Thursday, March 23, 2017

World Bank: Water will become the most sought-after natural resource

Already, 1 in 9 people worldwide do not have access to safe, clean drinking water.

A report released by the UNICEF yesterday says that approximately 1 in 4 children worldwide will live in regions with extremely scarce water resource by 2040.

Based on current trends, studies indicate that demand for water will increase 50% by the year 2030 - for industry, energy, farming and to quench the thirsts of additional one billion people.

According to the World Bank, water will become the most sought-after natural resource over which wars are bound to be fought.

The 2017 edition of the United Nations World Water Development Report, entitled "Wastewater: The Untapped Resource" says;

"Noteworthy is that about 50 per cent of the people facing this level of water scarcity live in China and India".

 If all these seem bleak and foreboding, consider this:


It is clear beyond doubt that WATER is going to be the most critical natural resource of the future. We need to do everything we can to protect and safeguard it, for our own future and for those of our children.

The as yet unshackled Chamkharchhu flowing through the Jakar valley. The government has recently announced that this beautiful river too will be subjected to hydro-power bondage.

We have to stop looking at our rivers only as energy source for driving hydro-power turbines. Our rivers are obviously destined for great things in the future. Water in its natural form could one day represent the single largest revenue generator for our country.

But first, we have to stop pawning off our rivers as collaterals for hydro-power projects. It is insane to do so. It is already very clear where our hydro-power projects are leading us. We all know how it works – when we cannot repay the loan, the collateral gets seized. You lose control over it.

We need to be realistic and educated. We are working on the assumption that India is an infinite market for our electricity. We are so wrong! India is already almost self sufficient in electricity. Take a look at the following to understand how India is making progress in generation of electricity.

Mr. John H. Gerstle, C.E., MNIF, a consultant who worked on our “Development of Guidelines for Hydropower Planning and Impact Assessment”, in the 90’s wrote to me as follows:

In my work with RGOB, I strongly encouraged the early determination of those rivers and river basins to be designated for hydropower development, and those to be preserved for environmental, social, cultural, tourism, recreational and other objectives.

Similarly, it was recommended that hydropower development be concentrated in a small number of river basins, to limit the extent of the impacts and the expense of new infrastructure development required for projects far away from each other. It was expected that such a concentration of hydropower development along some rivers would enable other rivers to be conserved and protected.

These recommendations were made in the reports of the first Bhutan Hydropower System Master Plan so that the consideration could be done at an early stage, before significant investments and commitments would make such decisions more difficult.

There is much wisdom here. We cannot subject all of our rivers to eternal bondage - let us leave one or two of them free of hydro-power dams. We are not making any money from our hydro-power projects - so the question to ask would be:

How much more debt do we need?

Friday, March 17, 2017

New Zealand Steals Bhutan’s Thunder

In a world first, New Zealand recently accorded a river the status of a living entity. This Whanganui river in New Zealand is now protected under law, from all harm and abuse, in any form, same as that of a human being.

New Zealand is a country that the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in its 2015 Annual Report ranked the lowest environmental performer, among its 35 member states. And yet, they have done what no other country in the world has so far done - given a river the respect and recognition it deserves.

By contrast, Bhutan, despite being the land of GNH, a champion of environmental conservation, a recipient of the Champion of Earth Award and the J. Paul Getty Award for Conservation Leadership, and a self professed carbon negative country, has failed to protect even a single river from being shackled, for economic enslavement. Despite disasters such as PHEP I & II staring right into our faces, Bhutan still pursues hydro-power projects with the single minded determination of a fanatical lunatic.

Recently the Kuensel announced that we are now undertaking DPRs for a series of hydro-power projects to be started on the as yet unshackled Chamkhar Chhu. And this despite our plea that the river that forms the mighty Drangme Chhu river system, should be left undammed and free-flowing, for the benefit of our future generations.

 Chamkhar Chhu that flows from the base of Bhutan's highest peak - Gangkhar Puensum

Chamkhar Chhu glistening in the morning sun as it makes it journey to the south. The river originates at the base of the world's highest unclimbed peak - Mt. Gangkhar Puensum (7,570 Mtrs.)

People fail to understand, or they are deliberately ignoring the disastrous implications, both environmental and financial, of damming all of our rivers for hydro-power projects. As far as I can conceive, doing so will be very expensive for the country and the future generations of Bhutan. In fact it will be annihilating!

To explain in plain simple language, it is like taking a huge loan to do a project - say hydro-power. As we go along, the project encounters problems such as mismanagement, corruption, miscalculations, geological surprises, shear zones and shifting tectonic plates. The project cost spirals out of control. Interest mounts and the project completion date is deferred time and again. Over time the project is simply undoable. But by then we are straddled with huge loans that we are unable to service.

What do we do? Our interest on the loan keeps compounding - the pay back period of the loan is readjusted to extend into the next millennia …. The loan’s collateral - our rivers - remain shackled and bound, and we, its masters, are powerless to do with it what we want to do, until the loans are repaid in full!

Our enslavement, and that of the rivers, is complete and total!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

A Journey of Self Destruction

Bhutan’s most dependable factories of debt – the Punatsangchhu Hydro Electric Projects-I & II – are once again in the news. In their latest issue, TheBhutanese newspaper reports that the estimated completion dates of these two disasters have been further pushed back to 2019 and 2022.

It is simply appalling – the level of absurdity of the project authorities and the governments of Bhutan and India. I think it is clear that these projects will not happen – not even in 2040 – at least not the PHEP-I! The project authority’s attempts at besting nature is quite laughable, and futile at best.

But something encouraging that TheBhutanese reports is that the authorities have finally agreed to seek a second opinion - from the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute. This is encouraging news. This is what I had written on February 19, 2015:

Thus, while we must ensure that WAPCOS is barred from future involvement in our hydro power projects based on their terrible record so far, we should now look at engaging consultants from third countries to investigate if the geological make of the Punatsangchhu areas is suitable for large hydro power projects. Through the engagement of better qualified consultants, we should ascertain whether it is wise to continue with the projects - or scrap it, to prevent further losses.

I am now encouraged to believe that the PHEP-I will finally be scrapped.

My New Year Wish during February, 2015 was as follows:

I WISH that the two governments of Bhutan and India would get together and take the only sensible decision they can - a decision to abandon the Punatsangchu Hydropower Projects.

Last year too, I wished the same:

First on the list of my wishes for the year is the reiteration of my last year’s wish: closure of the Punatsangchhu Hydropower Project-I. As bizarre and fantastic as it may sound, I believe that this is the only way out to avoid irredeemable loss - both environmental as well as financial. The fallout from the failure of this dam is simply inconceivable. Such an eventuality could be the cause of the end of Bhutan’s hydro-power dreams.

The cost of one of these projects is in excess of the country’s entire annual GDP. And from all indications, they are going to fail. Bhutan cannot afford this. What this generation is doing is highly irresponsible – we are sealing the fates of our future generations. In our pursuit of a pipe dream, we are assigning our children to a life of economic bondage.

As I said in my last post on the subject, this is not about environmental conservation – it is about the fear of economic enslavement. However, we will do well to remember that we go hoarse claiming that we are a country of phenomenal eco-systems with immense bio-diversity. After all the claim that we so proudly make, the following is what we will leave behind for our children.

High tension power lines already scar Bhutan's beautiful landscape. Our future generations will have to live with this ugliness.

And yet, I would like to look at this catastrophic failure, with hope and optimism. I would like to believe that those who can make a difference will draw lessons from this failure – and bear in mind that our hydro-power aspirations are nothing but a journey in self destruction.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Strident President Donald Trump

This past month I have been regularly watching the CNN news channel. I love the Trump-bashing that goes on in there, in true democratic spirit – reinforcing beyond doubt that USA is indeed the land of the free.

Until now I believed that President Donald Trump was a lot smarter person, in spite of his outlandish campaign rhetoric that he has been dishing out. As I wrote in my earlier post on him, I truly believed that once he became President, he would surprise us all by NOT fulfilling most of his campaign pledges.

It now appears that I may be completely wrong.

This morning when I put on the TV, I did so at the precise moment when President Donald Trump declared:

“We have to start winning wars again"

He is going to declare wars and he is going to win them! --- and to enable him to do that, he is proposing a defense budget of US$603 billion. This sum is more than the sum total spent by the rest of the world’s top 7 countries with the biggest defense budgets:

China                  215.0
Saudi Arabia         87.2
Russia                   66.4
UK                        55.5
India                      51.3
France                   50.9
Japan                     40.9

TOTAL :     US$ 567.0 billion 


The lunacy does not stop there: since he had promised big tax cuts during the campaign, there is no way be is going to be able to wage wars and win them, through increased tax collection. So he proposes what he thinks is the next best thing – he proposes to finance his war mongering through budget cuts in such meaningful areas as foreign aid, healthcare and EPA.

Thirty-five years back (1981) President elect Ronald Reagan, another Republican, was the oldest President of America – at 69 years of age. Donald Trump at 70 now qualifies as the oldest elected US President.

President Reagan too was a great believer in military might. He spent hundreds of billions of dollars to build up American military might, so much so that at one point he told the Pentagon, “Defense is not a budget item. You spend what you need”.

President Reagan was so hell bent on military supremacy that in 1983, he announced the futuristic Strategic Defense Initiative – a hugely expensive Star Wars like missile defense system. There was one good outcome from all that posturing – it forced the USSR to embark on its own military build up, which many believe, ultimately contributed to its bankruptcy and the fall of Communism.

And yet, for all that, during his entire Presidency, Ronald Reason waged only one miserably absurd war – that of the invasion of Grenada, in October of 1983. However, the invasion of the tiny island defended by less than 1,000 militia did not bring any long term, or even short term, honor for the President or the world’s most powerful military power. In fact, in due course, the United Nations General Assembly voted 108:9 – to condemn the invasion as an unwarranted act of international aggression.

President Reagan was a staunch protagonist of  “Peace through strength”. He believed that he could maintain world peace through sheer military might. He was my hero because I believe in that. By contrast, President Trump wants to “Make America Great Again” by waging wars and winning them. I do not believe in that and thus I am not his fan.

The great economic powerhouse that is America gives out less than 1% of its budget in aiding needy foreign nations. Of that, in 2014, US$5.9 billion was spent in financing the purchase of weapons of war.

Instead of curtailing foreign aid and reduce funding for EPA’s programs, America will do well to increase them. I am told that President Trump is stridently against environmental protection because he believes that the claim that the environment is in a depleted state is whole lot of hogwash. But he would do well to listen to others and open his eyes and mind to the state of the environment. He cannot be oblivious to the weather related disasters that the great America has witnessed in recent times.

I think that for America and President Donald Trump, it would be cheaper to win hearts rather than wars. Along the way they will garner respect, esteem and goodwill.

America is a nation of immigrants – its greatness can be attributed to the contributions made by the immigrants – right from its formative years to the present. As on last count, the DHS’ Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS) estimated that there were close to 12 million unauthorized immigrants living in America. One has to wonder why the US government did not act, even while the DHS was obviously keeping tract of all the unauthorized aliens. Donald Trump has to consider why the earlier administrations turned a blind eye to the issue, even while they were fully aware. To go blistering against them, as if it were a recent and sudden phenomena, is to invite problems and complications that he cannot even comprehend.

The way to making “America Great Once Again” cannot be through alienation of friends and supporters and partners and neighbors. America cannot survive in isolation - no one can.

"America First" is a gallant aspiration that deserves support, but the manner in which President Trump hopes to accomplish it for America is untenable - he cannot hope to achieve it by trampling on the aspirations of others. If President Trump believes that building the Mexican wall will advance his aspirations for achieving "America First", do it by all means but do not require Mexico to pay for its construction. You want it, you foot the bill.

President Donald Trump has to remember that even the lowly rat catcher is an integral and legitimate member of the human society.

President Donald Trump has to look to history – not a very ancient one at that – and draw lessons from it. For all its military might, for all its pile of nuclear warheads and intercontinental ballistic missiles, atomic and hydrogen bombs, and with a combined military personnel of 1,385,116 – all that it took was one dedicated and determined lunatic to bring the mighty America to its knees and alter the very course of its history forever. 9/11 is proof that US$603 billion military spending is no guarantee that a foolproof defense system can be built.

If wars are to be fought and won, I think they have to be won in the minds of men, and not on battlefields. Subjugating nations and peoples through military aggression is too primeval.

How America behaves impacts us all. I urge President Donald Trump to have consideration for those of us who do not have the wherewithal to wage, or win, wars.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Langdhurbi: Take 2

The remote village of Langdhurbi in Zhemgang District is 7 hours walk from the nearest road head. Far removed from the razzal-dazzle of modernity that is fast changing the social and cultural landscape of urban Bhutan, the simple folks in this pigeonhole of a village live out their lives devoid of dreams. They are incapable of dreams for, they know not what to dream for. All their lives they have been wrapped within the bounds of their cocoon – living a way of life that is a slice right out of the medieval times. This lot has not seen electricity, television or a motor vehicle in their lives – until Rotary Club of Thimphu decided to change that for some of the children from this village.

In July of last year, the Rotary Club of Thimphu transported 20 young children from this impoverished village and brought them to Thimphu for a week. For the first time these children took a bus ride, saw motor road, vehicles, electricity, animated movies and experienced for the first time the throbbing, pulsating waywardness of modern times and way of life. This trip was designed to show these children what stuffs of dreams were made of – what to aspire for and what possibilities existed for them. And, for the really smart among them, the trip would have given them cause for rejoice – in the revelation that the life they have in their village is far more meaningful, healthy, harmonious and sustainable, than that offered by the urban centers where every new medical breakthrough has seen increased number of new and strange diseases, every new scientific invention has seen the world inching closer to annihilation, and every new smart electronic device turning human beings into less smart beings and more forgetful and disjointed.

Among those 20 young kids, there was this really talented singer and artist – named Sonam Dorji, aged 11 years. He had such a wonderful voice and more amazingly he loved singing Zhundra – classical songs. So, this year during the winter holidays we brought him back to Thimphu once again and got him to be coached in singing and drawing. He attended classes at the iBEST and M-Studio who were generous to teach him without charging him a fee. In between he took singing classes from such luminaries as Lhamo Dukpa and Namkha Lhamo, Bhutan’s most accomplished Zhungdra divas.

Sonam Dorji under the tutelage of Bhutan's foremost Zhungdra singer - Namkha Lhamo

Sonam Dorji is back to his village in Langdhurbi and continues his studies at the local community school. What the future holds for him is anybody’s guess. The talent that is latent in him is something I wish I could help him unleash but I do not have the means to do so. And I suspect I am the poorer for leading him to the stars but not being able to help him touch them.

As I prod along on the path of life that must inevitably end in nothingness, I think of this extremely talented boy languishing in abject helplessness in some remote wilderness. If he were a little bit luckier --- if I were a little bit more economically able, he could have one day serenaded the best of the best. But that is not how the story will be written – for all his talent, he is destined to be lost in the sands of oblivion – one potential shining star whose luminosity will not see the light of day.

Sonam Dorji’s trip to Thimphu this year was sponsored by Hotel Jumolhari and writer Chador Wangmo provided food and accommodation for the boy and his aunt who escorted him. Hotel Druk was generous to provide one end-of-session dinner for the boy and his tutors.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Rotary Club of Thimphu’s First Annual Conference Successfully Concluded

What was originally planned as the 9th Annual District Conference of the RI District 3292, ended up as the RC Thimphu’s maiden annual conference. From a staggering 2,400++ registrants to the Conference, the final head count for the club level conference stood at 160 (excluding 15 from Bhutan), including spouses. Fifteen (15) countries were represented spanning across 8 Rotary International Districts comprised of 37+1 Clubs.

All the participants were suitably impressed that a new and minuscule club with only 19 Members could organize the hosting of such a large gathering. Everything was timed perfectly – right from the reception at Paro International Airport to check-in at the hotels and the Conference itself. The international participants were impressed with the line up of speakers, led by our Honorable Prime Minister who was the keynote speaker at the event. Every Conference session was perfectly timed to the last nano second – the sessions started and ended exactly as scheduled – no hiccups!

The Rotary Club of Thimphu presented 12 project ideas to the participants for collaboration – in areas that included education, health, agriculture etc.

One Club in Malaysia announced support for 3 scholarships in vocational training - The Rotary Club of Melawati.

Another from the same country promised to take up the construction of hostel for Kagtong Primary School in remote Zhemgang costing US$25,000.00.

Yet another Club donated US$1,500.00 to cover the cost of purchase of farm equipment – for one of the three Youth Cooperatives engaged in agriculture farming.

In the coming months other participating clubs will start to look at our proposals and commit their sponsorship of some of the projects that were proposed.

Our Keynote Speaker – Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bhutan
Dignitaries at the Conference – Hon’ble Chief Justice of Bhutan and Hon’ble Minister for Home & Cultural Affairs posing with Rotarian KK Looi and friends from Malaysia.

Photo shoot - Hon'ble Prime Minister pose with the participants, following the inauguration of the Conference
A throng of Rotarians from around the glob: 7 RI Districts, 38 Clubs and 108 Rotarians

Some Club Members pose with Rotarians from Malaysia. On the extreme left is Rtn. KK Looi who put together his group from among Clubs under District 3300 in Malaysia.
Yours truly with the team leader Rtn. Marian Victor Popa from the Rotary Club of Bucharest “Octo”, Romania. Note the interesting traditional costume he and his spouse are wearing. On the extreme right is Rtn. Rinzi Om, RC Thimphu’s Sargent-at-Arms.
Yours truly with the contingent from Romania
Club President Rtn. Tsewang Rinzing, the Club’s Director of Community Service Rtn. Dawa Penjore and Club Secretary Rtn. Yeshey Dorji with the 7-members contingent from the Rotary Club of Melawati, Malaysia. This Club has confirmed the award of scholarships for three Bhutanese youth - for vocational training in an institute in Malaysia
One of the participants celebrating her birthday at the City Hotel, Thimphu
While we were busy with our club Conference, two of our Members were attending the RI District 3292 Annual Conference in Kathmandu. Rtn. Kesang Tshomo, Director of Memberships and Rtn. Yeshey Nidup, Club Treasurer, represented our Club in the Conference, to show solidarity. They are seen here with the incumbent District Governor Rtn. Jaya Rajya Laxmi Shah and incoming DG Sanjay Giri (2017-2018).
The last two months was a very tiring period. I had to oversee the arrangement and preparation for the Conference. Not to say that I had sleepless nights – but I certainly had very little sleep. Thankfully it is over and I can now relax a bit – until I run to Zhemgang to initiate another of RC Thimphu’s project – solar fencing of farmlands in Kheng Nimshong village - all of 7 KMs.

Throughout the Conference, every one else spoke but I remained resolutely mute. But yesterday at the dinner at the Le Meridien Hotel in Thimphu I decided to break my silence for a while - to quote the American multi-billionaire philanthropist, Mr. Warren Buffett:

“What money you have in excess of your need is useless money

I supplemented it by saying:

“There is one sure way of making that useless money into useful money. Give it to those who need it.”

You should have no doubt who I was hinting at☺☺

Monday, January 23, 2017


The Rotary Peace Fellowship is a highly coveted scholarship for which there is enormous competition at a global level.  If you are able to win one of the hundred scholarships on offer, you go beyond merely securing a seat in one of the top world universities to pursue a Masters degree - you will be making a statement about yourself - that you are a person of substance capable enough to compete and win among the very best in the world.

In our quest towards humanitarian service, the Rotary Club of Thimphu embraces three core values - Education, Health and Agriculture. Of the three, we believe that education is KEY. It makes citizens conscientious and inculcates a sense of responsibility towards the environment, practice healthy living and responsible behavior. Education helps unravel some of life’s most intriguing mysteries.

It is our hope that atleast one Bhutanese would win one Rotary Peace Fellowship a year. In our endeavor to help you do so, we have enlisted the help of Bhutan’s own Rotary Scholar - Ms. Pem Chuki Wangdi. She is a recipient of the 2014-2015 Rotary Peace Fellowship that helped her pursue a Masters Degree in Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Queensland, Australia.

At the invitation of the The Rotary Club of Thimphu, Ms. Pem will be returning home for a brief while to speak at the Club’s international Conference scheduled for mid February, 2017. During her short stay in Bhutan, she has agreed to host a Questions & Answers Session - to meet and help aspiring Bhutanese applicants to the Rotary Peace Fellowship. During the session, she will answer all your questions and guide you in making your application process less tedious.

Those of you who may be interested, please register (with your email & mobile number) for the session at: 

We will notify you of the time and place of the session in due course. The date for the session is fixed for:

 20TH FEBRUARY, 2017 

In the meantime please go through the websites the links of which are given in my Blog below - and read up everything so that you know where you need help.


Sunday, January 22, 2017


Once again the Rotary Club of Thimphu is happy to inform of the announcement of the Rotary Peace Fellowship for 2018. Please obtain further information from the following links:

The Application

Please use the following resources, in the application process:

Information on eligibility requirements:

The steps to completing the application:

10 January, 09:00-09:30

Applying for Rotary Peace Fellowship 
Applying for the Rotary Peace Fellowship: Tips From Current Fellows
24 January, 09:00-09:30

How to strengthen your application
7 February, 09:00-09:30

Aspiring applicants have until 31 APRIL, 2017 to submit applications to:

          The Rotary Club of Thimphu
          RSPN Building
          Below WWF/Ministry of Health office

          Telephone    :    02 323242
          Mobile         :    77190182
          eMail           :
          Website        :

Please read through the materials available at the above links - to understand the process of application. Please ensure that your application is with us by the dateline so that we may forward the same to the District, for onward submission to the RI in the US.

If you need help with navigating through the application process, please talk to Ms. Pem Chuki Wangdi at her following email address. Pem is a Rotary scholar and a recipient of the Rotary Peace Fellowship so she understands. She has volunteered to help out. She can be reached at:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Yet Again, My Time For Anguish

On December 1, 2016, I had blogged on “Something Has Gone Seriously Wrong Somewhere” ( I moaned about our domestic electricity tariff being way out of the reach of most of us poor fellows in this country.

Yet again, my time for anguish is here. On the morning of 6th January, 2017 I got my electricity bill for the month of December, 2016. The two bills (don't ask me why I am getting two bills) collectively amounted to nearly Nu.9,000.00 (by the way I use only two radiating room heaters, one refrigerator, one freezer, a TV, one washing machine, a water boiler, a rice cooker and home lighting - and NOT A SINGLE GEYSER). In certain sections of the Bhutanese society, this sum is enough to feed a family of twelve, for over two moths - with ease.

This is truly appalling. Even worst, it has been announced that electricity tariff will be increased even further, as of this month.

We, more accurately, the government and the big time thinkers and planners should hang their heads in shame - that we boast of being a big time producer of hydro-electricity and yet, electricity as a energy source is being priced out of the reach of the common people.

The world of the Bhutanese has gone a little quirky.

We say we produce so much electricity and yet, we cannot afford it. Infact, in some months we have to import electricity from India.

We say we have 80% forest coverage and yet, the wildlife who has 4 times bigger land holding finds it necessary to invade the fields of the poor farmers who have only 20% share of the country’s land. In other parts of the world, humans encroach into wildlife habitat - in Bhutan the reverse is true. And yet we have rampant wildlife predation. Something is not quite right here.

We recognize that large-scale incidences of Goongtongs is a serious problem with long term consequences on the country, and yet, we do nothing to amend the antiquated laws that cause it. The planners and thinkers are clueless of the reverse multiplier effect that Goongtongs will have on the country, over the long haul.

Increasingly, large swaths of traditional farm lands are converted into cardamom fields and hazelnut plantations, severely impacting food production. We forget that it was the unchecked cardamom plantations that caused the governemnt to implement the country's first nationalization drive in the late 1970's. I am told that the hazelnut project is now in direct conflict with the country's "organics only" farming aspirations.

We say we are champions of environmental conservation, and yet, we think nothing of scarring the landscape for hundreds of miles; dig roads that we do not need, and indiscriminately fell trees that have taken centuries to grow and mature.

There is an urgent need to introspect and realize that we have become a society that is incapable of putting our minds and hearts into what we are doing. Our hearts do not seem to be where our minds are. We are glib talkers - but there seem little understanding that talk has to be followed through with action. We talk simply because there is a need for talk - some do not even understand what they are talking.

One has to wonder how long we can go on like this.