Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Down Memory Lane: The Karmic BHUTAN2020 SkyHydrant Water Filter Project

Hi David,

Thank you for your quick response. I am glad that you and Jean are well and safe.

Certainly you are one person in the whole world who I want to see - soon is not soon enough. Particularly because I resign from the Rotary Club of Thimphu as well as the Rotary fraternity – at the end of June, 2021. As you know, we have a Rotary Conference happening in July, 2021. It is my hope that you and Jean would make it to Bhutan for the Conference. Even if you cannot, please do try and re-route your return trip home from Taipei - through Bhutan - after attending the Rotary International Convention planned to be held there during mid June of 2021.

The one million dollars BHUTAN2020 Project is the Rotary Club of Thimphu’s single largest humanitarian project ever – we have never done or are ever likely to do a project at this scale. And I credit you entirely for it – for conceiving it and initiating it during your leadership of DAA. Bhutanese children have benefitted immensely from it. Fortunately the DAA leadership that took over from you continued to remain unfaltering in their support towards the project’s successful conclusion. Brian is determined to see the project completed by June 2021. Not only that he is committed to take the project beyond the planned 120 filters. Brian is due to ship 15 units of SkyHydrant MAX in the next few weeks. With this, DAA would have delivered close to 110 units of filters – meaning that we are on track to complete the project within the promised 3 years.

You may or may not remember – that the BHUTAN2020 project was almost Karmic – it was never supposed to have happened. Bhutan was nowhere within the radar of DAA. It was a pure chance happening.

Please pardon me for this long winding mail – but now that I am writing to you on the issue, I am taking this chance to make it a detailed mail – so that our Club Members who may not know how it all happened, would get to understand the context of the Project BHUTAN2020.

The seed for the idea for SkyHydrant water filters was first planted by the Malaysian Rotarian K K Looi - currently the Chair of Disaster Aid International. Quite extraordinarily, K K Looi’s arrival in Bhutan was yet another Karmic happenstance.

In 2017, our District Governor of RID 3292 informed us that the District Conference for the year would happen in Thimphu. We were ecstatic and embarked on making all the preparations. Unfortunately, at the last minute, the District reneged on their words and cancelled the District Conference. By then we had already spent hundreds of thousands – in preparation for the Conference. Cancelling the Conference was going to cost the Club millions in refunds and other costs. Already 160 participants had registered and paid for the Conference. Thus I proposed to the Members that we hold an international but Club level Rotary Conference – in place of the cancelled District Conference. The Members agreed and I proceeded to make the plans to host a Club level Conference targeted at international Rotarians. The Conference was a great success – we had a total of 175 including 15 participants from Bhutan. There was participation from more than 20 countries. The biggest contingent came from Malaysia – among whom was Rtn. K K Looi.

Rtn. K K Looi was one of the speakers during the Conference – and he spoke on a fascinating water filtration system called SkyHydrant. I was fascinated by it. Once he returned home, I wrote to KK and asked him to help us get some units of this fascinating filter. He wrote back saying that his club and the Disaster Aid Malaysia was too small to handle our request – he instead put me in touch with you.

I wrote to you – but you politely responded to say that DAA was busy with aid work for Nepal that was ravaged by the massive earthquake of 2015. I understood that you did not want to be over-extended – thus we went silent.

Then out of the blue a few months later, you communicated with me and said that there may be a possibility to offer Bhutan 2 SkyHydrant water filters – if I am able to work fast enough. You said I needed to arrange for visa and air passage and all other travel arrangements within 3 days – to move 2 filters and a DART Member of the DAA who was stranded in Nepal. Apparently the 2 SkyHydrants were destined for a location that was out of bounds for your team to visit – because a landslide had happened and the DART Member was not able to access the location. Thus you decided that you could fulfill my request – by diverting the filters from Nepal to Bhutan – instead of bringing it back to Australia. This was Karmic – and I was not about to let go this God-sent opportunity, to lay my hands on those fantastic filters.

Within a day and a half, I arranged everything – visa, hotel, air ticket – everything – for the DART Member Andrew Gunn to exit Kathmandu and travel to Bhutan and deliver and install the two filters. On 30th September, 2017 Andrew arrived at Paro where I went to receive him. Unfortunately – the selected sites of installation – Zhemgang HS and Yebilapsa CS – were cut off by roadblock. But I did not give up – I requested Andrew to train our local persons in the installation of the filters. Thus three member installation team of Bhutan Toilet Organization were put through a training course for 2 days – at the end of which Andrew was satisfied that they were now competent enough to carry out the installations independently.

Andrew went back a very happy man; with a wicked smile he promised to me that he would “bat” for me with you and your team at the DAA. We particularly requested him to pitch for us for the donation of 4 more filters for installation in our schools.

True to his word, Andrew successfully “batted” for us and managed to convince you and your team at the DAA to donate four more SkyHydrants – bringing the total installation of SkyHydrants to 6 Nos. DART Members Andrew Gunn and Phillip Gribble came for the installation of the second lot of 4 filters.

Seeing how beneficial the filters were for our school children, during one of our Club Meetings, I proposed that we invite you to Bhutan as our guest – to visit the schools where your filters were installed. You accepted the invitation and arrived in Bhutan on 5th March, 2018.

Consequently, on 9th March, 2018 during a farewell dinner hosted in your honor by the Club, you met the Education Minister and other dignitaries when a request was made to you to extent the donation of filters to 120 of Bhutan’s largest schools, which you readily accepted.

The initiative to deliver 120 SkyHydrants to 120 of Bhutan’s biggest schools, codenamed “BHUTAN2020” valued at $1.00 million was launch by you at the Rotary International Convention in Toronto, Canada on June 25, 2018.

Since then we never looked back. We are now all poised to complete the project dot on time – at the end of June, 2021.

You have moved on – but your legacy lives on.

We Thank You for your big-heartedness. Initially your successor Brian had serious doubts about being able to deliver the promise you made – but in a recent mail to me, he admitted that we are after all going to be able to deliver it – and even more.

Lastly, one other person who must get a mention and who was pivotal in making the BHUTAN2020 project a success is Madam Jamyang Choeden of the Ministry of Education. It was Karmic that she was then the Head of the SHND – the division in the Ministry of Education that looked after water supply to schools. Without her initiative and personal connections, the BHUTAN2020 would have floundered miserably. Through sheer dint of hard work and relentless pursuit, she succeeded in obtaining budgetary allocation of a substantial sum – to enable the SPBD to carry out the installations in the schools, and purchase fittings needed for the job. You may recall that she also acted as the host and guide to you, during your visit to Bhutan, as the representative of the Ministry of Education.

On behalf of he Bhutanese school children and on behalf of the Rotary Club of Thimphu, I once again Thank You for your generosity.

Bye and take care ... and keep safe.


  1. Beautiful gesture of you. So kind of the donors heart to save the lives of thousands of young innocent kids. We did it all together. Blessing in disguise for this God sent SkyHydrant water filter. Regards to whole team.
    Have a nice day!!!

  2. Hi Yeshey -It's a great, positive and happenstance story so well fleshed out by your good self. I never tire of the sensible, focused "enthusiasms" and nudges to karma of you and your team. Tashidelek for 2021 - up to July and beyond - and keep boiling up this blog. See you after some time��

    1. Hi Professor Shaw,

      Thank you for your visit and comments .... I hope you are keeping well and safe. Bye and take care