Thursday, June 21, 2018

Something to Brood Over

One of the world’s youngest democracies has got to be among the most muddled. The staggering amount of contradictions and discrepancies that direct the functioning of our democratic process is, simply, hilarious! It is impossible to list them all --- but I can begin with one that you might find worth brooding over.

You may have noticed that in recent weeks and months, a number of political parties have been hard at work announcing the names of their candidates – some new and others, thankfully, in replacement of old ones that are being put out to pasture. The leader of the pack is ofcourse good old ruling party PDP – they are replacing close to 50% of their candidates. Now that has got to be unprecedented in political history any where! Do I think it is suicidal? I do – but I certainly admire the guts of the party leadership – this is very gutsy and it could sink them. But I suppose they know a thing or two that you and I don't.

But this is not the point I am trying to make. What intrigues me is the names of some of the new candidates announced by some political parties. They contain names of some senior civil servants who have been superannuated, or were on the verge of being superannuated. Why does this intrigue me? It intrigues me because of the simple concept behind superannuation.

Being superannuated means you have reached the end of your productive age – that you have outlived your usefulness. There is a law that says that when you reach the superannuation age, you have to be put out to pasture. Thus, enlisting superannuated persons by political parties to contest elections as their candidates may be in contravention of the law that says that a person of certain age can no longer be employable in the government. The question is: what happens if the superannuated political appointee wins the election and forms part of the government? Is reinstatement back into the system permissible?

I am not saying that the political parties are recycling old waste. But what I am hinting at is that if we are to move forward, if we are to bring dynamism into governance, a change in perspective, new ways of thinking and new ways of doing things, I think the political parties must look elsewhere and not keep scrapping the bottom of the same cesspool.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Please Surrender Your Subsidized LPG Cylinders

If anything is constant – it is the process of education and learning. I got to realize this in the morning today, on my way back from Paro.

A young girl flagged me down at Chuzom looking for a ride home. I was all alone and so I stopped and told her to hop in. As we approached Thimphu, she asked if I could drop her off to her house in Simtokha.

I said; “sorry I am running late for an appointment so I will have to drop you off at Olarongchhu.”

I heard her call a friend seeking for a loan. I realized that she did not have money to pay for the taxi ride home. So I asked her;

“How much would a taxi ride cost you?

She said; “Nu.100.00”.

So I gave her the money. For me it was cheaper to give her Nu.100.00 rather than take a diversion to drop her off at her home.

As I continued my drive, the realization hit me that there were people out there who did not possess Nu.100.00. For God’s sake --- that is less than the price of half a bottle of beer I drink. Even more disturbing – I realized that to someone poor, Nu.100.00 meant a hell of a lot of money – the difference between reaching home or being stranded in the middle of a highway.

When I reached Motithang, I headed straight for BOD. There I inquired about exchanging my subsidized LPG cylinders with those of none subsidized ones. The girl said not a problem --- you can take anytime you want. I said;

“But I want to surrender my subsidized cylinders so that they can be issued to more deserving users. What do I do?” She said, nothing we give you the new cylinders at a reduced price.

I am told that the price difference between the subsidized and none subsidized LPG is only Nu.200.00. But the incident of the morning taught me that Nu.200.00 can be a big deal to someone who is poor and does not have the money.

I decided that I am going to surrender both my old cylinders when they run out - and take the none subsidized ones. It is my hope that two villagers in some remote corner of the country who may be short of Nu.200.00 may yet have his/her chance at owing a LPG cylinder.

I know that the world is an unfair place – but that should not be the reason NOT to do our part – however small. I know that it is the rich, the highly salaried in the country – the Ministers, the Secretaries, the Directors and the politicians who get to import cars duty free, and buy chocolates and whiskey and perfume – at quota rates - while the lowly paid peons and the drivers and the clerks pay over 200% duty to buy their cars and booze.

If this was a fair world, you would not be buying LPG for cooking your meals or heating your homes – you would be using the much hyped hydro-electricity at much cheaper prices. But the sad thing is that we cannot afford our own electricity to cook and to heat – and thus we are forced to hanker after subsidized LPG.

I urge all those of you who think you can afford to pay additional Nu.200.00 a month, please opt for the none subsidized LPG cylinders. Doing so will help some poor villager finally get their subsidized LPG that they deserve.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Punatsangchhu Hydroelectric Project-I in Colombia?

It seems like "geological surprises" are not so uncommon - it is happening elsewhere too - not just in Bhutan.

The US$2.8 billion Hidroituango mega dam being built on the river Cauca in Colombia is all poised to collapse. For a full report, please read the following:


What is striking about the above case is that it is so, so similar to our own PHPA-I project that has been languishing in a state of limbo for years.


The case of Hidroituango dam should serve as a lesson for all Bhutanese who hanker after hydro-power projects.

I still say that it is time that we did a rethink on the doomed PHPA-I. We are still not late to avert an imminent catastrophe.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A Stinking Stench and an Alpine Rumpus

Over few hundred miles apart – one bang in the center of the capital city Thimphu, another at the extreme fringes of the country’s northern border – two stinks have apparently been fomenting for some time. I wasn't aware until very recently.

The Stinking Stench: The foul stench of raw sewage is unmistakable as you pass the Secretariat of the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS). Quite evidently, the building that houses the Ministry and Departments that set out building codes and construction and design standards has a leakage in their sewage system. You can see the raw sewage filling the drainage system below the building. Such irresponsibility is not only pathetic, it’s demoralizing in a nation that prides itself on environmental stewardship.

The Alpine Rumpus: Now, this stink has the potential to turn deadly. It needs immediate attention and I hope that the government will look into the problem with wisdom and foresight. Unfortunately this is an election year, and I suspect that the politicians are likely to flaunt the cause as something of a political opportunity rather than as a problem that needs solving.

The issue surrounds the curiously formed, crinkly, half-worm-half-grass oddity known as Cordyceps sinensis. The most expensive among the traditional Chinese medicines (TCM) is all set to turn a trail blazer – one that history is likely to quote as the event that marked the beginning of provincial conflict in the country. An intense discord has apparently been brewing for the past few years among the highlanders – the inhabitants of the high altitude Gewogs of Lunana, Sephu, Laya etc. Central to the discord is the right of harvest of the highly priced Cordyceps sinensis, or Yartsa Guenboop.

Cordyceps sinensis as it appears when right out of the ground


Cordyceps sinensis: dried and dust

The one that got away: A moth caterpillar that never made it as a Cordyceps sinensis - it escaped the spores that would have germinated it into Yartsa Guenboop

During my recent trip to Lunana, I was witness to a conversation between a government official and a Gewong Tsogpa of Lunana. Apparently, there is a rule that says that only Lunaps can harvest Yartsa Guenboop within the territorial boundaries of Lunana Gewog. Similarly, Lunaps cannot go and trespass into other Gewogs. I am not sure where there is fairness in this strangely divisive rule – but the problem is that people are unwilling to adhere to these conditions. It seems that the Sephups and the Layaps are “poaching” into Lunana territory. Lunaps are not taking it lying down – they are ganging up to chase away the plundering neighbors.

While Layaps are smart and move away when chased (only to come back hours later under the cover of darkness and stealth), the Sephups are in no mood to listen. They stand their ground and insist that they have a right to harvest a common, naturally grown bounty that belongs to the whole nation and the people of Bhutan – not merely to the Lunaps. Upon insisting that they leave, the Sephups are said to have threatened that when this is all over, they will take a similar stand: that Lunaps will not be able to access Sephup territory, or there will be murder and slaughter. The Lunaps of northern regions of Lunana must exit through Nikachhu for their daily essentials, and Nikachhu is under Sephu Gewog.

KUENSEL of 28th May, 2018 reported that the BHSL chopper made 10 sorties to the harvesting areas on 27th May, 2018 alone to defuse the dangerous atmosphere that was brewing among the highlanders. That day, I was still in the harvesting areas in Lunana, but I have no idea if the government officials from Thimphu managed to chase away the Sephups. But of one thing I am sure: This is not a boundary dispute. It is about the right of ownership of a mystical oddity whose potency has the magic to cure hair loss and to correct erectile dysfunction.


 Cordyceps sinensis is harvested at altitudes above 4,800 Mtrs. A Yak herder's camp opposite where I was camped at 4,988 Mtrs. in Lunana

Before the harvesting and collection of Yartsa Guenboop was legalized in 2004, I was among the very, very few who advocated in writing the need for the legalization of Cordyceps collection. I did so because during those days, Bhutanese collectors were being penalized and fined and jailed for collecting the worms, while the Tibetans across the border plundered the bounty without let or hindrance, in the process making millions from its sale. Little did I know that years later, legal Cordyceps collection could result in the country’s first case of provincial conflict.

Time is now for the Government to rethink the policy. Clearly, there is a real danger that this could escalate into something that the country does not need – least of all on our northern borders.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Are Our School Drinking Water Safe to Drink?

Combined with snow, ice, freshwater lakes, running streams, rivers and ground water, Bhutan has one of the highest per capita availability of water in the world. With an average flow of 2,238 m3/s, Bhutan generates 70,572 million cubic meters per annum, i.e. 94,500 m3 per person per year, the highest in the region.

And yet, Bhutan suffers, what I call, “the problem of plenty”. Most of our waters are at the bottom of ravines and gorges, while our settlements are on hilltops and plateaus. Plentiful water is most often inaccessible to us.

Even worst, over the past few decades, we have been choking our life giving rivers with hydro-power dams that churn out debts amounting to hundreds of billions, at 10% interest. Over time, I fear that our water resources may no longer remain under our control.

But there seems to be a greater water borne threat that we seem to ignore - drinking water that we supply to our school children. How many of the water supplies in our schools are really safe for our children to drink?

With generous financial support committed by Disaster Aid Australia (DAA), the Rotary Club of Thimphu has begun the arduous journey of reaching safe drinking water to every school in Bhutan. The DAA has committed Australian Dollars one million by the end of 2020 – to achieve that goal.

Is the RGoB willing to commit 1% of that commitment made by the Australian NGO - to realize that goal? There is a need to go beyond the talk!

Since we started to install SkyHydrant water filters in schools, the Rotary Club of Thimphu has carried out some tests - to determine the quality of water that are being consumed by our school children. The following are the test results derived from one beneficiary school and other water sources in the vicinity of the installation. Look at the following results. The test was carried out early last month by the Health Assistant of the BHU in the vicinity of the school.

Sample drawn from the drain close to the school - totally infested with bacteria

Test result of one village close to the school. High level of E.Coli content - unfit for drinking unless treated

Test result of another village close to the school. Some level of E.Coli content - drinkable after treatment

Test results of the water quality at the Basic Health Unit that conducted the test - No E. Coli but presence of foreign particles visible

Test results of the water at the school where DAA donated SkyHydrant water filtration system was installed - No E. Coli and no foreign particles visible

I fear that water supplied to our school children may not be safe. Does Ministry of Education test water quality in schools? Does Health Ministry do it? Do the schools themselves do it? What are the results?

We keep talking of falling quality of education among our children. Could it be directly linked to the quality of water we supply to the school children?

Please spare a moment to give it a thought.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

100 Rotary Peace Fellowship on Offer

The following announcement is made for the benefit of Bhutanese scholars aspiring to go for further studies.

Every year, the Rotary selects up to 100 professionals from around the world to receive fellowship to study at one of the Rotary Peace Centers.

You still have one more month in which to make your application for the Rotary 2019-2020 Peace Fellowship.

The Rotary Club of Thimphu will be most happy to endorse applications from Bhutanese applicants. However, please note the dateline for application submission. Please read up at the site indicated below, so that you know what you are supposed to do. Please do not ask us to do your work for you – the first test of your eligibility is your willingness to do your part.

www.rotary.org/en/our-programs/peace-fellowships

Please submit your application to us at:

rotarybhutan@gmail.com

You will need the following information:

Our Club No. is    : 84427
Our District No. is: 3292
Best of Luck!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Electrifying Figures

At the end of 2017, the global renewable energy generation capacity stood at 2,179 GW. Of this, 167 GW was added in 2017 alone.


Of the total power generation increase added during 2017, solar and wind accounted for 85%.

The growth in renewable energy generation in 2017 was 8.3%.


HYDRO-POWER: This sector has seen the lowest growth in the last decade - meaning this technology is now old hat. Hydro-electric energy is fast losing steam and nations around the world are not investing in this antiquated technology any more!

The global energy capacities at a glance:

1.  Hydro            :   1,152 GW
2.  Wind              :     514 GW
3.  Solar              :     397 GW
4.  Bioenergy      :     109 GW
5.  Geothermal    :      13 GW

6.  Marine           :    500 MW

Figures are by: International Renewable Energy Agency

The installed capacity of hydro-electricity may seem huge, compared to other renewable energy sources. However, you have to remember that hydro-electricity generation began as far back as 1882.

By comparison, wind power came into commercial existence only in 1940. Power from the sun began to be harnessed commercially only in the 1970’s.

Friday, April 13, 2018

A Run-In With Our Men In Blue

Few days back (11.04.2018), I had a run-in with our Men in Blue – next to the Thai Pavilion below Namgay Heritage Hotel. The less than cordial tête-à-tête that followed by the way side was rather peculiar, and revealing at the same time.

MiB: “Wai Lobey, aanina parking betha mecho la” (Sir, you cannot park here).

Me: “Who says so?”

MiB: “I say so.”

Me: “And who are you?”

MiB: “I am the Traffic Police – can’t you read here?” --- gesticulating across his chest.

Me: “Just because you are a traffic police, you can say any old thing?”

MiB: I am not saying any old thing --- I am saying you cannot park here.

Me: “Where does it say this is a NO PARKING zone? Where is the sign board … where is the
         color coded line that will tell me that parking is not allowed in this place.”

MiB: “It is not my job to put up NO PARKING signs, or draw color coded lines to designate an
           area as NO PARKING zone – it is the City Corporation’s. So please go yell at them.”

Me: “If the City Corporation has not put up the sign or drawn a line to show that a place is a
         No Parking Zone, why do you volunteer to designate the area as a No Parking area?.
         Obviously the City Corporation does not consider this a No Parking area”

MiB: “Because this is a 2-ways traffic road.” Excuse me?????

Me: “I will not recognize this as a No Parking Zone if there is no sign that says as such.”

MiB: “Oh really? Then show me where is the White Box that tells you that you can park here?”

Me: “Are you telling me that we can park only in areas where there are white boxes drawn?”

MiB: “Anyway, traffic management is my responsibility and duty. So I am telling you,
           you cannot park here.”

Me: “Wai police – you are a law enforcer – your responsibility is to enforce a law that is in
          place – you have no authority to legislate new laws at your whim and fancy. The fact that
          there is no law – sign board or white line on the road – means there is no law so you
          cannot tell me what you are telling me.”

The back and forth argument went on for over half an hour, to no avail. But the fact that the MiB did not ask me to surrender my documents or driving license, is proof that the bugger knew he was not entirely within his rights, in giving me a hard time.

At times the arguments verged on the ridiculous. But I understand --- our MiB has to deal with some real nut cases – day in, day out. Their work is certainly not easy and they have all my sympathies. But I fear that I have not seen the last of this incident – it is bound to come up again and again, until the bakers are taught to bake palatable cakes.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Back of the Envelope Calculations - Forestry can be bigger growth driver than Hydropower Sector

The above is word for word quotation by Phuntsho Namgyel, author of Forest for Gross National Happiness.

Wikipedia explains “back-of-the-envelope calculations” thus:


"A back-of-the-envelope calculation is a rough calculation, typically jotted down on any available scrap of paper such as an envelope. It is more than a guess but less than an accurate calculation or mathematical proof." 

However we may wish to explain it, the following maths by Phuntsho Namgyal is certainly a thought provoking maths.
-----------------------

According to NFI (National Forest Inventory) 2016, we have a timber reserve of 1001 million m3. The national forest added net 472 million m3 since the first NFI in 1981 with average annual increment of 13.50 million m3 (2016 - 1981 = 35 years).

An increase in Growing Stock is an indication  of a maturing forest and/or more areas brought under forest cover.

The forestry share of GDP in 2016 was 2.68% or Nu. 4 billion. We removed in the year about 0.39 million m3 of wood which is 0.04% of the Growing Stock, or 2.9% of net annual increment.

An annual increase of wood harvest from 0.39 million m3 to:

1 million m3 = Nu. 10 billion
2 million m3 = Nu. 20 billion
3 million m3 = Nu. 30 billion
4 million m3 = Nu. 40 billion
5 million m3 = Nu. 50 billion

5 million m3 of wood extraction amounts to 0.5% of growing stock or 37% of net allowable increment, way below the sustainable harvest level.

The hydropower revenue in 2016 was Nu. 19.89 billion which was 13.38% of GDP.

Technically speaking, forestry has tremendous potential to be bigger growth driver than hydropower sector.

-----------------------

I might add: No 10% interest payable either!!

Ofcourse, it is a back-of-the-envelope calculations - but even if only half the maths is correct, we would still come out smelling like roses.

A most intriguing maths indeed!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

SkyHydrant Water Filters For Every School in Bhutan

In traditional Bhutan, every mother of a newborn used to be fed water to re-condition her body from the ravages of childbirth. Every newborn began life on this earth by being cleansed by water - a ritual known as Lhabtsang Thruesey.

But in modern Bhutan, our challenge is that our waters may no longer be safe for Lhabtsang Thruesey or to recondition a child-birth ravaged woman’s body. Our water bodies have been subjected to all sorts of defilement, caused by modernity and the environmental ruin it brings to our natural habitat. Our waters are no longer clean or safe for drinking. But clean and safe water is critical to healthy growth of children.

The Rotary Club of Thimphu understands the multiple benefits of providing safe drinking water to children – the direct benefit is that it helps improve school attendance – but the greater benefit that is not immediately visible is that healthy children contribute to reduction is health related costs to the nation. Bhutan provides free health care – thus if we are able to curb water related diseases among children, it will translate into huge savings for the government.

In the last few months we have been partnering with Disaster Aid Australia (DAA) in providing water filters to schools across the country. We have already installed 6 units of the innovative water filters manufactured in Australia called SkyHydrant filters. On 24th of this month we received additional 4 units of these filters for installation in the following schools:

1.  Damphu CS
2.  Kabesa CS
3.  Phuntshopelri PS
4.  BAAF sports ground in Lungtenzampa.

During a simple ceremony, these filters were handed over to the Ministry of Education, yesterday.

 The Education Secretary receives the DAA's donation of SkyHydrant water filters draped in ceremonial scarves, from Rtn. S. T. Dorji, Honorary Member of the Rotary Club of Thimphu.

  Officials of the School Health and Nutrition Division, Ministry of Education, pose with the SkyHydrant water filters

The Disaster Aid Australia has committed to raise funds to supply 120 of these filters over the next two years. Their aim is to reach water filters to every school in the Kingdom. It is an extremely challenging endeavor but as the CEO of Disaster Aid Australia says, it is important to start the journey.

The journey has certainly started in real earnest.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Rotary International District 3292 PET Seminar Held in Bhutan

 



My recent mail to Rotarians in Nepal ended thus:

At a higher level, the PET Seminar has achieved what we at RC Thimphu has always aspired to achieve - that of spreading goodwill and understanding between the Bhutanese and the Nepalese - two mountain people in the same neighborhood that share a commonality in geography, history and culture. The multiplier effect of the 111 Nepalese going back home with feeling of kinship and speaking about it to many other Nepalese at home will one day bring our two countries even closer than we already are. The Rotary cause does not end at the doorsteps of volunteerism and humanitarian service. Even more important is the role we Rotarians play in building bridges across nations and continents……

This was in response to the congratulatory mail sent to the Rotary Club of Thimphu by Past District Governor Keshav Kunwar.

Between 17th to 20th March, 2018, Rotary Club of Thimphu played host to 111 Rotarians from Nepal who held their 2017-2018 PET Seminar in the country. Among the group were over 60 incoming Club Presidents and three District Governors from Rotary International District 3292. Every year before the incoming club Presidents take on their responsibilities, they are trained in all areas of their responsibilities. PET stands for "President Elect Training".

For the past two years, the Rotary Club of Thimphu has been working on bringing Rotary meetings and seminars to Bhutan because we believe that Bhutan has the ideal conditions as a MICE destination. We are happy to have been able to bring one substantial MICE event to Bhutan - after working for 2 years. We hope to be able to bring many more Seminars to Bhutan.

The preparatory work involved is massive - but with dedication and hard work, nothing is impossible. The Seminar went off without a hitch; we exhibited our sense of hospitality at the highest level; the selection of our seminar venue, hotels and transportation was hugely appreciated by the delegates. No complaints on the variety and quality of food either. Fellowship and the cultural program during the farewell dinner was, according to the delegates, superlative!

Fellowship and bone-fire at the reception dinner on 17th March, 2018

Group photo after the end of Seminar on 19th March, 2018

 Cultural event at the close of the Seminar - Fellowship is an important aspect among Rotarians

Delegates take their places at the Seminar hall

 PDG Keshav Kunwar addressing the participants

And yours truly got recognized too --- for all my hard work in putting together this maiden Rotary PET event: I got gifted an exquisitely crafted bronze Buddha image, as a token of appreciation.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Climate Change in Reverse

In the early 1980’s an event took place in Thimphu that so infuriated a visiting American lady journalist that she coined a brand new phrase – Apartheid in Reverse. Some of you may recall that Apartheid was the practice of racial segregation where the white minority in South Africa was considered superior to the majority black natives. The whole world set up an embargo against the economically dominant Afrikaner government, which finally led to the collapse of the Apartheid regime in the mid 1990’s, although the generational effects of Apartheid still linger.

The term Apartheid in Reverse came to mind during my travel to Punakha on 7th March, 2018. When I reached Dochu-La, the sky was sparkling clear and the Himalayan mountain ranges in the distance were clearly visible. What was heartwarming was the view of Mt. Masagung (7,158 Mtrs.) fully clad in snow - something that I missed seeing for the past two decades and more. This peak that qualifies as one of the highest mountains in the country as been shorn of snow for the past many years - to the point that it began to look naked, proving the varsity of the effects of climate change caused by global warming.

Mt. Masagung in March, 2018

Mt. Masagung in December, 2016

The restocking of the Masagung with billions of tons of snow is good news for Bhutan, and the riparian states downstream of the Brahmaputra. The snow will be preserved in the form of ice and, overtime, the ice melt will feed the rivers that will go on to turn the debt-ridden turbines of our doomed hydro-power projects churning out losses at 10% interest.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Baby Steps - A Potential Global Revolution

David Langworthy, CEO and Founder of Disaster Aid Australia (DAA) calls himself a mad man. And he is proud to be one - he believes that only mad men dare tread on paths others would not.

To understand more about Disaster Aid Australia, please visit:


I hadn’t quite realized what we were taking on when we, the Rotary Club of Thimphu, invited David to visit Bhutan, in gratitude for the most generous gift of 10 SkyHydrant water filter systems for our school children. In the days that followed his arrival in Bhutan - the enormity of what we were taking on hit me - having spent 5 days with the man who is set on a colossal dream - Safe Water for Every Child on this planet. He believes that safe water is the most basic human right.

Chief of School Health and Nutrition Division, Ministry of Education, Aum Jamyang Choeden with David at Dochu-La Pass, on their way to visit the beneficiary schools in Punakha and Tsirang

He is embarking on a global movement that espouses safe water as a Basic Human Right. And he wants to start with Bhutan. In the coming months and years, he wants to turn Bhutan into a model country where he will test-launch his vision - by delivering safe water to every school children in the country. At the request of the Education Minister Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk, David has agreed to initiate the program by first working on the delivery of the requested 60 SkyHydrant filters - which he promptly upped to 120 units. Based on the input to be provided by the Ministry of Education, the Rotary Club of Thimphu will submit to him a proposal - a general outline of where and how his vision for Bhutan will be played out. Simultaneously, he will be presenting his vision at the global level, during one of the seven Breakout Sessions of the Rotary International Convention in Toronto this June, where anywhere from 20,000 - 30,000 Rotarians will congregate. He is sponsoring a number of speakers from the Region, to share their experiences in safe water delivery, at the Toronto Convention.

Bhutan and the Rotary Club of Thimphu will be represented in that Breakout Session in Toronto.
 

Built like a tank - the famous SkyHydrant water filter that dispenses 12,000 ltrs. of clean and safe water every day. The water from these filters are healthier than the bottled mineral water since the SkyHydrant does not remove the essential minerals from the water it dispenses

He thinks that what he will achieve in Bhutan will be the first baby steps that will ultimately lead to the realization of his final objective - of delivering safe water to every child on this planet. He says that if Rotary has been able to single handedly eradicate Polio, there is no reason why the organization cannot achieve the same level of success in delivering safe water to every child on this earth.

By any measure, what David is embarking on is nothing short of a revolution that could gain momentum at a global scale, and alter lives. And yet, I am amazed by the simplicity with which he outlines his monumental dreams - akin to a Buddhist monk on his ancient ritualistic walk to gather alms - calm, serene and unwavering.

Fate, destiny, karma …. What can be said of them? They collide and clash and the synthesis can result in some unexpected journeys and happenstance. The Rotarian K K Looi from Malaysia who gave a 20 minutes talk on the subject of SkyHydrant during the Rotary Conference early last year in Thimphu, could not have imagined in his wildest dreams that his talk would end up being pivotal in the delivery of safe water to every child in this country and, eventually, the whole world.

I suppose it was destined - a destiny that is most welcome!

NOTE: In less than 20 hours, this post rose to the top of the ladder as the most popular post of the week.
             Look to the column "Popular Posts" on the left.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Sinking Dam Site of Bhutan's Biggest Hydro Power Project Under Construction

The photo below is of the dam site area of the country's biggest hydro power project - the 1,200MW Punatsangchhu Hydro Power Project-I. The sign board depicted sits bang on top of the area where the project's dam has been under construction for the past close to a decade.

No words can better describe the pathetic story that is the PHPA-I. The picture tells the story. It was taken on 16th February, 2018. The project authorities are admitting that the area is SINKING.

The project authorities have clearly indicated that the dam site is located in an area that is sinking

It is my understanding that the project may never see the light of day. The project's coffer dam has seen flooding for two successive years. If the project authorities failed to do a better job of designing a simple coffer dam, God only knows how many other design flaws are going to surprise us in the coming years.

Take for instance the matter concerning the de-silting of the dam. How well have they planned/designed it? How effectively are they going to be able to de-silt the mammoth dam of the few trillion tons of silt and muck that will be deposited annually into the belly of the dam, by the flooding Punatsangchhu? Even if they have a good design, where and how are they going to dump the muck?

If the dam ever gets built, what kind of water body is the 130 Mtrs. high dam going to create? How far will the back flow be? Will the water mass trigger earth quakes? Will it alter weather patterns?

So many questions remain unanswered. And, if that were not enough, we are told that the roof of the underground power house of PHPA-II caved in - burying unspecified number of workers.

In the meantime, solar energy is all set to take over from hydro - as the cleanest and cheapest energy source, in the next 4-5 years. And India is leading the way in the global push for harnessing the power of the sun. Hydro energy will be old hat .... and we will be left gaping at idle turbines worth few hundred billion Ngultrums in loans at 10% interest rate.

I want to know who will cry for us then?