Wednesday, October 31, 2018

So What Ticks You?

Every morning I log on to my Blog and scan through the statistics - to see which articles are being read and from where and how many times. It never ceases to amaze me - the readers’ choice of articles and the locations from where they log in. The readership is so varied and they log in from some most unexpected places.

I would have thought that my latest article would get the most attention - not entirely correct. I notice that readers are equally interested in my older articles - articles that were posted many years back.

Sometimes the readers find their way to my Blog through the most bizarre route. Take, for instance, how the following reader from South Africa ended up on my Blog:

SD January 15, 2014 at 1:46 PM
Hi Yeshey. I enjoyed your article. I met Mr Franceschinis in Durban, South Africa in the nineties. He gave me an autographed booklet with some of his photos in. They are exquisite. I found the booklet today and googled his name thus coming across your article. The booklet is called "Guida alla mostra fotografica viaggio attraverso L'Himalaya." I couldn't find much other info out on him. Regards

The above comment was posted on my following article:

As you can see the article was posted on October 9, 2012. The reader happened by the article - 15 months after it was posted.

Of the 559 articles posted on this Blog since 5th November, 2009, one article that is consistently read even after more than five years of its posting is my following article:

The above article deals with Kapney and Patang – I am clueless as to why this article generates so much interest among the readers. Every once in a while this article shows up as one being read by the readers.

Equally popular article (7,137 pageviews) is my following article:

At 11,398 pageviews, my all time second most visited article happens to be:

At 6,948 pageviews so far, my following article ranks as the 5th most read article:

My two articles on the disgusting behavior of the Indian film actor Aamir Khan generated a staggering 42,339 pageviews. Sometimes I wonder if people are interested in meaningful posts?

My Blog stats show that the following articles have been read today:

Democracy Out Of A Carton Box?
27 Oct 2018

Lingzhi Yügyal Dzong: Bhutan’s Remotest Dzong
9 Oct 2012

Hydro-Power Madness
6 Dec 2016

Doklam Plateau And The Shifting Tri-junction Points
20 Aug 2017

Rotary Club of Thimphu Recognized in Australia
2 Nov 2016

Are Our School Drinking Water Safe to Drink?
7 May 2018

Rotary Club of Thimphu Service Projects
28 Jan 2018

The Sinking Dam Site of Bhutan's Biggest Hydro Power Project Under Construction
22 Feb 2018

Punatsangchhu Hydroelectric Project-I in Colombia?
13 Jun 2018,

WATER: The Next BIG Trouble: II
13 Aug 2014

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Democracy Out Of A Carton Box?

A friend in the US sent me a link to a reputable website on which the following photo of one of our voting compartments of the recently concluded 2018 General election is depicted. The caption underneath the photo reads as follows:

A woman votes in a polling station in Bhutan's capital Thimphu for the parliamentary elections in October 2018, when the small Himalayan kingdom held its third election since the elimination of absolute monarchy.

I looked at the image with a sinking feeling. I was horrified! Can’t we do a better job of building a more respectable looking voting compartment? If this is the state of affairs in the capital city, what must be happening in the rural areas? Why are we wasting time fooling around with democracy, if this is the level of our seriousness about it?

Democracy out of a taped up carton box?

Surely we are better than this? When are we going to put our minds to what we are doing? This is truly pathetic.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Catching The Bull By The Tail

Bhutan’s latest National Forest Inventory Report states that 71% of our land is under forest cover - rest are taken up by shifting cultivation, forest plantation, horticulture, pasture land, agriculture and human settlement. What is revealing is that only 5.5% of our total land mass is under agriculture farming. Small wonder than that we suffer from food insufficiency.

But it does not have to be this way. Bhutan has phenomenal climatic variation. Our staggering altitudinal range is unmatched - from 97 Mtrs. at the lowest point to 7,570 Mtrs. at the highest point. Add to that our water resources, which is among the highest in the world. All these conditions go to endow us with the most ideal conditions for agriculture production. Our good fortune does not stop here.

Bhutan is located bang in the middle of the world’s three most hungry nations - China to the North, India to the South and Bangladesh to the East. These nations’ consumptive powers are inexhaustible - they collectively represent the biggest market for food!

And yet, we keep talking of hydroelectricity at 60% loan money borrowed at 10% interest. What are we, DUMB?

We have the land, we have the water recourses, farming and farm work is in our blood – and yet agriculture sector remains neglected - to the point that we cannot even produce enough chilies that we eat for breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner, on a daily basis. A country that identifies itself with Emma Datsi does not grow enough chilies that we need to import the arsenic-ridden variety from across the border.

But Rotary Club of Thimphu is doing something about it. We have taken on agriculture as one of the three areas of our focus. We believe that agriculture production is key to development and economic progress. Thus we have been supporting rural farmers with farm machinery, solar fencing, green houses etc. - to encourage agriculture production.

Three Members of Bongo Agriculture Group flanked by RC Thimphu Club President Rtn. Tsewang Rinzing and Charter Member Rtn. Kesang Tshomo - during a briefing dinner yesterday evening. The agriculture group's 9-days trip to Thailand is being sponsored by the Rotary Club of Thimphu and a number of Clubs in Chiang Mai, Thailand, including a passionate social worker - Khun Viennarat Chuangwiwat - based in Bangkok. The Group Members will learn all aspects of organic farming. This project is a precursor to a larger project totaling US$ 49,000.00 that is being planned and implemented in the three villages of Bongo, Jungley and Phasuma, under Chhukha Dzongkhag, in collaboration with a Club in Malaysia, among others in the region.

The government has got the bull by the tail - we do not need to teach farming to the famers - what help they need is in marketing, distribution, storage, post harvest processing - primarily to be able to sell what they grow. Growing comes naturally to our farmers. They are hampered by lack of capability to market, transport, store, distribute, and package their produces. Once we assure them those --- the farmers will grow abundantly.

We no longer need to place our rivers under bondage - as collaterals for ill-conceived and poorly implemented hydropower projects on borrowed money at 10% interest.

We DO NOT NEED 10,000 MW of hydroelectricity. We are a country of less than 800,000 people that is not even the population of a small gully in suburban Shanghai. What we do NEED is 10 hardworking people who care enough to work hard at solving 20 small problems. We can do without those 1,000 people who think big and talk big and plan big - but achieve absolutely nothing.

It is about time that we learnt to focus at solving our small problems - the big ones will fall into place.

Monday, October 8, 2018

General Round of Bhutan’s 3rd Parliamentary Elections

The General round of Bhutan’s 3rd Parliamentary elections is scheduled to be held on October 18, 2018. On that day a section of the Bhutanese people will choose the party that will form the government, for the next 5 years.

This election is interesting on many fronts.

1. PDP - Many had believed that PDP would emerge the winner in the Primary rounds and even go on to win the elections to form the government for a second term. They were unceremoniously shunted out. Even more surprising, they fared poorly in the postal ballots, which caught many by surprise.

2. DNT - considered a rank outsider - dethroned the strident and swaggering PDP - to emerge the winner of the Primary round. The public perception was that they would trail a doubtful second, behind PDP.

3. DPT - to every body’s utter consternation - the DPT emerged victorious in the Primary rounds. In fact, in terms of number of constituencies won, they are the undisputed victors. Most had believed that DPT would soon cease to exist as a political entity. But just as the proverbial Phoenix rose from the ashes, so did DPT soar, from despondency to dominion - bringing home the truth about the unpredictable nature of politics.

4. BKP - seen by many as a party that would attempt to do the most right. Their promise to fight corruption should have gotten them truckloads of votes. Sadly it appears that fighting corruption is not on the priority list of the Bhutanese people - how poorly the party fared is proof of that.

The results of the Primary round are out in the open and there is no altering it. Now what is to be seen is how we will vote during the crucial General round, which is due on the 18th of October, 2018.

Will the Sharchops’ continue to remain doggedly unwavering in their loyalty towards their party of choice - the underdog DPT? Or will they capitulate to another round of lyrical renditions from the likes of Dasho Sonam Kinga and Ex-Police Chief Kipchu Tshering? While I personally remain unconvinced that their negativity made any difference at all, is it possible that the DNT President’s promise of a gaggle of Ministerial berths for the Eastern Dzongkhags would manage to wean away voters from the DPT? Will they change their minds at this critical juncture? We will have to wait and see. The Sharchop factor is key - and they make me jittery.

I am in no doubt that the Central votes will yet again go the DPT way. The Bumtaps are a willy lot, as are the Koortoeps. For the Bumtaps, it is CARPE DIEM! They are just too smart to let slip away an opportunity to elect a Prime Minister from their Dzongkhag. It is just too alluring.

Zhemgang has been a mixed bag for the DPT. While Lyonpo Dorji Wangdi is unshakable in his Panbang constituency, the Bardo-Trong constituency has been indecisive in the past. They voted for DPT in 2008 but against it in 2013. Encouragingly for the DPT, Zhemgang voted for them 100% during this Primary round. It is to be seen how they will vote during the General round.

I am not going to hazard a guess as to how the Western and Southern voters will behave. Voters in these two regions will have you believe that they are knowledgeable and learned in the selections they make. That they are inherently more astute than others, and that they know a thing or two about making informed choices. For all that, they make the most erroneous choices.

But I do believe that there might be an element of surprise awaiting the General round of elections.

My Take
In the General round it appears that the swing votes will be those from the West and the South. People are more or less convinced that DPT will sweep both Eastern and Central regions. I tend to agree - going by the primary results. Of the total 21 constituencies in these two regions, DPT won 20 constituencies. If this trend continues, DPT needs only 4 constituencies from the Southern and Western constituencies, to win the elections.

In addition to the total of 20 constituencies in the Eastern and Central regions, DPT also won one each from Paro and Samtsi - taking the total constituencies won to 22. This means that the DPT needs only 2 additional constituencies, to emerge the winner of the 2018 elections. Is this doable?

I think it is doable. Why? The following is my reasoning:

I think people of Haa and Wangdue are likely to wake up to the reality that they may be the only two Dzongkhags from where there will be no Ministers who will form the new cabinet. Now this is a big deal - people of Haa and Wangdue will realize that should the DPT win - and in all likelihood they will win - their Dzongkhags will have no Ministers to root for them. People of Haa and Wangdue are very competitive in nature and the fear that they might get left behind is bound to play on their minds. Is it likely that this very real eventuality might make them catapult in the last minute, and vote for DPT! Quite likely ---- and then again one never knows.

Finally, what intrigues me most is how the Indian government will behave, should the DPT win the elections. It is said that they believe that DPT is anti-India and pro-China. Regardless of how they perceive the party, the reality is that they will have to live with the party - for the next five years, should they come to power. Now, India can either decide that the meaningful way forward would be to reconcile their ways and show that India is behind Bhutan - regardless of the party in power, or they can continue to give DPT a hard time and edge them towards China. India will have to make that choice. But certainly from my point of view - should the DPT come to power, India would be presented this God sent opportunity to work at removing some serious misconceptions and put India-Bhutan relations on a more solid footing. It is becoming clear that people of Bhutan have increasingly become edgy about the deteriorating relationship between two long time friends. How India will treat DPT, if they do come to power, will demonstrate to the people of Bhutan whether they have Bhutan’s interests at heart, in addition to their own, which are no less legitimate.

Or, India can yet again repeat the kerosene and cooking gas withdrawal stunt.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Receding Glaciers That Feed the Mighty Punatsangchhu

Bhutan remains blissfully unaware that the region’s deposit of glaciers is drying up fast – at some places the ice has receded as high as 30 Mtrs. per year. Read the following:

In a report by ICIMOD, including eyewitness account to me by a Lunap horseman during my recent trip to Lunana this May, Lugge Tsho was none existent until the late 60’s – Swiss geologist Augusto Gansser-Biaggi first described it in 1970. This means this lake was formed by melting ice caused by global warming. In less than two and a half decades of its formation, Lugge Tsho in Lunana became the source of a major GLOF in October of 1994, killing 21 people.

The principal source of Punatsangchhu river is drying up. Bhutan's two biggest hydropower projects are stagnating on this river basin for the past many years - caused by "geological surprises"

Generation of hydro-electricity is solely dependent on continuous flow of water - but the continuity of the river flow is endangered by a situation where we are experiencing heightened level of global warming, causing receding of glaciers at alarming rates.

I do not believe that successful mitigation of climate change will result in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the face of proliferating industrial production to meet the needs of an ever-increasing human population, I would be truly surprised if we are able to halt further depletion of the ozone layer, let alone repair it.

The effects of global warming is showing us the way - it is now time for Bhutan to abandon the hydropower dream and move to other areas of investment where we are certain to succeed, and in areas where we have financial and management control. It would be suicidal to continue to tread the hydropower route, in the face of colossal disasters such as Punatsangchhu Hydro Electric Project  I & II, at 10% interest, on 60% loan money.

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Uncommon Common Forums

The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) is a regulatory authority - a facilitator charged with the responsibility to promote a healthy democratic culture, ensure fair play and safeguard ideals that would encourage enthusiastic participation in the democratic evolution, by the people of Bhutan for whom democracy is still a new concept. But I fear that the ECB - the torchbearer of the democratic process - has not been entirely democratic. On the contrary, I believe that they have violated the most fundamental of rights guaranteed by Article 7:2 of the Constitution of Bhutan.

The Common Forum dissertation is a great idea. Unfortunately, denying the candidates the freedom and the right to express themselves in a language of their choice has defeated the whole purpose behind the Common Forums. There is nothing democratic about the ECB requiring the candidates to express themselves in a language that they cannot speak. In fact I think this is infringement on the most basic of a human’s right.

The Kuensel’s article reproduced below clearly indicates that Common Forums are relevant. In fact one of the voters interviewed by the Kuensel’s reporter says that he did not attend the Common Forums of the past two elections because he did not understand what was being said. Another voter states that Common Forums in a language that they understand makes all the deference in making an informed choice.

One friend and reader of my Blog ( called me to say that she did not agree with me that the language of the Common Forms should be in any other language, other than Dzongkha. I asked her why – her answer was: Dzongkha is our national language. So I asked her: by that you mean Tsangla, Khengkha, Bumtap, Lhotsamkha, Brokkat ---- are not our national languages? I explained to her that any language identified with a bona fide Bhutanese citizen, and spoken within the boundaries of the territory of Bhutan – must and should qualify as a national language.

What is the logic in requiring candidates to speak in a language that they cannot speak? How is it meaningful to require voters to listen to a language that they cannot understand?

Other than to inhibit the democratic process, what meaningful purpose does it serve?

But I am encouraged - the ECB has now allowed the speaking of other languages - other than Dzongkha - during the informal Common Forums, whatever that means. I suppose, like our democracy, the ECB's evolutionary process is still incomplete. 😜