Tuesday, October 27, 2015

International snow leopard day in memory of a young forester who died in the line of duty
Tanden Zangmo/Thimphu
The international snow leopard day celebrated in Drugyel Higher Secondary School, paro yesterday was a special tribute to a 28 years old forester who succumbed to altitude sickness in the line of duty.
A forester of Wangchuk Centenial National Park (WCNP) was on his official duty engaged in setting up systematic camera traps in aplace called  …….. to determine the spatial distribution and identify the individual snow leopard when he succumbed to the altitude sickness.
Hence this serves as a stark reminder to other officials who engaged in a similar duty about the lack of essential equipment in avoiding tragic incidence in future.
According to the Deputy Minister, office of the special advisor to the National Environment Commission, Paljor Jigme Dorji the international snow leopard day this year in Bhutan is a special tribute to those foresters who perform their duty under the harsh climatic conditions and especially to pay respect to the young forester who died in the line of duty about a weeks ago.
“Foresters in Bhutan work hard in unpleasant climate and I am saddened by the news” He said.
The foresters in the country are not trained to battle such harsh climate and they are provided with basic first aid kit while venturing in high altitude.
Karma Thukten, a forestry official with Ugyen Wangchuk Institute for Conservation of Environment (UWICE) remember his lost forester friend as a most dedicated person who never compromise his work and a straightforward person.
He said that it is hard to believe that he died so young from avoidable circumstance and yet his service towards the country would be remembered with high admiration.
When asked about how equipped the foresters in the country are to trounce such situation, Karma Thukten said that the foresters lack training as well as apparatus to overcome such difficulties in unpleasant environment.
“The office lack special equipment to ward off the travel fatigue in the ultra thin mountain air” Karma Thukten said.

Karma Thukten after the demise of his friend has seek out doctor’s advice and was opined that dead due to altitude sickness can be easily prevented with one dose of injection.
Forest offices in the country lack emergency equipment like oxygen bag or altitude acclimatization tools, except the basic ones and those who venture in high altitude are not outfitted with required equipment to battle harsh high altitude.
He further went on to say that with such a fatality it is very critical to have equipment for field officials without which the foresters cannot perform their duties well.
However the risk does not only refer to the foresters but also the Cordyceps collectors and others who often climb high up in the mountain.  It is known that as people climb up, the oxygen thickens and air temperature gets drops down which causes difficulties in breathing and adapting to the environment.
Over the years the WCP team has been conducting many systematic cameras trapping of snow leopard by setting up cameras to understand snow leopard and its behaviors.
Similarly the deceased with his team from Wangchuk Centennial National Park (WCNP) was conducting a camera trap set up to study  snow leopard and its prey base survey, identify the individual snow leopard and spatial distribution and  a kind of movement they make etc.
Through this scheme the Park officials could determine the presence of healthy population of illusive snow leopard in Bhutan and was able to study the whole behavior of both snow leopard and Tibetan wolf.
With their effort of numerous phase of camera trapping survey more about the Snow Leopards’ presence, distribution and individuals was able to understand.
As per the reports there are approximately 2,000 numbers of snow leopards in the world.
Bhutan is one of the 12 countries in Asia that harbor the cats’ population in its natural habitat. It is also estimated that about 100-200 leopards are expected to be surviving  in thewild.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The true face of poverty
Tanden Zangmo
If anyone in the Country understands what poverty is, it is the family living in a ramshackle hut in the far corner of the country. A family that finds solace in a temporary structure just bare enough to shield them from the nature’s wrath.
The roof made of banana leaves can hardly drain heavy shower in summer, resulting in rain water infiltrating right inside the house. The bamboo mat railing of the house does any better job. The cold in winter seeps directly inside from the wide holes in the railings as well as the bamboo floor. But this is the best the family can afford to build.
If they have had first meal of the day that too very hardly, they are oblivious from where would the next meal come from. The ration stock in the small granary has run out long time back and remains empty. There is not a single grain coming out from the granary.
It is the toughest time for the mother when all she can do is stay watching at the pots with her children. The children nag her for food, but their only hope is their father who went out to borrow few kilograms of grains from the neighbor. If only he is lucky.   
The fields remain barren hardly bearing anything. The soil is infertile that no matter how much they toil, very little can be reaped. What little they can grow is constantly ravaged by wild animals. Their home located on the lap of towering mountain with thick forest right in the fringes of their field provides perfect hideout for the wild animals. They attack the field in every opportunity and by the time they harvest, there is only little yield.
The harvest last only for few months and they get drowned again in the poverty. They could save very little crops from the wild animals with even with so much hardship. Whole season of sleepless night, guarding the field was what they did the whole season. If not, not even a single corn of the maize can be harvested.  Hence, buried deep in the poverty, this is no other choice for the family but survives against all such odds.
This is the plight of a family in a remote village in Mongar, a part of the country, so far flung that it takes ages for the development to take place. Surplus is a word they have never heard of when even subsistence is rare thing. The world to them is what is within the four mountains and beyond is only the space.  
Bhutan developed so much just in few decades, which other countries have taken a century. With planned development having started only from 1960s, many communities were brought onboard and benefitted immensely from the developmental activities. The government aggressively pursued and took poverty eradication head on. But, there is no denying that there is lot many to reach out.
The figures are comforting when it reflects that, the poverty rate has been halved from 23% to 12% in last few years. For an educated lot, it is a big achievement.  They can relate the numbers to so many people freed from the poverty. But the family in the remote Mongar, they know nothing about the figure. Even if they can, they care least. What they care most is, how will they get to eat the next meal.

Government’s effort in thrashing out border insecurities and predicament
Tanden Zangmo/Thimphu
In view of the spate of abduction, the people of Gelephug have been living with constant fear over the last two years and in addition to it , the recent death of a Indian national in Samtse have brought even greater danger from across the border .
According to Dremetsi-Ngatsang representative Ugyen Wangdi these incidents have infused sense of insecurity all over the south and have shown how venerable the entire country is to the eternal threat.
Hence he asked the the Home and Cultural Affair Minister Damcho Dorji if the government is taking these threats seriously and what is being done to prevent such similar problem in future.
Respodning to the question, Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said that in ensuring saftey of those people living near the border areas the government conduct secretary level coordination meeting regarding Bhutan-India Meeting on Border Management and Security (BIM-BMS).
Institutionalized by Royal Governemnet of Bhutan (RgoB)  and Governement Of India GOI in 2004, as of now nine rounds of BIM-BMS was conducted and last round was held in New Delhi in June this year.
Further Lyonpo shared that Bhutan also carry out  Border Districts Coordination Meeting ( DCM) with West Bengal and as of now 20 rounds of DCM has happened. And further  Border Districts Coordination meeting ( DCM) is also conducted  with Assam and as of now nine  rounds of BDCM have been held.

Accoring to Lyonpo District Level Coordination Meetings is also being conducted in quarterly basis within the level of the Dzongdag and District Magistrate and  also coordination with  Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) is conducted between Dzongkhag/Dungkhag and SSB counterparts.
Meanwhile Lyonpo also shared on the kidnappings cases happened from 22 October 2012. And as per the reported cases to the Home Minister, a total of 12 Bhutanese citizens were kidnapped from and outside Bhutanese prefecture.

First case of kidnapping of a taxi driver called Benulal Sunar from Tinbandi Khola was reported on 22 October 2012 and since then seven Bhutanese was kidnapped from Bhutan and five Bhutanese from Indian Territory.
The number of kidnapping has been increasing each year and as per the Home ministry’s record, in 2012 two men was reported to have kidnapped, four in 2013 and six kidnapping cases was reported this year.
However Lyonpo said that except for two drivers kidnapped on 5 September this year, rest are all released and as of now the families of those hostages has paid a total of Nu.4.060 million for their release.
Lyonpo said that the governement is still claiming for driver Thinley Wangchuk who is still missing and the families has received last ransom call on 18 Sep 2014.
Therefore, with growing cases of kidnapping and border issues, Lyonpo said that  from Royal Bhutan Police side Intensified day and night armed patrolling along Sarpang-Gelephu is being carried out.
Further lyonpo said that police carry out random mobile checkposts and picketing,night ambush at vulnerable points, survey of likely kidnap targets and armed ambush, restrictions on vehicle movements between 9pm to 5 am and frisking and search of Suspicious border entrants.
In addition constant coordination and meetings with counterparts is conducted along with continuous awareness campaign and Bhutanese vehicles traveling out of Gelephu convoys at 8, 11 and 14 hrs.
Lyonpo said that the government has issued official Bhutanese SIMs to SSB focal officers to carry out intensive patrolling along the border.

Coming to the security Measures by the Bureau of Law and Order, Lyonpo said that BLO have been continuously applying pressure on counterparts in Delhi, Assam and West Bengal and the RGoB has called for 10th BDCM with Assam from 19-21 Dec this year and with West Bengal in January, 2015.

Dzongkhag, Dungkhag and RBP have been carrying out sensitizing meetings and Nodal Officer, IB, New Delhi GOI informed and assistance requested through hotline.
“GOI will restart escorting of Bhutanese vehicles on Indian highway” Lyonpo said.

Regarding the death of an Indian woman, Sumitra Loha, 17 yr old maid from Chamurchi, Lyonpo shared that base on the Investigation of Police and Health has ruled out that the cause of death as overdose of dendrite.
Lyonpo said that the girl was found kneeling over her pillow with 500 ml dendrite bottle and believe to have died due to suffocation.
 Lyonpo said that the Parents were called and body was handed over after they were confirmed of no foul play and Nu. 10,000 were given on humanitarian ground to the deceased family.
On 23 November, parents along with mob alleged that the girl had been raped and murdered in Samtse where Mob blocked Chamurchi-Samtse highway and started attacking Bhutanese vehicles.
About 10 Bhutanese vehicles were destroyed and two were set on fire by the mob on that day.
Immediately after the mob agitation was started lyonpo said that border checkpoint was ask to closed down and MoHCA immediately contacted the Commissioner of North Bengal for intervention. “Accordingly the commissioner immediately mobilized local authorities to control” Lyonpo said.
Lyonpo said that the Samtse Dzongkhag has written to the District Magistrate for compensation for Bhutanese vehicles damaged and MoHCA, Samtse Dzongkhag and RBP are in constant contact with JP authorities to monitor situation in Chamurchi.

Lyonpo said that the government sympathies with the bereaved parents of Sumitra Loha and was regrettable that such incidents took place when it was a case of clear overdose of dendrite.

However, Lyonpo said that the government is awaiting the results of postmortem and
in the wake of this unfortunate incident; the government is reviewing the policy of baby sitters from across border.
Rhododendrons festival, a tribute to the fourth Monarch
Tanden Zangmo/Thimphu

Bhutan today is still among the top biodiversity hotspots in the world and major chunk of the land is still under forest due to the farsighted vision of His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuk.
Hence the third Rhododendron festival is the best tribute to His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo who has done so much for the forests and nature conservation.
“this little effort from us is a tribute to what he has done”
Rhododendron locally known as Etho Metho is a woody flowering plant and Bhutan today is home for over 40 species of rhododendron which among four are known to be endemic like R.Kesangiae named in honor of Her majestry The Royal Grandmother of Bhutan Ashi Kesang Choden.
Recognizing the crucial part the communities residing within the park plays in its management, the Royal Botanical Park at Lamperi will bring communities such as Chang, Kawang and Dagala gewog under Thimphu and Toeb gewog under Punakha Dzongkhag together in celebrating the third annual Rhododendron festival for three days from today (18 April).
During the three day long festival the park would actively engage the community members in all sphere of the festival and the festival would feature the rhododendron garden walk and exhibition as a mark of respect to the fourth Druk Gyalpo.
This is done through engaging the community members in staging various cultural and entertainment programme.
In addition, the community members will also put up food and beverage stalls so that it provides them avenue to generate income. This, according to the park official, is to make the people realize that they can derive benefits from park. “Most think that establishment of park in their areas is more of imposition.” Imposition, in terms of restricting the extraction of forests and natural resources.
So, such festival is also expected to clear such misconception.
The festival will also bring together almost all the stakeholders engaged in park management. Hence, during such congregation, they are expected to interact and share views and opinion.
Besides, several other representatives will speak to the gathering and pass on crucial messages of the importance of park management.
Free talks by different stakeholders will also be delivered. Further, numerous audio-visual documentaries will be screened. All this, the park official said is their effort to provide education and awareness about the park.  
In addition, the visitors wishing to know more about the park is also entertained in the village and given the opportunity to freely interact with the park experts.
The Royal Botanical Park at Lamperi is also known for its prominent walking trails and camp sites. The trail such as Serichu nature trail runs through virgin and undisturbed part of the park where the trekkers get to smell the freshness of the forest floor with many species of birds chirping. 
The visitors will also get to experience boating in Baritsho while others can join in horse riding. The visitors can also participate and enjoy playing variety of traditional Bhutanese games.       
The festival is organized at Royal Botanical Park with support from Department of Forests and Park Services (DoFPS), Tourism Council of Bhutan and World Wildlife Fund – Bhutan and 60th Birthday Celebration Committee, Royal Government of Bhutan.
The Royal Botanical Park which is spread over an area of 47 sq. mile incredibly harbors over 46 species of rhododendrons which is two less of having all the 48 species of Rhododendron found in the whole Country.

Sixth nomad festival  
Tanden Zangmo /Thimphu
Nomads in the country will once again get together to celebrate the unique nomad festival initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forest which has proved to the most excellent platform for the nomads and herders to show case their varied cultures, traditions and experiences.
Every year semi nomad from Haa, Paro, Thimphu, Gasa, Wangduephodrang, Bumthang, Trashi Yangtse and Trashigang participates in the event but this year nomads from Bumthang and Wangduephodrang are only called for participation.
This year the two day long festival which will take place from February 23 till 25 in Thangbee in Chokhoer gewog under Bumthang dzongkhag is dedicated to the 60th birth anniversary of the fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuk.
With the theme of the festival ‘promoting harmony for bio-culture diversity’ would see nomads showcasing their tradition and culture of the nomads such as nomadic life style, handicrafts, weaves etc.
Further the nomads would also exhibit their traditional games like Soksum, pungdo, Khuru and variety of nomadic dances that are prominent in their locality.
According to the Park Manager Tshering Dendup with the Wangchuk Centennial National Park, the festival held every year is dedicated to the nomadic communities in the country to bring together these communities and herders to showcase their varied cultures, traditions and experiences.
Nomads in the country not only have exclusive culture but they are also known to have a sacred and indispensible duty of contributing towards sovereignty and border integrity of the Country by acting as a buffer zone at the bordering areas.
Park Manager Tshering Dendup further said that organizing such festival would encourage the young nomads to retain back in their home and continue to take care of their ancestral farmland.
 The park manager added that organizing such festival would create a platform where nomads of different districts to showcase their transhumance practice (transfer of livestock from one grazing ground to another, as from lowlands to highlands, with the changing of seasons), foods, culture and traditions.
The annual festival is also aims to acknowledge reinforce and value the special role played by the highland people in the conservation of bio cultural heritage of Bhutan,
Apart from such festival the government has also a policy of taking education and other social amenities closer to them hoping that taking such amenities would help retain the economically productive members of the family.
The festival encourages and brings together people from all sections of the society thus minimizing the social stigma attached to some sections of the society.
The nomads would demonstrate their local dances and further cook their traditional nomadic cuisines like Jagbuli, Khuli and Puta and sell their livestock products; for local communities to supplement their income through home stays and catering services.
During the festival, those visitors interested in trekking would be guided by the local people to trek the popular Bumthang cultural trek.
In return agriculture ministry would showcase economically viable farm technologies, programs and entrepreneurial activities geared towards alleviation of rural poverty.
On the whole the festival is intended to provide them with an avenue for interaction with other fellow Bhutanese, promote the idea of linkage between ecotourism and conservation to boost the socioeconomic status of the nomads and provide tourists with the opportunity to experience the culture and traditions of rural Bhutan.
The festival also aims to disseminate information to the nomads on the values of conservation of flora and fauna, watershed management, economic development, animal and plant husbandry etc.
The two day long festival is organized by Wangchuck Centennial National Park and supported by Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB), Bhutan Trust Fund for Environment Conservation (BTFEC) and Wild Wildlife Fund Bhutan.

One Man arrested in connection to Homicide and another still in search
Tanden Zangmo/Thimphu
A 39-year-old man, Gyembo from Punakha is arrested by the police in connection to the Olokha Homicide case happened on January 13 this year. The man was handed over to  the Punakha police by one of the public.
The Chief of Police during the press conference declared that the police have dispatched Nu 20,000 in the morning of February 12 as a reward to the person who helped the RBP to find him.
The man after his arrest have undergone extensive investigation and found out criminal record in the past where he was convicted for about one year and three months. He was also learned drug addict.
History of the crime
The incident has happened in the evening of January 12 this year in the suspect’s house at the central Plaza building and a man called Dorji Wangchuk was also in the suspect’s house where the deceased has also joined the two afterward.
The deceased under the drug influence has asked for dinner and in the process while preparing the curry they had an argument.
As per the Gyembo’s conviction the police was told that the victim acted wild and started attacking with the blade in between their argument and Gyembo has attacked the deceased back with the same blade.
And Gyembo has confessed to the police that he strike the victim about nine times with the blade until the deceased fainted. Later when Dorji Wangchuk left the house, Gyembo has pushed the deceased from the balcony so that the dead would presume due to the fall from the balcony.
On January 13 at around 7:30 AM the body was found and the police after reaching the crime scene has found out blood draging to the ground from Gyembo’s house and later found his clothes drenched with blood being thrown in the river.
According to the Chief of Police Brigadier Kipchu Namgyel, Gyembo was confirmed murderer beyond reasonable doubt by the police instantly after the crime was reported and to further strengthen the evidence the police has retrieved his clothes and has locked his apartment.
The second person involved in the homicide case is still in search by the police who according to arrested Gyembo has played no role during the incident.
However the Chief of Police said that that Dorji Wangchuk is wanted as a witness to the case and would be sensible if he surrender himself to the police to prove innocent, else he would be given heavier charges if arrest by the police. 
According to the Chief of Police such heinous crime has happened out of petty issue and the youths today initiate with minor issue for many atrocious crimes recorded so far.
The police have recorded 19 homicide cases in 2013 and nine cases in 2014 in the country.