Thursday, December 9, 2010

Vice Ministers

I am a regular reader of His Excellency the Opposition Leader’s Blog ( The last post there deals with the proposed renaming of the Government Secretaries as “Vice Ministers”.
The Opposition Leader wonders why? I too wondered: why indeed?
On the face of it, the proposal seems totally meaningless. I mean like the Opposition Leader says, who do we need to impress? Simply none! And what do we get by impressing others? Simply nothing! So then, unless our elected leaders have nothing better to do than engage in affairs designed solely to impress others, there must be some purpose to this supposedly meaningless exercise. I began to think about the matter.
To begin with I was intrigued by the choice of the nomenclature “Vice Minister”. Why Vice Minister? Why not Deputy Minister? Deputy Minister is so much easier to pronounce than Vice Minister. I began to wonder: is there a reason why “Vice Minister” is preferred over “Deputy Minister”? I also wondered: how can a Vice Minister serve a function or a purpose that a Deputy Minister or a Secretary cannot? That is when I began to see the light of day.
The Constitution’s Article 20.2 does not allow the Executive to create more Ministries solely for the purpose of appointing Ministers. And it would be quiet ridiculous to appoint Ministers without a Ministry. However, Bhutan has a peculiar problem where we do not need more Ministries but need more Ministers. And why do we need more Ministers?
Because, our Ministers spend too much valuable time attending international conferences rather than doing meaningful work at home. By re-naming the Government Secretaries as Vice Ministers, most of the international Ministerial level conferences can be attended by the Vice Ministers; without breaking protocol. This lightens the burden on the Ministers. In addition, with more time in hand, the Ministers can visit their constituencies more often than they have been doing. This way, there is no fear of some upstart eating into their support base :)

I think this is a great idea. As to the legal basis of the Executive, it is simple enough. Like one great personality in Bhutan said (during a high level meeting in 1979); “If a National Assembly resolution is no longer valid in the present times, we should have no hesitation in disregarding the resolution on grounds of irrationality and introduce a new one that is more meaningful”.
But ofcourse, our life is now complicated by the need to adhere to the principals of democracy and the 20 additional mouths each and every Bhutanese seem to have acquired, under the aegis of the democratic rights of freedom of speech.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Super Guard Dog Called Anatolian

I am still unable to post my fourth post on the BBC and their lies. I have been rather unwell for the past close to 2 weeks since my return from the trek to Mt. Gnagkharpuensum. That is not to say that it isn’t coming - it is coming.
In the meantime, one of the readers of my blog has something interesting to write about a super guard dog called “Anatolian”. The following is one of the 4 emails she sent me on the subject. I have given her the email addresses of some select NCD/WCD officials so that she may write to them and tell them her story.
Ofcourse, Jill recommends the introduction of Anatolian dogs to Bhutan - to protect our domestic animals such as sheep and Yaks from predators. But one never knows - may be we can teach a new trick to these Anatolians - to ward off poachers - now that the BBC has gone and revealed our tiger population to the whole world. Jill, if you are reading this, tell us, is that a possibility?

Dear Yeshey,
I do apologise for contacting you again as I know you have no knowledge of Anatolian dogs. I have read of your Livestock Protection in Bhutan, Wangchuk Nat Park Report by S.W.Wang/McDonald and also Nublang cattle. If I told you that the Anatolian dog would wipe out at a stroke, Bhutan's loss due to predators, of their livestock (cattle, sheep, goats and any other herd animal) you probably would not have any reason to believe me? If you have no knowledge/info on a matter, then how could you know? I am not writing to "popularise" a pet dog but of an ancient type that we know is thousands of years in the making. Possibly, even Bjops' dogs could have been an ancestor to Anatolians? However, I am writing in the hopes that you can please put me in touch with Wildlife/Parks Office? The above Report mentions loss of livestock through "not herding/corralling at night" the livestock. I am truly amazed that it has never been suggested previously to Bhutan Government how Anatolians not only work at night but do not need training or instruction from Shepherd to protect the flock. They will do this automatically even if no Shepherd is there! So from just writing to suggest these dogs are used in Tiger Corridoor, I would now also go further and tell you that NO LIVESTOCK WOULD BE LOST if placed with any flock. I urge you to please pass on my advice. I read of the Nublang cattle and could 100% truthfully tell you that if young (6/8 weeks) pups were placed with them and left 24/7 constantly, not tied up, as this breaks the "bond" between dog and flock, you would not loose any to predation, whether it be Bear, Tiger, Leopard even wild dogs.
When Wolves were going to be re-introduced in US, of course the Farmers and Ranchers were hostile to this plan. However, through Anatolians coming out as the No 1 Livestock Protection Dog of all the breeds trialled (I think she uses the word “trialled” to mean tried and tested) thoroughly over two years, this was why Dr Laurie Marker took them to Namibia to set up Cheetah Conservation Foundation to save them from extinction. The Farmers were shooting and poisoning to prevent predation. They now have these dogs working with their livestock with no losses encountered. Our Club sent them to Australia for ranchers back in late 1970's and same has occurred with no livestock being lost. I can understand Yeshey, if you have no knowledge of these dogs, you would not understand why I am contacting you. If say, these dogs were brought to Bhutan, trialled and proved successful, I am certain the word would spread quickly even to a Farmer with only a small flock. The dogs would solve Bhutan's problem straight away. All Veterinary care could be the responsibility of Bhutan's Ministry of Agriculture, with a six-monthly check with Farmer present. In Namibia, the Farmers do not pay for the puppy but are given instruction in this breed/type dog. I know Yeshey, how this Scheme would spread all over Bhutan. The Farmers' property and families would also be treated as "same flock" as the livestock by these dogs. In Lost Land film when Leopard was stalking ponies on infra-red camera (No 3?) the dogs stayed with Farmers for protection/safety. This would not have happened had Anatolians been present. I have tried e-mailing Ministry of Agriculture but they have been returned so I cannot contact the right Office. Could you please help me to do this? I am certain Yeshey that if this does take place in future, you will be writing of these brave, large, extremely intelligent dogs. They think for themselves in any situation, are calm, placid dogs, only ever barking if there is a cause. I only wrote in first instance because of the film but having now read of Bhutan's Livestock also needing protection by LPG, I can foresee a time when every Farmer will be asking for such a dog. They also warn of strangers not only arriving but can "read" stranger's intentions, be it good or bad. They love their families and small children, who are also part of "their flock". Please Yeshey, pass on my comments please, as I know how people of Bhutan will be so grateful for this wonderful guardian. I am sure you will then be writing of the Anatolian dog and how you didn't believe such a dog was possible. They are incredible, clever, brave yet kind and placid. You may even end up owning one for yourself? Many, many thanks for reading this. Jill Can I write to the King?


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

False Claims By The BBC Filming Team: Part III

In celebration of the BBC’s filming and release of the footage of the Royal Bengal tigers living in the alpine jungles of Bhutan which the BBC and the filming team have gone on to claim as the first ever evidence of the tiger’s existence at such high altitude, Gordon Buchanan the cameraman makes the following revealing statement: 

“Back at the start of the noughties I was making Tigers Of The Emerald Forest, a film about an isolated tiger population of about 30 individuals (a healthy breeding population) living in a little known national park in north central India. 

The film was about the success story of those tigers and how, despite the pressures they faced, they were doing really well. 

Within two years of my departure, all of them, every last one had been wiped out by illegal poaching. The news of that tragedy threw into sharp focus the realisation that the very worst was true - that we faced a future where tigers could no longer survive in the wild”. 

Here is the link: 

So, by his own admission, is it possible that he and the BBC may have knowingly endangered our tigers that our government and a lot of people connected with the tiger conservation project have worked so hard to protect and preserve for the past close to two decades? Ofcourse not, because, in the words of Jonny Keeling, series producer of “Lost Land of the Tiger” on the same blog mentioned above; Knowledge that tigers live in Bhutan can be found widely across the internet”. Now, isn’t that rather contradictory for someone who claimed that they had the first hard evidence of the tiger’s existence in Bhutan? 

Will our tigers face the same fate as those of the Emerald Forests of north central India? Perhaps we should invite Gordon Buchanan to give us a reading on the matter, given his past experience. 

One of the BBC sites also mentions; “Wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan searched for tigers in the high Himalayas following rumours from local people that tigers live in the mountains”. What BBC means is that what we know and can prove with photographic evidence is nothing more than rumours and what they show is the real hard evidence. 

In another one of their sites, the BBC also proposes to suggest the establishment of a wildlife corridor for wildlife to move from place to place. Gordon Buchanan writes, in the same blog mentioned above; “If we care enough and can create a corridor spanning the Himalayas from Nepal to Thailand, tigers still have a chance”. This shows clear lack of knowledge and expertise on the part of the BBC filming team. These statements can only mean that they were unaware of the existence of our Biological Corridor that was established in the late 1990’s - specifically, in the words of Karma Jigme of the NCD; “that it was because of tigers that the concept of biological corridors came about and was established in 1998”. 

The BBC claims that they worked closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Forestry officials and staff. If that is the case, how is it possible that the BBC team was not aware of the existence of photographic and other evidences that establishes, beyond doubt, the tiger’s existence in Bhutan? The Department of Forestry is the custodian of all the evidences gathered over the years on all the work done and data collected on the tiger’s habitat, its protection and conservation. Did the Forestry officials conceal the truth from the BBC team or, did the BBC deliberately withhold established facts and evidences so that they can claim full credit for the “discovery” of the tigers? 

Tim Martin, BBC’s Executive Producer responded to the email of Sonam Wangdi of NCD, Department of Forestry who sought clarifications on the matter - but the Producer had nothing convincing to offer by way of reason - other than some vague and lame excuses. 

Jonny Keeling says that what the BBC claimed was that they have proof of tigers breeding at such high altitudes - based on the footage of a lactating female tiger. That is rather strange. If tigers have been known to be living in Bhutan for the past many centuries, isn’t it reasonable to assume that they would have been breeding? Otherwise wouldn’t they have been long extinct? 

Even when criticism of their falsehood is mounting, Keeling is adamant and states; “We made clear in the press release and in the series that people in Bhutan had seen tracks of tigers at high altitude”. Can you believe the audacity of the man? He still does not admit that he is aware of the existence of evidence of the tiger’s existence in Bhutan’s high altitude mountains. Even worst, he credits our biologists and conservationists with having seen only tracks of the tiger. 

To be continued …………..

Saturday, October 2, 2010

False Claims By The BBC Filming Team: Part II

The blatant falsehood currently being broadcast by the BBC to their world audience claiming that their filming crew made a first time discovery of the Royal Bengal Tigers inhabiting the Bhutanese high mountains has caused much consternation among the Bhutanese and, perhaps, without our knowing, even among the conservationists and tiger experts around the world. I will revisit the issue in Part III of my post on the subject of BBC’s distortion of established facts and their callous disregard for the immense work done by others before them.
While still smarting over the BBC’s atrocious claims, something intrigued me. How on earth did the BBC manage to broadcast such a documentary film that the Bhutanese authorities would have known to be totally false? After all, all documentaries, films and news clippings acquired within the soil of Bhutan need to be first approved by the Bhutanese authorities before they are allowed to be broadcast to the general public. This is explicitly covered under the BICMA Act.
Is it possible that the BBC may have, in addition to falsifying facts, broken our rules pertaining to filming, entry into restricted areas, conducting scientific research etc.? Conversely, is it a case of our government officials in various departments not performing their duties with due diligence? Could the spread of the falsehood by the BBC filming crew have been prevented - had our officials done their job well?
Let us examine the processes involved.
When the BBC applies to enter the country for filming purpose, they need to apply through a local tour company. The local tour operator in turn applies for all the permits for the BBC crew before their arrival in the country. The tour operator also arranges logistics on behalf of the BBC crew. The visitation right is granted once the VISA is approved and issued by the Immigration Department.
The BBC crew, through their local tour operator or agent, has to deal with the following government agencies before they can undertake any planned activity in the country:
1. Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB)
2. Department of Immigration
4. Nature Conservation Division
5. RBA
6. Park Officials
7. Ministry of Agriculture
8. Department of Revenue & Customs
1. Tourism Council of Bhutan: Unless the BBC crew hopes to enter Bhutan as government guests, their Visa Application needs to be routed through the TCB. All guests of the government and those of individuals can apply directly to the Department of Immigration. 
2. Department of Immigration: For Entry Visa clearance
3. BICMA: All filming within the country - whether documentary or commercial - is guided by the Bhutan Filming Regulation 2007 under the Bhutan Information, Communication and Media Act. The rules are enforced by a regulatory authority known as BICMA. Even if the BBC has obtained a waiver of the filming royalty, they still need to obtain a Permit from BICMA and cannot bypass the rules and regulations that govern filming within the country.
Two of the important provisions under the said rules are:
1. Security Deposit of Nu.100,000.00 (even if the Royalty of Nu.150,000.00 is waived off). The rule concerning this payment states as follows: 

8.2 Security Deposit
The security deposit shall be applicable to all types of filming activities carried out in Bhutan irrespective of whether any filming royalty fee has been waived off or not. The security deposit paid shall be forfeited if the requirements of Clause 8.4 of this Regulation are not met. However, the Authority shall not be liable for the payment of any direct or indirect interests on the security amount deposited with it as per this provision. 

2. Preview of Film: Upon completion of filming, the rule requires that the work be reviewed by BICMA and other competent authorities and states as follows: 

8.3. Preview of production 

i. Documentaries and Films: The Authority shall preview the documentaries and films made. The filmmakers shall be required to make changes, if any, to the part or parts of the film, as required by the Examiners. One copy each of the final edited version of the film shall be submitted to the Authority for its records. The security deposit shall be refunded on receipt of the final films. 

ii. Project-related films: Any project-related films or documentaries made with a government partner shall be previewed by the individual ministry or government organization concerned, wherein a member of the Authority shall be present. The government partners for these films shall be responsible for submitting a copy of the final film to the Authority for record. 

Has the BICMA obtained the Security Deposit as per rule? Has the BBC been required to submit their work for preview by the authorities? Have they or the collaborating government partner previewed it? If not, has the Security Deposit been forfeited? 

4. Nature Conservation Division (NCD): The entire Park systems within the country come under the NCD. Before access to the parks are permitted, a host of permits and clearances are to be obtained from the NCD under various provisions in a variety of rules and Acts such as: Forest and Nature Conservation Act of Bhutan, 1995; Forest & Nature Conservation Rules of Bhutan, 2006, Rules on Biological Corridors, Biodiversity Act 2003 etc. Special permits, in addition to those issued by BICMA and any other government agency, are to be obtained from the NCD - for any restricted activities to be performed within the Park area. Has the NCD required the BBC crew to obtain the necessary permits to enter and conduct filming in: 

     a. National Parks
     b. Biological Corridors 

5. RBA: Has the BBC crew entered other restricted areas - other than the Parks and Biological corridors? If so, have they obtained permits from the RBA which is required as per rule? 

6. Park Officials: The Park officials in different Parks around the country are supposed to check and monitor the movement of people within the Park area. Has that been done? Did they see that the BBC crew had the necessary permits issued by the relevant authorities in Thimphu - to enter and conduct restricted activities within the Park area? I am also informed that certain Forestry officials and others accompanied the BBC crew. Was that because the work was of a collaborative nature between an agency of the RGoB and the BBC? 

7. Ministry of Agriculture: The filming and study of the tigers ought to fall under “scientific study” category which requires very special authorization from the highest authorities. Given the importance of the study, has the Ministry entered into an agreement with the BBC for “sharing of the research results and relevant information” emerging out of the filming being authorized? 

8. Department of Revenue & Customs: As per Customs rules, a Re-Export Certificate has to be obtained for all the filming and technical and professional equipment that the BBC brings in. Has such a list been submitted to the Customs authorities at the Paro airport and verified by them upon repatriation of the equipment at the end of the filming in Bhutan? 

There seems to be a need to review to what extent all the above named organizations have been involved and taken into confidence - before, during and post filming. The fact that the BBC footages contains atrociously inaccurate and false claims can only mean that the BBC never submitted the films for preview. Who authorized the waiver of the requirement for preview, if there was one?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

False Claims By The BBC Filming Team

Matt Walker, Editor, Earth News of BBC writes in ( that experts have been “stunned” by the “discovery” of tigers living and breeding at higher altitudes than were believed possible. He further goes on to say that “their presence in the Bhutan highlands has been confirmed by footage taken by a BBC natural history camera crew. 

These are very strange remarks, particularly coming from the editor of Earth News of the respected BBC.

What kind of people can claim to be experts if they have obviously been clueless about the knowledge of the tiger’s existence in Bhutan for the past many centuries? And what shameless persons can make a claim to having captured the first footage of the tiger when photographic evidence of their existence has been recorded over a decade back?

The recent release of film footage by the BBC showing tigers in Bhutan seems to have created some kind of stir in the western world. The truth is that there is nothing so earth shattering about tigers in Bhutan. The Bhutanese people have been living with them for the past many centuries. Even while we lose many heads of cattle to the tiger every year, we still revere them as the riding stallions of our many protecting deities. The tiger population proliferates in Bhutan because the Bhutanese people do not harm them with the belief that they are under the protection of our protecting deities. In order to protect the tiger, the government of Bhutan even offers cash compensation to farmers who lose their livestock to the tigers.

It is totally false and unethical on the part of Gordon Buchanan of the BBC to claim that his footage is proof of tiger’s existence in Bhutan. The truth is that a wildlife survey team from the Bhutan’s Nature Conservation Division captured an image of a tiger on camera trap in September of 1999. The image was recorded at an altitude of 3,400 Meters. Kuensel did an extensive article on the sighting of the tiger in their issue of May 6-12, 2000 Vol. XV. No. 18.
Image of tiger captured on camera trap in 1999
It is also not correct that there has been no evidence of the tiger’s existence above 4,000 Mtrs. The NCD has records of the discovery of pugmarks at Puchela in the Thrumshingla National Park which is at 4,110 Meters.

It is not fair that the BBC team does not acknowledge the immense contributions made towards the tiger’s conservation by individuals and organizations such at the NCD, WWF and the Save the Tiger Fund who have been working at the tiger’s conservation and protection since the early 1990’s. They even do not make mention of the assistance provided by the local Bhutanese team who must have helped them acquire the images. Without the knowledge base of the local people and organizations, it is impossible that the BBC team could have filmed the tigers as they claim to have done. It is common decency to give acknowledgement where due.

The following is an image supposedly that of either Mongol warlord Gushri Khan or that of Lhasang Khan. He is seen holding what is obviously a Royal Bengal tiger. Rinchen Khandu, a local authority on Bhutanese folklore and religion tells me that these two Mongol warlords attacked Bhutan sometime during early 1600’s after the arrival of Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal in Bhutan. He says that this image is generally painted next to the main entrance of a house, Dzong or temple. Rinchen Khandu explained to me that any house or temple or Dzong on which were painted these images escaped the wrath of the plundering Mongol armies because they believed that the house was under the protection of their lords.
Gushri Khan/Lhasang Khan painted on the wall of the Jumolhari Hotel’s dinning hall
The above image is further proof that tigers were found in Bhutan even before the 1600’s. Obviously, the venerable BBC can no longer be trusted to be a source for factual and dependable reporting.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Of Pollution, Puja And God Who Gets Dumped

Here it was, yet again, the 17th of September, a day when motorized vehicles are adorned with vermilion, multi-colored balloons and yards and yards of colorful synthetic ribbons. On this day, puja pandals are hastily hammered together; in the basements of semi-finished buildings, factories, vehicle workshops and metal fabrication facilities - to house a mustachioed idol of a four-armed being riding an elephant and wearing a crown and loads of jewelry. In his hands he holds a water-pot, a book, a noose and craftsman's tools. The brightly colored idol that is kicking up such a frenzied activity is that of the mythological Vishwakarma - believed to be the chief architect and supreme engineer to all the Gods in the Hindu pantheon. 

Strangely, in my experience, it is not the engineers and the architects who honor the Hindu God but the migrant Bengali and Bihari labor force, mostly in the construction industry, who celebrate the Vishwakarma puja. And they do it with unrestrained zest and gusto. Street corners, construction sites and vehicle workshops - all come alive with a cacophony of popular Bollyhood movie songs blaring out of tattered sound boxes at decibels high enough to shatter one’s eardrums.

For a God who is celebrated with such passion and enthusiasm, the Hindu faithful seldom build temples or permanent statues in honor of Lord Vishwakarma. Perhaps, that is the reason why, during this puja celebrations, one will not be hearing any hymns or devotional songs extolling the virtues of this God of engineering and architecture. Instead, one will see devout Bengalis and Beharis gyrating wildly in front of the idols. This manner of honoring a God is alien to most Bhutanese who are used to expressing their devotion to God with murmured prayers offered with closed eyes and folded hands. Nevertheless, I have yet to see a Bhutanese decline the pandal’s make-shift Pundit’s customary offer to plant a red “tika” on their foreheads.

While the deafening sounds generated by the incessant pounding of old tins and empty plastic barrels keep the Bengali and the Bihari adrenaline flowing, a large population living close to these numerous pandals spread across the town is robbed of sleep and peace by the celebrations that go on unabated all night long.

I am told that there are in excess of 400 constructions that are ongoing in Thimphu town alone. This will get only worse in the coming years. Therefore, I get this feeling that the celebration of Vishwakarma puja, in its present form, has the potential to be a great public nuisance, if allowed to fester unchecked and unregulated. If we do not act now, there is a real danger that it may become a part of our culture – a culture that is neither meaningful nor productive. More importantly, even beyond the fear of being saddled with a culture not our own, the environmental damage and the noise pollution caused by these celebrations should be reason enough for concern. We need to intervene now when the problem is still relatively manageable.

There is something not quite right in the manner in which Vishwakarma puja is celebrated in our country. I see aspects to it that are not in conformity to the generally accepted code of conduct and decency required to be observed when celebrating in public spaces. It would appear that it hasn’t yet dawned on the Bhutanese people the long term damage the Vishwakarma puja celebration is causing to our environment. Or, as usual, we are taking a lackadaisical attitude towards it.

Let us consider the following:

1.   Celebration and/or conducting of any public function is, by rule, subject to proper written authorization from a designated government/regulatory authority. I have not yet heard of such a requirement being imposed on the annual celebration of the Vishwakarma puja. What are the reasons for this special immunity? Given the very public nature of the celebrations and considering that a large number of people congregate during this occasion, shouldn’t we require the event to be properly licensed and monitored? And, if we decide that they should be regulated, who should the regulatory authority be? - the Ministry of Home & Cultural Affairs, BICMA, the City Corporation or should it be the RBP? What should be the guidelines in order to ensure that it is celebrated in a way that it does not infringe on people’s peace and privacy or cause damage to the environment and the ecosystem?

2.   During the day of the celebrations, a large number of vehicles that ply on the roads are decorated with yards and yards of colorful synthetic ribbons and balloons and flowers made of Styrofoam that obstruct the vision of the drivers. This is clearly hazardous and could result in road mishaps and endanger lives. Strangely, if you ask those who partake in these decorations, they are clueless as to its religious or social significance. What is the RSTA’s and the Traffic Police’s stand on this? In most countries, anything that you attach to a vehicle that is not an allowable gear or attachment or useful accessory is tantamount to altering the original design of a vehicle which is prohibited. Is such a thing allowed under the RSTA or the Traffic rules? Without doubt, such decorations obstruct visibility and thus can be classified as dangerous driving. Should it be allowed?

3. The worst part of the Vishwakarma puja celebrations is that the celebrations end the next day - when the idols are immersed in rivers and lakes. It defies logic and it is absolutely incomprehensible that an idol of God that one revere and worship end up being dumped into the river like a bundle of garbage. Why would any one want to worship it if it were to end up being dumped like a pile of dirt?

However, it is not for us who are outside the faith to try and decipher the why, and the why for, of such a seemingly illogical act. To us, it is more important to understand the consequences of this act from the point of view of its impact on our environment.

4.   Traditionally, idols were made from mud and clay and painted using vegetable-based dyes. But commercialization of festivals and the sheer volume needed to be produced and transported over great distances meant that the traditional materials did not fulfill the design specifications of the modern idols. In the process, eco-friendly statues are no longer economically feasible. Thus, the new generation idols are produced from non-biodegradable materials such as plastic, cement and plaster of Paris and painted with chemical dyes that contain harmful and toxic agents. 

    Can you imagine what the thousands of idols, along with its synthetic and plastic trappings, being dumped into our river systems around the country are doing to our environment? Besides poisoning our water sources, can you imagine the damage it is causing to the aquatic creatures that inhabit our rivers and lakes?

Have you considered that these toxic materials finally end up inside the bellies of fish that we eat? Have you considered that the river waters with all the contaminants end up in the irrigation channels that our farmers use to irrigate their farms that produce food and vegetable that we consume? If this is going to be the case, how realistic is our dream of becoming a nation of organic farmers?

It is clear that unregulated celebration of the Vishwakarma puja can go beyond being merely a public nuisance. Its environmental implications are of greater concern. Why is it that the National Environment Commission has overlooked this issue? Why has the RSTA and the Traffic Police not been alerted of the dangers of vehicles being decorated with things that could cause dangerous accidents on the road?

I believe that it is time for the government and agencies under it to put in place rules and regulations and promulgate them to ensure that:

a.   the puja is celebrated in a manner that is not detrimental to our environment while, at the same time, it is celebrated in a way that it does not cause problems and hardships to others;

b.   that the celebration is licensed by a competent authority in order that the licensees can be held accountable;

c.  ensure that, if possible, idols are built in-country under strict supervision to ensure that only bio-degradable materials are used to build the idols and be decorated with environmentally friendly substances. If that is not feasible, ensure that their import is brought under some control so that only idols built with harmless and bio-degradable materials are allowed to enter the country.

I know that it is in the Buddhist spirit to allow free and fair practice of individual faith and culture. But being tolerant does not mean that we have to accept practices – whether cultural, religious or social – that harm the environment as well as cause disruption to the peace and tranquility of others within the sphere.

If we pride ourselves as an evolved lot with the capacity to think objectively, analytically and with reason, it is quite ridiculous to continue to engage in acts that were conceived in medieval times when conditions were different from what it is today. It is acceptable that certain beliefs and practices may have been pertinent and useful during a particular time and stage in our evolution – but not all of them are now useful or relevant or even practicable.

Conservation and protection of the natural environment is one of the four pillars of GNH. We take great pride in being a champion in environmental conservation. If that be the case, we should have no hesitation in rationalizing, if not entirely doing away with, certain practices that are undeniably accepted as being harmful to nature and the environment. In my opinion, there should be no doubt in anybody’s mind that the manner in which Vishwakarma puja is celebrated in its present form is a great polluter.

Lord Vishwakarma cannot be a very happy God knowing he has become a source of pollution and defilement of the environment.

Dumping Of The God

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Orchids Of Bhutan

The following are two of the huge variety of orchids that are found in the forests of Bhutan.