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Discussion Starter #1
Bhutan Dam Gets UN Certification for Emissions Cuts, ADB Says

April 12 (Bloomberg) -- A hydropower dam in Bhutan has been registered as the first cross-border project in a United Nations program to encourage developing nations to invest in reducing carbon emissions, the Asian Development Bank said.
The $200 million Dagachhu hydropower project, funded with loans from the Asian Development Bank, Japan and Austria, is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 500,000 tons a year by exporting power to India, the bank said in a statement on its Web site today.
The 114 megawatt project, in Bhutan’s Dagana Dzongkhag district, is managed by state-run Druk Green Power Corporation and Tata Power Co., India’s largest non-state electricity generator, and will be commissioned in 2012, according to documents filed to the UN.
Dagachhu is the first cross-border project registered under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism, in which developing countries earn tradable credits for projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change, the ADB said.

9,821 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
From another thread:


Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan, is being redevloped according to the Thimphu Structure Plan (TSP) by team of Indian architects and builders led by India-based Christopher Charles Benninger Architects.

^ Urban Precincts in Thimphu Structure Plan.

The architcture is based on the traditional dzong architecture of the Indian himalayas, closely related to Tibetan architecture. The architecture in this master plan was was inspired by the architecture in Sikkim state and Ladakh, Kashmir.


Urban Design of the Trashi Chhoe Dzong Precinct

The one and half square kilometer zone surrounding the Trashi Chhoe Dzong was declared as special precinct in the new capital city plan. The urban design was prepared to reflect: 1) the symbolic checks and balances between executive, legislative and judiciary branches of governance; 2) the role of the state as represented by his majesty and the je kenpo, or spiritual leader of bhutan; 3) the place of the people within the symbolic geometry of the complex; 4) the integration of the numerous heritage structures, wang chhu river, surrounding hill and mountain profiles and vast open spaces.

The design uses continuous directional references to the apex of the sacred Utse temple as a unifying factor; symbolic placement of the branches of governance around the icon of the state; inclusion of the people in a vast public domain in the form of a memorial plaza to his late majesty, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The vista of eight fold path connects the judiciary to the dzong, and various symbolic gardens link the complex using an auspicious one hundred and eight chortens, auspiciously located within sacred energy zones. Except for vvip movement, essential maintenance, security and physically challenged access, no vehicles can enter the precinct, which is pedestrianized!

^ The Secretariat Complex is set within terraces stepping down to the Trashi Chhoe Dzong.

^ Chhubar Chhu Circle.

^ Jigme Dirji Wangchuk Memorial Plaza (Garden of Good Thoughts).

^ Parliamentary Complex

^ Vista of Eightfold Path.

^ Labrynth of Sixteen Emptiness


The National Secretariat Complex

The mountain Kingdom of Bhutan boasts of the world’s most pristine environment, ancient Buddhist and Bon customs, and a unique architectural tradition. His majesty has formed a Constitutional Commission, which will bring democracy to the country. To accommodate a democratic form of governance CCBA was engaged to prepare the new capital city plan, and then the Capitol Complex within that framework.

The Royal Secretariat Complex houses ten ministries, with provisions for expansion. It includes the Prime Minister’s Office and the Royal Civil Service Commission. Covering about one million square feet of built up area, the campus includes underground parking; high-tech security facilities; a banquet hall and staff dining; an auditorium; media center, dispatch office; and stationary shops. The campus adjoins and is part of the Trashi Chhoe Dzong Precinct in which the iconic fortress monastery sits. A study of traditional Bhutanese architecture resulted in a campus which blends with the heritage setting, which offering contemporary work places with the latest office spaces and facilities.

^ The Secretariat Complex is set within terraces stepping down to the Trashi Chhoe Dzong.

^ View of the Court showing entrances to the Ministry Buildings.

^ View of the Ministry of Finance.

^ View of the interior courtyard in a ministry.

^ Model of the Proposed National Secretariat Complex.

^ Model of the Proposed National Secretariat Complex.


Tshechu Ground

Most Dzongs and many Monasteries in bhutan have an annual festival, known as 'Tshechu.' This comprises of a series of dances in honour of Guru Rinpoche (founder of Vajrayana Buddhism in Bhutan), performed by monks as well as lay people. Thimphu Tschechu performed in Trashi Chhoe Dzong is one of the most popular festivals of Bhutan which attracts crowds up to 15,000 people per day. The present ground located inside the courtyard of the Dzong is proving to be inadequate for the growing number of people coming to be a part of this event.

To ease this pressure, a new Tshechu Ground was proposed on northern side of the Dzong in the Urban Design Proposal for the Dzong Precinct. The proposed Tshechu ground can seat 25,000 people at a time and utilizes the natural topography of the area to create stepped seating, which will give the spectators the better view of the event.

This ground also forms the starting point of the Vista of Eight Fold Path which connects the Trashi Chhoe Dzong with the proposed Supreme Court, forming a symbolic axis between the 'State' and the 'Judiciary.'

^ Tshechu Ground.

^ Tshechu Ground South Elevation

^ Tshechu Ground View.

^ Tshechu Ground View.



Dharma Sthal

Four hundred buddhist novices live in the trashi chhoe dzong, the majestic fortress monastery which is the icon of bhutan. Their conditions are unhygienic and their cooking arrangements threaten fire in the ancient wood structure of the dzong. the new design for the dharma sthal moves the monk’s quarters and dining across the wang chhu to its own precinct, connected by an ancient wood bridge.

The circular shape is symbolic of the buddha himself who was known as a flying wheel, or chakravartin, who could cut through ignorance and spread enlightenment. The parts of the wheel also symbolize the phases of a monk’s evolution, with the hub symbolizing ethical principles. The eight spokes reflect the eight fold path, as well as the spreading of the teachings. Finally the rim signifies meditative concentration and discipline. In the design, which has been approved by his majesty and bhutan’s spiritual leader, the je kenpo, there is an opening toward the pointed apex of the main temple of bhutan, the sacred utse! The dharma sthal sits in a “deer park,” reminiscent of the deer forest at sarnath where lord buddha revealed the four noble truths and the eight fold path in his sermon of the turning of the wheel!

^ Dharma Sthal

^ Aerial view showing the Dhrma Sthal positioning in the Dzong Precinct

^ Dhrama Sthal aligns with the Utse of the Trashi Chhoe Dzong

^ Utse of the Trashi Chhoe Dzong seen from the courtyard of the Dharma Sthal.



9,821 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Thimphu to get facelift ahead of Saarc summit

Thimphu will be made cleaner and greener later this month with the Bhutanese authorities have already launched a mass cleaning campaign for the upcoming 16th Saarc summit scheduled for April 28-29.

About 3,000 volunteers, equipped with masks, gloves and sticks, cleaned the main part of the city and vegetable market area in the third phase of the campaign, which will be conducted on every Saturday until April 17.

Quoting officials, Bhutan's national newspaper Kuensel said on April 17, there will be a mega mass cleaning campaign, which will cover almost all corners of the city. For better coverage, Thimphu City Corporation (TCC) has divided the city into several zones.

From Dechenchholing in the north to Babesa in the south, all the settlement areas were divided into six zones, which will be cleaned by the end of the month.

The Bhutan chamber of commerce and industries has enthusiastically backed the cleaning campaign, by involving all the business people, which made the work a lot lighter.

Sources in Bhutan said unemployed Thimphu youths have found a way to participate in the next Saarc summit. The youths, mostly class 12 and 10 dropouts, have registered with TCC to clean the city and paint over the ugly retaining walls around the city.

The volunteers have also started planting flowers along the streets after they had finished painting the walls.

9,821 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Thimphu TechPark, Thimphu

In July of 2009 Assetz was awarded a contract by the Royal Government of Bhutan (Department of Information Technology) to design, build, finance & operate Bhutan’s first IT Park. Assetz will be in cooperation with joint venture partners, Druk Holdings & Investments, to deliver & operate the park.

The project site is located on the outskirts of Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital and involves development over five acres of land. The first phase, which is to be operational by September 2011, will comprise 50,000 sq ft of IT focused office and data centre.

The project is a high profile, anchor scheme as part of the overall IT strategy for the country, with all aspects of the design being sympathetic to the environment and cultural sustainability objectives of Bhutan.


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1 Posts
Bhutan.... Don't confuse with

My forum friends.....

A word of CAUTION when doing any business in the country of BHUTAN. Just know who you are dealing with and get a receipt for any transaction.

Our company has had a disputed business arrangement with Bhutan Air Service for over 12 months. A local business in Bhutan has owed us over $12000USD for over one year.

We have had many stories about bank issues, and wire is coming, etc.

We have contacted various government agencies, and legal and judicial agencies.

We have asked for legal contact.

We have contacted the Bhutan Business journal.

Any suggestions about someone in country who can help us would be appreciated and rewarded.

We can only believe that this corruptness and protection must go up into the government levels, since their government groups have not offered any help or suggestions.

Like many Americans, "I" feel this disrespect thing has gone far enough. It is a world full of people and organization that only want our money. They forget, we did not get here by giving up.

I will not give up on Bhutan Air. EVER. Even if I personally have to tap the individual on the shoulder someday who has been lying to us. Then I will find out what they are made of.

I welcome your advice, contact, and specific questions.

18,612 Posts
Two strategic roads to come up near Tibet, Bhutan
New Delhi, Apr 26 (PTI) Two strategic roads were being built by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) near the tri-junction of Tibet, Bhutan and India, the Lok Sabha was informed today.

"BRO has been entrusted with the construction of two strategic roads namely Track Junction Bheem Base-Dokala for a length of 13.48 km and Flag Hill-Dokala for a length of 33.8 Km near the tri-junction of Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim," Defence Minister A K Antony said in reply to a query.

The Minister said the projects are worth Rs 96.93 crore.

Work on the Track Junction-Bheem Base-Dokala road has started and it is expected to be completed by 2012.

Work on other road will take five years to be completed and it will start after getting clearance of the National Board of Wild Life, he said.

18,612 Posts
THIMPHU, Bhutan April 25 (NNN-BSS) --Erratic climatic behavior with signs of temperature rise visibly endangers South Asia's hydropower potentials drying up the Himalayan glaciers, the world's largest sources of hydropower, officials and experts said as climate change issues are to dominate the two-day summit of eight-nation regional grouping of SAARC beginning here on April 28.

"In the past several years, signs of climate change is being seen with low snow falls and erratic monsoon rains . . .Bhutan's 2,000 glaciers are melting fast drying up the sources of our water as well as hydropower," the economic affairs secretary of the landlocked Himalayan kingdom Sonam Tshering told BSS.

Tshering, who oversees energy as part of his official functions, said glaciers of Nepal, the world's largest potential source of hydropower, also were exposed to erratic climatic behavior which might frustrate South Asian aspirations for exploring the cheap clean energy.

Bhutan, he said, has an estimated potential of generating 30,000-mw while the current quantum of generation was only 1,500- mw or five percent of the potential while Nepal's potential was 80,000-mw.

Bhutan, he said, witnessed its worst "glacier lakes outburst flood" or GLOF, while the kingdom feared the recurrence of the same type of inundation this year too exposing its population and economy to danger again. Another major source of hydropower, he said, was India's Arunachal Province having a potential of providing another 80,000-mw electricity.

Tshering's comments came as climate change was selected as the overriding theme of the 16th South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit as proposed by Thimphu, while the United States was expected to offer its assistance for developing a South Asian power grid to promote regional energy cooperation.

Asked how Bhutan sees the prospects of sharing its hydropower potentials with neighbours, the influential Bhutanese official cited lack of technical arrangements and infrastructural constraints as the major barrier to energy cooperation and suggested the regional countries first needed to upgrade their own transmission systems to be linked with neighbours for power sharing.

He, however, said the regional nations were carrying out an exercise to build the power connectivity with USAID assistance while the process witnessed "some developments" for the past several years.

"Eventually power should be treated as a tradable commodity like other products and we need to reach a deal among ourselves for that," Tshering said referring to Thimphu's arrangement with New Delhi which enabled Bhutan to ensure trade balance with a giant neighbor like India through export of power.

He said Bhutan was already providing a big chunk of its hydropower to India which accounted for 50 percent of its revenue earning while under a 2008 agreement Thimphu would offer 10,000- mw electricity to its big neighbor by 2020 under 10 ongoing projects.

"Bhutan and India are well connected in terms of power connectivity with eight circuits were in place for the energy cooperation," Tshering said adding that Nepal too was on a process to be engaged with New Delhi for power connectivity while they currently produce only 600- mw power and provide 50-mw to India.

First of all, Tshering suggested that the regional nations needed to develop bilateral connectivity and for Bangladesh "you have a great prospect of ensuring your stake in India's hydropower as lots of activities are underway to explore the glaciers of Arunachal".

"If India could get a transit for its transmission line from Arunachal to other parts of the country through Bangladesh, you could reach a deal with Delhi to get a stake of it," Tshering said.

On the other hand, he said, Dhaka and Thimphu too could develop an arrangement through India to get a share of "our hydropower".

18,612 Posts

TIME FOR SELF-EXAMINATION. When Prime Minister Jigme Thinley of the host nation Bhutan opened the summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) in Thimphu, the capital on April 28, 2010, he said it was time for the eight-member bloc to take a long, critical look at itself as, according to him, SAARC was losing focus. Whereas, SAARC was formed 25 years to encourage development and raise the standards of the region which is home to one-fifth of humanity. Citing squabbles and tensions between the bloc's member states, Prime Minister Thinley cautioned that fractious and quarrelsome neighbours 'do not make a prosperous community'. The SAARC's other members are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. -- Photos and adapted text courtesy of Kuensel Online and


18,612 Posts
THIMPHU, Bhutan April 29 (NNN-Xinhua) -- The 16th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit concluded here Thursday with signing of two important agreements- Agreement on Convention on Cooperation on Environment and Climate Change and an Agreement on Trade in Services.

In his concluding remarks, Bhutanese Prime Minister and the newly elected Chairman of SAARC Jigmi Y. Thinley said the summit has achieved their agenda of regional cooperation with the signing of the two key documents.

However, Thinley sought for the implementation of the decision made so far. "I have sensed strong commitment amid member states. I hope "Intra-government" body will be able to meet the aim of the regional cooperation," he said.


THIMPHU, Bhutan April 29 (NNN-Xinhua) -- The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Development Fund (SDF) has been officially launched here by Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley.

The SDF which was proposed by Bhutan during the 15th SAARC summit held in Sri Lanka came into full operation after the inauguration at the opening session of 16th SAARC summit on Wednesday.

The 32nd Session of SAARC Council of Ministers decided to appoint the Chief Executive Officer of SDF.

The permanent secretariat of the SDF will be based in Bhutanese capital Thimphu and serve as a regional funding mechanism.

All SAARC leaders addressing the opening of 16th summit lauded the full-fledged operation of SDF as one of the major achievements made since SAARC was formed 25 years ago.

They also hoped for effective utilization of the fund to benefit the people of the region and help to alleviate poverty as well.

"The important role of SDF is building a strong and dynamic SAARC through poverty alleviation and the promotion of economic integration among our countries," said Bhutanese Prime Minister Thinley in his inaugural speech.

The SDF is like the International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank which will serve as a regional funding mechanism to fund various social, economic and infrastructure projects in the region, Bhutan's official daily newspaper Kuensel reported on Thursday.

The fund has an authorized capital of special drawing rights which refers to the basket of five major currencies in the world, such as US dollar and Euro, according to Kuensel.

Meanwhile, China, an observer of SAARC, proposed to contribute 300,000 U.S. dollars to the SAARC Development Fund.

India has already contributed about 90 million U.S. dollars and other 100 million US dollars as voluntary contribution to the fund.

According to the Kuensel, Bhutan's assessed contribution to the fund is 15 million U.S. dollars, payable in five installments. Bhutan's first installment of 3 million U.S. dollars has already been offered.

The SDF charter has a provision to levy interest on borrowing by members, but the interest rates are yet to be worked out. The fund's highest governing body will consist of finance ministers of the eight member states who will meet once a year. Below them is a board of directors, with a member from each country.

18,612 Posts
THIMPHU, Malaysia May 2 (NNN-Bernama) -- Bhutan and Malaysia could open up a new vista in trade relations as the tiny Himalayan Kingdom has indicated its keenness to begin two-way ties.

Bhutan Prime Minister Jigme Thinley has expressed interest to explore new links with Kuala Lumpur, a move that could spur trade opportunities for both economies.

"Malaysia is one of the countries high on the list for sometime with which we want to enjoy close relations.

"There are certain commonalities. On the materialistic side we can learn from Malaysia's experience," Thinley told Bernama in an interview in Thimphu.

Describing Malaysia as "a successful and proud nation", Thinley said there were key areas where Bhutan, an agrarian economy, could tap into Malaysia's expertise.

"We would like to look at the Malaysian technology in landfills (waste management) and agricultural sector where Malaysia has done quite well.

"The highest level visit from Malaysia was when the then deputy prime minister Musa Hitam (now Tun) visited Bhutan (in 1983). So we need to upscale that (relations) and work on it," said Thinley.

Bhutan is part of the eight-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) -- a burgeoning market of 1.5 billion people.

In the South Asian region, it remains a small economy with gross domestic product (GDP) valued at US$1.28 billion (RM4.48 billion) -- an economy propelled largely by tourism, exports of seasonal agriculture produces and minerals.

The land-locked Himalayan kingdom is home to a population of 690,000 people.

18,612 Posts
Reclusive Bhutan sees economic growth halve: World Bank
NEW DELHI (AFP) - – Economic growth in Bhutan, a country that famously measures its wellbeing by Gross National Happiness, slowed sharply last year to six percent as tourist numbers fell, the World Bank says.

It said the insular Himalayan kingdom, sandwiched between India, Nepal and China, saw a seven-million-dollar decline in tourism income in the 2008/2009 financial year from 39 million dollars the previous year.

No reason was given for the 18-percent change, but the travel industry was affected worldwide last year by the global financial crisis.

Western visitors to Bhutan must pay a minimum of 200 dollars a day for visa and government-approved travel agency fees, a deliberate policy to promote "high value" tourism.

When Jigme Singye Wangchuck became king in 1972 at the age of 16 he announced the priority of his monarchy was gross national happiness (GNH), rather than increasing the limited economic measure of GDP.

However growth measured by gross domestic product (GDP) in 2008/2009 slowed to 6.0 percent from 11-14 percent the previous two years, the World Bank said in an economic outlook report for Bhutan published on Tuesday.

The Washington-based lender also estimated Bhutan, which held its first parliamentary elections two years ago, suffered losses of 67 million dollars due to an earthquake and cyclone last year.

The World Bank estimated Bhutan's GDP in 2008 at 1.3 billion dollars.

Bhutan seeks help of energy agency

SEEING THE PHILIPPINES as a benchmark on power regulation, officials of the Bhutan Electricity Authority have recently sought the expertise of the local Energy Regulatory Commission in restructuring their electric power industry.

In particular, Bhutan officials wanted to learn how the ERC conducts its public hearings, public consultations and the rate-making processes.

The Philippines is deemed to be one of the most advanced in terms of electric power industry restructuring and regulation among other developing countries, according to the ERC.

“The ERC’s vision to become Asia’s benchmark for excellence in power regulation is not far-fetched. It is moving slowly but surely toward one of the supreme goals of Epira—that is open access and retail competition—while adhering to its mission to protect the long-term interests of the electricity consumers,” said ERC Chair Zenaida G. Cruz-Ducut.

Aside from Bhutan, energy regulatory authorities from five other countries have already visited the ERC. These were South Korea’s Korea Electricity Commission (Korec), Electricity Regulatory of Vietnam (Erav), Kenya’s ERC, Tanzania’s Energy and Water Utilities Authority (Ewura) and Thailand’s own ERC.

The delegation from Bhutan was composed of its energy agency’s chair, commissioners and officiating chief executive officer.

The ERC and BEA have similarly undergone a restructuring of their respective electric industries in 2001, when both agencies were established by virtue of each country’s laws, namely the Electric Power Industry Reform Act for the ERC and the Electricity Act of Bhutan for BEA.

In the case of Bhutan, however, a state monopoly still existed in the electricity industry since its government owns and controls the supply of power. Thus, prices of electricity are still largely determined by the government and not driven by market forces.

According to the ERC, it provided a discussion on its rules of practice and procedure governing the hearings as well as on the newly adopted performance-based rate-setting (PBR) for the transmission and privately owned distribution utilities.

Bhutan to host its first literary festival
The tiny kingdom of Bhutan will host its first literary festival, focusing on writing from and about the Himalayan region, in the capital Thimphu this month with writers like Chetan Bhagat, Gulzar and Patrick French attending.

The festival, from May 17-20, will be hosted by the India-Bhutan Foundation in association with Siyahi, a non-profit organisation.

The event will provide a platform for authors to engage in a cultural dialogue and celebrate tales of a shared landscape in the Himalayan region. The festival will be supported by the queen mother of Bhutan, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, and her foundation, Tarayana.

She is the author of 'Treasures of the Thunder Dragon: A Portrait of Bhutan', which provides unique and intimate insights into Bhutanese culture and society. Wangchuk will deliver the keynote address at the festival.

The speakers at the festival will include Bulbul Sharma, Chetan Bhagat, Boman Irani, Gulzar, Pavan Varma, Patrick French and at least 20 other leading writers from India and Bhutan.

The India-Bhutan Foundation was established in August 2003 by the Bhutanese and Indian government with the objective of enhancing exchange and interaction among the people of both countries through activities in educational, cultural, scientific and technical spheres.

9,821 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
Dhaka to let Bhutan, Nepal use its ports

State Minister for Environment Dr Hasan Mahmud Thursday said the government wants to give Chittagong and Mongla seaports for use by all its neighbouring countries, not just by India, Bhutan and Myanmar.

He, however, said some policy-guidelines are needed in this regard.

18,612 Posts
Founding an IT future
Thimphu TechPark 19 May, 2010 - The construction of Bhutan’s first IT Park, scheduled to open on June 2 next year, began with the salang (groundbreaking) ceremony yesterday at the site identified for the Thimphu techpark (TTP) in Wangchutaba.

The park is being designed, built and operated by a joint venture, comprising Druk Holding and Investments and Assetz Property group.

At the ceremony, the CEO of the joint venture partner Assetz Property Group, Mike Holland, said that the park will be designed to match the leadership in energy environmental design (LEED) standard, and aim for platinum, the highest level of certification.

LEED is an internationally recognised certification system, developed by the US green building council (USGBC), and offers 100 possible base points, plus an additional six points for innovation in design and four points for regional priority. Platinum certification requires a minimum of 80 points.

Subrata Dutta of DG associates, an engineering firm carrying out the construction, said that the building will focus on two of the most important aspects - energy and water conservation. “We’ll have solar panels to make maximum use of sunlight, auto lighting system and other material and equipment that minimise power consumption,” he said. “We’ll have rainwater harvesting technologies, as well as sewage treatment plant to reuse water.”

In the first phase, the construction of a main building for IT and IT enabled services (ITES), with over 50,000 square feet of office space and utility services like ATM, travel desk, shared services and cafeteria will be completed by November. The second phase of the project, which will begin after June next year includes construction of business process outsourcing (BPO) and government business centres, data centre, convention centre, food court, hotel, and a services centre.

TTP aims to correspond with GNH values, promoting equitable and sustainable socio economic development, by generating jobs locally and drawing inward investments to Bhutan, preserving and promoting cultural values, by having an architectural design that blends with the cultural and ethnic sensibilities of Bhutan, conserving environment through its sustainable design, and establishing good governance by focusing on strong work ethic and corporate social responsibility.

The information and communications minister, Lyonpo Nandalal Rai, said that this project would pave the way for Bhutan to be perceived by the global community as an IT destination. “Bhutan has the advantages of a clean and green surroundings, a cool climate, and political stability, which should attract leading IT companies to invest here,” he said.

Mike Holland described the TTP as a “key development in the South Asian region, which has potential to contribute to the growth of Bhutan’s economy and the IT sector.”

Prime Minister Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y Thinley, laid the sachu bumter (ceremonial vase).

6,227 Posts
Buddha Air flies to Bhutan
Last Updated : 2010-05-25 10:57 PM
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KATHMANDU: Buddha Air has begun its international flight by successfully operating a first test flight to Paro International Airport, Bhutan.

One of the Beech crafts of the airline took off from Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) at 9 am in the morning and landed at Paro Paro International Airport. Buddha Air — first Nepali private airliner to fly to Bhutan — is scheduled to begin commercial flights from Kathmandu to Paro — some 55-km away from the Bhutanese capital of Thimpu — from July 17. In the first phase, the airline will operate four flights a week on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, according to the company. The airline will launch daily commercial flights to Bhutan from September. “The airline will also operate a chartered and a commercial flight from October, which is the peak season for tourism in the Druk kingdom,” Buddha Airlines said adding that would operate extra charter flights as per the demand.
Buddha Air — a private airli-nes founded in 1996 — is the largest domestic airlines employing nearly 500 experienced professionals. The company has the largest fleet of most expensive and brand new aircraft amongst all domestic airliners in operation. The airlines safety record and reliability has earned it a host of awards

18,612 Posts
Bhutan to ban tobacco sale - again
Thimphu (Bhutan), June 11 : Bhutan, the Himalayan kingdom that takes pride in living by a pristine set of values, began its second attempt to ban the sale of tobacco and tobacco products this month by enacting legislation that makes it illegal to buy or sell cigarettes in the country.

On June 1, the national assembly passed the Tobacco Control Bill 2009. This time around, the Bhutan government is earnest in seeking to implement the controls on tobacco and tobacco products.

In December 2004, the national assembly had adopted a law banning the sale of tobacco and all tobacco products. It attracted international attention and Bhutan was lauded for becoming the first nation to ban tobacco. Bonfires of cigarette packets were burnt in Thimphu and an energetic campaign was launched on the hazards of tobacco use.

However, the ban remained largely ineffective, causing some embarrassment to the government and resulting in a thriving black market in cigarette sales. Last year, the national legislature decided to lift the ban on tobacco.

According to Health Minister Lyonpo Zangley Dukpa, a lot of debate has gone into drafting the Tobacco Control Bill.

"The new bill was thoroughly deliberated among health professionals before it was brought to parliament. The bill was for over two and a half years in the making and was discussed three times in the national assembly. When it came up before the joint sitting of parliament, it was adopted with 61 votes for the bill and four votes against it," he said.

The ministry is now working on rules and regulations for controlling the use of tobacco. The bill provides for three to five years of imprisonment for those convicted of violating the law.

While there would be a ban on selling and buying tobacco products in the country of nearly 700,000 people, smokers would be allowed to import cigarettes for their own use under a special permit. Tourists would also be able to indulge in their smoking habit by getting their travel agents to obtain import permits in their name.

In the 1960s and 1970s, about 50 percent of people in urban areas were smokers. But an aggressive campaign stressing on the health aspects and the religious taboo against smoking among Buddhists helped reduce the incidence of smoking, especially in rural areas.

However, exposure to television, consumerism and modernisation had led many young people to take up smoking in recent years, while in the rural areas it is chewing tobacco or khaini which is still prevalent among the older folk. In a survey carried out in Thimphu in 2007, it was found that out of 100 people, six smoked. And cigarettes are available under the table at many places.

Not everyone is convinced that the ban will work. During the debate on the bill, Leader of Opposition Tshering Tobgay said: "The new bill is confusing because it allows the consumption of tobacco but restricts the sale of tobacco. And the penalty is too severe for the offence."

Prison sentences are usually based on the value of the smuggled product but the new bill provides the same punishment for selling a pack of cigarettes as smuggling in a consignment of tobacco products, he added.

The debate after the bill was passed has revolved around whether the government would be able to effectively implementing the ban.

Opinion is divided on the issue in Thimphu. A non-smoker asked why the free health service should bear the costs of treating smoking-related medical problems.

But the young men and women sitting in a smoke-filled pub in Thimphu had a different take on the situation. One young man thought that the ban would lead to "a hike in the price of cigarettes" while his friend opined that the severe penalty would force many like him to "give up the smoke stick".

The Himalayan kingdom, in spite of modernising, has after all been different from the rest of the world in many spheres of life, be it being environment conscious or measuring happiness.

Down the ages, the Bhutanese have maintained a simple and peaceful way of life infused with a dose of spirituality - committed to sane and sustainable growth in contrast to the materialistic web of life in the rest of the world. They have a unique metric to measure development, the Gross National Happiness.

Perhaps that is why the government has forsaken millions of dollars it would otherwise collect in terms of tobacco taxes.

From exporter to importer
10 June, 2010 - As a result of growing domestic demand, Bhutan will face winter power shortages, until the completion of the Punatsangchhu I project, which is expected around 2016.

The only “viable” way to offset these power shortages will be to import electricity from India, according to Druk green power corporation (DGPC) managing director, Dasho Chhewang Rinzin.

Forecast for power import requirements

2011 – 27 GWh – Nu 50.22 (millions)

2012 – 89 GWh – Nu 165.54 (millions)

2013 – 75 GWh – Nu 139.5 (millions)

2014 – 130 GWh – Nu 241.8 (millions)

2015 – 178 GWh – Nu 331.08 (millions)

2016 – 219 GWh – Nu 407.34 (millions)

(Source: DGPC proposal for revision of generation tariffs)

The problem is, with India too facing chronic shortages, especially during the winter, Bhutan may ironically end up paying a higher import rate than at what it exports.

“Indian counterparts may not agree to supply electricity to Bhutan at the same rates that Bhutan exports to India, considering the present market conditions in India,” it says in a DGPC proposal for revising generation tariffs.

Currently, electricity is exported to India at a weighted average of Nu 1.86. Going by this rate, Bhutan could spend at least Nu 1.3B in the next six years importing electricity from India.

Another development will be that DGPC will become a net importer during winter months (January, February, March) for the next six years. This means DGPC will have to make “actual payments” to India. Currently, power imports are netted off with energy exported. In 2007-2008, eastern Bhutan, which depends on a separate grid, had to import 10 MW from India to meet rising local demand.

But discussions with the Indian government are still underway on whether Bhutan will in fact be able to import power. “It’s not finalised,” said Dasho Chhewang.

If Bhutan is not able to import enough power to meet local demand, the energy intensive industries will bear the brunt. Household consumers are not expected to be affected.

Even then, Dasho Chhewang downplayed any significant impact on the industries. “It’s not a big deal, as far as the industries are concerned,” he said. He pointed out that industries would probably be asked to shut down certain equipment for a period of 2-3 days. “Not shutdown for months, just a few days,” he said. He added that it may even be done on a rotational basis. “The industries shouldn’t be scared.”

Although DGPC and Bhutan power corporation are looking at establishing mini-hydro power projects before 2016, Dasho Chhewang said it would not solve the expected power shortages. He said it would be much more expensive than importing electricity from India.

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THIMPU, June 16 (nnn-kuensel) -- With less than four months left to meet the deadline, the government is still yet to award the domestic air services contract.

More than two months have passed by an anticipated contract award date. The department of civil aviation (DCA) ‘request for proposal’ document states March 26 for awarding the contract.

Four companies submitted proposals by the Feb 12 deadline. Two companies, national airline Drukair, and a UK based company, Route Network LLP, were identified on May 7, by an inter-ministerial committee. The final decision was then left to the cabinet.

So far, government officials have been tightlipped on why the cabinet has not already approved either of the companies. Government officials also dismissed media reports that the UK based company, Route Network LLP, had been selected by the cabinet.

“It’s a fact that we haven’t identified,” said communications minister, Lyonpo Nandalal Rai. “It’s still very much a dormant issue.”

The minister added that the government is still in “dialogue” with “all concerned parties.” This means the government is still in negotiations with both Drukair and Route Network LLP.

The minister did not reveal any details on the ongoing “dialogue”, on the grounds that it was confidential information.

The company that wins the award is expected to commence air services by Oct 1.

Asked whether this date is realistically possible with the delay in awarding the contract, the minister said the deadline would be met. He said that upon awarding the contract, two months at most would be needed to commence operations.

“These are proficient people, with resources at their disposal,” said the minister referring to the companies, “the system will be put in place very quickly.”

Rai said that neither the communications ministry nor the cabinet had set any deadlines. All the minister said on a possible time frame was that the contract would be awarded “sooner than later.”

But the minister also pointed out that the government should not be hasty in awarding the contract. “We have to be careful in the selection, so that it doesn’t hamper future activities, so that it doesn’t have a negative impact, and that’s why we’re not in a rush.”

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THIMPU, June 21 (NNN-KUENSEL) -- Bangladesh has indicated its interest in providing Bhutan access to deep water ports at Mongla and Chittagong, which could help both countries cope with increasing export and import activities.

Chittagong and Mongla ports have the capacity to handle 7.5 and 1.93 millions tonnes respectively. Chittagong is the principal seaport of Bangladesh that handles about 92 per cent of its import-export trade.

The two ports are at present being upgraded, in anticipation of future rise in import and export cargoes through the ports, from sub-regional countries such as India, Bhutan and Nepal.

Bangladesh ambassador to Bhutan Majibur Rahman Bhuiyan said that it would not only help in faster business transactions between the two countries, but open the door to the outside world for Bhutan, through efficient services provided by the ports.

“In the last few years, port services in Bangladesh have drastically improved, enhancing the handling of goods,” he said.

According to the general secretary of Bhutan chamber of commerce and industry (BCCI), Phub Tshering, the major industries that would benefit are the agro, mineral and steel based industries with its products falling among the 18 Bhutanese products granted duty free access by the Bangladesh.

“The transaction of goods will be faster since most business persons would change their present route, which is through Kolkata port in West Bengal, India,” he said.

From the border town of Phuentsholing to Kolkata port is a distance of about 1,000 km. Chittagong and Mongla ports would cut the distance to half.

“Exporters complain that, most of the time, the Kolkata port is congested and its takes a lot of time for goods to come through,” said the general secretary of Bhutan exporters association in Phuentsholing, Lungpa Tandin, in a telephone interview.

“It takes a minimum of 4 days from Kolkata; but through Bangladesh ports it will only take 2 days,” said an official of RSA Marble that imports marble blocks from Italy and Egypt to Pasakha.

However, some industrialists said that using the Chittagong and Mongla ports would require going through the customs of two countries, Bangladesh and India. “It could be a lot of hassle,” said an industrialist.

Meanwhile, the Bangladesh single country trade exhibition is underway at the clock tower in the capital. 30 companies from Bangladesh are participating to boost existing trade relations. “We expect to generate a lot of momentum and open new avenues,” said the ambassador in a press conference.

“Bangladesh is benefiting from the variety of Bhutanese products, which are imported. And, with such trade fair carried out annually, we can have more goods from Bhutan every year,” added the joint secretary of Bangladesh ministry of commerce, Monoj Kumar Roy.

“We’ll also look in to investing as joint ventures in areas, such as tourism and manufacturing industry, and cooperating in information technology, education and hydro-power.”

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Bhutan’s paragliding potential

Paragliding in Phobjikha valley. Photo: Karma Tshering

Adventure Sports 19 June, 2010 - Bhutan’s pristine hills and mountains, which people identify with the country, could be used for more than just prayer flags.

It could be used for paragliding, an area that Bhutan could expand and diversify to bring in more tourists or to reach its goals of bringing in a 100,000 tourists, says a paragliding expert in the United States.

“Bhutan has some great sites for flying and floating over villages, monasteries, temples, rivers, valleys and jungles, with fantastic views of the majestic Himalayan kingdom,” said a tandem parahawking pilot from California, Brad Sander, 34, who will lead a 12-day paragliding trip to Bhutan in September this year.

In 2008, Brad came to Bhutan with other nine pilots and paraglided over the valleys of Phobjikha in Wangduephodrang and Jakar, Shingkhar and Ura in Bumthang.

Paragliding is a recreational and competitive flying sport. It is a foot-launched aircraft, where the pilot sits in a harness suspended below a fabric wing, whose shape is formed by its suspension lines and the pressure of air entering vents in the front of the wing.

He said that Bhutan has a potential to develop and expand paragliding into a new adventure sport and make it a popular destination for the adventure seekers.

Sharing his first trip experience to Bhutan in an email interview with Kuensel, Brad said that Bhutan needs to develop a local group of Bhutanese pilots to discover the best flying sites and the best time of year and weather conditions for flying. “What we found was suitable and safe for flying, but more time needs to be spent watching the weather and just trying to fly,” said Brad. “Because of this we never managed long flights of more than one and half hours.”

Tandem (two people) flying Brad Sander in Phobjikha valley in 2008. Photo By Karma Tshering

Brad is a world record holder in paragliding, especially in Asia, where he paraglided in Pakistan, India and Nepal. In 2008, Brad made a name for himself by flying higher than 7,752 m, and making the longest flight of more than 10 hours in Pakistan.

“If you go to a flying site in Europe, you will have locals that have flown that particular valley every day for 20 years or more, so they know the best conditions for flying and also what conditions are potentially risky to fly in,” Brad added. “When there is more time spent by paragliders in Bhutan, they’ll find the best sites and times to fly.”

However, paragliding is still a new concept for Bhutan, although it was introduced by British pilot Adam Hill and Dutch pilot George Van Driem five years ago. “We hardly receive 10 paragliding pilots in a year,” said Karma Tshering, the first and only trained paraglider in Bhutan, who has been trying to get paragliding tourists since 2006 through his Journey to Bhutan Tours and Treks.

The biggest challenge to attract paragliders to Bhutan, according to Karma Tshering, was the lack of infrastructure and too many procedures to comply with the government agencies, which make paragliding trip difficult. “Which is why I have only five guest pilots this time visiting Bhutan,” Karma Tshering, who is presently based in Eugene, Oregon, told Kuensel.

Most paragliding takes place in Jakar, Chumey, Shingkhar and Ura in Bumthang, and Phobjikha valley in Wangduephodrang, monitored by licensed pilots with alpine flying experience.

However, there is no access road to the takeoff area and no proper sites. Sites have to be created by cutting bushes and bamboos. “Moreover, we have to take care of transporting flight wings to the flying spot and paragliders have to hike uphill more than four hours,” said Karma Tshering, 42, from Gaselo in Wangduephodrang. “There are many paragliding pilots from Australia, England, France, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and the USA, who already expressed their interest to visit Bhutan,” said Karma.

The other bottleneck, according to Karma Tshering, who was trained in 2004 in Pokhara, Nepal, is the many procedures and high fees charged by the government. “We have to pay Nu 2,500 fee for special flight operations certificate to the department of civil aviation for using air space and another Nu 3,765 as spectrum fee to Bhutan infocomm and media authority for the radio frequency clearance,” he added. Radio is required to contact pilot to pilot, when someone is flying at high altitude and in the mountains.

He said that paragliders in other countries pay only for flying fee to the civil aviation. “Here, DCA is treating paragliding like a jumbo jet,” said Karma, who added that there is no risk involved and that it was safer than mountain biking.

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Bhutan’s GNH challenge
American economist, Professor Jeffrey D Sachs of Columbia University, gave a talk yesterday in Thimphu on “The Challenges of Sustainable Development in Bhutan: Challenges and Questions based on global experience”. An excerpt from the talk

Professor Jeffrey D Sachs

4 August, 2010 - Bhutan remains a low income country although it is a country that is growing rapidly.

We know from the absolute essence of the whole purpose of GNH, that equating income levels and happiness are two very different things; but I think that it is right to say that, for a relatively poor country, material advance is a very important part of happiness and this is a fact that can be justified on many grounds.

I’ll start with health. Poor countries tend to have higher incidence of disease, higher mortality rates for infants and young children and mothers. So material improvement is a major part of improving a society’s happiness in part through improving health standards.

Bhutan is in a situation of a very rapid and very exciting improvement of public health and we see this in falling mortality rates and reduced disease burden, but Bhutan still has a gap that needs to close in certain areas. So that is an example of one of the way that economic development is crucial.

A second way involves learning and a part of it involves formal education. Poor countries tend to have much lower educational attainments and often major deficiencies in the basic physical infrastructure and also the human resources for education. This doesn’t mean that rich countries get it right by all means. But another one of Bhutan’s challenges, just like in health, is the continuing upgrading of education in the society.

From what I can gather progress has been astoundingly fast in recent years but, on a comparative basis and as an absolute standard, Bhutan, I think, still has a long way to go for the next 20 years. From the data that I read, under two percent of the adult population have a tertiary education.

It is almost impossible for anyone to understand right now how the world is changing so fast on so many fronts, technologically, socially, ecologically, economically, financially, demographically. But education is one of the only sure ways to be able to face these changes.

The escape from poverty which remains to be accomplished in this country the achievement of the full standard of education, health, governance and the ability of society to governance itself in a manner which taps deep values, allows for those values to be examined and updated and to be a guide for the current world, all of these things in my view constitute the GNH challenge for Bhutan right now.

Bhutan is on right track right now and the biggest challenge is keeping on the path and avoiding the pitfalls.

Almost all of the poverty in this country is rural poverty. It tells me two things. A rural development policy is quite important. It also suggests that urbanisation will continue rapidly almost for sure under a scenario of continued economic development.

It means that while poverty in the rural areas is the core of extreme poverty right now, the success in a suitable and sustainable urbanisation is inevitably the counterpart of rural development strategy, especially for Thimphu, which will be the primary city with 30 percent of the population by 2030. Having a livable, sustainable city is extremely important and that does not happen by itself.

So what are the cornerstones of progress for Bhutan in the next 10 to 15 years ?

The lead export sector, if you do it right, is hydropower. Keep it a publicly owned. Develop hydropower, but do get good terms on your borrowings with India, and to anyone else to whom you sell the electricity.

Invest in finishing basic infrastructure and in public services – health and education, as well as support for the physically and mentally challenged, and those who cannot take care of themselves, and gradually introducing an old age benefit system very carefully.

Keep health in the public sector as well. The government has the core responsibility of health finance. I would suggest establishing an institute on public health and medicine that evaluates and monitors and looks at best practices, but do not privatise.

Same is true largely with education; certainly at the primary and secondary level. Keep it public or could be through not for profit institutions. At the tertiary level, the new RUB should be built up as a national treasure and national source of learning

In the rural sector, the main issue is a productivity challenge that should be faced by science based agronomy. Agricultural neglect can lead to huge imbalances in society, continued pockets of extreme poverty and squatters coming to the cities.

Bhutan’s agricultural yields are low by international and regional standards and my guess is that it has to do with the low inputs. So typically you need to replenish soil nutrients through chemical fertilisers, you need high yield seed varieties. Most farmers cannot afford this unless it is targeted by national governments.

I would like to caution against organic production. A country standard would not be agronomically appropriate and may be a big burden on the poor. There may be markets for it and I’m all for it, if it works. But in many places the practicality of putting enough nitrogen on the soil in an organic way is almost impossible economicall,y in terms of the amount of labour involved or in terms of the soil characteristics. Organic farming has organic run off the same way as inorganic farming. It’s not different. Chemical use of pesticides and herbicides is a different issue.

Failing to plan for urbanisation can become a major problem. Think hard about it. And using cars excessively. The future of the automobile is a big issue for the whole world and it’s an issue for Bhutan actually. What kind of society will there be 20 to 25 years from now? You want a private car ownership society? It creates a huge mess in many many ways.

Don’t let the privatisation of politics happen. You have the beginnings of a democracy, take the steps carefully. Democracy is no panacea, it’s a very problem filled system also and, when money gets into politics, it becomes quite a dangerous system. For small democracies like Bhutan, a little money could distort a lot, so be careful.
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