Showing posts with label Environment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Environment. Show all posts

29 January 2022

Where the Hills Have More Prayer Flags than Trees

The Buddhist funeral ritual of offering 108 prayer flags has the potential of wiping off acres of forest every year. To get a perspective of the threat it poses, look at the hills stretch overlooking Lanjophakha to Taba, there are more prayer flags than trees. It’s so haunting to look into that direction and realize that it will continue to expand further. It's now buddhism against environment, which is not supposed to be. What have we done? 

The Prayer Flag Hill

 I have raised this issue before and even made a few tangible suggestions to make it sustainable. In one article, I suggested the need for every Bhutanese to plant 108 trees as a citizenry mandate so that we could equate that with the trees we would cut down for the ritual when we die.

 In another article, I floated a social business idea to startup prayer flag hiring company to help bereaved families deal with arduous process of hoisting prayer flag at an affordable cost by reusing old pole or finding alternative such as bamboo, plastic or steel poles. 

To do more on this, I have been part of a micro project where we promoted treated bamboo pole as an alternative flagpole. We couldn’t even make a dent because we realized that there is a huge resistance. 

 The big question we must address is, why 108 poles? It’s fundamentally flawed to count the poles when the ritual is about the prayers printed on the flag that will flutter in the wind. Shouldn’t we be counting the number of lines of prayers we are offering in the wind? 

 To make it worse, there is funny logic that states that bamboo and steel poles that are hollow inside cannot be used for offering prayer flags. Who is deciding this for us? Is it a wrong number? Otherwise, wouldn’t an offering that has done lesser harm be a more profound offering? 

Bamboo Flagpoles in Southern Bhutan

 I am not an extreme conservationist, I rather believe in sustainable harvesting of trees. I believe in felling a matured tree to build shelter and produce furniture. But I am opposed to the idea of felling young trees just to stretch a layer of prayer flags on it. Every tree is a golden goose and felling them for a mere pole is like killing the goose. It’s an unworthy sacrifice of a valuable natural resource. 

 There are more reasonable ways to make the offering; 
  1. reuse old flagpoles that are lying all around uselessly. Make all the existing flagpoles public property that anyone can reuse once that prayers are faded. 
  2. use ropes to stretch prayer flags between two poles or around one big pole. There are some fine examples. Make them popular.
  3. explore recycle plastic poles. I think my friend Karma Yonten can do this. He has shown the possibility with his eco-green poles.
  4. use steel poles. It’s far more economical because you can resell them. 
  5. and I am wondering if it’s possible to cut out flagpoles from a big matured timber using some machine. (Business idea?)

Reusable Ru-dhar pole

 But as long as permits to fell young tree for flagpoles are freely available, why suffer a change? We are too lazy to explore better ways. We are happy with the old world, and there are old minds advising us to resist. People gossip about you not doing enough gewa if you don’t do it the old way. 

 Therefore, there should be a systemic effort to putting an end to this mindless culture of massacring young trees for nothing worthwhile: 
  1. Department of Forestry, Forest Resources Management Division must stop issuing permit for flagpoles. We must put a ban on felling young trees for flagpole or any other purpose. 
  2. Department of Culture and Zhung Dratshang must create awareness on how the offering is about the prayer on the flag that flutter in the wind rather than the pole. Pole can be anything or nothing. Prayers matter.
Let's state the truth that it's so sinful to cut a young tree for hoisting a prayer flag.

08 September 2015

Why is it Between Chamkhar Chhu and Zhemgang?

I have consciously signed the petition "Keep Chamkhar Chhu Free-Flowing" initiated by Bhutan's alpha professional photographer Aue Yeshey Dorji and shared it on my Facebook wall. But I didn't know my post was immediately going to become a platform for a very serious debate. It gave me deep insight into both side of the argument. However, I when I signed the petition for saving Chamkhar Chhu I wasn't against development in Zhemgang. I felt sorry that the last river had to be the very river flowing through Zhemgang.

It's evident that most people in Zhemgang have been betting on Chamkhar Chhu project to change the course of their lives and it's obvious for them to feel offended when people who don't have to live their lives sign a petition against their dreams. A high school friend from Kheng, Pema Letho summarised Zhemgang in few lines to put forth his point on why the project should happen;
Zhemgang has the highest poverty rate among all the districts, it has highest number of school drop outs, highest infant and maternal deaths, lowest safe drinking water coverage, lowest farm road coverage, lowest electricity supply coverage, lowest primary school enrolment...
And their representative, honourable Member of Parliament, Lekey Dorji joined the debate and made his stand clear;
I have personally been pushing for Chamkharchhu hydropower project because it could be a game changer for the poor people of Kheng. Upon the resolution of the Dzongkhag Tshogdu, I moved a motion in the NA to expedite the implementation of this project. I have also been meeting the minister for economic affairs and the senior officials of the Ministry as well as DGPC to request early implementation of the project because the people of Zhemgang want it. The project promises to open up remote and rural areas of Kheng to mainstream economy and people are excited about the project. I appeal to all those people who have signed or plan to sign to first understand the project. My stand has always been clear, if what you do is going to benefit our poor people deprived of all amenities in the villages, please support the petition. Otherwise, please support this project which will open up whole of the remote Kheng and provide them better economic opportunities.
While I still like to believe in the myth that hydropower project will some day stand on its own feet and fix the damage it has cause to the national economy, I have genuine doubts on it holding promise for rural prosperity, which social activist, journalist, and educationist, Aue Dorji Wangchuk shared from his experience;
Do not fall under illusion that Chamkhar Chu project will pull Kheng out of the current state. None of the villages in Chukha dzongkhag has enriched through Tala or Chukha Project. Ask our MPs from Chukha who are now more attuned to the plights of our local people. I have worked in Chukha Project (1982) when it was being constructed. We are treated worse than Indian labourers. Similarly, I have covered the entire project phase of Tala when I was in BBS from 2000 to 2005. Unfortunately I was never allowed to go deeper into the project. Similarly I have been working in three gewogs of lower Wangdue - Athang, Daga and Gaselo as volunteer for Tarayana and villagers there have not been able to sell even a bunch of fruits to the four mega projects.
I had this conversation with my dear friend from Kheng, Nawang Phuntsho, personally last month, and his expectations were practical modest when he said that "The development activities need not come directly to people's doorstep, but infrastructures like road will come by default. Kheng rig nam sum have been neglected and kept in the darkness for a while now." He shared that a 30 Km road in Zhemgang tool seventeen years to build, and he was very serious when he added that even a dung beetle could have covered the distance in so many years.

At this point I was intrigued as to why the development in Zhemgang has to be a byproduct of a project, shouldn't it be the right of people of Kheng to demand from the government? Are roads in all other Dzongkhags built because of the projects? Since when did development of infrastructure in a Dzongkhag become hydro project bait? If Zhemgang was treated at par with the rest of the Dzongkhags from early on would they ask for the project, having seen what happened in Punatshangchhu? I feel that Dasho Lekey Dorji should ask for roads and other infrastructures without strings attached and leave the hydropower project mess aside for the sake of larger things at stake.

Aue Yeshey Dorji in his article 'The Dark Side of Hydropower Projects' revealed the scary facts and sad realities that would break many of the popular myths. He concluded by stating why he started the petition; cause is still not that of environment because I know that when you have a gaping hole in your tummy, environment will not fill it. My cause is still the economic devastation that we are already suffering as a result of these hydro-power projects that have gone horribly wrong! 
My cause is still about keeping at least one of our rivers free flowing - for the cause of our future generations. My cause is about bequeathing that river to the name of a giant of a man whose private angst at the destruction of the environment is well known.
Article 5.4 of the Constitution of Bhutan states that, “Parliament may enact environmental legislation to ensure sustainable use of natural resources and maintain intergenerational equity and reaffirm the sovereign rights of the State over its own biological resources.”

"Intergenerational Equity" means not exploiting every river during our time, and "the sovereign right of the State over its own biological resources" means not letting a foreign force decide for us. If it was really about electricity and not about invading our waters then why don't we dam the Punatshangchhu two more times? After all our rivers are mostly fed by rain, which means the more southward we take our dams more the water. Why exploit another river?

When I signed the petition it was never about the choice between Chamkhar Chhu over Zhemgang, it was about our Country. Therefore I urge all the people who signed the petition to raise your voice for development in Zhemgang too. Zhemgang should get its fair share of development with or without any project. It will only be fair if you fight for the people of Zhemgang as you fight for the river.

20 August 2015

Plastic Won't Be a Problem in Bhutan

In school we were told plastic was among the worst things that could pollute our environment because it would not disintegrate in 800 years, ok, just say forever. It means that the very first batch of plastic mankind produced, which was in 1862, hasn't yet disappeared and in last many year god knows how much more plastic the world would have produced. Imagine if Zhabdrung had thrown a plastic bag in a field in Punakha it would still be there. But don't worry there wasn't plastic during Zhabdrung's time.

From 1862 to 1970, plastic was seen as a magical material that could be crafted into variety of shapes and substitute precious natural substances like tortoiseshell, ivory, horn, and linen. The revolutionary discovery gained the reputation of being the saviour and protector of natural environment because it drastically reduced on the hunting of elephant and tortoise.

It was the beginning of material abundance that helped people gain access to affordable essential resources when inexpensive plastic replaced the scarce natural resources. Things became cheaper, lighter, safer and stronger. The development of computer, cellphone, and all the advanced technology was made possible by plastic, including electricity and transportation. It raise the living standard of people.

Suddenly in 1970s world woke up and made the once saviour of the natural world into the terror of the natural world. It wasn't the plastic that changed its property suddenly in 1970s. It's like the common Bhutanese saying about how even mother's breast milk can be poisonous if over-consumed. Human beings began using plastic in everything and everywhere without considering where it would land up at the end.

Plastic clogs drainage systems and flood cities, it overwhelms landfills and leach out dangerous chemicals that are threats to lives, in river system it can endanger aquatic lives, it will soon invade our agricultural fields make them infertile, and at the end it will take away our forest. But remember plastic doesn't go there on their own, it's us who ill-manage it. Plastic is a Frankenstein and we are being very insensitive with it.

But in Bhutan we have our smallness on our side, today it may seem like we have plastic problem but if you have observed carefully, one moment you see lots of plastic bottles thrown around and next moment it's gone. It's just a matter of one good solution, because plastic is a magical element. My little niece Bumchu won't leave any plastic pottle at home or in our cars, because her school has the practice of collecting and selling plastic waste to Greener Way.

Now Greener Way has a local market in The Green Road right in Thimphu, where a young entrepreneur, Rikesh Gurung, with the technical capacity and legal right in executing the revolutionary idea of using plastic in blacktopping roads has opened shop. "The technology involves coating of aggregate with molten waste plastic before it is mixed with bitumen. Besides being an effective solution to plastic waste menace, it brings down considerably the cost of laying roads and enhances their life."-The Hindu
Thimphu alone produces 50 tonnes of plastic waste daily and the landfill has over 200,000 tonnes of plastic, says the founder of The Green Road, which means he will have enough resources to make better and cheaper roads in the country, and he will not run out of his key ingredient. And the best part is plastic in Bhutan will not be a problem anymore.

But I'm surprised Rikesh's idea didn't receive red-carpet welcome in the country. If our concerns about plastic waste were genuine and all the headlines meant anything serious I would expect the government to hug the young man because his project can kill two cockroaches at one spank; better road and plastic management.

Interestingly before Rikesh could showcase his first task of blacktopping 30 meters road in Thimphu, another project made a headline. It's about a technology that will be setup at the landfill to convert plastic into crude oil. I am throughly confused now. Rikesh has multi-million plant setup and now another project is threatening to steal away his raw material, what is this all about? Do we have so much plastic waste to feed two big projects? While the rest of the world is suffocating in their plastic waste, it looks like we are going to face plastic waste scarcity. Anyway, it's good for us!

15 June 2015

108 Prayer Flag Business- A Social Enterprise

In my last post I wrote about our tradition of offering 108 prayer flags for the departed souls, which means felling 108 young trees and therefore I proposed a green idea of making it a National service requirement ofeach Bhutanese citizen to plant 108 trees in one’s lifetime (within a given age range).

However, I stumbled onto another idea about the same issues and this time it’s a social business idea. Those of you who have physically gone through the process of finding, felling, peeling, and dragging 108 flag poles from deep woods over a long distance would know how arduous it is. Now, having to do it during the emotionally low time when you have lost someone in the family makes it heartbreaking. You would rather pay any cost to have someone else do it for you. Wouldn’t you?

Prayer Flag in the fields in Paro, Across my home

Now who could be that someone else? Here is the social business idea. We can build a social enterprise around this idea. There are already thousands of prayer flags standing along the hills in patches of clearings. They have done their job, prayers have faded and souls are delivered to heavens perhaps. What we could do is collect those old poles and store them up in warehouses in different regions and make sets of 108 poles ready to be delivered on a call and at a price.

During my difficult times, when my mother in-law passed away, I didn’t have the emotional, mental or physical strength to apply for pass from the forestry department, gather over twenty men and go deep into the woods to fetch that many poles. I remembered my good friend Tshering Tenzin, who knew the lam at Chhimi Lhakhang. I called him to help me because when his mother passed away we went there and the lam had kept more than 108 old poles ready. The same arrangement was made for me too. Amazingly it didn’t cost me anything though I would pay anything for such help.
Old flagpole at Chhimi Lhakhang
This social business will not only save bereaved families from any additional torment during difficult times but also safe trees greatly by reusing the poles for as long as they could last.

The enterprise can additionally explore new ways to replace flagpole with bamboo pole, metallic pole or any environmental friendly and economically sustainable options. 

And the good news is I am giving away this business idea to whoever wants to take it forward with the condition that you will aways keep it affordable. It's a social service more than business.

12 June 2015

108 Trees in a Lifetime for Citizenship

Bhutan's first ever Guinness World Record 'Most Trees Planted in an Hour' made a statement of our relation with trees. Perhaps it must be one of the most meaningful records ever set, and coming it from a small nation like ours is a huge pride. To make it the most memorable event ever it was dedicated to the celebration of the 60th birth Anniversary of our beloved fourth king, who has placed environment at the heart of our constitution and all of our national development plans.
"Coinciding with Social Forestry Day on June 2, a team of 100 volunteers got their hands deep in the ground to plant a total of 49,672 trees in just 60 minutes, smashing the previous record by nearly 10,000."- Guinness World Record
 The record required each man to plant over 8 trees per minute, god knows how they did that. I would like to congratulate the 100 super humans, the organiser Karma Tshering and everybody in the team for the making us so proud.

Our Guinness World Record inspired a green idea. If an ordinary Bhutanese has the potential of planting 500 trees in an hour, can every Bhutanese citizen plant at least 108 trees in a life time? Easily. Therefore I think it must be made a citizenship requirement to plant 108 trees to rightfully call yourself Bhutanese.

I heard in some countries you have to serve in the military for at least a year to fulfil your requirement as citizen, and in some countries you have to have voted in an election to have access to public services. Likewise I thought we Bhutanese could do more than just being born here.

I chose the auspicious number 108 because that's the exact numbers of young trees we cut down to offer prayer flags when someone dies. So 108 trees will be felled for each one of us regardless of our environmental morals. However, incase of non-buddhists the number could be viewed differently or changed to another significant number, because after all it's the tree we are placing at the centre.
The 108 prayer flags ...
If this is taken seriously our 70% forest cover can be maintained for ages without affecting the developmental activities because we have the potential of planting 75,600,000 tress with our current population alone and it's only going to grow. This is well beyond any record on the planet and Bhutan's greatest gift to the world.

12 March 2015

Crime Hidden in Pine Forest

In 2003, I was severely ill in the first week I reached Sombaykha Primary School. I wanted to run back home but I was officially four days away from everything familiar to me. I knew I was going to die in the place so new and so remote. Everything about the place made me lonely. It was then that I accidentally broke a thick red ruler in headmaster's office. You won't believe how the scent of pinewood that came from the broken ruler suddenly made my heart race. I took the two broken pieces with me and kept them hear my pillow. From the next morning I felt more alive than ever.

Coming back to Paro and living among the Pine trees is a gift of natural happiness. I know the trees, I grew up with them, I played on their branches and slept under their shade. The scent from the free sends me heart dancing. I am home. But wait, what's under those trees?

Below my training centre in Dop Shari, there is a small patch of pine trees. It's too small to be called a forest but the small group of trees seemed to have survived so many human interventions. Between the trees and the road there is clearly a pit overflowing with garbage. It doesn't seem like a recent activity but now that we live and work in that area, people could easily blame it on us. My colleague Ram took it on to himself to clear that area as part of his social initiative. He got us gloves and sacks.

We thought an afternoon would be enough but as we dug we discovered that the place was used for ages. The waste was obviously from a hotel- countless wrappers of milk, sugar, biscuit, frozen chicken, wine bottles, broken plates and glasses, carton boxes,... It doesn't require much intelligence to analyse that the former occupant of our office was responsible. This place was earlier a tourist hotel, and evidently a very irresponsible one.

Tip of Plastic Iceberg
What we discovered later broke my heart completely. Beyond the pit, cleverly hidden under the pine trees was a secret world of plastic. It was clearly years of intentional and irresponsible dumping of plastic waste, which should be a criminal offence to the nation. It's a wonder how the authorities didn't spot at least the pit that was just below road to Paro Dzong.

The bigger question is, where are other hotels hiding their waste? I have seen a few patches of landfill here and there in Paro. Above Gaptay I have seen a depression in the woods filled with hotel waste, and above that I have seen at least three hotels. It seems to a trend in Paro to hide their waste in the woods. I would therefore like to alert National Environment Commission and Tourism Council of Bhutan to investigate this issue in Paro and perhaps elsewhere in the country. 

Revealing the Hidden
In Paro the problem must have cropped from the failure of the Dzongkhag Municipal. I assume that they can't possibly assist the hotels in managing their waste when they seem to fail in managing the waste in the middle of the town. The waste collecting trucks are small and manually operated, and the frequency of collection seems very less. The bins placed at prime locations are small even for a single user, and therefore are seen overflowing perpetually. Everything seems so half hearted.

Wherever the problem is there seems to be a serious need of intervention. This beautiful country we are so proud of may soon lose its countless adjectives, and our proud environmental efforts may just turn into myths on paper. 

04 May 2014

Teacher's Day to Remember

This Teacher's Day in Bajothang was more than a cut-cake and some happy-teacher's-day dances. It will be remembered for ages, there will be thousand trees telling the story of May 2, 2014, literally. Every student and teacher in my school planted at least a tree each around the town.

Drawing the Plan of Action at 7:30
 Planting trees is not an interesting story to tell, and some could even think we got confused about the dates. It's supposed to be June 2. Well there is a difference, June is not as good as May for new saplings to grow. When we plant in May we mean to see them survive.
The Mastermind, supporter and friend.
And Green Zone in Bajothang town remained on paper for very long. The town has so many urgent issues to take care of before they could have the luxury to think of the green zone they once planned with pride. Thanks to the Environmental Wing of PHPA-II that is led by my friend Sangay Dorji. Last year he proposed the idea of plantation and I took the matter to my school. We agreed to do a massive community service and here we are. We formed a core team who put the idea together and made everything possible. Thanks to Vice Principal Melam and Ugyen Tshering for making it happen.
Plantation as far as the eyes could see
The trees are named and their survival is put up for a competition, therefore we expect this plantation to be different from other mass plantations, we want every sapling to grow into tree. The best classes will be awarded prizes at the end of the year. One parent came looking for his child's plant so that he could nurture it when she is gone to school, but only one parent. I would request more parents to own this idea.

One businessman came forward to offer refreshment to our students, I was so happy with him but I declined because we had our own refreshment. He act of kindness and responsibility earn so much respect from me. But again only one businessman showed that mentality.

The 1,300 holes were dug by JCV, we should have rather dug them ourselves because we wasted as much time in filling the massive hole. We planned the program for an hour and it took was over three hours before we could finally return to school for cut-cake celebration. By then I was dead exhausted but the cake looked very refreshing until I realised that I forgot to pick up my daughter. I borrowed a car and ran with the cake on my dashboard. I thought it was once in a lifetime fun but at the end of satisfying event I got a few disappointed friends who hated me for taking them on plantation trip. But I bet students loved it and that's all that matter.
Finally Cut-cake celebration in School
Happy Teacher's Day to all the teachers across the country, and to all my teachers who helped in shaping my life.

15 January 2014

Tokay Gecko is Valueless

Tokay Gecko was rumored to have the cure for AIDS and therefore was insanely valued in millions. Further there were many websites giving convincing details of sizes and prices of the lizard. I spent good amount of time on internet and yet I didn't encounter this hoax news until the Gelephu incident appeared in the news. This is a case of lack of media literacy at worst. The rumor is more than two years old, how did it suddenly become so viral in Bhutan?

Poor Tokay Gecko
The truth about the reptile will disappoint many people who must have gone too far to become a millionaire overnight. The lizard that is rumored to be priceless is actually valueless. It's neither endangered nor protected species. Taiwan alone imported 18 million Gecko in 2004, because it's used in traditional medicine, but curing AIDS is out of question as confirmed by World Health Organization. It can surely kill mosquitoes.

Dead Geckos to be used in Traditional Medicine 
Everybody heard about the buyers who are ready to pay millions for a Gecko that weighs over 300 gram but nobody actually sold one. Everybody is looking for buyers. There is no buyers. The best price known is USD 50, yes just 50. The online scam has sent hundred of thousands of people to jungles across the world, who must have removed every single gecko from the wild. This could lead to the extinction of the species given the depth at which the rumor has reached. The people responsible for fabricating this story are nothing less than sick Hitler for the lizard world.

Coming back to Bhutan, I am still wondering why the Gelephu incident even happened. The lizard is neither endangered nor protected yet the poor caretaker was arrested and slapped Nu.100,000 fine. This case added gravity to the rumor. Under normal circumstance would anybody be arrested for capturing a lizard? Why is everything that is (considered or rumored) priceless suddenly taken care by law? Is law greedy? Is law ignorant? Tokay Gecko didn't make any Bhutanese millionaire but it has generated lots of suspicion and hatred in the society and criminalized a few.

Please let ignorant people around you know that Tokay Gecko won't make them millionaire. Verify my claims with articles in The Bangkok Post and Global Voice, the only two authentic site that cared to report on the lizard. All the other sites are fake, created just to launch the rumor.

06 December 2012

Ruddy Shelduck- the Ill treated Guest in Bhutan

Today I went to photograph the migratory ducks on the sands of the Punatshangchu river with my family. I have seen them year after year and admired them since I know a little about them. It was at this time of the year my class teacher in junior school would ask me to join him down to the Paa Chhu in Paro to photograph these ducks. Mr. Karma Wangchuk, a born naturalist and self taught artist, is an encyclopedia of birds, plants, butterflies, and animals and has great love for nature. He now teaches in Paro College of Education. He told me about this bird that flies from Tibet to spend their winter with us like the famous black necked crane. The duck is known as Ruddy Shelduck and it's found along the banks of the Punatshangchu at this time of the year.
The Sands of Punatshangchhu
However, ruddy shelduck is not as fortunate as black necked cranes because they are not yet endangered. They are among the least concerned category of birds since there are plenty of them across the world. Perhaps the way we are treating this birds might explain why so many birds are already extinct or endangered.
Ruddy Shelduck in Punatshangchu
They are our winter guest as much as Black necked cranes are but they are left to their own fate. There are posters talking about conservation of herons and cranes but this bird is pushed aside.

They are preyed by wild dogs and there are also rumors of construction workers finding it easier to hunt duck then to buy chicken. With increasing number of workers in Wangdue the fate is this visiting bird is further doomed.
Group of Ruddy Shelduck basking in the sun
If we had records, we might discover that the sands along with Punatshangchu river were their homes long before we knew the sand could be used for construction but now our aggressive and indiscriminate excavation of sand has made them homeless. We are not even waiting for the water to dry up to excavate sand, hundreds of truckloads are carried away everyday. Soon the water will dry up in the place where the ducks are sitting now and then the trucks will come there, where would the birds go? They have come to spend their whole winter here.

The Ducks Flying over Trucks and Dozers 
Riverbed filled with machines 
Every guest coming to Bhutan goes back happy but we are forgetting to be Bhutanese with this poor guest.

17 November 2012

Who will take the Broken Glass?

Last week we got to see a few Bhutanese entrepreneurs who made living on waste business, whose business has moral beyond money. I would like to congratulate Karma Yonten for his visionary Greener Way. He has made it his moral responsibility to take care of our waste while the rest of us wait for the government to handle it.
Last month a few people from some organizations came to talk to us on waste management, and they enlightened us on how we could locally do what Greener Way is doing in Thimphu. I asked them about the Broken Glasses and they said it has no commercial market, therefore it goes to Landfill. That didn't surprise me because I knew it already, but I at least expected them to have a better suggestion.
Then I asked if they would fund a project that would make use of Glass waste and create commercial market right here in the country, to which they said they have no considered that yet. Which means they only bank on stuff that will sell, and not on making things sell. This is very Bhutanese in nature.
I know Greener Way has done so much to demand any more from them, but I also know a young engineer who has tried to use glasses in concrete (Ask him how he was going to do that). He has done a project on this and even went meeting people but he gave up on the way because he only received warm doubts, and cold cynicism from people of whom he expected support. He was going to create commercial market for broken glasses but he realized we are only waiting for India to open up markets.

29 July 2012

My Business Idea

Bhutan Innovation and Technology Center organized The Business Idea Competition of Bhutan 2012 from April to June 2012 and I walked out of my comfort zone to take part along side some 50 of them. Well it was one totally different and comfortable experience dealing with cooperate people. And on top of the experience my idea of Indoor Menchu Service made it to the top ten Business Idea "for its Excellence".

Thank you Thimphu Tech Park and Bhutan Innovation & Technology Centre for the recognition. I will come with crazier idea next year.


21 May 2012

Losing Drinking Water for Lemon Grass Oil

I am watching the people of Mongar struggling for drinking water on BBS and asking to myself- has the time come already? By any logic Bhutan should be the last country worrying about drinking water given the bounty of our forest resources, but we are already losing so many water sources across the country.
With so many fresh water rivers flowing down the valley the world must think we are crazy to complain about water shortage of all the things- we are forgetting the moral of Kuchu&Kumbu story ourselves. But the question is not about going down to the rivers yet, we have been blessed with so many spring water sources running down our hills which we forgot to value so much so far.
Kuensel Photo
As I watch the people of Mongar running with their empty buckets and complaining I remembered the countless forest fires this Dzongkhag had over the last many years- of which many were deliberate. Mongar was blessed with lemon grass, the herb that adds scent to many cosmetic and toiletry items in the international market. And because it generates good income the forest was deliberately set on fire every year for the greed of better lemon grass growth, but those many fires are finally charging their interest- Mongar is now paying the huge price, they had traded they fresh water sources with lemon grass oil.

This Article is not supported with any research and therefore please treat it as an opinion.

05 June 2011

Greener Dream of Bajo

Bajo has as many trees as twenty schools in Thimphu could dream for and all the thanks to its alumni who had spared no June 2 since 1997. It's sad that the day is no more a national holiday but Bajo has no hard feelings against whoever is responsible. We have enough tree to breath for next hundred years.

Bajo Campus!
But not all part of Wangdue is as lucky. The magnificent dzong is exposed to the full fury of the wind, which has left it as the last dzong without CGI roof. Everything around the dzong points in the direction of the wind. There is hardly any tree left to shield the massive structure from the wind, and therefore over three hundred students from Bajo School joined the foresters and Dzong project workers in planting over thousand tree saplings around the dzong. If the wind would spare it, in next twenty years you would see how beautiful Wangdue dzong looks in the green wood rather than wild cactus.
Bajo Students on the mission!

22 November 2010

Water Bill- Let Every River Count

Today National Council discussed on Water Bill. I am unsure of what all comes under Water Bill and what they discussed in the house but as much as I could grab from BBS news they were trying to create a separate commission for water. However, the house failed to come out with a resolution since many thought it was too early for the move. Had I been there I would say it's quite LATE to think of this but we could make up if we do it now.

Isn't it a matter of grave concern and shame that many homes are deprived of decent supply of water in a country where fresh water rivers flow through every valley? Many wetlands run dry and barren due to water scarcity. From Thimphu to Tashigang, there is no place in Bhutan where water isn't the problem. It isn't lack of effort from the government, it's but lack of enough effort. It is lack of focused action. Environment Commission has lots of things to worry about and thus water issue receives divided attention, which is just not enough.

Dam up the river: ultimate source of water.
It is not too late to acknowledge the seriousness of the matter; water is not just water anymore, it is livelihood, it is health, it is happiness. It's not too late to appreciate the call of rivers. Across the world sea water is harvested, sewage is recycled, deserts are dug... here in Bhutan fresh water is waiting to be dammed up and treated- as easy as this. It's going to be one time investment for sustainable supply of water both for drinking and irrigation. How can we claim 'every drop counts' when rivers are left to flow down to sea unused. Let every river count too.

07 September 2010

A Change that made sense- Fishing License

By reading "Kuchu and Kumbu" story in our primary school we were supposed to learn a lesson but as always many things we were taught in school were for the sake of occupying the teaching time and should not be taken seriously. A tank in Phuntsholing is over populated with fishes and "authorities are finding ways to relocate them". Why waste money in something that should be bringing profit instead? Simple solution to the problem is to harvest the fishes but unfortunately those fishes are not meant for killing. They are for decoration? If we are really concerned about killing, why are we importing fishes from India? All in all it is another Potato and Chips story!

For that matter our rivers are so full of fishes but only flood can kill them. Million of new fishes are born each year to die their natural death. It's just matter of common sense, which we have least. After all we are buying fishes for outside, what is sense in forbidding fishing? 

I salute the minister of agriculture for being wise enough to grant fishing license to the villagers of a remote corner in Wangdue (from BBS TV). Throughout history the village lived on fishing but so far they were crippled by the law forbidding their livelihood. Minister educated the farmers (lets call them fishermen) on sustainable fishing, which made more sense. This day will go down in history as the "day Bhutanese made sense"!

Read Detailed report on the project in Business Bhutan

26 August 2010

Cactus in Wangdue

Prickly Pear- the type found in Wangdue
Cactus may be ornamental plant for people living in any place other than Wangdue. Here it is nuisance. It over-grows everywhere. It got me wondering if Wangdue was a desert once upon a time, or at times I fear if Wangdue is going to become a desert some day too soon. Of course, my understanding is cactus grows in deserts. The question remains; why would this plant which is supposed to grow in arid land, grow along side the Punatshangchhu.
Over these years I have come to understand the thorny plant and learnt to live with it in harmony- I have realized it is not as attractive as I have known it. I have learned to forgive it. Of all the wonderful species of cactus Wangdue has the ugly Prickly Pear of Opuntia family, which is commonly found in North America.

Good side of Cactus
Golden blossom

  • It flowers seasonally. The golden yellow blossom spellbinds many first timers.

  • The fleshy stem can be cooked and fed to cattle after removing the sharp thorns.

  • If used for fencing it can be more secure than bob wire.

  • Though not done here but records in Wikipedia shows that same cactus found in Wangdue can be used for medical purpose, can be consumed as food, and can be used as intoxication.
Bad side of it:-

If you are touching the plant, its fruit in particular, by the time you realize hundred and one almost-invisible thorns called glochids would have dislodged and pricked your skin. Forget about removing it you can’t even trace it with your naked eyes. But the pain is in contrast to its size. These fine spines are blown by wind and it can reach your room posing threat to your children’s comfort causing irritation and if not removed can cause infection (Sabra Dermatitis).
Glochids on close-up
The bigger thorn has a strange natural character, if it pricks you it can’t be removed backward without medical surgery. It has to be driven further in to be drawn from the other side of your body part.
It is the worst enemy of vehicle tires. Once it gets into your tire, unlike nails, it is impossible to trace therefore every time you fill in the air your new tube will be punctured by the hiding thorn.

Further this plant had bad history with countries like Australia where it was once introducted as natural fencing but later it invaded the farmland resulting in making huge amount of land unproductive. The government had to go as far as creating a Commonwealth Prickly Pear Board to get rid of the plant. 

Larvae of Cactus moth
One thing to learn from history; introduction of certain moth called cactus moth or nopal moth can gradually bring an end to the Pickly Pear population outburst. The Larvae of the moth feeds on the plant.

All Picture are from Wikipedia

17 June 2010

Free Pen Carrying Message with Irony

I was in the Dzong yesterday for clearing up some official mess. One of my CE students working in accounts section insisted on taking me for lunch. The rustic canteen served good meals and attracted every official from the Dzong. Among them was a lady who distributed pens among us. It was a nice pen I got. It took us some time to discover that the pen had glossy scroll that can be pulled like a rubber band. Upon reading what was one the scroll I found out it was from National Environment Commission of Bhutan to spread their message on critical issues like "Save Water", "Reduce Waste", "Reduce Air Pollution", "Save the Forest", "Say NO to ozone Depleting Substance". It carried another page of information on the back page with the heading "Help save our Environment" with the mention of Article 5.1 of the Constitution of Kingdom of Bhutan.

The Irony: The pen is made of plastic, including the scroll inside. It must take about three plastic bags to make pen of this size and quality. Again there must be thousands of such pen freely distributed. Now tell me how can I "Say NO to ozone Depleting Substance" when it is such a nice pen given by a cute NEC lady herself. Or is she checking our ethics?

However, I am thankful to the pen giver lady. This pen is meant for teachers; we can overwrite our class timetable on the scroll. Of course I finished reading the message already.