Monday, September 26, 2016

Rotary Club of Thimphu’s Service Project – Conception to Execution

The Rotary Club of Thimphu is constantly looking out to do meaningful projects to help the Bhutanese people. As small and new as we are, the Rotary Club of Thimphu is among the most active Clubs that is the envy of many older and bigger Clubs around the world. In the last two months we have done 5 projects. Currently one more service project is under way – Treatment of Migraine by Acupuncture - at the Traditional Medicine Hospital, Thimphu. The following is how fast paced our projects are conceived, put together and implemented.

28th October, 2015
My guest Mr. Dilip Raval - a retired Nestle executive from USA and I was talking of this and that at the Hotel Yugarling, Bumthang. The guide walked in to say that she was going to retire since her head was hurting from an attack of migraine. She is among 5-6 people I know who suffer from this excruciatingly painful disease.

I told Mr. Dilip how painful the migraine attack can be and how I have seen people driven to tears from the unbearable pain. He turned around and said;

“I know because I suffered this disease for 40 years."

I was puzzled and asked him; “Now you do not suffer from it?"

“No, I have been fully cured of it for the past 35 years”.

“But I thought migraine was a lifelong and incurable disease?"

“No, it can be cured by acupuncture treatment”.

29th November, 2015
Dear Vijay,

I hope this finds you and Harsha in good health and spirit. Dilip your brother tells me that you know of an acupuncturist who can cure migraine and that you have undergone the treatment yourself. I write to you with the request to put me in touch with the good doctor.

2nd December, 2015

Dear Yeshey:

So nice hearing from you.

The acupuncturist who treated me many years ago is in an ashram - I have lost touch – may be not alive and even if alive may be in his late nineties.

However, Harsha/Harsha’s friend from Taiwan knows a famous acupuncturist who might be interested in exploring your offer.

We will get in touch and let you know shortly.



December 19, 2015

Dear Yeshey:

Our good friends Vijay and Harsha shared your recent emails with them regarding an interest in having an acupuncturist visit Bhutan to treat migraines. They asked us to assist in making the initial inquiries with our acupuncturist (who by the way have treated both of them).  I would appreciate more information regarding your specific needs. Are you asking for a permanent relocation to set up a practice or merely a temporary short time visit?


Daniel Mao

December 22, 2015

Hi Daniel,

Thank you for your mail.

I really do not have an idea of how many persons suffer from migraines …. However I know that there are a large number. I have seen friends and family suffer and the suffering is just too great. I am fortunate not to suffer from this disease but see that the pain is so very excruciating. I have seen people go into isolation in dark rooms and suffer.

I do not know what the treatments are for the disease but when I met Mr. Dilip Raval, Vijay’s elder brother, he told me that he was cured of the disease by acupuncture treatment. I was very encouraged – because I was under the impression that migraines was incurable.

January 11, 2016

Dear Uncle Danny,

My dad says he has been asking doctors here in N.Y. from his association and some are saying they're afraid they won't be good use there because they themselves will suffer from the high altitude migraines or have other reactions.

My dad has decided to talk to his fellow board members at International Acupuncture Associations, appealing to their compassion and also help them to see it as an opportunity to spread Traditional Chinese Medicine to a new audience, sort of a diplomatic component.

January 13, 2016

Hi Claire & Danny,

Thank you for your mails.

First and foremost, let me assure you that Thimphu the capital city of Bhutan is located below 8,000 ft. altitude. It is said that people normally to not suffer from AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) at altitudes up to 8,000 ft. a.s.l. So I think you can dispense with the fear of altitude sickness.

…… If the acupuncturist can cure some of our patients in Bhutan, it certainly will re-enforce the validity of the curative powers of Chinese Traditional Medicine (TCM). I certainly have been informed of the potency of acupuncture in treating migraine. Dilip & Vijay Raval swears by it and they are living example of how effective the treatment is.

January 14, 2016

Dear Yeshey,

The friends in China that my father spoke to do not think ….. It will become a whole long bureaucratic process and considering, unfortunately, that Bhutan does not have official diplomatic relations with China, it looks rather difficult.

HOWEVER, as if heaven-sent, we have found the perfect physician for your request. Dr. Huang Yu, cc'd here, is a licensed acupuncturist with her own clinic practicing in Boston. She comes highly recommended by my father, who has taught her in the past. Not only is she a competent acupuncturist, she is also a close family friend, world traveler and a truly generous spirit. She is willing to shut down her clinic and travel to Bhutan for a first time stay of 2-3 weeks to see if she can be of help, she is amenable to future visits as well!

She is willing to operate as a free clinic, not charging her patients, if lodging and airfare could be provided.

Please communicate further details with her.


January 14, 2016

Good morning everyone! Thank you all to make the connection, give me a possibility to serve the people in Bhuton.

Hello Yeshey, looking forward to talk to you, I will be busy in my clinic whole day but will have time at night if I get your email!

Take care!

Huang Yu

February 24, 2016

Dr. Yu Huang created a fund raising website to raise US$ 5,000.00 to make purchases of needles, heater, moxa etc. for her trip to Bhutan and for donation to the Traditional Medicine Hospital. In three days she raised US$ 5,471.00 from 33 generous donors.

May 4, 2016 

Visa clearance obtained for the visit of Dr. Yu

September 25, 2016

Dr. Yu arrives Bhutan and she treats her first migraine patient the same evening.

She will perform acupuncture until October 10, 2016.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Latest Service Projects of The Rotary Club of Thimphu

The months of August and September have been the most fulfilling months for the Rotary Club of Thimphu. During these two months, the Rotary Club of Thimphu (RCT) has implemented or is in the process of implementing 4-5 Community Service Projects. This has to be a record in the Rotary World - no single Rotary Club in the world may have done so many Community Service Projects within such a short period of time.

During early August, 2016 RCT completed and handed over the Water Storage and Safe Drinking Water Project to the Mendhagang Primary School in Punakha. RCT provided three water storage tanks of 3,000 liters each. We also installed Water Filtration and UV Treatment System to provide safe drinking water to the students and the villagers in the periphery of the school. In addition, we have provided funds to pave the school compound, to eliminate dust.

Funding for this project was made available by the Rotary Club of Koeln-Ville, Germany.

Mendhagang Primary School

 Water filtration and UV Treatment System

 The school's courtyard that needs paving - RC Thimphu will take this up during the second phase soon to be implemented

 RC Thimphu's Director of Community Services - Rtn. Dawa Penjor with some students of the school

During end of August, we completed the installation and inauguration of 4-KMs of Solar Fencing at Goleng village in Zhemgang. The rice fields of close to 100 acres was apparently started by Dasho Nishioka, a Japanese agriculturist who worked in the Kheng areas during 1976 - 1980. Interestingly, funding for this project was made available by a Japanese Rotary Club - The Rotary Club of Handa, Japan.

The three Members of the Rotary Club of Handa, Japan pose for pictures

Section of the solar fencing that runs over 4 KMs long and covers close to 100 acres of rice fields

Goleng villagers are treated to lunch by the Rotary Club of Thimphu. We had to get special permission from the ECB for the gathering


Upon hearing that some Japanese donors were in his Dzongkhag, Dasho Dzongdah invited the Japanese group for tea at the Dzongkhag Administration in Zhemgang. I was impressed with Dasho Dzongdah's gesture - particularly in consideration of the fact that we are now working with the Handa Club at securing a Global Grant amounting to US$79,000.00


 Members of the Rotary Club of Handa with the youth who all got together to form the agriculture production and marketing group known as Khengrig Namsum Cooperative. This pioneering cooperative is formed by16 educated youth - an increasingly encouraging trend that is now prevalent among the educated youth. The RC Thimphu is encouraged by this trend among the educated youth and thus, committed to secure funding so rural villages are restocked with young energetic youth

During the third week of September, 2016 the RCT handed over Water Storage and Safe Drinking Water Project at the Zilukha Middle Secondary School. This too was funded by another Japanese Club - The Rotary Club of Kushiro, Japan.

The Water Storage facility being handed over to the school in the presence of the officials from the Ministry of Education

The two Presidents of the collaborating Clubs - Rotary Club of Kushiro, Japan and the Rotary Club of Thimphu inaugurate the Hand Wash Station

School children demonstrate hand washing after the inauguration of the facility

Time for some speech - the two Presidents of the Rotary Club of Kushiro and Thimphu speaking to the students

A girl students delivering her vote of thanks

In a day or two, the Rotary Club of Thimphu will be placing an order with the Karma Group - for supply and delivery of 6 (six) units of Dialysis Machines - to be donated to the Ministry of Health. This Nu.6.9 million project for the health sector is made possible through a TRF Global Grant in which Rotary Clubs from four countries are involved:

Bhutan, Japan, South Korea and USA.

The Members of the Rotary Club of Thimphu is happy to have been able to touch all three of our core areas of focus: Agriculture, Education and Health, during this short period spanning less than 2 months.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


Like everything else in my life, blogging for me was not a planned or premeditated effort – I got into it without being aware that I was doing it. I did not even know that I was blogging. Some friends suggested that I create a website to post my photos online so that they could see my pictures. Over time, instead of photos, I began to post articles and, as I went along, I began to understand that I was into blogging instead of merely posting photos.

As my blog began to gain popularity and my readership increased, realization hit me that my blog was no longer my own where I could say whatever I felt like. Because it was being read by a large audience all over the world, I had to be careful what I wrote and how I wrote them. A friend once cautioned me; “You are bigger than you think so make sure you remain responsible. You can no longer afford to be imprudent or flippant”.

That has been the worst part of my blogging experience - the need to be restrained, responsible, educated, objective, meaningful, fair and, above all, be persistent with my posts so that I am able to retain my readers’ attention. The downside of popularity is that it robs you of the one thing you started out to achieve - the liberty of free expression and thought.

A useful lesson I learnt as a Charter member of the Rotary Club of Thimphu is that being able to draw a crowd is only half the battle - the more challenging battle is to be able to keep it herded and retain its attention. I have understood that the best way to attract new readers is to keep the old ones happy and interested. Thus, in order to maintain my blog’s current level of popularity, I ensure that:

~   I blog on a variety of issues so that it appeals to a diverse audience base - and not to a specialist group;

~   I go to great lengths to ensure that I keep my posts short and petite - whenever possible

     - because only tall girls are appealing - anything else that are tall and long are tedious; and

~  That my posts are meaningful and progressive and that they are well researched and written

     in the simplest of language.

I write about issues that afflict the country. In particular, my concern for the environment and its destruction, hydro-power projects that are destined to shackle the country to eternal debt, poor governance, rural-urban migration and the tourism industry that is headed for doom.

I devote considerable amount of time and effort behind my blogging. I do not trivialize important issues - when I write I put my heart and soul into it. My passion about an issue will be evident in the manner I set out to write about it. If I chose to make a statement, I will present the facts as they really are - I will not pussyfoot around an issue - I will tell it like it is. This tendency has lead many of my Bhutanese readers to conclude that I am a courageous person. That is not true - I do not write because I want to prove that I am a courageous person - I have no need to do such a thing. I write on some issues because I believe that doing so might contribute to correcting some of the many problems that beset us.

I blog because I believe that there are some things that a private citizen can articulate better than the government. I blog because I believe that there are some things that need to be said and only a private citizen can say it openly and frankly, without fear of reprisal.

I have blogged on issues that have seldom been, if ever, discussed openly. The need for such dramatic departure from the usual Bhutanese timidity is necessary, I believe, because most Bhutanese have become so complacent that they are no longer capable of critical thinking. They have a mind but it behaves like an empty bucket - it will absorb all the information that are poured into it - without processing and without analysis. What is the point of having a mind if it is not applied to thinking? That is why, once in a while I blog on matters that are considered “inconvenient truths” - matters that people would rather push under the carpet, than discuss them openly. My blogs are intended to inform the people - to uncover the sycophancy, to unravel the misinformation, to lay bare the deceit and the sham. In doing so, I hope to be able to convert some of the Bhutanese people to think and thereby do things thoughtfully.

It is not daredevilry that prods me into writing critical blogs - it is my love for the country and my belief that we need to be more mindful than we are, that compels me to act, as many have told me, in a “courageous” fashion. Mine is not an act of courage - it is a cry and an appeal to consider matters with objectivity and reasoning. The less thinking we are, the more decadent we become.

The Internet technology that empowers blogging is a boon to modern society. Through blogging, ideas and opinions can be transmitted to millions of people around the glob, instantaneously. The blog’s potential is simply unfathomable. It offers citizens the opportunity at interactive governance. In other words, blogging is a powerful medium that strengthens democracy through empowerment.

The evolutionary process of the human society has not been entirely straight foreword. One case in point: that truth is no longer believable or useful. Most set store by PERCEPTION. What is perceived is more important than what is the truth. It is a commonly held belief that all truths have been doctored by the mighty and the powerful, to suite their own purposes. And yet, people tend to ingest truth without contest or scrutiny. Unfortunately, perception is not entirely immune to alteration either. A skillful blogger with popular following has the power to transform opinions and alter perceptions. This can be both good and bad - depending on which side of the fence you are sitting on. But one thing is certain - whether you like it or not, blogging is here to stay - all that we can do is pray that the blogger is a responsible person and has the best of intentions at heart - best of intentions for the collective whole - rather than the self.

Monday, September 19, 2016


Some readers have written to me to say that I have not been very active in posting blogs of late. True - I have been terribly busy doing this and that. So, until I am more free to write, I would like to reproduce the following article I wrote for The Druk Journal - recently released.

Here it will be reproduced in two parts - to keep the overall length short.

The “blog” as we know it now, was started as a personal homepage by a Chicago born student named Justin Hall in January of 1994. Credited to be the world’s first ever blog - ( - it is still in existence.

During its initial days, a blog was known as “Weblog” - to mean “logging the Web”. The term was coined in 1997 by Jorn Barger of Yellow Springs, Ohio, USA. In 1999, programmer Peter Merholz introduced the present term “blog”.

According to a list compiled by the San Francisco based information architect Jesse James Garrett, there were only 23 blogs as of 1999. It was not until the year 2004 that blogging really took off – so much so that Merriam-Webster declared the term “blog” the Word of the Year. That number grew to 50 million blogs by the middle of 2006. By end of 2010, the number of active blogs grew to 152 million. By end of 2011, that number had swelled to 181 million blogs. The exponential growth of the blog has been nothing short of extraordinary.

A survey conducted in 2005 showed that in the US alone, 32 million people read blogs – roughly 11% of the population.

The first recorded “casualty” of blogging has to be a lady named Heather Armstrong, a Los Angeles web designer. She got fired for writing about her job on her blog – ( Since then, anyone getting into trouble for writing something on his/her blog came to be described as being “dooced” for it.

Each blogger has his/her own reasons for blogging. Some use it to record their thoughts and to keep an account of what they did and what they saw and what they felt, at a particular moment in time. Some use it to sell products and others use it to champion a cause. Some use it for education and yet there are others who use blogs as a tool of propaganda. Whatever it is used for – the blog is certainly a powerful tool. A popular blog can shape opinions and alter the very course of events.

Good thing about blogging is that there is no law prohibiting it – bad thing is that not all blogs are meaningful or consequential. And yet, the only person who can set a standard on the blog is the blogger himself/herself – no one else may define the blog’s ethical or moral standards.

Social media, of which blogging is an important part, is a powerful social instrument of communication that can influence and shape human behavior and attitudes. The modern society’s everyday life is largely entwined with the Internet - so much so that even love lives are constructed over the social media and its many channels.

The interactive nature of the social media makes it lot more effective than the traditional media - the print and visual media. Unlike the television or newspaper that are one-way communication channels, the social media permits instant two-way communications. Because its reach is truly international, the social media can convey messages and ideas instantly and over continents.

Social media is used all over the world to champion environmental, political, and social causes. It has caused governments to fall and instigated social unrest and disruption to peace and social harmony. But it has also helped maintain transparency among bureaucrats and politicians. It has helped good governance.

In Bhutan, activism through the social media has helped stop the destruction of White-bellied Heron habitat in Phochhu, Punakha, few years back. But we have not been entirely responsible in the use of social media. Some in Bhutan have used it to malign people and cause discomfort to many. Thus, social media can be both a boon as well as a bane - depending on how it is used.
..................... to be continued

Thursday, September 8, 2016

My Mail to a Bhutan Lover

Someone from outside wanted me to update him on the state of affairs in our tourism industry. The following is what I wrote back to him:
Hi .............,

Thank you for your long, long mail. I am happy that there are many around the world who genuinely care for Bhutan.

I would be happy to discuss trekking in Bhutan but as you have seen from my posts and others in the papers, there is nothing heartwarming to tell you about the state of tourism and trekking in Bhutan. There seems to be a deliberate attempt to destroy the industry.

The road widening works that was started last year has caused huge dip in tourist arrivals. Even local Bhutanese dread driving between Thimphu and Trashigang since the road has been dug up and travel over them is a painful experience. The government has promised that the road will be done in 3 years - one year is already passed and even that stretch of road that was started more than 15 years back - Simtokha - Metsina - is still not done. So I cannot imagine how the government is going to complete over 400 KMs of road in 3 years. Strangely, we do not need to widen our roads - but to pave it well and maintain it well. I suspect that we have been made a victim of a greater scheme in which Bhutan wants no part.

Before the widening works was started I had suggested that even if we must undertake the work, we should do the work in short stretches - to minimize wholesale destruction to the roads. That suggestion was ignored and now the entire stretch from Thimphu to Trashigang is in shambles.

Thousands of tons of earth and boulder are dumped below the road - in the process causing destruction to trees that have taken hundreds of years to grow and mature. The bushes and forests through which the roads run are home to hundred of bird and animal species - their homes have been invaded and entire ecosystem has been altered irreversibly. The mountain sides that now resemble patches of warzones are a sight that breaks your heart. If a champion of environmental conservation - such as Bhutan - can act so irresponsibly, what chance does this earth have - in the hands of those who are said to be less responsible towards the environment and its conservation?

One stretch of road in the East - Sengore to Yongkala - is famed for the birding opportunity it provides to the world birding community. Over the coming years that too will be destroyed by the road widening works thereby effectively ending Bhutan’s claim to being the birding capital of the world.

Our most famous trekking route is now ruined. Most other routes will be destroyed too - because we are incapable of doing things with responsibility and feeling. So there does not seem to be anything useful to talk about our tourism.

And yet, tourism is Bhutan’s biggest industry that employs the largest number of people - across the broad spectrum of Bhutanese society. It beats hydro-power hands down - both in terms of providing jobs as well as real (not perceived) income to the people and the government. And yet, there is a mindless rush to do hydro-power projects that has already enslaved many future generations of Bhutanese.

All that I know is that we need to protect our tourism industry. Despite all that is not going well, Bhutan still holds allure to many around the world. At an individual level, even in very small ways, I am committed to doing what I can to promote and energize tourism in Bhutan.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Father William Joseph Mackey

Before his arrival in Bhutan Father Mackey worked in India for 17 years. Then he fell foul of some local authorities and was ordered to leave the country in 1963.

When His Majesty Drukgyal Sumpa heard of Father Mackey’s expulsion, he promptly invited him to come over to Bhutan and help develop modern education system in the Kingdom. Obviously he was elated to be able to come to Bhutan and readily accepted the King’s offer.

But before he proceeded on his journey to Bhutan - Father William Joseph Mackey performed one very important task: he pulled out all his natural teeth and ordered a full set of dentures. There were two reasons for this:

1.  Dentistry was unheard of in Bhutan; and
2.  He would not have been able to go back to India for dental treatment.

He was awarded the Druk Thuksey medal in 1973 and became a Bhutanese citizen in 1985.

He died in Bhutan in 1995. He had wished that he be buried in Bhutan – a country he loved dearly. Sadly, the Jesuits insisted that he be buried in their on cemetery in Darjeeling, India.

I was his student in Trashigang for just one year and yet, when I met him 25 years later in Thimphu where he worked as Inspector of Schools, he recognized me and remembered my name!

Either he had a darn good memory - or I was so naughty that he simply couldn't forget me!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Yesterday I heard the most heart-warming news in a long, long time. I was told that the DANTAK - earlier appointed as the contractors to do the infamous Shingkhar-Gorgan Road, have declined to accept to do the road, ostensibly - because they now believe that they are better off washing their hands off such a controversial and environmentally disastrous project.

They are smart - they would not want all their good work being judged based on one terribly unlawful work that does not bring any meaningful benefit to the people or the country.

One of the numerous catchy road signs DANTAK put up across the length and breadth of the country - to make driving over the roads they built, hilarious and eventful

DANTAK was established in Bhutan in May of 1961, at Samdrup Jongkhar. Fifty five years later, they are still going strong in Bhutan. They have built thousands of kilometers of road, hundreds of bridges and establishments that have served to put the country on the road to progress and development. Their performance hasn't been all that sterling - not by a long shot! But in the absence of someone better or even remotely competent to do what they did - at a time when they did - they certainly were relevant and they did the best they could.

And now, the fact that they have declined to take on that ruinous Shingkhar-Gorgan road, I say to them - THUMBS UP!

PS: The first Chief Engineer of DANTAK was Col. T V Jaganathan – he was appointed to the post on 29th May, 1961. He is credited with the start of the present day Royal Thimphu Golf Course, with permission from the Third King.

My father served as an interpreter to the Chief Engineer - during his stay in Gaylephu/Zhemgang areas. The old man didn't know English and the only Hindi words he knew were: “Hung” and “Na” - Yes and No. I cannot imagine what he would have been translating. My father used to be paid Rs.10.00 per month as remuneration, out of which Rs.1.00 would be deducted every month - for eating in the common langar - common kitchen/mess/canteen.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Destruction to Continue Beyond Jumolhari Base Camp

A reader of my blog has posted the following new updates on: "My Advise to a Tour Operator on the Destruction of the Jumolhari Base Camp Trek".

I was investigating issue further and situation is actually being even worse. The transmission line is being built further upto Lingzhi (up to villages of Goyoul and Chebisa). That effectively means, that the trail of Laya-Gasa is affected even more severaly as the people will be trekking along the transmission line till the half of the 14 days trek...

See the BPC bidding documentation of the project. Very sad reading.

From the above, it is now clear that the government does not intend to stop their destruction of the environment at Jangothang - they are going to carry it through until Gongyuel, beyond Lingzhi Dzong. Lingzhi and Gongyuel villages are on the route to the world’s toughest trek called the Snowman Trek. I have done this trek both from Punakha side, as well as from Bumthang side.

Lingzhi Yügyal Dzong

For those of you who may not know, Gongyuel is the village where perhaps Bhutan’s oldest Dzong is located. The Dzong is called Lingzhi Jagö Dzong. Written historical records show that this Dzong is more than 400 years older than Lingzhi Yügyal Dzong which was built in 1668 by Druk Desi Chögyal Minjur Tenpa (1667 to 1680).

 Lingzhi Jagö Dzong

It is so shameful what we do - a world proclaimed carbon negative country!

I want to know - are there hearts and minds attached to those mouths that speak of 72% forest coverage as of now and makes a Constitutional commitment to maintain 60% forest coverage for all times to come?

How do we go about maintaining 60% forest cover when what we do is cause destruction to ecologically fragile alpine forests such as those in the Thangthangka and Jangothang areas; dig up nearly a thousand kilometers of road from Thimphu to Samdrupjongkhar that help bury forests that are thousands of years old; threaten to do the most illegal and meaningless Shingkhar-Gorgan road?

The original intention of the ADA aid money was to bring electrification to a remote location through less environmentally destructive method – building mini/micro hydro projects. Now look what we – the world leaders in environmental conservation - have done!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Most Environmentally Friendly Project Ends Up Being The Most Destructive!

It now turns out that there is another face - as yet unknown and even more sinister - to the deplorable act of the destruction of the Jumolhari Base Camp Trek trail. It appears that the Austrian Government’s aid money was never intended to be used for stringing ugly power lines across the pristine wilderness of the Jumolhari Base Camp Trek trail. In fact it was clearly stated how that money was to be used. How it came to be used to destroy the Jumolhari Base Camp Trek trail is any body’s guess.

A reader of my blog - Michal Thoma sent me a link to the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) website where it is clearly stated that the RGoB would use the aid money for:

“……. construction of two mini hydropower plants, one in Soe (50KW) and one in Lingzhi (100Kw) .…."

The following link gives the details of what the money was to be used for:

This means that we have not only destroyed one of the most beautiful treks in the world but we have gone and reneged on a solemn understanding reached with a development partner of long standing.

We can accept that there may have been justifiable reasons for the government to deviate from the original purpose for which the aid money was given. But what is most galling is that the government has gone and used the money to cause irrevocable destruction to the environment - even while being aware that the whole purpose of the ADA funding was to save the environment - by providing funding to do the less harmful method of delivering electricity to the pristine Soe and Lingzhi regions – by opting to construct mini hydro-power plants.

It can happen only in Bhutan: that a most environmentally friendly project ends up being the most destructive!

I wonder what the Government of Austria has to say to this Machiavellian act?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

My Advise to a Tour Operator on the Destruction of the Jumolhari Base Camp Trek

A reader from Australia (a tour operator) left a note on my blog seeking my advise and additional information on the Jumolhari Trek trail. The following is how I replied:

Hi James,

Greetings from Bhutan and thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment on the destruction of Bhutan’s most famous trek route - the Jumolhari Base Camp Trek.

What happened is most shameful and highly irresponsible. We may never be able to undo the damage that has been caused but it is my hope that the government will do whatever is necessary to salvage some of the destruction. Hopefully the Austrian government will chip in too - supposedly it was their money that was used to cause the damage to the trail.

With respect to my views, I cannot say for certain - but it may be possible that the trail will be cleared of the trees and wreckage by the time your group arrives here in October. You will have to ask your local partners to monitor the situation closely. If it seems like the trail will remain as dangerously cluttered as it looks now, perhaps it may be a good idea to suggest an alternate trek to your clients who have booked already. Nothing ofcourse will substitute the beauty of the Jumolhari trek - but there are other treks that come pretty close. Your local partners should be able to suggest one.

Having said that, you will have to make a decision - in consultation with your Bhutanese partners - whether it will be prudent for you to get your clients to do the Jumolhari trek, even after you have become aware of the state it is now in. It is my belief that you sold the trek to your clients in good faith - based on the pristine condition it was in. But that situation has now changed. Therefore  - should you chose to withhold the information of the trail’s destruction from your clients, I see two issues: one, you are not being ethical, and two, you may stand to lose more than just 15 clients - you may be accused of putting your own interests above that of your clients. Therefore, if I were in your shoes, I would put the cards face up on the table and let the clients decide. You don't want your clients returning home from the trek and accuse you of misleading them.

But one thing you can assure them without hesitation - that if they can overlook the rough trail, the view at the end of the trek will be stunning and unmatched. I am also happy that you have chosen October month to do the trek. That is a great time to go to Jumolhari. The trillions of shimmering stars in the night sky of Jangothang will more than compensate your clients’ initial disappointment with the trail.

Finally, to answer your question:  The destruction starts at the start of the trail and goes all the way to the end of the trek - Jangothang.

Here is wishing you BEST OF LUCK with what you decide finally.

Bye and take care

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

State of Bhutan’s Most Famous Trek Trail

One reader forwarded me the following photos. He tells me that the photos were taken during April of this year.

The trail is completely buried in piles upon piles of trees and branches - so much so that it is no longer visible. Why is such a wide clearing of forests needed for the electric posts to run through?

One can see the utter mindlessness with which the BPC carried out the work. They should have had the common sense to consult the Tourism Council of Bhutan - before they planned the work because they would have been aware that they were going to operate within an area that is one of the country’s most important tourist destinations.

As can be seen from the photos, they felled the trees right onto the trail. They did not bother to fell the trees in such a way that they did not hinder traffic  - the trail is buried under piles and piles of trees and branches - so much so that the trial is practically invisible. As you can see the tourists are lost - because it is difficult to see the trail. Fortunately there are no reported accidents so far.

There is an urgent need to do something about this trail - before the trekking season starts. The devastation has been caused - but it may still be not too late to salvage the problem. BPC should be answerable for their mindless act.

The Austrian Government should be requested to undo what has been done with the aid of their money. This should also serve as a lesson to them - that the onus is on them to ensure that their future aid money is used responsibly and not for causing destruction.

Devastation of Bhutan's Most Famous Trek Route: Some Impressive Stats

My posts on the devastation of Bhutan’s most famous trek route drew some serious readership. It is encouraging that there are many out there who care for conservation and the environment. Look at the following statistics:

It terms of hits by country, the following are the numbers - Drups lead by miles - proof that we do care for the environment.

The stats are for July 18, 10 AM to July 19, 9:00 AM.

Bhutan                        1,969
India                              533
United States                 324
Australia                        149
Singapore                      126
Thailand                        114
United Arab Emirates     82
Germany                         76
Malaysia                         69
Nepal                              69

TOTAL                     3,511 visitors

For the same period, the most read blogs were on the following subjects:

3,485  Devastation of Bhutan’s Most Famous Trek Route 
   431  Devastation of Bhutan’s Most Famous Trek Route II
     56  Chasing the Mighty Golden Mahseer
    49  Educated are in rural Bhutan while literate ones live in the capital city 
     46  Devastation of Bhutan’s Most Famous Trek Route

A concerned reader sent me a mail that reads:

Dear Aue Yeshey,

The issue of devastation of the Jomolhari trail has been bothering us, for we value this as one of the most scenic treks in the world. It is truly sad that this wanton destruction happened under the very noses of authorities whose duty it is to uphold Bhutan’s strong conservation ethics.

What can we do now? Personally, it was very disturbing to see the ‘graveyard of trees’ on my recent trek in April. While much havoc has been wreaked, what can we do now? Waste management is a major issue along the trail, everywhere. Maybe we should look at this as an opportunity to make things right - even if it may be a little late.

Are the authorities listening?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Devastation of Bhutan’s Most Famous Trek Route: A View from Outside

Early this morning starting at 1:03 AM through 2.03 AM, a reader of my blog - Brent Olson - posted the following three comments on my blog, on the devastation of Bhutan’s most famous trek route.

1:03 AM: 
If the Australian Govt. paid for the rural electrification of this region, the cost of rerouting the lines to preserve one of Bhutan's key tourism destinations should have been included in the budget. Optionally, if tour operators around the world were told of this disastrous decision, they could have launched a campaign to raise funds to pay for the rerouting! Why weren't these options considered?

1:19 AM: 
Having been involved in promoting tourism to Bhutan for the past 30 years and having done this trek route several times myself, this is heartbreaking news. After my sadness passed, I became angry that such a disastrous decision was allowed to proceed! While rural electrification is a lofty and admirable goal, there has to be a cost and benefit analysis done. How many Bhutanese are going to benefit from these lines? What is the implication to the environment, to this popular trek route and to the tourism industry that employs so many Bhutanese? While it is true that only a small number of travelers (out of the thousands that visit Bhutan each year) actually do this trek, these types of actions damage the overall impression of travelers to the country. Bhutan is heavily promoted as an environmentally sensitive and extremely forward thinking country. Actions such as this make people wonder if those descriptions are actually true. Putting electric poles and lines along this pristine trek route would be the equivalent of putting a four lane freeway through Yosemite Valley and to what benefit, the electrification of a few households and villages? Wouldn't that money have been better spent developing solar, wind and mini hydro power for these regions, especially given their value to Bhutan and the world? Rather than just complain about this bad decision, I think it needs to be stopped and funds need to be raised to reroute or bury the lines. I would be happy to help instigate a fund raising campaign focused on that goal if it isn't already too late......

2:03 AM
Those responsible for these horrible decisions should be held accountable. Of course, it now sounds like it is too late to make any difference for the Jhomolhari area..... 

Mr. Brent Olson is obviously as pained as I am at the recklessness with which Bhutan’s most famous trek route has been destroyed. He goes so far as to commit to raise funds, to reroute the transmission lines - if the government will consider it.

Perhaps even the Government of Austria could help - after all it was their funding that caused the devastation. They ought to take ownership for not ensuring that their money is used for something that is useful and beneficial for Bhutan and its people. Their funding would certainly help a few dozen households in the Jumolhari area - but in the process the country has been deprived of hundreds of millions of dollars in tourism revenue, for decades to come.