Haazam dies in Taba
April 4, 2018
It is reported that she suffered a seizure when the Kabesa tiger was brought to the centre
The wildlife rehabilitation centre in Taba, Thimphu lost 6-year-old Himalayan black bear, which was affectionately called as Haazam on March 23.
It is reported that the bear died after the tiger, which was spotted in Kabesa was brought to the centre.
Deputy chief forest officer, Kuenzang Gyeltshen, said that Haazam had a seizure when the tiger was brought to the rehabilitation centre.
He said that the bear didn’t recover from the seizure and died the next day. “The tiger was brought in on March 22 and she died on March 23. She couldn’t be revived from the shock. Other animals are silent and scared but they are coping well now.”
The centre houses a Samba deer, a monkey and two bears.
Haazam was first brought to the rehabilitation centre in 2015 from Haa. Injured while ensnared, she doesn’t have one of her paws, which makes it difficult for her to hunt.
Kuenzang Gyeltshen said that Haazam was weak, as the bear wasn’t feeding well. “After losing her hand, she was not playful. We have a wooden box placed inside her enclosure and she is always in there.”
Haazam was one of the two bears who were to be at the centre for the rest of their lives. The other bear, Nakar is 10 months old.
Wildlife rehabilitation centre provides treatment and care to the injured, orphaned, or sick wild animals so that they can be released into the wild after treatment. For animals unable to live in the normal habitat, they are kept at the centre.
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that the tiger spotted at Kabesa is a male. Forest officials said that when the animal was first examined, it was mistaken as a female. Samples to verify a canine distemper disease was also sent to Thailand on March 30. The centre is still waiting for the report to confirm the disease.
Foresters said that on March 31, the Zhung Dratshang also conducted a kurim for quick recovery of the endangered species.
The tiger is currently placed in an enclosure few meters from the bears. The rehabilitation centre is about 13m by 10m in space.
Kuenzang Gyeltshen said the centre is currently working on building a new rehabilitation centre for animals that will remain permanently at the centre.
He added that earlier, the centre had identified few acres of land near Semtokha, which proved unsuitable due to its gradient. “The ministry has identified land at Kabesa and we are yet to see if the area is suitable.”
The centre is also looking for fund to build the new rehabilitation centre.
A rehabilitation centre at Gelephu does not have enclosures for carnivores. Today, all four enclosures at the centre are occupied.
Kuenzang Gyeltshen said that the centre’s proposal for new rehabilitation centre was not prioritised in the past.
He added that although there weren’t similar incidents in the past, the need for a rehabilitation was recognised by the centre. “Bhutan receives donations and funding for our environment and conservation activities. But unfortunately activities with visible outcome have been prioritised today.”
A Himalayan black bear has a life expectancy of 15 years in the wild and about 20 years in captivity. In some countries, they live up to 25 year in captivity.
“Captive life expectancy in the country is less because we lack the required facilities for animals,” Kuenzang Gyeltshen said.
Bengal tigers have a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years in the wild
Govt. lost over Nu 10bn in revenue over a decade BBS
Samten Dolkar, Thimphu
Apr 6, 2018
From 2008-18, the government lost over Nu 10bn of revenue due to fiscal incentives and tax exemptions, reveals “The Fiscal Incentives and Tax Foregone from 2008 to 2018,” report, which the finance ministry released recently.
The figures on fiscal incentives were published after the opposition asked the government to “make public all the beneficiaries of fiscal incentives.” The opposition made this move following allegations against former Works and Human Settlement Minister, Yeshey Zimba.
Exemption on income and sales tax, and customs duty are considered as fiscal incentives.
The report highlights that under sales tax and customs duty exemption, Bhutan Hotels Private Limited or Le Meridian had highest total tax exemption amounting to over Nu 80m.
The second highest is the Bhutan Ventures Hospitality Limited with over Nu 25m. However, the difference in the amount of tax exemption between the two is over Nu 55m. Some 126 hotels in the country enjoyed exemption from sales tax and customs duty.
Coming to income tax exemption, Taj Tashi had the highest exemption of over Nu 7m, followed by Amankora in Punakha with over Nu 9m. Among the nine major sectors, the total tax exemption was highest for the service sectors such as Drukair, Bhutan Telecom and Bhutan Power Corporation among others. The incentives amounted to over Nu 5bn.
Fiscal incentives availed by Hotel Riverside, which belongs to the brother of the serving Finance Minister, Namgay Dorji is still under ACC investigation, states the report.
What were the allegations against the former MoWHS Minister?
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) accused the former minister of official misconduct and policy corruption. The allegation was in relation with fiscal incentives for tourist standard hotels enforced at the end of the previous government’s tenure. The PMO in January this year requested the Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate the case.
The DPT government had approved additional fiscal incentives titled “Revised List of Incentives for Tourist Standard Hotels” on 17 April, 2013, just three days before its dissolution to make way for the second parliamentary elections.
A press release, issued on January 26 by the PMO, stated that Yeshey Zimba chaired the cabinet meeting which approved the additional fiscal incentives. The government is also alleging that the incentives were enforced days before the erstwhile government’s dissolution to bypass reporting requirement to the Parliament.
During that time Le Meridien was under construction. The hotel is a FDI incorporated venture in partnership with Bhutan Hotels Limited, which is owned Yeshey Zimba’s daughter.
The press release specified that official records show the hotel was benefited with over Nu 76m due to the implementation of additional incentives. It also stated 92 other hotels benefited from the incentives but over 41 per cent of the total tax exemption amount went in favour of Bhutan Hotels Limited or Le Meridien.
“Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba, being one of the cabinet ministers, had wilfully failed to declare conflict of interest as required by law and has apparently committed official misconduct in leading the decision making process that has hugely benefited his family member,” stated the press release.
However, the opposition party refuted all the allegations and said this was done for “political mileage”.
BBS East-West highway widening works hamper farmhouse business in Ura
Apr 5, 2018
Ura Gewog in Bumthang is seeing an increasing number of farmhouses in recent years. From one in 2007, the gewog now has 12 farmhouses that cater to tourists.
However, most of them are not doing well. Over the past years, the number of tourists using the facilities was not up to the expectation of the owners. “Bangpa Heritage Farm stay” is the oldest and most visited farmhouse by the tourists. But, it receives not more than 30 guests in a year.
“Because of East-West highway widening, we don’t get good number of tourists,” the owner, Tashi Wangmo said.
Other farmhouses share similar stories. They said tourists travel back to Chamkhar in the evening after hike along Shertang La. “Last year, around 10 tourists came to my farmhouse simply to have lunch,” added another farmhouse operator, Ugyen Lhaden.
Despite that, several farmhouses are coming up. One such is a two-storey structure, which is getting a facelift to convert it into a farmhouse by a group of youths. Locals there hope more tourists will visit the valley when the East-West Highway widening works are over.
Ura is popular among the tourists for the hike across the Shertangla between Jakar and Ura. The village temple known as Ura Mangi Lhakhang is also one of the main tourist attractions.
Laya’s school dropout crisis
Sherub Dorji, Gasa
Apr 5, 2018
Passang Dorji was in class nine when he dropped out of Laya Lower Secondary School in 2015. However, Passang was neither the first nor the last student to have quit school in Laya.
In the last five years, some 36 students have dropped out of school for various reasons.
11 students dropped out in 2015, the highest in the recent years. Last year too saw ten students leave and this year, seven students haven’t showed up yet.
Kuensel nature-based products launched
April 6, 2018
To support sustainable rural livelihoods and to contribute to conservation of biodiversity in the country, nine nature-based products were launched in Thimphu yesterday.
The products include anti-wrinkle cream, balm, liniment oil, massage oil, perfume, soaps, and hand sanitiser developed from herbs such as Zingiber cassumunar, Phyllanthus emblica, Rhododendron anthopogon and Sapindus rarak among others.
The products were developed after the formalisation of the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) agreement between community members and stakeholders.
To develop nature-based products in line with the ABS framework, National Biodiversity Centre (NBC), Menjong Sorig Pharmaceutical Corporation Limited (MSBCL), and Bio Bhutan in collaboration with UNDP implemented the project in Loggchina gewog in Chhukha, Langthel in Trongsa and Lingshi and Dagala in Thimphu.
Project manager Chencho Dorji said, the project helped benefit four communities in the country. “Apart from the monetary benefit of getting the products at a premium price, the capacity of the communities was strengthened through trainings such as sustainable harvesting.”
He said that unlike regular trade where only raw materials are bought from the communities, the project looks into the additional benefits to the community.
The products are not yet in the market.
United Nations resident coordinator, Gerald Daly said, there is connection between the people and the biodiversity of the country. “However, in recent times, it is threatened by a number of factors. Over-harvesting species for food and medicine is a major driver in a biodiversity collapse and extinctions globally.”
He said the ABS framework and Biodiversity Act are important legislations that ensure sustainable utilisation of the country’s rich biological resources while also protecting the local and indigenous communities.
“To us, this means growth and development are inclusive and sustainable. It means incorporating productive capacities that create employment and livelihoods for the poor and excluded people of Bhutan,” he said.
It was learnt that the first component of the project is to facilitate an operational national regulatory and institutional framework.
The second focuses on strengthening the capacity of key institutions and procurement of research and development equipment to implement the ABS framework.
The third demonstrates best practice of the ABS framework through the development of nature-based products involving the local community directly.
Highlighting the importance of biodiversity, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said there is a need to ensure people don’t recklessly deplete resources and unknowingly destroy biological hotspots. “These are products that come from biodiversity hotspots as we have pristine environment.”
Agriculture secretary, Rinzin Dorji said, the launch was organised in line with the ministry’s efforts to strengthen the sustainable utilisation of resources and associated traditional knowledge.
“The key objective of the launch is to showcase the ASB framework for development of nature based product, which is based on the prior informed consent and mutually agreed terms, between provider and user of genetic resources and their associated traditional knowledge.”
It was learnt that a portion of monetary benefit drawn from the products would go to ABS fund to support and sustain biodiversity conservation efforts in the country.
GEF-UNDP and the government funded the USD 1Million project, which started in October 2014. The project ends this September.
BBS Use Right System pilot projects provide employment opportunities to youths
Sonam Tshering, Monggar
Apr 5, 2018
Though it’s been only barely over a year since the first-ever Use Right System projects were piloted in Lhuentse, the project has already benefited 25 unemployed youths in the dzongkhag’s rural pockets.
The project is a component of Land Kidu programme and aims to encourage the youth to take up commercial farming and enhance economic productivity in the rural areas.
Of the four pilot projects launched in Lhuentse in March last year, one is in Gulabi in Minjey Gewog.
A group of youth in the gewog who took up integrated commercial farming under the pilot project is doing well.
They cultivated various vegetables and crops on a 15-acre land. The group had sold over 3,000 tons of vegetables in just one year, which earned them an income of Nu 90,000.
Tashi Tshomo, a member of the Use Right System Pilot Project in Menji shared the benefits of the project. “It is for youths like us,” she said.
“Some young people rely on their parents for livelihood and when their parents fail to provide for them, they indulge in substance abuse. We, all 15 of us, are lucky to be part of the project. ”
“I have stayed home without any job until this project came to us,” Thinley Jatsho, another member said.
“Last year, the Gewog Tshogpa asked us to attend a meeting on the pilot project. After attending the meeting, I thought it is going to benefit me because I will not have to go to Thimphu looking for job opportunities. The project is benefiting us a lot.”
The other three projects are in Jarey, Kurtoed and Maedtsho Gewogs.
Some of the projects in those areas have already started mass potato cultivation. A poultry farm set up in Jarey Gewog the under the project has earned a profit of Nu 60,000 so far.
As part of the programme, the government is providing all basic amenities. It is also taking care of the investment money until the projects are well established.
The youth groups will have to sustain on their own once the projects becomes fully operational.
BBS Trashigang Dzong nears consecration after 4-year restoration
Tshering Zam, Trashigang
Apr 5, 2018
The long journey is nearly complete for the historic Trashigang Dzong. Its conservation works are over 90 per cent complete.
The entire work is expected to be over by June this year. The east’s magnificent fortress now wears its former glorious look. The restoration works began after the dzong suffered major damages due to earthquake in 2009.
These days, masonry workers are seen busy shaping stones to lay over the courtyard, painting the interior and exterior structure of the dzong, and fixing electrical lightings.
The conservationists have ensured that the traditional architectural designs of the dzong remain intact.
“Though we are carrying out the conservation works in accordance with the designs from Home ministry, the Patra or wood carving of the windows, were bit brighter than one reflected in the design. The overall architectural features are same like before,” said Tshering Namgay, Project Manager of Trashigang Dzong Conservation Project.
The conservation work started in 2014. The new facilities under the renovation project include Drasha (hostel for monks) and dining hall, which was complete last year.
Funded by the Government of India, the project is worth over Nu 260m. So far, the Indian government has released over Nu 225m.
Trashigang Dzong was built by third Desi Chogyal Minjur Tempa in 1659.
Bedside toilets make patient lives easier and give them dignity
Sonam Choden, Thimphu
Apr 6, 2018
One of the biggest challenges for people who are bed-bound or with limited mobility, such as the sick, the old and the disabled, is getting up to use bathroom. But access to beside toilets is making their lives easier.
Eighty five-year-old Tshering Dendup, who has been bed-ridden for nine years now, knows this more than anyone.
After seeing a post on the social media about the availability of beside toilets in Bhutan, Tshering Dendup’s son immediately bought one for his father.
“Unlike in the past, I now don’t have to change my mattress every day,” Tshering Dendup said.
“It’s very convenient to use. There is a flush system in it and it’s very clean.”
The bedside toilets also have armrest facilities, which make it easier for the patients to use it independently.
Gokeey Pem, a patient attendant is all praises for the facility. “My sister is 86-year-old and when she is sick, she can’t go to the toilet,” Gokeey says of her sister.
“At such times, she uses the bedside toilet and I think it’s very useful for all those who cannot see or walk.”
The Bhutan Toilet Organisation, Bhutan’s first non-profit organisation committed towards building a toilet culture in the country, provides such toilets free of cost to all those who cannot afford to buy one.
For Chalop Passang Tshering, the founder of Bhutan Toilet Organization, bedside toilets protect patient independence and dignity. “One thing about this toilet is, it gives them dignity,” he said.
“When you are sick, disabled or old, family members will take care of you to a certain time. But when it comes to toilet, it’s dirty, smelly and an embarrassing thing also. So, what happens to these people is they cannot tell and sometimes you let it go in the bed. It is a very messy thing. It takes away all the dignity from a person’s life. But with this toilet, I think we are giving people dignity.”
The Bhutan Toilet Organization procured the first such toilet in January last year. A set of bedside toilet costs Nu 15,000 in Thailand.
Though not many in the country are aware about the existence of such toilets, the organization says the demand for such facility has been growing.
The organisation has 20 more toilets at the moment to be given away to the needy ones.
The Bhutan Toilet Organisation also provides training to the caregivers on how to use it.
AMICI DEL BHUTAN - ITALY