hours in Bhutan with the total eclipse or totality starting at 6:58 am. A total eclipse occurs when the moon completely blocks the sun.

Assuming that it is a clear cloudless day, totality will be visible from 6:58 am to 7:00:54 am, about three minutes duration. The southern part of the country should be able to see the eclipse for about four minutes, according to calculations by the national aeronautical space administration (NASA). The maximum totality, six minutes 39 seconds, can be seen from the Pacific Ocean.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves between the sun and the earth, blocking out the sun from the areas in the moon’s shadow. Without the sun’s light, the sky darkens enough for stars to be seen and the corona makes a spectacular halo around the moon.

Meanwhile, experts warn that it is not safe to directly look at the sun with the naked eye, particularly when the partial eclipse is occurring. NASA expert, Dr Donald M Hassler, who gave a talk on solar eclipse in Thimphu yesterday, said that directly looking at a partial eclipse, even for a short time, could permanently damage the eyesight. But it was safe to look at the sun when the total eclipse occurs although timing it could be complicated.

Dr Hassler said that, on the day of the eclipse, there would be unusual and strange happenings that could be interesting to observe. “As the eclipse starts, you’ll notice a gradual drop in temperature and, at total eclipse, the sun will be one million times dimmer than its usual shine,” said Dr Hassler. “Animals will start behaving like they do at nightfall as the ‘moon starts biting the sun’.” Shadows of objects, like the leaves of trees, during partial eclipse will also bear crescent shape shadows.

Traditional Bhutanese belief is that a supernatural animal is attacking the sun or the moon during an eclipse. The Bhutanese language for eclipse, Za, also means, “to eat”. It is a common tradition to beat drums and blow trumpets or beat dogs, so that the cacophony frightens the Za into leaving the sun or the moon.

Dr Hassler, who described the phenomenon as a treat in the sky, distributed 800 solar filter glasses to students of Yangchenphug higher secondary school and others, who attended his talk at the royal institute of health and sciences.

The total solar eclipse tomorrow corresponds to 30th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar (nam gang). The director of the National Museum in Paro, Khenpo Phuntshok Tashi, in an article said that the period provides a “rare and special opportunity for Buddhist lamas to practice and dedicate positive blessings for the world through meditation, recitation, and performance of pujas”.

“I’m particularly worried about how I might be able to control my children from looking at the partial eclipse,” said a parent, who attended Dr Hassler’s talk. The BBS plans to telecast live the rare phenomenon.

by Ugyen Penjore

Tag : bhutan,thimpu,bhutan king,bhutan tour,bhutan news

Monday, 20 July 2009

Bhutan : Drukair launches new online system

July 19, 2009 - Flying with the national airline Drukair can sometimes be an arduous affair. But the chances of your Drukair experience being a pleasurable one may have just increased with the airline launching a new online information, reservation and ticketing service yesterday.

Services that are available on the system include online reservations, electronic ticketing, information accessibility to air fares and real time seat availability, and departure control services which includes checking in before your departure date, not just for Drukair but any airline that is a member of IATA (International Air Transport Association).

Drukair IT engineer, Tshultrim Dorji, said, the new system was only operational at the airline’s offices currently. The system will be accessible on any computer connected to the internet by the end of October. He said the new system would be more reliable and secure than the present one. Technical support, in case of network problems will be available 24x7 for Drukair, ensuring less problems than the present system which will be discontinued on October 24.

Drukair has chosen an airline reservation system operated by SITA HORIZON, a multinational company that specializes in providing telecommunications and other information technology for the airline industry.

The airline hopes the new system will improve its information accessibility and ticketing services, which has in the past, come under criticism.

A spokesperson for the airline said the system would make traveling with Drukair a much more convenient experience.

By Gyalsten K Dorji

Tag : bhutan,bhutan tour,druk air,bhutan king

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Bhutan : Government failed to address youth issues: Prime Minister

July 16: A week long programme of the golden youth camp concluded yesterday. Addressing the youth as the leaders of the future of Bhutan, the Prime Minister, Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley, congratulated all the 72 participants. He also urged them to lead their fellow students towards the right direction by being the role model.
Expressing his concern over the youth issues the Prime Minister said that the government has failed to address them.

“We see more and more youths engaging themselves in the unproductive activities like gang fights, drug abuse and alcohol. It is even more heart aching to learn that young girls are taking up prostitution. And many are school dropout but unemployed. Government could not do much to prevent and help address the problems,” said the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister, however, thanked the Non-government organizations like the Youth Development Fund, RENEW, and Tarayana for addressing the youth related issues.

During the programme, some 72 best students competed in various disciplines of games and sports, literature, and cultural activities. The Prime Minister attended the closing ceremony.

Four best students were awarded trophies and certificates. A lot of emotional exchanges took place in the green room, hugging and embracing.

Thinley Dorji from YHS was awarded the Golden Youth Title Holder Trophy. He said it took his academic performances and other co-curricular excellence to achieve the title.

The participants said that the experiences they have gained in the program were enriching.

The participants also performed cultural activities.

Tag : bhutan,druk air,bhutan tour,paro

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Bhutan : Swiss/Austrian grant for judiciary

15 July, 2009 - To support the goal of building an independent and decentralised judiciary in Bhutan, the Austrian and Swiss development cooperations have committed Nu 172m to the Bhutanese judiciary.

The Swiss government, through the Swiss development cooperation (SDC), will commit Nu 107m, and the Austrian government, through the Austrian development cooperation (ADC), will provide Nu 65m over a period of four years.

The joint programme with the government, which is also funding Nu 17m, is expected to ensure a fair, reliable and efficient justice system. The fund will also be used to train judges, as well as judicial and administrative officials. Two new district courts, one each in Bumthang and Trongsa, will also be constructed through the fund to improve user-friendly access to justice.

Strengthening the capacity of democratic governance institutions is one important area of our cooperation, states an ADC press release. “An independent and efficient judiciary will protect the rights of every person and will enhance the further establishment of a democratic society of Bhutan,” stated the press release.

The secretary of the gross national happiness commission, Karma Tshiteem, and the resident coordinator of ADC, Christian Mazal, will sign the agreement tomorrow at the Tashichhodzong for the ADC grant.

Tag : bhutan,bhutan news,bhutan tours,bhutan hotels

By Passang Norbu

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Bhutan : Making movies young

12 July, 2009 - The videos are shaky and images zoom in and out of focus from time to time but the message is clear.

Youth and Video Games, Buried in Garbage, Teenagers in Love, People and Television and Life of a Taxi Driver were some of the themes of the eight short films made by members of the youth media club that were screened on July 9, coinciding with the Children and Youth Festival in Thimphu.

It was the outcome of a 10-day film training camp, where club members learnt how to use the medium as a means to tell stories that concerned them. Participants, working in teams, came up with their own themes and used flip cameras and computers to gather and edit material. Most of the films ran for ten minutes or less.

According to the Bhutan centre for media and democracy (BCMD), the main objective of making these short films is to foster discussion and debate on issues concerning the community. BCMD believes it will garner discussions on issues related to preserving culture, promotion of democracy and understanding of media as more than just entertainment.

The club is also an initiative of BCMD and the film training camp was carried out as a pilot effort at the Motithang higher secondary school in Thimphu. “We’re also discussing the possibilities of starting a similar club with the Thimphu royal college,” said Pek Dorji of the BCMD at the screening of the short films. “With the media clubs, we’re hoping to experiment with three different age groups.”

Most participants said they found the training camp to be knowledgeable and fun.

“The past two weeks were really enjoyable...the amount of encouragement and support we received has inspired me to continue with film making,” said art student Kesang Yuden, 16, of Motithang HSS.

“Since I want to take up journalism, I joined the club believing it would be geared towards print media, but I found out that it was all about film making,” said Pema Dema, 16, from the same school. “But it was so much fun. I enjoyed working in a team and talking to youth about issues that concerned me.”

Participants also said that they found film making very challenging. “Meeting deadlines and editing was difficult, because we had to familiarise ourselves with new computer software and programmes,” said Kesang.

The club is funded by BCMD and Bhutan Foundation in collaboration with the education ministry.

By Pema Choezom

Tag : bhutan,bhutan tourism,paro,bhutan king,druk air,thimphu

Bhutan : Drug busts

11 July, 2009 - The royal Bhutan police drug unit yesterday apprehended a man at the Hong Kong market area in Thimphu and seized from him 264 capsules of spasmo-proxyvon, an illegal prescription drug.

The police source said that the man, Sangay, was seen selling banned substances in Hong Kong market area for the past three to four months. He was also reportedly seen receiving the banned substances from a woman in Phuentsholing.

Police investigation found that Sangay had bought the banned substance from one Rahul Sinha. Based on his statement, Rahul Sinha was apprehended yesterday from Lungtenphu with 432 capsules of spasmo-proxyvon.

Rahul Sinha stated that the drugs belonged to one Thapa, who resides at Babesa. Police couldn’t locate Thapa. Both Sangay and Rahul Sinha have been detained for investigation.

The drug unit also busted a peddler at Chunzom and recovered 107 capsules of spasmo-proxyvon yesterday. The peddler, Wangchuk, told police he bought the drugs from a medical shop in Jaigaon for his own consumption. He was also detained.

By Passang Norbu

Friday, 10 July 2009

Bhutan : Potential for conflict with Land Act

9 July, 2009 - The local government (LG) bill 2009 will be discussed in the Assembly today, as landowners and agencies say a lot of problems are foreseen if the bill is endorsed.

This, they say, is because certain sections in the bill are in conflict with the Land Act 2007, especially with regard to urban land, whether private or government owned.

A section of the LG bill states that the thromde tshogdu will approve the purchase, lease, or otherwise acquire land and property, or dispose of it in the interest of the thromde, in accordance with the policies of the government.

However, according to the Land Act 2007, all land-related issues, had to be sorted out with the approval of the land commission. Urban land records, which were handled by municipal authorities (city corporation) earlier, also came under the commission.

At present, the land commission handles all land-related issues like approval, purchase and lease of government and private land. However, the LG bill allows the municipal to carry out the same functions.

To implement the Land Act of 2007, the commission, since its inception, worked on clearing all land transactions done in accordance with the Land Act of 1979. They are still to clear this issue, according to the secretary, Sangay Khandu.

“We are yet to complete the process as there was no systematic thram or plot records and proper data,” said Sangay Khandu.

The secretary said that, if the bill was endorsed, it would be unacceptable, since the municipal bodies would approve purchase and lease of government and private land, while the land commission maintain the records. “Land is a central government subject, not of local government. With the changed provisions, the situation would be same as in the past. Before, there had been no check and balance when it was under the thromde,” he said.

The chairman of the assembly’s legislative committee, Ugyen Wangdi, said, “NA will have some changes, which may come in conflict with certain provisions in the Land Act related to land in the thromde.”

“The new government is planning to propose certain authorities to municipal bodies with regard to urban land. It’s not necessary that the approval should come from the commission,” he said.

Meanwhile, observers point out that, with numerous changes in land rules, landowners would be affected the most. “Land shouldn’t be politicised but handled by a neutral agency, which is not under any ministry,” said an observer.

By Kinga Dema

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

His Majesty grants audience to Dutch Development Cooperation Minister

July 8: His Majesty the King granted audience to the Dutch Development Cooperation Minister, Mr. Bert Koenders at the Tashichhodzong this morning.

Later, His Majesty also granted audience to the Chairman and Executive Director of the Board of SNV, the Dutch development organization based in The Hague.

Earlier during the day, the Dutch Development Cooperation Minister called on the Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigmi Y. Thinley.

Mr. Bert Koenders leaves the Kingdom tomorrow. He was here to discuss socio-economic development particularly in the areas of bio-diversity, human resource development and rural energy.

He also met the Foreign Minister Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering.

The Netherlands has committed 10 million euros for the 10th Five Year Plan.

Formal diplomatic relations between Bhutan and the Netherlands were started in 1985.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Bhutan : Not bad but could be better

2 July, 2009 - Trafficking and exploitation for prostitution, violence against women, lack of political participation and stereotyping. The list goes on. Issues that women in Bhutan are still subjected to, according to the committee on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW).

These issues, presented by the national commission for women and children (NCWC), were discussed yesterday among various stakeholders, like the UN and the foreign and labour ministries.

The occasion was presided over by the foreign minister, Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering, the education minister, who is also chairperson of NCWC, Lyonpo Thakur S Powdyel, UN officials and foreign delegates.

In his address, Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering said that, in Bhutan, human rights gained importance during the 1990s. “So, the government decided that we should focus on issues of human rights, particularly with women and children and the environment, during participation in international forums.”

The NCWC executive director, Dr Rinchen Chophel, said that, although Bhutanese women enjoy far better rights, gender discrimination still exists. “Women are still subjected various forms of violence just because of a simple reason, that they are women.”

“We must have clearly defined policies for women from all sections of society - from the high-class family to a yak herder, as all are citizens of the country and should enjoy equal protection by law,” he added.

Last year’s data on position and gender in civil service showed only 30 percent of 19,516 civil servants were females. An increase of only one percent from 2007.

Bhutan joined CEDAW in July 17, 1980 and was one of the first member countries to ratify the convention in 1981.

Bhutan will also present its seventh CEDAW periodic report in New York on July 23.

By Kinga Dema

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Bhutan : WFP – In philatelic appreciation

1 July, 2009 - The world food program (WFP), in collaboration with Bhutan post, launched yesterday a series of postal stamps, which reflect their support to various sectors in Bhutan.

The stamps were launched in Thimphu as WFP celebrated its 35th anniversary.

The stamps depict portraits of children in remote schools holding red cups – symbolising challenges faced by WFP and their activities such as school feeding, logistics and support to the school agriculture programme, road workers and power tiller tracks.

The chief executive officer of Bhutan Post, Tseten Geltsen, said that the set of stamps reflects the successful implementation of WFP in providing assistance in the form of food, supply of fuel efficient stoves and infrastructure, such as stores and hostels to school children in various parts of the country, making a huge difference to the lives of Bhutanese people.

“It not only gives a tinge of excitement to stamp collectors but also educates the mass and draws attention of partners of their support, generosity, cooperation and education,” said the CEO.

School feeding has been a major activity since the start of WFP assistance in 1974, with increased enrollment and attendance as their main goals.

In 2008, WFP utilised around USD 4m – donations received – in purchasing food commodities and for other assistance, such as construction of hostel and purchasing fuel-efficient stoves for schools.

An additional USD 0.44m and 2 MT of vegetable oil was received in January this year, which not only secures food commodities to last till 2009 end, but supports 38,000 children from rural and remote schools to attend classes. WFP also plans to deliver at least around USD 0.2m worth of non-food assistance this year, mainly to encourage girls to attend school and complete basic education.

“The net primary enrollment rate over the last ten years has increased from an estimated 53 percent in 1998 to 88 percent in 2008,” according to WFP officials.

The WFP representative, Leo Van Der Velden said that WFP would phase out the school feeding programme at high school level by 2012 and focus on the primary level to develop the capacities within the government to take over the school feeding program.

By Passang Norbu

Bhutan : His Majesty grants audience to Chief of India’s Army Staff

June 29: His Majesty the King granted audience to the India's Chief of Army Staff, General Deepak Kapoor today.

General Deepak Kapoor was escorted in traditional chipdrel ceremony to the Tashichhodzong. In the courtyard of the Tashichhodzong, he was presented a guard of honour by the Royal Body Guards and the Royal Bhutan Army.

General Kapoor was then ushered into the throne room where he received the audience with His Majesty the King.

General Deepak Kapoor was commissioned into the regiment of artillery in June 1967 and has held important Staff and Command positions. He is a recipient of the Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, Sena Medal and Vishisht Seva Medal. He took over as the Chief of the Army Staff on September 30, 2007.

Following the audience, General Kapoor called on the Chief of Operations of the Royal Bhutan Army, Major General Batoo Tshering. He also called on the Foreign Minister, Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering.

His Majesty the King also hosted a luncheon for General Deepak Kapoor at the Dechenchholing palace.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Bhutan : Bamboo exhibition boon to artisans

29 June, 2009 - Rinchen Wangchuk and Tshering Lham, who were in the capital recently, were all smiles yesterday as the two-day cane and bamboo exhibition wrapped up.

The artisan couple from Zhemgang, representing their fellow artisans, had not only marketed bamboo products but also sold about Nu 50,000 worth of the same.

“We’re very grateful to the government for providing us this opportunity to display our products and find potential buyers,” said Rinchen, adding that back home, the market being small, it was really difficult to sell their products, the only means to meet their food, health and children’s education needs.

“Till now our monthly income was about Nu 7,000 per month and we’re only able to break even. But, now, we hope things will change.” Just to sell their products at their local market in Zhemgang, they have to walk almost three days from their village.

Organised by department of industry (DoI), with funds from UNDP and technical assistance from SNV, there were other artisans from Trashigang and Mongar with similar objectives. “Such exhibitions also help artisans to showcase their talents,” said a DOI official.

Craft items, encompassing an array of cane and bamboo products, included not only traditional products like bangchung, zem and tser dhop, but also modern products such as cane wine holder, tser tissue box, penholder, bamboo tray and hangers, etc. Live demonstrations of various craft work were also presented.

SNV’s Galey Tenzin said that prices of bamboo products are set to come down by almost 20-30 percent in future. He added that, through the technical assistance they provide, bamboo artisans are encouraged into group-based business and also made aware of proper price fixation of their products. Earlier, prices were mostly fixed through guesswork.

“We’re encouraging artisans to use bamboo rather than cane, because cane has become scarce with extensive and unsuitable use in the past, which has even led to a sharp decline in production,” he said. “With most communities far from the road point, motivation is much needed for the artisans.”

Pema Letho, 24, from Mongar, said that assistance from various organisations in developing their skills and training them to make new products has really benefited in improving living standards and provided opportunities for others to take the path too.

By Passang Norbu

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Bhutan : His Majesty graces opening of parliament’s 3rd session

June 26: The 3rd session of the parliament began amidst traditional ceremony today. His Majesty the King graced the opening ceremony. His Majesty the King was escorted by the Prime Minister, the National Assembly Speaker, the Opposition Leader, the National Council chairperson, and cabinet ministers.

At the courtyard of the Gyalyong Tshokhang, His Majesty was received by members of the parliament and then ushered into the Gyalyong Tshokhang.

In the opening remarks, the National Assembly Speaker Jigme Tshultim expressed gratitude to His Majesty the King for touring remote villages in Lhuentse and Monggar and solving the pressing land related issues.

Tshogpoen Jigme Tshultim also congratulated the United Progressive Alliance government in India for its success in the national elections this year. The Speaker also commended the recent visit of India’s new External Affairs Minister to the country.

He also congratulated the new constitutional appointees to the Royal Civil Service Commission. Tshogpen Jigme Tshultim also expressed condolence to people who lost family members in the flood last month. On other issues, he said the unemployment problem in the country is expected to be solved by the upcoming hydro power projects such as the Punatshangchhu hydro power project.

Following this, the Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader, the National Council Chairperson and parliament members presented their appreciation to His Majesty the King.

During the recess, His Majesty also met with the parliamentarians and interacted with international diplomats and guests who attended the opening.

The 3rd session of the parliament is expected to discuss about 12 bills including the Local Government Bill, the Civil Service Bill and the Police Bill.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Bhutan : Corporate employees not happy with pay raise

June 25: The recent pay raise for corporations announced by the government has ruffled more than a few corporate feathers. Most of the corporations said the raise is hogwash.

Some of the CEOs BBS spoke to, said the salary of their staff will actually decrease. Others said the raise, if there is any, is bare-minimal.

They said they were already facing difficulty attracting and retaining senior experienced staff.

The CEOs said some of their more experienced senior staff have started leaving for greener pastures. A leading financial institute said it has lost one deputy managing director, one manager, and three other senior staff. Another financial institute said it has lost three senior staff.

The Bhutan Post has lost eight of its staff over the last three months– two of them just recently. The Food Corporation of Bhutan lost a senior engineer.

The salary revision for corporations owned by Druk Holding and Investments is being re-discussed with the Finance Ministry.

There are about 10,000 corporate employees in the country.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Bhutan : Keeping abreast of the unemployment problem

23 June, 2009 - Demand for all forms of labour from employing agencies is expected to drop by almost 80 percent by 2012, says the first establishment census carried out by the ministry of labour and human resources (MoLHR).

The 2008 census was done to capture the number of existing establishments and their potential to provide employment opportunities to the increasing number of youth. It collected data from 7,162 private sector establishments, government agencies, corporations, joint ventures and FDI companies.

Only 4,962 organisations of the total 7,162 have plans to expand, according to the census. The remaining 2,200 establishments, about 31 percent, do not have plans to expand because of credit constraints, lack of demand for goods and services and shortage of skilled labour.

This means unemployment rates are expected to rise, states the study. "The census results would abreast us on the problems affecting the growth of business and employment," said the statistical officer of MoLHR Ugyen Tenzin. "Unemployment rates are expected to rise, but by how much I can’t say for sure."

The study also pointed out that, of the 38,066 existing employees in private sectors and corporations, 29,759 were Bhutanese and 8,307 foreigners. For every 100 Bhutanese employees, there are 28 foreigners working in private and corporations, although this excludes the expatriate workers in Dantak and GREF and the day workers across the borders, said the report.

The study however did not include upcoming establishments. The data was collected from various sectors in all the 20 dzongkhags, but it excluded places like Merak and Sakten in Trashigang, and Lingzhi, Soe, Naro.

Bhutan’s unemployment rate for those above 15 years of age has increased from 1.8 percent in 2003 to 3.7 percent in 2007.

The highest number of unemployed was for females, 3,200 between the ages of 15-24 in urban areas. There are 3,100 unemployed males.

Job fairs, vocational education training, and the introduction of internship programs at the zorig chusum institutes were some of the measures the labour ministry initiated to tackle unemployment.

Labour officials said that the census was only a start in providing crucial information to address youth unemployment. "The census is designed to collect timely data on labour market on which important decisions would be based," said an official.

By Phuntsho Namgay

Bhutan : Nehru-Wangchuck scholarship agreement signed

June 20: The Indian External Affairs Minister and the Foreign Minister Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering signed an agreement to give scholarship worth Nu. 50 million to Bhutan under the Nehru-Wangchuck scholarship. The agreement was yesterday morning at the Royal Banquet hall.

The Nehru-Wangchuck scholarship worth Nu. 50 million will be implemented over the next five years.

Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering said Bhutan has always accorded the highest priority to the development of education sector. He said it is the vision of His Majesty the King and His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo that education of people be central to our nation building for economic and social well being.

“The scholarship is not only symbolic of the close ties of friendship and cooperation between Bhutan and India but will also contribute immensely towards further developing the human resources capabilities of Bhutan,” said Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering.

Also speaking, the Indian External Affairs Minister Mr. SM Krishna said the Nehru-Wangchuck scholarship will be available to talented and meritorious Bhutanese students. He said under the scholarship Bhutanese can study in prestigious universities and institutions in India for courses leading to graduate, postgraduate degrees or diplomas. Priority will be accorded to postgraduate professional studies.

“I am confident that the Nehru-Wangchuck scholarships will further cement the already exceptionally close ties between our two countries and will, in particular, provide new opportunities to the talented youth of Bhutan,” said Minister Krishna.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Bhutan : Kanglung BHU treats over 80 diarrhoea patients

June 18: The Basic Health Unit (BHU) in Kanglung has been receiving many diarrhoea patients of late. Just this week, the BHU received over 80 diarrhoea patients.

According to the BHU staff, most of the patients were students. They said it is normal to suffer from diarrhoea at this time of the year.

However the figure this year is unusually high. They said it could have been caused by unclean drinking water.

Officials from the Dzongkhag health sector visited the water source. Health officials said it is important to boil and filter drinking water especially at this time of the year.

They also advise people to wash their hands before and after every meal and keep their toilets clean.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Bhutan : His Majesty grants audience to the Indian External Affairs Minister

June 18: His Majesty the King granted audience to the Indian External Affairs Minister Mr. SM Krishna at the Dechencholing palace this afternoon. He arrived in the Kingdom on a two day goodwill visit this morning. This is his first foreign visit as the External Affairs Minister of India.

He became the External Affairs Minister in May this year. Mr. SM Krishna was first elected to the Karnataka legislative assembly in 1962 and made his debut in the parliament in 1968.

Over a career spanning almost five decades, he has served as the Minister for commerce, industries, and parliamentary affairs. Minister of state for industry, Minister of State for Finance, the speaker of Karnataka legislative assembly, and the Chief Minister of Karnataka. Before he assumed the present post, he served as the Governor of Maharashtra.

His Majesty also hosted a lunch for the External Affairs Minister and his delegation. Their Royal Highnesses the Princesses also attended the lunch.

Following the audience Mr. Krishna called on the Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley. The Foreign Minister Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering was also present.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Bhutan : Bhutan’s record pretty dismal

16 June, 2009 - Status of Maternal and Child Health Report At least three women die every month on an average in Bhutan from pregnancy related complications (maternal death), according to the public health’s status of maternal and child health report.

The status report was presented yesterday by the public health director, Dr Ugen Dophu, during the launch of UNICEF’s “State of the World’s Children 2009,” report.

Excessive bleeding after delivery or post-partum haemorrhage (PPH) is the main cause, which accounts for 55 percent of deaths.

Dr Ugen Dophu said that home delivery was the main reason for maternal deaths in Bhutan. “Although Bhutanese are aware, only about 50 percent come to health facilities for deliveries,” he said. “In some areas, it’s also due to quality of heath services.”

Maternal death is more common in the southern and eastern districts.

In newborns, blood infection or sepsis causes 34 percent of deaths in Bhutan. Fifty percent of maternal deaths in Bhutan occur during the first 24 hours after delivery, while in newborns, it’s in the first one-week.

“The first 24 hours is the crucial period where the placenta needs to come out. It can cause death if that doesn’t happen,” said the public health director. “Week-old newborns die because they’re premature, don’t get adequate feeding and are more susceptible to infection.”

The UNICEF’s report ranks Bhutan 45th among 198 countries in under-five mortality rate, the highest in the region after Afghanistan. India is at 49, Nepal 62, Sri Lanka 110, Bangladesh 58 and Maldives 88.

Dysentery, diarrhoea and pneumonia still top the causes for death in children under five in Bhutan.

“The state of the world’s children is intimately linked with the state of the world’s mothers,” said the education minister Lyonpo Thakur Singh Powdyal in his address.

The report states that, globally, women in the world’s least developed countries are 300 times more likely to die in childbirth or from pregnancy-related complications than those in the developed world. “A child born in a developing country is almost 14 times more likely to die during the first month than a child born in a developed one.”

About 99 percent of all global deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth occur in developing countries, said the UNICEF representative, Dr Gepke Hingst, in her presentation.

To lower maternal and infant mortality, the report recommends creating a supportive environment for women and children through education, empowerment, respecting their rights, investing in maternal health and protecting them against violence and abuse.

The education minister said that the wellbeing of the mother and child is the wellbeing of a family, an index of the health of our world. “The report that we launched today is more importantly on the state of our world.”

Members of the national council, who were present during the launch, were also briefed by the national commission for women and children (NCWC) on the conventions on the rights of the child (CRC), elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW) and gender.

By Sonam Pelden

Bhutan : Stepping up measures to prevent entry of influenza A (H1N1)

June 14: The government has beefed up measures to prevent influenza A (H1N1) also referred to as swine flu from entering the Kingdom.

Cases have already been reported in India as well in Thailand. Influenza A (H1N1) has already been reported in neighbouring India as well as in Thailand. The government has beefed up measures at all entry and exit points to ensure that the virus does not enter Bhutan.

At the Paro Airport, health officials are thoroughly checking and screening all the arriving passengers.

The health ministry says people should not panic but follow good hygiene practices, avoid crowds, and use a handkerchief while coughing.

The health ministry says people should avoid traveling abroad especially to the affected countries. Those who have been to affected countries are asked to seek immediate medical check up if they show flu like symptoms.

The health ministry is also monitoring other entry points.

A pandemic preparedness plan is also ready just in case.

Guidelines for management and treatment have also been developed and advocacy programs like posters and leaflets distributed to the public. A Rapid Response or Outbreak Investigation team has also been formed.

The Health Ministry also has a hotline for inquiries or assistance regarding influenza A (H1N1). The number is 107.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Bhutan : Parops protest mining boom

12 June, 2009 - Paro dzongkhag, known for its cultural and religious sites, and popular with tourists, may soon be known as a mining dzongkhag, with an increasing number of quarries coming up in the last few years and scarring the landscape.

Paro currently has 10 quarries that came up in the last four years. An additional 3-4 quarries are under process.

Affected local communities are unhappy about the new developments and have even lodged complaints with the dzongkhag administration.

About 40 people from surrounding villages, including the Hebu monastery trulku, complained about the dust, noise, blasts, road blocks, and environmental damage caused by a road being built towards the 9.48 acres Haselo marble mine in Shaba, according to the dzongkhag forest officer, Akey Dorji.

“They also said that the blasting threatened the safety of school children and that the mine area was at the entrance to an important nye (religious site),” said Akey Dorji.

The residents had also complained about not being consulted, since a former village tshogpa had signed a local government clearance on their behalf without consulting them, according to dzongkhag officials.

Based on local complaints, the dzongkhag had earlier stopped the quarry, but the department of geology and mines (DGM) had given the go ahead to the company.

In Dawakha, villagers were shocked to find that their nye was being mined in violation of their original agreement with the 12.41 Thynsungkha stone quarry that was supposed to quarry only at the base of the nye.

The quarry has been temporarily closed after strong protests from the people.

The former Paro dzongda Namgay Wangchuk had written a letter against the increasing number of quarries in Paro to DGM, with copies to the national environment commission (NEC), ministry of economic affairs, ministry of agriculture and ministry of home and cultural affairs.

His letter had strongly recommended stopping further stone quarry and mining operations in Paro.

“Most of these quarries are around settlements, historical monuments and are adjacent to highways, which have both direct and indirect impact on the local environment and communities,” said Namgay Wangchuk.

In fact, the Lamjolo stone quarry, with extensive excavations and blasting, is located just around 150 to 200 m from Dobji dzong and could be affecting the structure, says Namgay Wangchuk.

“These mines are also causing a lot of social tensions, community discords, repeated legal litigations and also diverts the dzongkhag administration from their normal work,” said Namgay Wangchuk.

The present Paro dzongda, Tsencho, said: “Paro is an important tourism gateway to Bhutan and one can see everything from the air, so DGM should be careful while allotting mines.” On the Heslo marble mines, he said, he had written to DGM to resolve the issue with the local people before reopening the project.

Observers say that the current system of “first come first serve” indiscriminate offering of mines would be detrimental to the environment and local communities.

Paro dzongrab Namgey Rinchen said that Paro was supposed to receive a high level inspection after a discussion on mines in the annual dzongda’s conference, which had not happened yet.

“The problem is the lack of understanding at the local level in terms of grating permission and other issues,” said acting DGM director general, Ugyen Wangda .

Mining head Sangay Tshering said that all the mines in Paro had sought clearance from DGM.

NEC deputy minister Dasho Nado Rinchhen said. “We ‘re talking with DGM on making quarry system more systematic and going on joint inspections.”

By Tenzing Lamsang

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Bhutan : Celebration’ barred from Memorial Chorten

12 June, 2009 - Members of the Druk Nangpei Zhoennu, a voluntary association of young Buddhists, expressed their disappointment at not being allowed to start their June 7 programme from the national memorial chorten.

On June 7, Lord Buddha’s Parinivana, the group were barred from entering the memorial chorten by the caretaker, when they came with six of them dressed like Buddha and his first five disciples. They said that the lack of support had led to some of the youth losing interest from become a membership. The group said that the caretaker was informed about the programme a day before the Lord Buddha’s Parinivana and already knew about it.

“I was disheartened,” said a member, Kinley Dorji. “The caretaker, instead of supporting us, discouraged our initiative to promote Buddhism,” he said.

Another member, Tshering, said that the programme was neither a political campaign nor a civil strike. “It was a message on the importance of Buddha’s birthday to every Bhutanese,” he said. “The programme was the first of its kind in Bhutan and we wanted to start from the memorial chorten in memory of the Late His Majesty, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, but couldn’t.”

Kezang 24, said he waited at the chorten early in the morning to offer a khaddar but when the caretaker did not allowed the group to enter, he could not offer a khaddar. Like Kezang, over 100 people waited at the chorten premises to offer khaddar.

However, the caretaker, Tshering Dorji, said that the group did not have written permission from the ministry of home and cultural affairs to enter the chorten premises. He said that the group, dressed up in robes and singing gurma (a religious song), surprised him. “Except for monks and nuns, laypersons can’t wear robes and sing gurma.”

The home minister, Lyonpo Minjur Dorji, said that the ministry approved the group’s celebration of the Buddha’s birthday but had no idea that it wanted to start from the chorten. He said that the chorten was public property and every Bhutanese had the right to go and cir*****ambulate it. Lyonpo Minjur also said that the group was trying to dissuade youth who were into alcohol and substance abuse by celebrating Buddhism in a modern way. “They aimed at propagating Buddhism among young Bhutanese in a modern way. stopping them was a dicouragement.”

By Tenzin Namgyel

Friday, 12 June 2009

Bhutan : Govt.-Genpact IT MoU

10 June, 2009 - The government and Genpact, a business process outsourcing (BPO) company in India, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Bangalore yesterday to develop the information technology (IT) sector in the country.

Under the agreement, the company will employ 200 Bhutanese graduates every year to work in operation centres in India. A “train the trainer” program will also be established to train Bhutanese candidates, who would be responsible for training within the country.

With the company’s assistance, the government will also introduce an IT curriculum in schools and colleges.

In return, the government will set up an operations centre in the country by 2011. More such centers may follow.

The CEO of Genpact, Pramod Bhasin, said that with “favourable government support, a growing talent pool, surplus of green power and good infrastructure,” Bhutan would soon emerge as a suitable location for the BPO industry.

Bhutan’s climatic conditions and location was ideal for setting up operation centres, said the minister of communications, Lyonpo Nandalal Rai. He also said that Bhutan’s English speaking population would facilitate the development of IT enabled services. The minister said that Bhutan was fortunate in partnering with the company in its attempt to promote the local IT industry.

By Gyalsten K Dorji

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Bhutan : Library for Talo Shedra

June 7: Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck and Dr. Frederick Paulsen- President of Institute Minos inaugurated the Talo Shedra Library yesteday.

The Tashi Ngasoel ceremony was performed by the lam and the monks of the Talo Shedra. The library was constructed under the Royal patronage of Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck with financial support from Dr. Frederick Paulsen.

The two storied library building was constructed at the old site of the Kasa Lhakhang and has two rooms, one on the first floor and one at the top floor.

The top floor open space will serve as a gallery during the tshechu and as a reading room on other days. The ground floor has one visitors room with toilet facilities and one storage room. The top floor also has a huge hall which will house valuable scriptures (sungtens) of Talo monastery collected by successive Zhabdrungs of Talo since the establishment of Talo Sanga Choling Monastery by the 26th Desi Boep Choeda in the 1800s.

The Talo Shedra was established more than 10 years ago and has about 90 monks.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Bhutan : Wangchu basin plantation project launched

June 2: June 2 is also celebrated as the social forestry day. To mark the day, the department of forest launched the Wangchu basin plantation project. Under this project, all degraded areas along the Wangchu river basin will be rehabilitated.

According to the Department of Forest, some 60,000 hectares of forest land are degraded in Bhutan. And every year on this day, the department of forest plants saplings in the degraded areas.

Today the Department launched the Wangchu river basin plantation project at Tshalu Marphey in Babesa, Thimphu. Under the project, degraded lands along the Wangchu river basin will be rehabilitated. The Agriculture Minister Lyonpo Dr. Pema Gyamtsho said the healthy forest vegetation and natural environment that people enjoy today is because of the vision of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.

“Forests are crucial for the well being of humanity and intricately linked to the survival of mountainous country like Bhutan. It provides goods and services to human and wildlife. It provides numerous opportunities for employment, recreation, spiritual renewal and inspiration for intellectual and artistic creativity,” said the Agriculture Minister.

The agriculture minister also launched a book entitled the value of trees and conservation of forests. Students from Babesa Primary School performed a drama highlighting the importance of forests. They also recited a poem on the theme plant trees and Green Bhutan.

Forestry officials, volunteers, students and members from the intentional organizations took part in the tree plantation. More than 3,000 saplings were planted in the degraded areas along the Wangchu river basin in Babesa today.

The project which will cost an estimated Nu. four million is funded by Tala Hydroelectricity plant.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Bhutan : Construction of Royal Textile Academy to begin

June 5: Culture preservation is one of the four pillars of Bhutan’s developmental philosophy of Gross National Happiness. Textiles, undoubtedly, constitutes an integral component of Bhutan’s unique cultural identity. Apart from this, textile is one of the primary means of income for many Bhutanese women living in rural Bhutan.

To preserve and promote textiles, the Textile Museum was established in 2001 under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck.

In 2005, Royal Textile Academy was founded. After completing almost five years, the textile academy is now looking forward to become Bhutan’s first textile educational centre to educate and train Bhutanese youth on preservation and traditional art of weaving Bhutanese textiles.

The academy premises will be constructed at Chubachu in Thimphu. Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck graced the ground breaking ceremony for construction of the institution this morning. The area is over four acres.

Her Majesty the Queen Mother said the academy is founded with a purpose of promoting and preserving Bhutanese textiles in a much larger scale.

Her Majesty the Queen Mother said the core objective is to provide a national centre offering professional training in weaving design and production along with the collection, conservation and documentation of important artifacts.

The Executive Director of the Royal Textile Academy Rinzin O Dorji said the construction works will start after the monsoon is over. She said main components of the construction project will be a textile school, a textile museum, a textile conservation centre and a central administrative division.

The Executive Director added that construction works will be divided into four phases. The first two phases include the construction of textile museum, plaza, entrances, courtyard and administrative offices.

Under phase three and four, a banquet hall and conservation centre will be constructed. The donor member of the first phase is Mr. Frederik Paulsen, chairman of Ferring Pharmaceutical Company in Switzerland.

The second phase is funded by the government of India. The textile academy is looking for funds for the third and fourth phase.

An estimated sum of Nu 500 million will complete the overall construction works.

Cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, business communities, members from international agencies and government officials attended the event.