Saturday, October 31, 2020

King of Fresh Water Game Fishing

Feast your eyes on the following monster of a fish - called the Golden Mahseer (Tor putitora) - regarded as the king of fresh water game fishing. My own records of this fish are: 27 KGs in Tingtibi, 23 KGs in Sheytikharey, Kalikhola, 19 KGs in Harachhu, Wangdue, 15 KGs in Burichhu, Tsirang and 13 KGs in Piping, Chhukha.

The above fish was caught day-before-yesterday at Changchey, Tsirang. I have no idea what it weighed - but my guess is it would weigh about 20 KGs minimum. If you happen to hook this fish near a rush, your goose is cooked - it will drag you for close to a mile downstream. The trick ofcourse is to trick it to turn its head upstream so that it cannot make a dash against the current. If it turns its head downstream, a fish this size will most likely be not landed - you either run out of line or the fish will snap the line with sheer force of its pull. I have also known the fish to dash the lure against a boulder - in an attempt to unhook itself.

If you do manage to hook one of these beauties, I can guarantee you that the adrenaline rush would be well .... subliminal!

Mahseers are migratory fish - thus if it is still in Changchey - it can only mean that the fellow is a resident - a rarity but not uncommon. This is almost November - they should have already headed for the Bay of Bengal by now.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

BTFEC’s Grant for Waste Management

It is heart warming to read a report in the Kuensel of 22nd October, 2020 about the award of a grant of Nu.85.00 million by the Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation (BTFEC) - for waste management programs in the country. A homegrown grant making institution being able to provide such substantial funding should be a matter of pride for all Bhutanese. I have myself been a recipient of a grant from the BTFEC, for a conservation related work.

I offer my congratulations to the BTFEC management - for their very meaningful contribution to the nation and the people of Bhutan - particularly during these difficult times. I pray that they grow from strength to strength.

The Kuensel report should have elaborated on the projects that the funding will support, so that Bhutanese people are better informed of the monumental benefit this grant will accrue to the people of Bhutan.

From what I hear, the regulatory authority – National Environment Commission (NEC) – is the implementing agency that will implement the waste management projects. Of the diverse projects that are planned and due to be implemented by the NEC, their “National Management Plan for Bio-medical and Hazardous Wastes” is of interest and relevance to me in my capacity as the Club Secretary of the Rotary Club of Thimphu. This is because we are also involved in donating bio-medical waste incinerators to the Ministry of Health. As of now, we have committed to donate 2 units of medical waste incinerators of 30 KGs per cycle capacity. Funding for another 100KGs per cycle capacity incinerator has also been assured – including the possibility of 2 more – one each from South Korea and Honolulu. But we need to proceed with caution – complete one and then go on to the next. We are unwilling to venture into multiple projects at multiple sites, while the ongoing one is still in a state of limbo.

According to Ms. Pem Zam of Ministry of Health, in one of our meetings with the Ministry of Health, she confirmed that the UNDP is donating 3 units of incinerators to the Ministry of Health – of 300 KGs per cycle capacity. From all these it is clear that Bhutan will be pretty well equipment – as far as bio-medical incinerators are concerned.

So, what are being planned to be procured under the BTFEC funding? What is the present generation of waste by the hospitals across the country, and how are the incinerators planned to be distributed and of what capacities? The following are the numbers.


In Bhutan, wastes are identified and categorized under two broad waste types: (1) General Waste; and (2) Infectious Waste. These two waste types are further segregated into different types – 2 types under the general wastes and 7 types under the infectious wastes.  The waste types under the General Waste are:

1.  General Waste; and

2.  Food Waste

The waste types under the infectious wastes are categorized as follows:

1.  Pathological Waste

2.  Infectious/Hazardous Waste

3.  Pharmaceutical Waste

4.  Sharps

5.  Chemicals

6. Pressurized Waste; and

7.  Radioactive Waste

It is comforting to know that the Ministry of Health and the NEC has up-to-date data on the total number of health care centers around the country. The numbers recorded are as follows:

1. Referral Hospital                  1 No.

2. Regional/Central Hospitals 3 Nos.

3. Full fledged Hospitals        49 Nos.

4. Public Health Centers      186 Nos.

For the total health facilities indicated above, the following bio-medical incinerators, autoclaves and bio-medical vehicles are planned to be procured under the BTFEC and other available funding:

1. National incineration plant 1 No. 300 KGs per cycle capacity

2. Regional incineration plant 3 Nos. 200 KGs per cycle capacity

3. Hospital incineration plants 49 Nos. 10 KGs per cycle capacity

4. Public Health Centers 186 Nos. 5 KGs per cycle capacity

5. Autoclaves 186 Nos. 20 Ltrs. per hour capacity

6. Bio-medical vehicles 10 Nos. -

With the above incinerators and autoclaves, the following medical wastes will be safely incinerated. The waste generation records are as of end 2019 (since we are concerned with medical waste, we will limit the records to infectious waste categories):

It seems like planning has been rigorous but I do see a small mismatch. Given that each cycle of incineration would not be more than 2-3 hours per cycle, it appears that the capacities of incinerators planned seem like - overkill. Well, it could be that they are planning for the next 50 years or so. Still that may be overdoing things - the problem with technology is that it has a tendency to go obsolete within few years of its introduction. Thus, we need to be careful that we do not plan too far off into the future – we need to provide for newer and more efficient technologies that are sure to be introduced – in manufacturing as well as in the way wastes are processed. At some point in time soon, we Bhutanese people need to learn to bring synergy between what standards we set – and what our capabilities are in achieving those high standards that we invariably set. It is best to be realistic and be aware of our inherent shortcomings and set achievable standards and goals, and achieve them.

Regardless, some serious thinking seems to have gone into the Waste Management Plan that has been engineered by the NEC and the Health Ministry, and perhaps Thromdes.

If one were to look at the current level of waste generation at the hospitals, one notices that the largest waste generator is the JDWNRH – generating on an average 110.82 KGs per day. This means that even a 40 KGs incinerator working at 3 hours per cycle shifts can incinerate all the waste generated by our largest hospital.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

TAMRAPATRA of 1624 between Zhabdrung and King Ram Shah of Nepal

There is surely a hand of providence in my doing the history of Bhutan’s coinage. In the process of my research into the subject, I have come across discoveries that are uncommon and almost divinatory. Consider, for instance, my discovery of the following:

Sadly, the above refutes the written records that Chari Monastary was built in 1619-1620. It is recorded that Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal employed skilled Nepalese carpenters from Nepal, in the construction of Chari Monastery - his first monastery in Bhutan. Obviously the above Tamrapatra refers to that period. This ties in nicely with what Lam Kezang Chhoephel of APIC tells me - that the name Begana should be Balghar-Nang. Seemingly the Gorkhalese brought in during 1620/24 for the construction of the monastery were settled at Balghar-Nang above the present day Guru Lhakhang, close to Chari Monastery.

In his article on ancient Bhuan-Nepal relations, Dr. Suman Dhakal mentions about another visit to Kathmandu by the Zhabdrung, in 1640, during the rule of Dambar Shah when he brought back 40 to 50 Gorkhali families, led by their leader Bisan Thapa Magar. They were mostly artisans brought to help with the rebuilding/renovation of Dechenphodrang Dzong. The families were said to have been settled in places like Bebena, Pachu and Bel-Nang of Thimphu Valley.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Mischief & Callousness Galore!

The story of Bhutan’s coinage is one of mischief and utter callousness. The callousness begins in 1790 and it goes on to this day. The mischief begins in 1928 but ends in 1974.

The mischief begins with the first milled coin – the silver Thala of 1928 ordered by the second King, the die for which was engraved by an Englishman named A. P. Spencer. On the obverse die the word “Druk” was wrongly rendered. The following year in 1929, in an effort to correct the mistake, another order for 30,000 silver Thalas were placed on the Government Mint in Calcutta, India. The word “Druk” on the obverse die was corrected but yet again there was a mistake with the second issue as well – the mint used the same old reverse die of 1928 – resulting in mistake in the year of mintage. The year of minting should have been “Sa Drue Lo” (Earth Snake Year) - 1929. It came out “Sa Druk Lo” – (Earth Dragon Year) 1928.

This was during the British Raj era.

It seems like the second king was so frustrated that for the next 21 years he never issued coins – not until towards the end of his reign. Once again in 1950 he ordered the issue of fresh set of Thalas - this time not of silver but in alloy of copper and nickel – called cupro-nickel.

This was during the newly emerged Indian Republic era.

True to tradition, yet again the curpo-nickel Thalas issued in 1950 was full of mistakes. The mint used the faulty die of 1928 with the erroneously rendered word “Druk”. If that were not enough, incredibly even the reverse die was wrong – the year of mintage read “Sa Druk Lo” (1928). It should have been “Chaag Taag Lo” (1950). But this coin is perhaps among Bhutan’s rarest coins – in the process of my research, I have examined thousands of cupro-nickel Thalas – so far I have seen only three copies of cupro-nickle Thalas with the year of coinage marked as “Sa Druk Lo”, of which two are in my collection.

Four years later in 1954, the newly crowned Drukgyal Soompa ordered some more cupro-nickel Thalas. Incredibly, the mint used the same obverse die of 1928 with the faulty word “Druk”. This time the mint decided, quite rightly, to engrave a brand new reverse die for the coin. But yet again mischief was intended when they put a wrong date of mintage – “Chaag Taag Lo”. The year of coinage should have been “Shiing Taa Lo” – Wood Horse Year (1954).

Coinage beyond 1954 gets even more pathetic. Thus my book on Bhutan's coining journey stops at 1954.

For me personally, one thing has emerged from all these disheartening discoveries – that a man must know history – to truly appreciate what great men have lived before our time.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Breaking News

Four days back, on October 8, 2020, Bhutan saw the successful installation and demonstration of a first-of-a-kind incinerator in the country: incinerator that is capable of incinerating bio-medical and hazardous waste, efficiently and safely. The incinerator installed at Memelakha incineration facility can generate heat up-to 1,200++ degrees centigrade. During the demonstration attended by the Health Ministry officials and the regulators - NEC, the heat inside the incinerator’s chamber was cranked up to 900++ degrees centigrade. Even at that level of heat, it was seen that there was total and complete combustion of the waste fed into the incinerator. This was evidenced by the incinerator’s chimney emitting no visible smoke.

A medical waste incinerator must ensure that there is complete combustion and that there is no emission of smoke. Smoke is nothing but minute unburned particles coming together and making it visible to the naked eyes. Any smoke and it is clear that total combustion is not happening – thus unsafe for incinerating hazardous medical waste.

COVIND-19 waste arrive at the Memelakha incineration facility of the Ministry of Health

The first-of-its-kind medical waste incinerator being prepared for firing

Health and NEC officials inspect the incinerator inside the shed

COVID-19 waste loaded into the incinerator for incineration

We understand that the UNDP is donating 3 large capacity incinerators to the Ministry of Health to incinerate the increasing generation of waste from quarantine centers, isolation centers and hospitals where COVID-19 cases are treated.

The Rotary Club of Thimphu is donating 3 units of same technology incinerators to the Ministry of Health – totaling US$ 91,000.00++.

Bhutan and the Bhutanese people are so much safer from COVID-19 virus, as a consequence of the combined efforts of the UNDP and the Rotary Club of Thimphu – in contributing towards safe and efficient disposal of COVID-19 infected waste. However, that is only one side of the story - the other side is that there is a raging debate that incineration releases pollutants that are bad for the environment.