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.