Foreign Minister questioned on Bhutan-China boundary

Damcho Zam, Thimphu
Nov 25 2016
The foreign minister, Damcho Dorji, in the National Council today, said the difference in claims of boundary still exist between Bhutan and China.
It has been two decades since the boundary talks between the two countries began.
Lyonpo was responding to a question put up by the National Council’s Deputy Chairperson, Tshering Dorji.
Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said the two countries started a joint technical field survey for a proper demarcation.
The survey first began in 2013.
“The talks are, most of the time, based on traditional customs of usage of land and the administrative authority.”
The minister said the area include Pasu-Lam in the centre, Dok Lam in the West, Charithang, Sinchu la and Dangmana.
Lyonpo said they are working hard to solve the issue and that the relationship between the two countries is a priority.

Reviving the art of Chog-Zhi-Bur-Zo

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Reviving the art of Chog-Zhi-Bur-Zo
November 24, 2016
Craft: The details are just astounding.
Dechen Tshewang, a trainer at the Institute of Zorig Chusum in Thimphu, along with his three apprentices, will be remembered as the folks who revived the chog-zhi-bur-zo (four dimensional woodcarving).
“All wood carvings subsisting in the country are three-dimensional,” Dechen Tshewang said. Woodcarvings are mostly found on altars, pillars and walls.
He said that during Zhabdrung’s reign the art of four-dimensional woodcarving was practiced to make statues. “There are today only a few wooden statues and these are centuries old. One is at the Chari monastery.”
The tradition of making four-dimensional wooden statues died with the emergence of bronze and mud statues, he said.
Upon the Royal Command of His Majesty The King a few years ago, a project to revive this art was started. Dechen Tshewang’s sense of fulfilment was visible from his gestures at the Zorig exhibition yesterday.
The most appealing display at the exhibition was the four-dimensional, architecturally convoluted four-foot edifice of Zhabdrung Phuensum Tshogpa, the most significant altarpiece for Bhutanese.
A complex arrangement of two imperial dragons twirled around the stems of lotuses and rising up against the sky wrap around the statue of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, which sits in the centre of the piece.
On the petals of the lotus are seated 14 smaller statues of Drukpa masters like Naropa, Pema Karpo and Tsangpa Jayray, among others. On the top centre,sits the god of wisdom, Jampelyang. The entire details of Zhabdrung Phuensum Tshogpa as seen in Thongdrel has been carved on wood.
What makes the structure look so extraordinary is that all these life-like details are carved on a single piece of wooden block, making the entire network look like a celestial abode. It took Dechen Tshewang and his team five months to complete the project.
“Such thing has never been made in Bhutan,” Dechen Tshewang said, adding this is only the first step in reviving the chog-zhi-bur-zo. He plans to carve Guru Tshengye on a similar architectural model.
This, however, would not be possible without the two trainers from Nepal hired specifically for this project.
“The anxiousness of completing the task has even woken me at three in the morning,” Dechen Tshewang said.
It was his hands that gave a rich traditional feel to the Zhiwaling Hotel in Paro and the nunnery at Woolakha in Punakha. But he was never so nervous.
“It was a challenge because there were no fast rules or a model,” he said. “There were times when we had to make people pose. Sometimes we had to broaden our imagination,” he said.
He considers the completion of this project auspicious as it falls on the anniversary of 400 years of Zhabdrung’s arrival in the country.
The tradition will be kept alive hereon, said Dechen Tshewang.
Tshering Dorji

Preparing for seismic hazards

November 24, 2016
Workshop: More than 30 scientists and engineers, both local and international, met at a two-day workshop to understand seismic hazards and on-going risk reduction initiatives in the country.
Scientists discussed attempts, including empirical research findings and models, to solve questions of a lurking earthquake and concluded that more research is necessary.
Four mega earthquakes occurred during the last 100 years along the Himalayan front of Nepal and India. Records suggest that four earthquakes of magnitude 8+ on the Richter scale occurred before 1950, and 10 more exceeding magnitude 7.5 have occurred in the Himalayan belt in the past 100 years.
Government agencies reported risk reduction and preparation measures for seismic networking, and retrofitting of traditional buildings to improve resistance to seismic activity, among others.
Works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden said that for Bhutan any hazard could take a huge toll on its social and economic wellbeing.
The ministry has developed manuals and guidelines for earthquake resistant structures and trained engineers and artisans.
However, there is a weak compliance and monitoring system on the ground both in rural and urban parts of the country.
“Construction of buildings are generally left up to the owner and the artisans, who are mostly unskilled labourers,” said chief engineer of the engineering services department, Karma Namgyel.
There are only a few qualified structural engineers and there is no certification system for practicing civil engineers.
One of the major constraints in the country is the non-availability of scientific data. “At the same time the scale of potential risks and therefore the losses does not allow the nation to wait for more precise information,” the minister said.
She added that the country could not wait any longer for research.
Therefore, Lyonpo said, it is prudent to use whatever regional data or inferences available for hazard mapping and risk assessments which in turn would entail necessary mitigation measures and implementation.
Following the devastating September 2009 earthquake in Mongar, the government instituted a geophysics division under the geology and mines department in 2011.
The division will read the depth magnitude and location of the earthquakes and fill the scientific information gap. The 14 seismic stations spread across the country will be operational early next year. Installation of intensity meters to study ground shaking is under process.
The data is expected to help structural engineers to develop seismic building codes relevant to local needs.
Disaster management department’s executive engineer, Yeshey Lotey, said one problem is not having a dedicated disaster management officer.
Experts said building capacity at the village level is the most effective preparedness.
Executive Director of National Society for Earthquake Technology, Amod Mani Dixit, said villagers were the most effective in rescuing people in the aftermath of the 2015 Nepal earthquake.
Of the 22,326 people rescued from the rubble, 17,887 were extricated by the communities or on their own.
“This shows the potential of saving lives by building capacity in the communities,” he said.
Experts said that buildings must adhere to national codes. “If we build strong, then there is no need to rebuild,” Dr Amod Mani Dixit said.
Roads in Bhutan are vulnerable, experts said. “There are huge rocks hanging from the road cuttings along the Thimphu-Phuentsholing highway which could cause problems in the event of an earthquake,’ CST lecturer Sarkar said.
He added that stationing road-clearing machineries along the roads is critical for a swift, and effective response.
World Bank sponsored the workshop through the Government of Japan funding.
Tshering Palden

Amici del Bhutan - Italy