Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The inaugural Eleven “Friends of Police”

In a move to enhance police public partnership, coinciding with the celebration of 47th Police Raising day on 1 September, the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) launched a new project called “Friends of Police.”
The first eleven volunteers with representation from civil service, business community and film industry were enrolled under the Police Public Partnership.
At the launch, the volunteers were issued a jacket inscribed “Friends of Police”, an Identity card along with the Khaddar by the Chief of Police Brigadier Kipchu Namgyal besides introducing them to the congregation of high level guests.
The goal of the project, according to the police, is to recall all elements of the police, community and local government to work in solidarity to search for solutions to ensure security and safety within the individual communities.
The police chief said that such a project will take police service to the community and also make community aware of police duties and functions. “With first eleven volunteers registered today, we’re aiming to rope in as many in the partnership by taking the project to all 20 Dzongkhags,” said the police chief.
The works and human settlement minister, Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba said, it is a very positive and a sincere effort to bring down crime in the country.
“Friends of Police” is also geared to instigate community participation not only in self policing but to help bring two parties closer. But equally important, it is also an attempt to professionalize police service to make it prompt and effective.
The “friends of police” are expected to partner in fire fighting and any other disasters while also participating in community patrolling. Besides, they will also help police in crowd control during major events, traffic safety and giving guidance to pedestrians, counseling and also to interact with police in problem solving.
The main essence remains to foster and transpire goodwill for the police that exist among our citizens. It is to transform the police image, open up channels of communications and provide a reservoir of goodwill, feedback, intelligence and manpower.
The chief of police said the rationale behind choosing the first eleven volunteers is for the good omen towards success of the project. Eleven is the dice number of AP Geynyen, the main protecting deity of Bhutan.
One of the volunteer, Ugyen Tshering with the Information and Communication Services (ICS) of Ministry of Agriculture and Forests said “I am looking forward to work closely with police towards fostering bond between police and community”.
For Bap Tandy of Forest Fire Management Section also of Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, it was a long awaited opportunity for him to repay the gratitude to the police.
As per the statistic with the police, Thimphu alone has witnessed 1043 counts of crimes in 2009, 2543 in 2010 and already 1207 till May last year. The crime committed in the capital averages to staggering 1250 counts. This outnumbers the crimes committed in 19 Dzongkhags combined.
For instance, in 2009, all added crimes in 19 Dzongkhags were only 1797 seeing a small drop to 1656 in 2010. Only 806 crimes were reported till May from other Dzongkhags exclusive of Thimphu, the capital city. From this, it can be deduced that crime is concentrated in the capital.
There are 3,975 police personnel including 246 women with the RBP and 97 civilians with 113 personnel are undergoing training.

Hitches and Glitches keep electricity away from Zhemgang

The most far-flung communities of Zhemgang have eagerly waited for the day when all their homes are lit-up and the villages are no longer the dark desolate picture of backwardness.
The communities in the remote and poverty-stricken dzongkhag remained highly expectant when power supply was announced to be transmitted from the source and to be switched on by 15 July this year. This was according to the contractual period.
The people of upper and lower Kheng have been waiting for more than a year now, preparing themselves to brighten their home. Many bought electrical fittings, wires, tube lights and electric bulbs in preparation.
However the signs of its arrival to illuminate the rural homes could not happen in time owing to the geographic location, inaccessible terrains and the absence of motorable roads. The regions of upper and lower Kheng targeted to be lit up is now delayed by few more months when in the first place it was already extended from scheduled time.
“The poles have been erected long time back and no wiring has been done yet,” Bardo Gup Kinzang Gurmey said. He said that the people were elated of electricity coming and was supporting the works but many times works get stalled.
He also said that no one is coordinating the work if contactor is not present in the site and such poor coordination delays the project besides the location of villages which is unavoidable.
The Contractor with Lhawang Construction Company, Sangay said with no bridge and an absolute need to carry huge electrification materials, it is the most arduous task in a region like Kheng for the laborers. He said that the materials cannot be carried laborers and transformers need to be ferried on boats while crossing Rindhibi River incurring extra costs.
He said that rural electrification is different from other any other project and is difficult to meet the time limit. “Works progress very slowly when required materials cannot reach the site, he said. Though people are elated with the prospect of electricity they are helpless when huge materials need to be carried to various sites.
Another bottleneck for electrification in far- flung areas is procurement of labors. The furthest village is about four days walk from the road point and not many laborers are willing to carry materials and work under such circumstances.
“The laborers have to carry 19 Transformers in various places climbing mountains and crossing rivers,” Sangay said. He said he is worried about how to carry the transformers to sites like to Bardo gewog which is about four days’ walk.
Sangay said that many laborers drop their work after reaching to certain distances and he has to look for another group of laborers who are willing to work till the end of the project in such remote places. “Some dropped their work without any notice and in one case, some of my workers has collected money from few households and disappeared,” said Sangay.
He said that he project was supposed to complete within 11 months but was unable due to the vast area and scattered settlement.
On a brighter note, villagers are paid certain amount depending upon the size of the hole they clear to erect electric poles while the electrical technicians toil on the technical works. This according to Sangay has helped the project to develop faster.
However electrification in lower Kheng region would complete within extended time and the upper Kheng would be completed by April next year. More than 16,000 households will benefit from this project.

Teacher plays ‘Doctor’, injects students with unsterilized syringe as punishment

Medical literature shows students are at risk of contracting HIV, Hepatitis, Sepsis, and can die through air bubbles. Some students already have sores
A strict disciplinarian Teacher is always feared but the students in a distant phase of their lives do cherish lessons from that teacher, but not punishments that scar lives and contract diseases or even cause death.
In a similar case scenario the crude methods employed by a teacher of a school in the remote crevices of Zhemgang have surpassed all levels of rationality and medical safety standards.
Medically, a syringe is used to inject vaccines into the patient’s body but for the particular teacher of Budhashi Community Primary School in Goshing, Zhemgang, it is a weapon to punish the students. And the syringe he uses is raw and unsterilized which carries every risk to transfer diseases among the students.
The students of the school describe their dzongkha teacher as one of the strictest teachers in the school and the most feared by students. The fear in the minds of the students is not one that is generated to a productive or creative end, for students spend the entirety of the lesson period focused on how not to get punished by the teacher, rather than concentrate on the contents of lessons.
For these young minds going to school is more like being banished or exiled into a land of terror.
The teacher is feared especially for his primitive punishment technique of using a syringe to poke the students as punishment. Sources say that if a student fails to do their homework or misbehaves in the classroom, they are bound to get pierced. Students who move their hands get it on their hands and likewise on their buttocks and other body parts.
Goshing Gup, Sangay Letho had sent the Tshogpa of Lamtang village, Dorji Lungtse to the school to confirm the reality of such punishment used by the teacher.  The Gup’s son also happened to be a victim.
“My son refused to go to school one day fearing getting poked with the needle,” said Gup Sangay Letho. He added that then he needed to confirm all the rumors doing the rounds at the time.
The Gup said, “The tshogpa has confirmed the punishment but the accused teacher was on leave that day.” In addition, he also said that the same teacher once thrashed all students in the assembly ground.  The issue was then raised during the Teachers – Parents meeting and it was suggested that such corporal punishments be abolished.
The Gup also said that the teacher fills the syringe with water and injects the kids.
Lamtang Tshogpa Dorji Lungtse said, “I went to the school and confirmed that the teacher is using a syringe to poke students as a punishment.” He added that the all students were complaining about the teacher using needles to poke them.
The Tshogpa said that the teacher punished the students violently on various parts of their body and students who were injected have swollen and wounded body parts.  The issue is yet to be put up to the Gewog Yargay Tshogchung (GYT).
Parents of the victimized kids The Bhutanese talked-to unanimously confirmed the accusations against the teacher. The parents have however been unable to lodge any formal complaints with the relevant agencies against the teacher for his brutal tactic of punishing students.
In this wild escapade of the ‘syringe-wielding-teacher’ only four out of 80 students in the school were spared the crude torture. The Tshogpa said these are the students who are very cautious in whatever they do in the class.
According to the World Health Organization the use of an unsterilized syringe on multiple occasions can lead to the possibility of dangerous diseases like HIV Aids, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. There is also danger of infection and Sepsis or blood poisoning from such unsafe medical practices.
However, a big danger according to several medical journals is that an untrained person may end up pushing in air bubbles into the veins of a patient which can either cause death or lead to massive organ damage.
An eight year old student described to his mother the teacher’s punishing tool, as a full-sized syringe which was very painful when poked it in his buttocks. The student was pricked twice and one of the wounds led to formation of boils. The parents of the kid had to take their child to the nearest Basic Health Unit for treatment.
“My son was poked on his buttocks twice and later he suffered from boils which took a long time to heal,” Leki Pelzang from Lamtang said. His son had shifted a little in his sitting position while the teacher was teaching and there he was pricked. “The wounds are still very much visible,” he said.
Leki Pelzang said his son reluctantly goes to the school fearing the punishment he may get for the slightest slip in the presence of the dzongkha teacher.
Another parent, Chezang, 46 from the same village said the children usually become sick suffering from fever. “The wound disables kids making them unable to walk,” he said. Chezang informally tried to find out how the empty needle landed up in the wrong hand but the Health Assistant of Goshing BHU denied giving out any such needle.
Chezang’s youngest son studies in the school.
Sangay Dorji, who has his sister in the school said she was sick for four days without any reason. She was bedridden and unable to move her legs. She took leave writing a leave letter. Sangay asked if there was a legalized and standing rule from Ministry of Education to do such things.  He said that a Class VI science subject had a topic/chapter on injection. He suspects if the needle made its way to school during such a lesson.
The Zhemgang Dzongkhag Education Officer (DEO) Sangay Chophel said that the case has not yet reached the dzongkhag.
“We disseminated circular to every schools about use of no corporal punishment and if this is true the teacher would be dealt according to the law of the country,” said the Zhemgang DEO. The teacher was not available for comments.

MoE dispatches team to investigate syringe case

Following a story by this paper about a Dzongkha teacher’s dangerous and highly risky use of an unsterilized syringe to punish students of Budhashi Community Primary School of Goshing in Zhemgang, a four-member Ministry of Education (MoE) team is currently in the gewog to investigate the accusation.

The investigation process
The investigation team dispatched immediately by the MoE comprises a Dzongkhag Education Officer (DEO), Legal Officer and an Assistant Dzongkhag Education Officer (ADEO) from Zhemgang Dzongkhag Administration. The team received a directive from the Ministry and headed to the site on 18 October. The team reached the site yesterday after a night halt on the way.  The investigation has started and is underway in full steam.
Team leader DEO, Sangay Chophel said all involved are thoroughly questioned and the statements have been taken. Besides the accused teacher, statements were also taken from the Principal, Gup and Tshogpas of Lamtang and Budhashi chiwog.
The investigation team also called and took statements from the parents of the victimized children who were named and quoted in the earlier story by this paper. This included Gup Sangay Letho, Lamtang Tshogpa Dorji Lungtse, Budhashi Tshogpa Rinchen Tshogyal, Chezang, Sangay Dorji and Leki Pelzang, all representatives and parents of the affected children.
When interviewed by The Bhutanese, the parents said that they submitted statements of what is true. They all submitted that it is true that their children were poked by the needle and some of these children have already started getting the adverse implications of such actions of the teacher. “There is no faltering to what has been done,” said one of the affected parents adding that they are not making any blatant accusations.
One of the affected parents, Leki Pelzang when interviewed over the phone said that they waited with their son by the footpath for the investigation team. “The team took pictures of the wound in my son’s buttocks,” he said.
He also said though it was dark but for the sake of emergence of crucial evidence, he waited. The team has asked for a meeting point since the affected households are scattered which will delay the presentation of the report.
Other parents said that due to their illiteracy and innocence, they never realized it could be dangerous. “We agree to certain degree of punishments but this was way too much,” other parents agreed. “Otherwise we respect teacher as someone who gives our children an invaluable asset called education.”
A parent who requested anonymity said, his daughter too was a victim. “She told me yesterday when the news of it spread within the gewog. However, she was lucky to have been saved by a strap of pant’s rubber,” he said.  The neeedle did not wound his daughter.

Case History
The Principal of the school, Tenzin Dorji said he came to know about the issue only when village Tshogpa called him on his cell phone complaining about the issue. “The students didn’t directly report to me rather shared with their parents, who then reported to Tshogpa.”
He first received the call on 25 September. It is therefore difficult to tell since when the Dzongkha teacher had started punishing students with the needle.
The Principal then discussed with the gewog Gup and agreed to convene a Teachers-Parents meeting to discuss the particular issue on 30 September, five days later.
However, the agreed meeting could not convene since the Gup had to leave for an official purpose. The absence of the Gup in such an important meeting could not be compromised.
According to the Principal, the origin of the syringe may be from the science laboratory of the school. “We keep syringe as part of science equipment in our school,” he said.
According to what the accused teacher submitted to the team, he went to the science lab to get one book. That is when he got hold of a syringe.

Preliminary Findings
A finding of the preliminary investigation indicated that the syringe has been used. However, in his statement to the investigation team, the accused teacher denied use of syringe to poke the students. He justified that the syringe was used only to pretend poking in order to scare the students.  The syringe in question has been found in possession of the accused teacher.
“The accused has also confessed that he handled the syringe,” said the team leader adding that the team will now try to verify and ascertain how the teacher has used the syringe to “scare” the students.
The final findings however, will be known after the investigation team completes compilation of the investigative report and submit to the authorities.

Education Minister assures justice if proven guilty
This paper also interviewed Education Minister, Thakur Singh Powdyel.
“The report is deeply disturbing it will be even more unsettling if what is reported turns out to be true.” He further said, “We, in the Education Ministry have been working hard to build a secure and enabling environment, in which our teachers and students can do their work”.
Lyonpo also said, an investigation team has been deputed and we await the report to take necessary action. “If a teacher in Budhashi Community Primary School has been resorting to such unacceptable tactic, all relevant legal provisions will be invoked to bring him to justice.”
“Meanwhile,” Lyonpo said, “We hope the Children are not too badly affected and that the school will be run as an educational institution ought to be run”.
Medical Director General says it is really dangerous.
This paper also approached Dr. Ugen Dophu, Director General of Department of Medical Services (DMS) of Ministry of Health seeking medical opinion on dangers associated to use of such unsterilized needle.
He said, that it is not good in this era of HIV, Hepatatis B and C and Aids. “It is very dangerous,” he said. He asked which teacher will do such a thing.

New blue poppy species discovered

In what could be both the discovery of a new species as well as a correction of historical botany facts, the Bhutanese blue poppy has been declared as a different species different from its yellow colored cousins found in Sikkim and Nepal.
The Bhutanese plants were named separately as blue-purple flower Meconopsis bhutanica.
Until recently it was thought that the Bhutanese blue poppy found mainly in the highlands was part of the Meconopsis discigera species found in Sikkim and Bhutan.
The flower is a unique and rare one that grows at a high altitude on rocks and moraine dams. It produces a series of leafs over the years and then only flowers. This beautiful highland flower has four to five petals and is blue-purple in color.
Botanists, Yoshida from Japan and Christopher Grey Wilson from Europe examined the detail of the photographs of the Bhutanese plants and compared them with Nepalese plants of Meconopsis discigera and concluded that the two populations are distinguishable as different species.
The Bhutanese flower was distinct from M. discigera, as the flower color is blue-purple, not pale yellow and its shape is dish- or cup shaped and not bell-shaped. There is also a difference with the obconic-cylindric and not barrel-shape of the fruit capsule.
In mid August 1995, Yoshida followed the Jhomolhari Trek in west Bhutan as a trek leader and found plants of Meconopsis with a typical dark red stylar appendage but with some fallen blue-purple petals. These plants were found in the vicinity of Tso Phu Lake growing on unstable screes.
One of members of the trek revisited the area around Tso Phu in July the following year and took photos of the plants in flower. Since then, many other trekkers followed the Jhomolhari Trek observing en route this strange and attractive blue poppy. The report says that numerous photographs of this species are now available, although sadly, little additional herbarium material. By examining many photos of the plants taken by trekkers, more differences between those of east Nepal and west Bhutan were recognized. This has been in spite of the current restriction on the collection of plant material in Bhutan.
Meconopsis bhutanica was first collected by Roland E Cooper on 27 July 1914 in flower and on 28 September in fruit, near the head of Thimpu Chu above Barshong at an altitude of 4,000m. These specimens were, however, ill-preserved and it proved very difficult to examine the details of flowers and leaves. The famous four-member British team that explored Bhutan in 1949 (Frank Ludlow, George & Betty Sherriff and JH Hicks) collected the species four times at different stages
Toshio Yoshida is a photographer and amateur botanist based in Chiba, Japan Christopher Grey-Wilson is a botanist, horticulturist and writer
The report says that from a horticultural point of view, members of this flower group have great potential. However, like so many high Himalayan alpines they require exacting conditions in cultivation. Primarily they need cool moist summers and dry winters.
In the wild, plants are protected under a deep layer of snow during winter months, while in summer the atmosphere is kept moist by the monsoon which suppresses temperatures, especially at altitude. Although seed M. bhutanica, has been introduced on a number of occasions over the years, plants have not persisted in cultivation for any length of time.
Both species are monocarpic and take several years to reach flowering maturity. Seed is set only under ideal conditions, and plants can be easily lost if they fail to set seed if one unfavorable season follows another.
However, gardeners find these types of plants a challenge and will try to perfect their cultivation whenever seed is available. Many Himalayan Primula and Gentiana species are equally demanding. The report says that what is certain is that these high altitude species of Meconopsis are among the most beautiful alpines to be found anywhere in the world.
This latest discovery published in June 2012 will further add to Bhutan’s reputation as a global bio-diversity host spot with a host of plant and animal life.

Investigation confirms use of syringe by teacher to punish students

The MoE (education ministry) team which looked into the ‘syringe case’ in Budhashi Community Primary School in Zhemgang has completed investigation and submitted the report to the concerned authorities.
Accusations against the Dzongkha teacher of the school in Goshing gewog reported by this paper have been authenticated in the course of this investigation.
The team leader of the investigation team, Dzongkhag Education Officer (DEO), Sangay Chophel said that the syringe was retrieved from the accused teacher and confirmed that he has been handling the syringe long time back.
“By the time we conducted investigation, it has been happening for a long time. Most of the evidences in terms of wounds and marks have healed,” said the team leader.
The team leader shared that in the various statements collected from the affected parents, they’ve submitted that the needle poking of their children by the accused teacher has happened. The Ministry’s investigation team during their investigation process took a statement from the Gup, who is the highest authority at the local level.
Sources say that in his statement, the Gup also submitted confirmation with regard to the teacher’s use of syringe to punish students.
As part of the investigation process, the parents were called for the meeting at the school by the investigation team.
A parent who sought anonymity fearing repercussion said that the teacher poked or jabbed almost all students from Class PP to Class VI. It was known during the meeting that at least six students have sustained visible wounds or marks.
Although this paper is yet to get an access into the official report, sources The Bhutanese talked to indicate that the content of the report say that the syringe in question has been handled by the accused to poke students. In addition, the Principal of the School, Tenzin Dorji, when earlier interviewed voiced his conviction of the dzongkhag teacher’s actions.
“Looking at the wounds, I’d to be convinced that it was created by needle,” said Principal Tenzin Dorji. He added that he had accompanied the investigation team and closely inspected the marks which victims claimed were created by the needle. “I’ve seen marks in one of the victims close to each other resembling those that a needle poking can make,” Principal said.
Goshing Gup, Sangay Letho earlier said that upon receiving an informal complaint about the teacher using syringe to punish students, he deputed his Tshogpa to the school to confirm it. “I sent the Tshogpa of Budhashi chiwog, Rinchen Tshogyal to the school, who confirmed that the teacher is using needle to poke students,” he said.
The Tshogpa said that even his son was a victim. This came to knowledge when his son studying in the same school refused to go to school. When asked about his refusal, his son said, he feared getting poked with the needle.
Another Tshogpa of the affected chiwog, Dorji Lungtse of Lamtang chiwog said, “The entire student body mentioned the teacher’s use of needle to poke them,” He said that the teacher used the needle rampantly on various parts of the students’ body and some students had swollen and wounded parts on their bodies.
The Bhutanese talked to parents of the victimized kids who unanimously confirmed that the needle poking in the school is true. All the parents maintained that there is truth in the needle poking accusations booked against the teacher. Parents also instantly alleged that their son or daughter was jabbed by the teacher’s needle.
A father of one of the victim kids, Leki Pelzang said that the investigation team came to their village. He was asked to present his son with the wounds. “I waited with my son by the footpath for the investigation team to physically inspect the wound,” he said. The team thoroughly inspected and took the pictures of the wound in his son’s buttocks.
“There is definitely hard truth in the fact that we’re unanimous in claiming that the teacher used the syringe to poke students,” said one parent adding that his son had unveiled about the poking to him. “Children are scared to share it with the teachers, they do it with us, the parents.”
Parent, Sangay Thuba from Lamtang village, whose daughter studies in Class II in the same school said, “We’re very definite when it comes to needle poking.” His daughter like any other students was a victim. “It created red marks and my daughter’s lucky it did not pierce through the skin,” said Sangay Thuba.
Sources also say that the school has an unwritten rule whereby all students are required to speak only Dzongkha and English when within the school compounds. The students are to avoid conversing in their local dialects. When one student accidently blurted out a Khengkha word in the class, whole class was on the receiving end of the teacher’s needle.
The Education Ministry put out a circular long time back against the use of corporal punishment.
The team leader said, the circular specifies that no teacher shall use sharp objects in the schools to punish students. “So, in this case, the particular teacher has violated such a direction by having the syringe landed in a wrong hand.”
However, no blood test and other laboratory examinations have been conducted, without which it is very premature to make a conclusion. Enquiries are in progress whether a Health Assistant is medically competent enough to determine negative impacts of such an act. “Physical or outer damages by such needle poking is one thing but it is quite another to see internal damages,” said Director General (DG) of Department of Medical Services of health Ministry, Dr. Ugyen Dophu.
He further said that it is not good in this era of HIV, Hepatatis B and C and AIDS. “It is very dangerous,” he said. He expressed his extreme surprise to hear such a report. The DG cautioned that whether it is a small prick or injecting the whole needle, the risk is equivalent. “Medically we know that it takes just a small prick on the skin to transmit diseases.”
This paper also contacted the accused Dzongkha Language Teacher of the syringe case.  He accepted that he handled the syringe and it remained in his possession from 20 September. However, he refuted using it to blatantly poke students. “I used it only to scare the students in order to make them study.”
He further said that at the most, he used the syringe to pretend poking. “I pressed the needle between my fingers and feigned poking.” He defended saying that if ever a mark has been created; it was because he used his nails to convince students of poking.
However, back at the ministry’s headquarters, a meeting is scheduled to be convened on 31 October. The booking of the charges to the teacher will be spelled out as per the official report.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A bridge that is progressing very slowly caused serious Inconvenience

After more than a year and given the snail’s progress, people of Phangkhar and Goshing gewog under Zhemgang have drawn their last straw of patience to see the completion of the Rindhibi Bridge.
People were elated when the construction of the bridge was initiated but lately people are grousing when nothing is happening to the bridge.
Although the two gewogs are connected with road, people have to carry goods on their back crossing the river sometimes risking their lives when light vehicles cannot ply from Rindhibi point.
“There is no progress with the bridge; it’s now more than a year,” Phangkhar Gup Rinchen Lungten said. He also said that only bridge apartments are built till now and the bridge develops very slowly.
According to him development activities are held back and procurement of construction materials especially in monsoon season is an arduous task and construction works get stalled.
He also said that many development activities are either delayed or have to be held back due to transportation problems.
“The community once approached the concerned construction company about the earliest need of the bridge,” Trong gup Dorji Wangchuk said. He said that some construction materials were inadequate and bridge apartments were left to dry.
Heavy vehicles like Tipper trucks can ply during fair monsoon but hardly any such heavy vehicles ply in that area as the truckers complained about the vehicles being dented by uneven road.
The Trong Gup also said that people who hire vehicles to transport goods are charged heavily by the owners and Nu 2000 was charged to carry goods for about 20 km distance. However those vehicles remain wedged in the river many a times.
Therefore, People have to walk 20kms from Rindhibi to reach Phangkhar and Goshing gewog.
The project Engineer of the M/s Santalal Brother Construction Company, Shivalal Acharya said the reason for the slow progress of the bridge is due to bad monsoon this year which hindered the company to transport construction materials.
He said during the worst monsoon this year they were unable to transport and store basic construction materials like sand and cement.
There also are some technical issues which led to some delay. The drawing of a bridge which comprises different parts is confusing and the client is taking time to issue a clear drawing and finalize.
However the Project Engineer said that the company is in delay in some areas but ahead in other areas. He said that the bridge would be operational within the contractual period of time.
Project Director under the Department of Road (DoR), Ministry of Works and Human Settlement Pravat Rai said that almost 90% of the construction works has been completed.
The original budget allotted for the Rindhibi Bridge was Nu 70.72mn and was initiated from April last year and the contractual period is till 31 March next year.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The GNH oil to hit market soon

Dhom Makhu – natural and organic oil to soon hit market
Tanden Zangmo
 In a month or two, Bhutanese consumers especially the Thimphu lot will get to taste natural, local and purely organic edible oil which the educated youth cooperative called Happy Green Cooperative in collaboration with the members of Goenshari Community forests management group in Punakha will be introducing in the market.
Locally known as Dhom Makhu, the oil is an extract of a certain wild berry, a berry fruit of a Symplocus tree. It is extracted by a traditional way of which the community used to do in the olden days. It is edible oil but its use not exhaustive. The oil is traditionally known for its effective body massage, cosmetics and others.
According to Chief Executive Officer of the cooperative, Sangay Rinchen, forests is a food bank and this so-called berry grows abundantly. “It was there growing in the forests from the time immemorial, but has not been explored.” Now with intervention of the Happy Green Cooperative, the oil will be extracted and sold in the market.          
Traditionally, the community members of Drachukha village of Goenshari gewog in Punakha practiced such oil extraction technique making them self-sufficient of such need. However, the practice discontinued after industrial cooking oil flooded the market. “Cheap and readily available cooking oil in the market discouraged the farmers, killing such a unique tradition,” Sangay Rinchen pointed out.
But soon it will be revived and made the oil available in the market which will serve as a steady flow of income to the beneficiaries including the farmers.  Happy Green Cooperative CEO Sangay Rinchen added that it is a green initiative focused towards employed youth and marginal farmers, which the group is governed by. “It is a need based initiative in conjunction with the available forest resources,” he said. He believes that Community forests should be a benefit-oriented, not solely focused on the conservation side.
A preliminary resource assessment was done to quantify the berry availability, which according to the exercise is substantive that the project is viable. “The fruit if left in the forests will fall to waste accruing no benefits to the communities living in the vicinity,” he said adding, “Rather we can reap lots of benefits from such a wild fruit.”
According to him, there is also not much of investment needed for the venture since majority of the household has the indigenous equipment to ooze out oil from the berry. A piece of plank, few boulders, bamboo basket and few pots and pans are all that is required for such an indigenous oil extraction process.
As practiced in the past, the berries are harvested from the forests and left to dry for few days. When it is dried to the right temper, then the fruit is pounded. The fruit needs to be steamed before it is finally pressed to ooze out the oil. The oil that flows through a curving on a small piece of wood is collected in an appropriate container.
The group is also in the process of branding and acquiring an Intellectual Property right. The product once in the market will be launched under the brand name, “Local Hero, inspired by Gross National Happiness.” The product will be professionally packaged in order to increase its shelf life.
This, Sangay Rinchen said, is to give a modern touch to the traditional product. Besides packaging, even the traditional method of oil extraction will also be blended with modern technologies. “There is also need to see the contents and other uses of such oil,” he emphasized.
But it will be a cautious approach. “Before jumping into mass production, we’ll have few trial products,” he said. He also went on to say that if the venture is successfully, the export is also within his mind. He is divulged that such natural oil will be catered to the customers through an organic restaurant at Changzamtog, Thimphu, which is the restaurant belonging to the cooperative group themselves.
An egg omelet fried in berry oil or a fern top pickled in the same oil. The recipe sounds as bizarre as his idea. But the professional chefs in the high-end hotel like Taj Tashi have shown positive response. “If their customers who mostly are foreigners come to like the menu, it is as good as exportable.”


The abominable snowman ‘drops’ by Thrumshingla

In what could reignite Bhutan’s long held fascination for the Yeti or ‘Migoi’ an official report filed by a Ranger of the Thrumshingla National Park on 3rd September, 2012 claims the discovery of ‘Yeti droppings’.
Thrumshingla Park Ranger Pema who had gone to Tang, Bumthang to file a report of cattle killed by a Tiger collected the Yeti droppings from a Mr. Dorji Wangdi a resident of Benjibi village in Bumthang.
The report says that Dorji Wangdi in turn collected the ‘Yeti droppings’ on 14 August 2011 at around 9 am from the Kumurting blue pine forest.
Mr. Dorji Wangdi apparently enjoys some credibility among Yeti watchers as the report mentions that sometime in the 1980s the same farmer sighted the foot print of a Yeti, collected the scat (droppings) and hand it over to His Majesty the Fourth King.
The park officials have collected the dropping and brought to the office for DNA analysis to confirm the ‘species’.
Internationally the scientific community generally regards the yeti as a legend, given the lack of conclusive evidence but there are those who also believe in its probable existence due to the partial evidences made available so far.
One of the most significant evidences was discovered in 2001 in Bhutan when British scientists came across a strand of hair deep in a forest which on DNA analysis did not match any known animal like bear, ape etc.
The hair was found on the inside of the hollow of a cedar tree. The team found foot prints near the tree and scratches inside the hollow.
Some of the hair was taken back to the UK for DNA testing. Bryan Sykes, Professor of Human Genetics at the Oxford Institute of Molecular Medicine and one of the world’s leading experts on DNA analysis examined the hair. He had then said in an interview, “We found some DNA in it, but we don’t know what it is. It’s not a human, not a bear not anything else we have so far been able to identify. It’s a mystery and I never thought this would end in a mystery. We have never encountered DNA that we couldn’t recognize before”.
“The story of a Migoi was told to me but I haven’t really encountered a Migoi yet and my belief is we could have it according to the true stories which were passed down the generations,” said Dr. Sonam Wangyel Wang formerly of the forest department and now with the Royal Education Council.
He also said that a team was sent to various suspected places in the country in a hunt of yeti after people believed its existence but could not encounter with it. He added that scientifically he believes that the Apes and Bigfoot once existed but due to the climate change it might have disappeared.
When asked about the recent sight of yeti scat in TNP Dr. Sonam Wangyel Wang said that the scat should be first analyzed and matched with the depiction about the yeti (recorded scientifically).
The Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, a large national park, was created in part as a place to protect it. Once Bhutan bothered to set up a postal system, in the early 1960s, Bhutan issued stamps honoring the Migoi.
Bhutan’s Nature Conservation Department has around half a dozen framed plaster casts mounted on the wall. The frames show the outline of irregular grayish footprints around 12 inches long. All, according to small signs, come from yetis.
Many traditional beliefs remain deeply ingrained in Bhutan that the yeti exists while among the modern and educated community the Yeti is more myth then real.