Saturday, December 24, 2016

Rotary Club of Thimphu Donates 6 Kidney Hemodialysis Machines

On Bhutan’s National Day - December 17, 2016, the Rotary Club of Thimphu donated 6 brand new units of Kidney Hemodialysis Machines to the Ministry of Health, Royal Government of Bhutan. This Nu.6.8 million Global Grant Project took two years to realize and the collaborative spirit of 10 Rotary Districts and Clubs - across countries such as Bhutan, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and USA.


Bhutanese hospitals across the country suffer acute shortage of these life saving machines. We are told that at the JDWNRH, Thimphu, patients are so desperate for dialysis that they regularly attempt to jump queue - resulting in occasional fistfights.

His Majesty the King has gifted a new 24-beds Dialysis Center that is currently under construction. We think that our machines would provably be installed in the new Center. However, that is a decision the Health Ministry will have to take - our donation was a gift without any strings attached - we will not dictate where the machines should be installed.

In the coming months, we will also conduct in-country training and refresher courses for 9 operators of these machines.

Our immediate next project with the Health Ministry is the setting up of 3 artificial limbs fitment centers - one each in Thimphu, Gelephu and Mongaar. The world famous “JaipurLimb” technology will come to Bhutan as soon as the MoU is signed between the Health Ministry, the Rotary Club of Thimphu and some Indian donors. With the setting up of this Global Grant Project worth US$80,000.00, Bhutan will no longer need to send patients out of the country for prosthesis.

BUT GOD ALMIGHTY! - the wheels of bureaucracy grinds oh so painfully slowly! Even after four months of dogged pursuit, our MoU is still gathering moss in some unknown labyrinth! I have this uncanny feeling that the first patient that the Thimphu Center would need to treat would be our own MoU - because by the time it limps out of whatever hole it is stuck in, it would have lost a leg and an arm - thus requiring prosthesis replacement.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Hydro-power Madness III

Mt. Jichu Drake at 6,989 Mtrs. is Bhutan’s sixth highest peak. The lake at the base of this mountain is the primary source of the Pachhu (Paro river), that partially drives the turbines of Chukkha and Tala Hydropower Projects. When I first visited the area in 2004, the peak was fully laden with snow and the base of the mountain and its lower portion had a huge cover of frozen ice – it looked so azure that it was almost eerie.

During my next visit to the area seven years later in February, 2011, the peak had totally lost the ice and most of the snow on it had melted. The photo below was taken during my second visit in February, 2011 (I cannot find the photo that I took in 2004). As you can see, the peak has lost most of its show and ice - in fact three-fourths of the mountain has now no snow at all.

Two of the photos below are that of our third highest peak, Masagang at 7,194 Mtrs. The first one was taken in 2011 and the second one was taken on 12th December, 2016. Look at the difference between the two: the latest photo shows that there is almost no snow on the peak.

The two photos below show the source of Chamkharchhu. The first one shows the huge reserve of snow and ice underground. The second shows the hole in that depository. The rate of melting of the ice and snow is way faster than the replenishment. This means this reserve is going to run dry in times to come.

Miles and miles of depost of ice and snow under the ground, that feeds the Chamkharchhu

Hole in the ground of the ice and snow deposit - the melt is faster than replenishment

At this rate of snow and ice melt, how long do you think our high peaks and glacial lakes will continue to feed our river systems that turn the hydropower turbines?

Do you still think doing Chamkharchhu Hydropower Project and other hydropower ventures are going to be sustainable?

As I said in my last post, the issue of hydropower projects in our context has more to do with economic disaster that is being caused, rather then the fear that it will cause environmental degradation. I fully recognize that the cause of the environment cannot be allowed to constrain human development and economic benefit to the people.

But our experience so far with our hydropower ventures have been that it not only damages our ecosystems but is also all set to cause us economic enslavement.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Hydro-power Madness II

India ranks as the world’s fifth largest electricity generator. Its current total installed capacity is in excess of 300GW.

There is a misconception in Bhutan that we are a significant game changer to an energy starved India, in their drive towards energy self-sufficiency. Nothing can be further from reality.

India’s Power Minister Piyush Goyal recently reported in the Rajya Sabha that India imported 5.24 billion units of electricity from Bhutan, in the last fiscal. That figure seems like colossal! But wait just a second – translated as a percentage of India’s total power generation, our export of 5.24 billion units work out to a shamefully inconsequential 0.47% of their total output!

So tell me, how significant are we in India’s hydropower dreams? On a scale of Nu.1.00 we are not even half a Chettrum, and that denomination does not even exist in our currency!

Trust me, India does not need our hydro-electricity now, nor will they need in the future.

By the year 2030 India is poised to generate enough electricity not only to meet, but exceed their energy requirement. Even today some believe that the notion that India suffers energy poverty is a fallacy. They believe that India is already self sufficient in electricity - but that their problem is mismanagement and poor distribution and delivery.

Our situation is ofcourse perilous, to say the least. We can already see it clearly. We are slowly but surely headed towards a situation, a convergence of occurrences, that spell doom for us.

Fourteen years from now, our lone egg basket – India – will achieve self sufficiency in their energy needs.

Fourteen years from now, most of our hydro-electric plants will have outlived their productive life.

Fourteen years from now, our glacial lakes, mountaintops and rivers would be severely depleted of snow, ice and water.

Fourteen years from now, Bhutan would still be straddled with loans amounting to hundreds of billions of Rupees.

Very few, if at all, have understood why I make so much noise about hydropower. I want to clarify:

I do not make noise about it because of my belief that hydropower projects damage our pristine environment - far from it.

I make noise because I firmly believe that in our situation, our hydropower projects will be the VICTIM OF ENVINOMENT. It is clear that the state of the global environment will impact our hydropower projects.
And, indications are that the state of the environment is worsening by the year.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Hydro-Power Madness

After conceding Kula Kangri to China, Mt. Jumolhari at 7,326 Mtrs. is Bhutan’s second highest peak, after Gangkhar Puensum at 7,570 Mtrs. The photo below was taken on the 26th of November, 2016, from Paro Drugyel Dzong.

As you can see, one portion of the peak’s face is almost bare of snow. That is the effect of global warming - snow and ice are melting at an alarming rate from our mountain peaks and glacial lakes in the north. Our reserve of snow and ice that are vital for our sustenance are turned into rain and water, that run off to be emptied into the Indian Ocean.

Weather patterns are going haywire - there is rain where there use to be none, and there is none where there use to be plenty. Weather induced seasonal variations are bound to cause crop failures, and Black-necked Cranes will land in Geylephu.

Policy failures will cause us to import electricity during the winter months, while proudly claiming to be a net exporter of hydro-generated electricity.

Over time our deposit of ice and glaciers will be exhausted and there will be not enough water to turn the turbines of the many hydro-electric projects that we are building blindly.

By the year 2030 (14 years from now), India will generate electricity in excess of their need. India will no longer need our hydro-electricity. While in Bhutan our old generators would have outlived their useful life. It will be time to decommission these white elephants - but we will have no money to do so.

In fourteen years from now, we would not have repaid the loans on these projects - because the cost has escalated 4 times over their initial projections!

Our economic enslavement would be complete!

And yet, the politicians still talk of doing Chamkharchhu Hydropower Project. They tell you that it will bring development to Zhemgang. They have seen that Daga Project has happened. They see that Mangdechhu Project is happening. But they are blind to the fact that both these projects have not brought any benefit to Geylephu or Dagana or Tsirang.

To what can we attribute this madness?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Bhutan to Import 200 Truckloads of Chilies!

I was stunned by the BBS announcement yesterday that Bhutan is going to import 200 truckloads of chilies a year, from India. This is a chilling revelation. This means that the land of Ema Datsi has been importing huge amounts of chilies all this while. In other words, the one item of food that most Bhutanese eat every breakfast, lunch and dinner on a daily basis - has no in-country production base, to meet the demand? This truly is pathetic!

This revelation is perplexing at all levels. Let us do some mathematics.

Two hundred truckloads would be 1,400 Metric Tons of chilies calculated at a truck's carrying capacity of 7MT per truck. 1,400 MT broken down to Kgs. would translate to 1,400,000 Kgs. of the fiery stuff.

Now, lets consider that the import of 200 truckloads of chilies from India would constitute 10% of our annual consumption. This would mean that Bhutanese people consume a total of 14,000,000 Kgs. of chilies a year.

Let us now make an educated assumption that a total of 40% of the resident Bhutanese population do not eat chilies. That segment would include the population that is still not of age to eat chilies, those that do not eat the stuff on medical grounds, and those group of population that are past the age when they no longer find eating chilies palatable. It would also include those that have been driven to paranoia by Dr. Sonam – about eating chilies.

In addition, let us presume that 20% of the Bhutanese population are working outside or are not resident in the country. Add to that 1.46% of the population - under constant labour pain and childbirth, in some maternity wards (based on Bhutan’s 2015 population growth rate). This means that effectively 61.46% of the Bhutanese population DO NOT splurge on the fiery capsaicinoids loaded Capsicum.

Based on these assumptions, we get a figure of 305,083 actively chili eating Bhutanese, computed at today’s total Bhutanese population of 791,600.

Now divide 14,000,000 Kgs. of chilies by 305,083 chili eating Bhutanese and you get a tidy sum of 45.89 Kgs. of chilies per Bhutanese per year. Break it further down to per Bhutanese per day and you get: 0.13 Kgs. of chilies per Bhutanese per day.

This means a Bhutanese consumes a Kg. of chilies every 8 days!

The question is: given this humongous captive market, why isn't the Bhutanese people growing more chilies? Why cardamom?

Even at Nu.50.00 per Kg., 14,000,000 Kgs. of chilies would translate into Nu.700,000,000.00 per year - SEVEN HUNDRED MILLION Nuggies for a lot of Drups! - while at the same time saving Indian Rs.70,000,000.00 per annum.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Something Has Gone Seriously Wrong Somewhere

Most of my friends have started their room heaters since mid October. I adamantly refused to do so. The reason: I cannot afford to pay the electricity bill. Last year, to my horror, I realized that my electricity bill during the winter months was anywhere from Nu.7,000.00 to Nu.9,000.00 per month!!! I simply cannot afford that kind of heating bill. So this year I refused to use the panel heater in my office – to control cost.

Today is 1st December - and I started my panel heater for the first time. I simply couldn't do without it any longer.

I start my work at 5 AM these days. By 7AM my fingers would be frozen stiff! But I adamantly refused to start the heater! When it became intolerable, I would go out and start my car and put on its heating system. One round of the town and I would be warm enough to continue to work.

Bhutan is supposed to be a net exporter of hydro-electricity. Why is it then that poor people like me and other citizens cannot afford to heat our homes with our own electricity that we supposedly generate in abundance? Why is it that we have to queue up at the petrol pumps for cooking gas and kerosene?

Promises have been made that we would be so rich from the earnings from export of hydro-power, that our roads would be paved in gold. In truth the reality is that today the common man cannot afford to heat their homes with electricity.

Something has gone seriously wrong somewhere.

Those who speak so eloquently about hydro-power need to ask this one simple question: Why is it that the Bhutanese people prefer to queue up at the petrol pumps, to purchase imported energy source - over our own electricity?