Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Honoring A Brilliant Reader

I am not sure if anyone else can rival me in Bhutan – in the number of blog posts. As of today, including this post, statistics show that my Blog has a staggering 903 articles!

In truth the number does not matter – what matters is the quality of readers that a blog attracts. Over the years, there have been some seriously intense readers who have left some brilliant comments on a number of my posts - comments that are more substantive than the post itself. In honoring one of them, I reproduce below a reader’s comments on my blog on the subject surrounding the construction of the very illegal and environmentally disastrous Shingkhar-Gorgan road.

Beautiful traditional homes in Shingkhar village, Bumthang - in the brilliant morning sun



September 22, 2011 at 9:45 PM

Talk about MPs playing politics. Any construction in the core zone of the national park is in violation of the Forest & Nature Conservation Act. Where is due process of law here? The procedure is illegal, yet no MP wants to raise it because they want to appease the vote banks in Lhuentse. Quite a different response from the MPs than with the Tobacco Control Act incident, right? BUT, why the difference, if not politics? It is not OK to violate an Act when it suits them, and then they will look the other way if doesn't suit their needs. Rubbish!

Poverty alleviation of our people should certainly be a priority, but at what cost? And will this really be achieved by this 'farm road'? One can debate it either way. With a road comes shops, workers' camps and other settlement that will eat into the otherwise pristine forest (frankly 'pristine forests' are very less in Bhutan - there's cattle and human disturbance everywhere). The more you infiltrate into wildlife habitat, the more conflicts with wildlife you should expect. Then we will lament about poverty alleviation again when tigers and wild dogs kill cattle.

What is with the PM's claim that there is insufficient data that this place is biologically important. Who does he need to hear it from, a foreign expert, a McKinsey consultant, the BBC, or will he have some faith in the Bhutanese for a change? Again, go on, build a lousy road with questionable benefit if that is what you think will get you more votes, but PLEASE don't tell the world that the government cares about the environment. This is not a ploy to be used as you please, let's just be true to ourselves. Let's do away with all parks and reserves, then, what is the point? I find the carbon emission reduction argument equally hilarious. Here the problem is intrusion into the core zone of a national park, not global warming. They are equally important concerns, but different. Even if the road does reduce carbon emission as a result (as claimed by supporters) it does not solve the issue of intrusion into prime tiger habitat AND violation of a national Act.

There's a rumor that the Agriculture minister threatened to resign if the road went ahead as planned - I heard this from a credible senior official. I would believe this to be true - he is a man with integrity. What we need for poverty alleviation is innovation, not a lame-ass excuse of a road with a questionable future. Tourism should come as people coming on luxury treks from Ura to Lhuntse, knowing that they are hiking or riding horses in tiger territory, or on well planned birding trips, homestays involving locals, not Thimphu elites. A bad road will only allow people from Thimphu and those with expensive cars to reach Lhuntse faster. How this will alleviate poverty is to be seen. Bhutan's innovation has stopped at hydropower and roads. We need a new cabinet, seriously. Away with the old ministers who have been around forever. Seriously.

The highway downgrading to a farm road may be indication of the government rescinding or retracting from the earlier, more adamant stand. That may be a good sign, BUT this is only the beginning, we need a good precedence. Democracy should involve all stakeholders - the government alone does not represent Bhutan.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

A Green Revolution In The Making

It is sad that I have to see this during my lifetime – the Royal Government of Bhutan being forced to step in and take over farming from the farming communities of the country. Obviously the Bhutanese farmers have lost their farming skills – causing the government to step in and rescue them from their core competence – agriculture production. For me, it is an insult at a personal level – I had always held the view that farming came naturally to the Bhutanese farmers – obviously that is no longer true.

Bhutan is supposed to be an agrarian society with farming and farm production as the mainstay of the majority of our livelihoods. If the Farm Machinery Corporation Limited (FMCL) of the Ministry of Agriculture has been forced to step in into the domain of the farmers – like the civil service – it is clear that the farmers have failed the country. So they deserve what is due to them – the BOOT!

Future of farming in Bhutan

I wish the FMCL all the best in their endeavors. Their success will translate into food security for the Bhutanese people – an aspiration that we have long pursued – something that obviously the Bhutanese farmers could not deliver. As an agency of the RGoB with superior financial muscle and technical competence, no one should be in doubt of the stupendous success that FMCL will bring, for the benefit of the Bhutanese people.

Given the financial resources and technical competence at their disposal, and being mindful of the country’s commitment towards environmental conservation, we expect that the FMCL will behave more responsibly then the illiterate farmers, and ensure that their farming enterprises do not cause damage to the environment. My worry stems from the fact that they plan to grow their farm produces inside plastic/poly sheet Green Houses. It is my belief that they would use biodegradable plastics/poly sheets for the hundreds of Green Houses they promise to install across the length and breadth of the country. And, in fulfillment of the government’s commitment to achieve 100% organic status by 2035, no doubt the FMCL, as a government agency, would do away with the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. We expect them to be more responsible than the illiterate farmers.

The FMCL will show the way!

I am sorry for the country’s farming community - for being managed out. For sure the government would have determined that the farmers were incompetent at their jobs – if they were not, the government’s preferred option would have been to plough in the available funds - to strengthen the competencies of the farming community through mechanization and improved methods of farming and diversification of farm produces – rather than take the unprecedented step of the government taking over the jobs of the farmers.

Let this serve as a warning to the country’s farming community – that if they don’t buck up, there may come a day when the government may be forced to consider nationalizing farming activity!

Saturday, March 26, 2022

The Famous Zoro is Silent Key

I am saddened to read of the sad demise of Mr. Yasuo Miyazawa of Japan. May he rest in peace - I offer my condolences to his family and pray that they have the strength to bear the loss of a man who was a trailblazer in the strictest sense of the word.

The following KUELSEL report presents only one part of his engagement with Bhutan. What few Bhutanese are unaware of is the other side of him – that which binds him to Bhutan forever.
Mr. Yasuo Miyazawa of Japan, Mr. Jim Smith of Australia and Dr. Glenn Johnson of the US have their places in the modern history of Bhutan – particularly in the wireless communications area. Three of them helped Bhutan get back on the amateur radio airwaves – after being silent for decades as of early 70’s.

After close to 30 years of being inactive, Mr. Jim Smith of Australia convinced late Dasho Thuji Yonten, erstwhile Director of Wireless, to come back on the ham radio airwaves – Dasho Yonten went live on 27th of April, 2000. It was a world event – reported by DX News Network, on 29th April, 2000, as follows:

“The second happy news is that Yonten, A51TY has been back on the air since 27 April at 12.01 UTC. He made his first CW (with RW0JR) and SSB (with VK9NL) QSOs on 20 metres”.

Dr. Glenn Johson, an American Orthopedic surgeon and my friend conducted the first ITU certified/designated Ham Radio training course for 7 Bhutanese operators – of which I was one. Upon passing the exams at the end of one-month course I was issued my CallSign A51AA. In recognition of his service to Bhutan, Dr. Glenn Johnson is one among two none-nationals to be issued a CallSign with a national prefix: A51B - for life.

Mr. Yasuo Miyazawa of Japan contributed close to US$100,000.00 in cash and equipment that helped restart ham radio activity in Bhutan. Four Bhutanese (I was one among them) were invited to visit Mr. Miyazawa at his home in Japan – to receive the donation.

Me posing in front of Tokyo Hyatt Regency when I went to Japan to receive the donations from Zoro

He is the other person who has the distinction of being issued a CallSign with national prefix – A51. He was issued the unique CallSign A51A that he was free to use for life – anytime he wished to operate from within Bhutan.

I am given to understand that Mr. Miyazawa maintained a Ham Shack at the Royal Thimphu College from where he operated whenever he was in Bhutan.

Mr. Miyazawa is famous around the world particularly in the global ham radio circle where he is affectionately known as “ZORO” - a fictional Japanese character in One Piece franchise created by Eiichiro Oda. Zoro is depicted as an expert of Santoryu (Three Sword Style).

I cannot be certain but I think Mr. Miyazawa was nicknamed “Zoro” for his dare-devilry.

I am not sure how far it is true – but rumor has it that Zoro had to go underground for close to ten years - after he was caught donating almost a shipload of merchandize – free to the North Korean regime. The reason for his donation to the “forbidden land”? – the permission to operate ham radio from that country where it was banned and not a single radio amateur in the world had a QSO from that country – until Zoro started to send out signals from that country, upon gaining permission to operate from North Korea, made possible by his massive donation.

Because he was underground I had a huge problem trying to locate him. But I finally did – through his Personal Secretary – whose contact details were provided to me by one of his staff working at his Research Center in the North Pole.

He was a generous man. A Japanese guest attending the dinner that Mr. Zoro had hosted in our honor, was shocked that he served bucketful of Matsutake Mushrooms (Sangey Shamu) during the dinner. The person informed me that the mushroom was so expensive that most Japanese could not afford to eat them. Should they received one as a New Year Gift – they passed it on to another family as their gift and it went on like that from family to family.

Talking of ham radio, I have been trying to promote its use in Bhutan. I tried with the Disaster Management people – no go. I tried with the DeSuung organization – the suggestion is still in a state of limbo. But ham radio is the only communications method that will be standing – when every other form of communications go down, including electricity. You can operate/broadcast it from atop the Mt. Everest or from the middle of the boundless ocean.

Supposedly this was the Ham Radio Shack - called a QTH in ham parlance - from where Bhutan started to broadcast ham radio signals - as early as 1955 - first by N. Chawna and then by S. Saja and by the American Gus Browning and finally by Dasho Thuji Yonten in 1972, including by a civil wireless operator by the name of H. N. Pradhan of Samtse. This wireless station was located at Wirelesspang - above Dechenchholing Palace - one cannot fail to notice the wireless antenna in front of the Shack.
For the first time Bhutan went on the ham radio airwaves in 1954 - from a place called Rida in Wangduephodrang. The wireless set was operated by N. Chawna, a wireless instructor, who accompanied His Majesty the Third King during his tour of the Eastern Bhutan.

NOTE: When a ham radio operator passes away, we say he has gone "Silent Key".

Friday, March 25, 2022

Testing The Bird Photographers’ Presence of Mind

For casual bird photographers – such as birders, bird guides and ornithologists, just getting an image of a bird will suffice – they only need them for identification purpose, or for record or to study the feather patterns and their colors. But professional bird photographers like myself – we need the images at a different class altogether. We need them clear, sharp, well framed and, above all, UNCLUTTERED. There is where our agony is – getting them uncluttered.

Cluttered and crowded from all sides

Sharp, clear, well framed and UNCLUTTERED!

Birds feed in thick foliage and under dimly lit forest undergrowth. In some cases, many weeks and months and hundreds of hours will go into acquiring an image that is acceptable to a professional. At times we get so frustrated – we are forced to resort to trickery! The following image is an example of a trickery executed by me.

Flipped in a way that is naturally IMPOSSIBLE!

The bird image is that of the pretty and colorful Red-headed Bullfinch. It is portrayed feeding on a plant with a seedhead - called Elsholtzia densa Bentham, as identified by our botanist Ms. Rebecca Pradhan.

Two of the Elsholtzia plant species on which the Red-headed Bullfinch feed during the winter months. They eat the dry seeds found in the seedheads of the plants

A sub-adult Red-headed Bullfinch feeding on the dry seeds of the Elsholtzia Fruticosa (D.Don) Rehder plant

In order to test the presence of mind of the Society Members, I posted the above image in the Group Chat of Bhutan Birdlife Society consisting of current membership of 296, who are either birders, bird photographers or birding guides or ornithologists. I asked them to point out the flaw in the image. One Member – Chencho Wangdi – responded thus:

“Good Morning Yeshey Sir. The photo should be upward”:

Originally shot in a vertical format

He is spot on - meaning that his presence of mind is very good!! I had flipped the image so that the bird is presented feeding on a horizontal Elsholtzia densa Bentham plant. I did this to see if the Members would notice the flaw in the image.

Elsholtzia densa Bentham always grows vertically – not horizontally. Thus it is impossible that the bird is feeding on a vertical Elsholtzia densa Bentham plant.

A cluster of Elsholtzia densa Bentham plants. The plants grow so close to each other that it is near impossible to get an uncluttered image. The plant grows vertically and has no horizontal branches. Thus it is not possible to present an image with the bird perched on a horizontal plant/branch

But there is still a lesson here – that if it is difficult or impossible to shoot a bird aesthetically in the horizontal format, shoot it in a vertical format – and then convert it into a horizontal format, post-shooting. However, make sure that you do not make a silly mistake like my demonstration.

Depending on the placement of the image on a page, I regularly flip images. One reason why I do this is because I do not like vertically oriented images - and I do not like my images facing outward. Thus a bird image that is destined to be placed on the right hand page, I will flip the image so that the bird is looking inward and not outward.

The image on the right is the same as the one on the left - but flipped to face left - so that the image is not facing outwards

As a rule, your image has to always be facing inward. It is for this reason that you allocate more space in the front of the image – to give it space – so that the image is not looking too crammed.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Plastic Ban: Unenforced For The Past 20 Years

What is constant in Bhutan is that strangest and the most incredible things are a routine occurrence in a country we believe to be unique. Take, for instance, the following Kuensel’s news item:
Paradoxical: The plastic ban remained unenforced for the past 20 years - but it will be reinforced - perhaps 20 years from hence

The headline reads, “Waste flagship programme to reinforce plastic ban”. By their own admission, the NEC had never enforced the ban for the past 20 years since its pronouncement. So how can they be “reinforcing” it? By the way, I submitted my views in writing to the government on the 19th of June, 2020 – that it is tantamount to conflict of interest - for a regulator to be appointed an implementing agency. This was in regard to “Waste Management and Stray Dogs Population Control Flagship Program” being put under the NEC. I do not know what has happened since.

According to the above Kuensel report, a business entity called DSA Enterprise in Thimphu imports biodegradable plastics but was verbally (not in writing) restrained from doing so on grounds that their variety of merchandize was harmful to the soil. The business house, on the other hand, claimed to the Kuensel that laboratory tests carried out by the company to ascertain if their product contained any harmful chemicals came out negative. So, who is lying here, and why?

Another thing I learnt from the above Kuensel report is that the plastic ban applies to the plastic carry bags and not to the clear plastic bags that people pack vegetables and fruits or pulses. Does this mean that the clear plastic bags are environment-friendly?

Plastics are bad – there is no doubt about that. Regulators cannot take 20 years to enforce the ban. On my part, as a responsible citizen, I have done my little part. In my capacity as the Club Secretary of the Rotary Club of Thimphu I managed to push through a resolution by the Rotary Club of Thimphu, on 3rd of September, 2021 that reads as follows:

In a landmark decision during the Club’s Weekly Meeting on Friday the 3rd of September, 2021, the Rotary Club of Thimphu resolved as follows:

Rtn. Yeshey Dorji proposed to the Members that our Club should henceforth decline all and any projects that have components of supply of non-biodegradable Shed Nets, Green Houses and Mulching Plastics. He said that supporting projects that require these environmentally harmful plastics is in conflict with Bhutan’s environmental friendly image. He said that the Club could, however, accept the donation of plastics that are bio-degradable and harmless to the environment.

The Club President and other Members present in the Meeting agreed with the proposal and said that we should do nothing that would contribute to environmental degradation. Additionally the Members were reminded that as of this Rotary Year 2021-2022, Rotary International had adopted a new and its 7th area of focus – ENVIRONMENT. Thus in keeping with the Rotary International’s endeavors to support the protection of the environment, all the Members agreed that Rotary Club of Thimphu will forthwith not support any agriculture projects that have components of supply of non-biodegradable shed nets, green houses and mulching plastics.

Please read more about it at:

One of the reasons why the NEC’s enforcement and regulation and monitoring have been poor has been explained thus:

“Moreover, the lack of inspectors is a challenge, he added”.

Strangely the same explanation – of lack of adequate number of inspectors – has been cited to me as the reason why the Tourism Council of Bhutan has been failing miserably in their regulatory and enforcement functions. Arising out of a most inappropriate behavior of a tourist guide on duty at Wangdue, where I saw that he was not wearing his Guide’s Badge and had his legs on the table, I was disgusted by his behavior and pulled him up by saying that it does not matter that the tourists milling all around him in the Reception area were not his guests – but that they were guests of the country. Thus he has to demonstrate the right behavior and attitude towards the visitors – regardless of whether they were his guests or not. I was so infuriated by the experience that upon return to Thimphu I immediately went to the TCB and took up the issue with them. I asked why the TCB was not monitoring such behavior from the guides when they have issued close to two dozen Do’s and Don’ts for the guides.

The Chief of the Division gave me the same excuse – that the RCSC was not giving them additional manpower to strengthen their hand in regulation and enforcement and monitoring. Now here is a piece of incomprehension that is truly baffling.

The government keeps telling us that youth unemployment is the biggest problem facing the country. If that is the case why are government departments plagued with shortage of manpower to do their jobs? Something is totally wrong here – youth leaving the country because they have no job opportunities within the country – while government institutions are moaning away that they are short of manpower.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Splendid Incompetence

It has finally happened – the Ministry of Agriculture, Royal Government of Bhutan has, after close to half a century, finally begun to make a hazy sense of the difference between the terms “Buyback” and “Incentive”. You can now get a sense of why 50% of RCSC’s top bureaucrats have been elected to be put to pasture. I say that it has to be 95% and not 50%, that needs to be “managed out”.

The country’s agriculture sector is in the doldrums because the bureaucrats at the Ministry of Agriculture have no idea what they are saying – even worst, they are clueless as to what they are doing, or not doing.

Can you imagine confusing “Buyback” for “Incentive”, that too for many decades? I got so frustrated at the mindlessness of the Agriculture Ministry that I blogged on the subject on June 6, 2020 titled “Buyback: The Miss-Coined & Misunderstood Concept” – please read at the following:

Ofcourse other Ministries are no less incompetent – but the Ministry of Agriculture takes the cake. In a concise form, look at few of the following:


While the Tibetans across the boarder freely walked over and plundered billions worth of the pricey Cordyceps from our highlands for over a century, the Bhutanese people were banned from harvesting it - spanning many decades. Only in 2004 its collection was allowed! I can guarantee you that the ban was put in place for some truly idiotic reason – such as sin - not realizing that by the time the amalgamation turns into Cordyceps – they are completely dead and lifeless things.


Bhutan claims to have 71% forest coverage – and yet in 2019 Bhutan imported Nu.3.00 billion worth of timber from outside the country. This in the face of our own mismanaged forest stand rotting and degrading the quality of our timber stock. Billions worth of revenue is rotting in our forests while sucking up ground water and causing water shortage in the land of water plenty. And I am told that the Ministry of Agriculture has the largest number of officials who are PhD certified.


One of the names by which Bhutan was known was “Lhojong Menjong – Southern Country of Medicinal Herbs”. We are rich in a large variety of medicinal herbs – we can earn billions from harvesting them and marketing them to India and the third countries. But we will not do this – instead, we will place a ban on their harvest and collection, and allow it to rot away – like our timber – year after year.


The Bhutanese people consume chillies for breakfast lunch and dinner - we even snack it. And yet, the Ministry of Agriculture is so incompetent that they have not been able to help Bhutanese farmers produce even one produce of daily consumption - the chillies. We import hundreds of millions worth of chillies.


The Ministry of Agriculture announced their new date of 2035 – the year by which they promise to convert Bhutan into a country that will achieve 100% organic farming. And yet, even today the Ministry officially distributes none-organic pesticides and fertilizers to farmers. The shameful truth is that the officials at the Ministry appears to be clueless about what the global standard is – to be certified as truly “organic”.


The Ministry of Agriculture and their incompetence is a direct cause for the creation of Goongtongs in the rural villages. They are also in part responsible for the exodus of youth to Australia and the Middle Eastern countries. Why would the youth seek opportunities within the country when conditions are not ideal for entrepreneurial innovation? The fall out of this is actually so terribly inhuman. During my study of the malice called Goongtoongs few years back, I came face to face with the unspoken tragedy of the malice – the old and the frail are left to fend for themselves – because the villages are empty of young hands.

What population remains in rural Bhutan look like them

I can go on – but you get the gist of why agriculture production has been declining over the years. I ask you - how long can we go on like this?

Friday, March 18, 2022

Preparing for the Inevitable Surge

The New York Times reported that:

“China is grappling with its largest surge of Covid-19 infections since the coronavirus first emerged more than two years ago in central China. Sustained outbreaks in two-thirds of the country’s provinces are proving the toughest test yet of China’s zero-tolerance coronavirus policy.”

This is truly worrisome – this means that even after two years one can never be too certain about the virus. It is not yet clear if it is the Omicron or some brand new variant that is sweeping the country of some 1.4 billion.

The variants of Corona virus since it was first reported on 31st December, 2019

It should now be clear to us what we must do: continue the implementation of the cautious easing of the lockdowns that is already under way – but side-by-side, prepare for an eventuality of an even more overwhelming surge in new cases in the community – anytime and without any warnings.

As I keep saying, the pandemic situation will improve only once the Bhutanese people start to be responsible and disciplined – a possibility that is an impossibility. The Kuensel’s front-page image of crowding that had happened day-before-yesterday in Mongar is proof that we will never ever act responsibly. The people mindlessly risked their lives and those of others - for the possibility of saving about Nu.300.00 in reduced petrol/diesel prices.

The most recent record of new COVID-19 cases in Bhutan. As of 16th March, 2022, 17 of Bhutan's 20 Dzongkhags have recorded COVID-19 cases, Lhuentse Dzongkhag being the latest to join the Club, with 17 positive cases. As of today Gasa, Tashigang and Tashi Yangtse Dzongkhags are free of COVID-19

The government must go with the reality that we will soon be overwhelmed as a result of the easing of the lockdowns. That is as sure as night and day. I had already given my views a long time back – that the most critical preparatory work we must embark on are two:


I can imagine how over-worked and stressed the health workers must be – the lapses that had happened in recent times could be the result of tired and worn out health workers having to work long and stressful hours. Thus we need to train additional casual health workers – so that the workload on the health workers is reduced. This will ensure that professional health workers are available for routine medical cases at the hospitals, which must be on the rise - brought on by the pandemic related difficulties.


Prepare and be ready with sufficient quarantine/isolation facilities to accommodate the positive cases. First stop: schools spread across the country. When the time comes, they could be used as isolation/quarantine accommodations. Schools have the structures in place – the government need not spend on building new facilities. There is only one problem – the toilets. Based on my personal experience during my time with the Rotary, toilets in 90% of the schools are dysfunctional or are in dilapidated condition. Thus the government should consider investing in doing up the toilets (repairing the existing ones) and additionally install more toilets - so that the children have better and working toilets – at the same time they are ready – should the schools need to be used as quarantine/isolation facilities.

I am not supporting lockdowns – but you can be sure that it is coming. If 3/4th of Chinese provinces can be overwhelmed after having remained calm and controlled for two years, there is no reason why this cannot happen in Bhutan – particularly given that we are willing to throw all care to the winds – for the prospect of saving Nu.300.00 or so. I understand that day-before-yesterday some vehicle owners at Motithang fuel station were fined – for being on the road without an e-Pass and for breaching COVID-19 Protocol.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

A Joke In Poor Taste!

Generally I am out of the house by about 6.30AM – headed into the woods to do bird photography. But this morning I cancelled the program and instead decided to do some reading.

The online media "FeedSpot" had sent me the following link, which I find puzzling.

It is obviously intended to be a joke - look at them giggle and guffaw

According to the above link, Bhutan is reported to be reopening for tourism, with the launch of the Trans Bhutan Trail – on 20th March, 2022 – three days from now.

Is this a hoax? Because no such announcement has so far been made by the TCB or the Royal Government of Bhutan. Bhutan’s Tour Operators, including ABTO and other industry players are clueless about the re-opening.

If the report in the international circle is true – it is bloody good news and it is about time. However, opening up tourism so abruptly – particularly while the country is still under lockdown is a terrible move. The industry players need time to prepare to welcome the tourists. Linens must be washed and ironed, guides should be reinstated; announcement of the re-opening should be conveyed to foreign agents well in advance, etc. etc.

I hope the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) will bring some clarity to this foreign report. I am hoping that this is a prank being pulled on Bhutan’s tourism industry by someone – for want of anything better to do.

Strangely the article says "Trans Bhutan Trail can arrange all aspects of guided walking and biking on the trail....". It appears that the reporter is unaware that conducting trekking/walking/biking or any other tourism related activities can only be performed by licensed local tour operators.

But I can tell you this joke is in poor taste, if it is a joke. Bhutan’s tourism industry is, as I have said many times before, a “net gain industry”. It is the biggest employer and second largest industry in terms of earning. Thus, there is no room for jokes where this industry is concerned. I have personally battled hard to protect this industry – it is in everyone’s interest not to fool around with Bhutan’s tourism industry.

If anyone has any information on this prank, please share.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Burst My Bubble!

On the morning of 12th March, 2022 I woke up a much sprightlier person – in the knowledge that next day we would all be delivered out of our prolonged Bardo. First thing I did was wash my car to a squeaky sparkle – it is finally going to see some action the following day: 13th March, 2022 – I need to go to town to buy a tube of QuickFix glue – to mend my fangled camera tripod.

Sadly when the Press Release was issued by the PMO, the lockdown was not lifted entirely as people had hoped. What has been announced is a systematic approach to how the lockdown would be eased over the coming days. I am not in the social media other than BlogSpot – thus I have not read what was being said but I am told that there is a humongous uproar over the matter.

Some friends made fun of me - "Your car is all clean and sparkling - where are you going?"

Someone forwarded me the PMO’s Press Release – I did not find it necessary to read through all that was written – my areas of interest were two: Can I move freely without timing and without having to dangle the Movement Card on my neck? When am I allowed to drive?

It is sad how the Bhutanese people are behaving – they make out as if His Majesty the King and the government are in some kind of conspiracy to bring pain and hardship to the people of Bhutan.

For the past more than two years, at the core of what His Majesty the King and the Royal Government of Bhutan has been doing is trying to safeguard the health and lives of the people. I am in agreement with the rest of the population – that livelihood has been put on the back burner.

But what is livelihood without life? How can people find fault in the King and the government prioritizing life over everything else?

It became clear to me that any time soon, great pressure would be brought to bear on the government and it is for that reason that some of my recent blog posts carry terms such as:

February 11, 2022 “Stop Grumbling”
February 18, 2022 “The lockdowns will ease the day the Bhutanese people begin to think
February 19, 2022 “Remain Calm & Realistic: DO NOT PANIC”
February 19, 2022 “Misjudgments are most often committed during panic situations”
March 1, 2022 “Jumping the gun”
March 1, 2022 “Avoid getting into a situation when we have to say “I AM SORRY”

These words were written as cautionary words directed towards the government to simply say that: The people will put pressure and they will grumble – but the government must not be hasty in their decisions, that no decisions should be made under pressure – that they should do nothing before time.

The current situation is that Thimphu has now overtaken Phuentsholing in number of new cases – almost double, indicating that “jumping the gun” may have already taken place.

Alarming number of new COVID-19 cases. Thimphu is now the new capital of the pandemic

I am not supporting lockdowns – but I am supporting the science and wisdom behind the government’s cautious approach to lifting the lockdown. Citizens must also realize that we have to place our trust in the King and the government – after all it is in their job description to get us all out of this situation. If not, who else can we trust? They wield the authority and the expertise to do what is best for us. The least we can do is support the King and the government in their endeavors.  

My advise to the government: Please take heed of some sound advises that should be emerging from all the cacophony in the social media – but at the end you have to take the decisions as best you can – the decisions will have to be yours alone. After all, should the cookie crumble – you alone must stand to face the music. It would be lame to justify that people pressurized you into taking wrong decisions. It should also be understood that it would be unwise to take the route that other countries have taken – because our compulsions are unique to those of theirs.

The canines will bark but the caravan must keep moving unhindered!

Sunday, March 13, 2022

In Photography There Is No Such Thing As PERFECT

Having spent decades doing photography, I have come to learn that there is no such thing as a perfect shot. Every time you decide that it cannot get any better, it does get better. Look at the following two images of my continuing romance with this dainty little fellow.

The image assumed near perfect

Look at the beautiful Bokeh in the background of the second image

I thought that with the acquisition of the first image, I had just about got the most perfect image possible of the dainty little birdie called Winter Wren. But this morning I photographed it once again – only to find that it is even better then the last one. This morning’s image – the second photo – is, in my view, far superior then the last. The reason is the framing and the awesome background of the image – the overall impact is much more attractive than the first.

Please decide for yourself. This is something I have always told the young and upcoming photographers – that it is not necessarily the subject that makes the image – sometimes it is the ambience!

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Is It Dzongkha or Zhungkha?

With due respect to one Mr. Namgay Wangchuk who authored the following article in today’s Kuensel, I would like to offer my point of view on the issue, which is in variance to that of his.
The only language that identifies with the nation is the "National Language" - the Dzongkha

I take exception to three of his assertions/none assertions:

1.  He chooses to employ the singular form when he refers to the “National Language”. This would imply that there is only one language spoken within the nation.

2.  He implies, in fact he states categorically, that the language spoken and taught in the schools - Dzongkha - is the “national language” - the implication of which is that all other languages spoken within the country are languages of the none-nationals - those of the aliens - not languages of the nation.

3.  In the entire piece of his writing Mr. Namgay Wangchuk does not make a single mention of other more than a dozen languages spoken within the nation - as if they were inconsequential.

Salt is rubbed to the injury when he says that highest form of patriotism is when you are proficient in the national language - calling to question the none-Dzongkha speakers’ sense of patriotism. I think this is a manner of speaking - I am quiet certain that he did not mean it. 

To be fair, Mr. Namgay Wangchuk is not alone in this ongoing duplicity – almost all Bhutanese refer to the language spoken by the Ngalongs as the “Dzongkha” and attribute it as the national language. This is incorrect - you cannot single out one language as the national language of Bhutan. All other languages spoken within Bhutan are too all national languages of the Bhutanese nation.

I know that no malice is intended - it is a case of the famous Bhutanese mindlessness - words spoken thoughtlessly.

For sometime now I have been trying to tell fellow Bhutanese that it is not correct that we should refer to Dzongkha as the "national language". In my openion, the correct nomenclature would be that we refer to it as Zhungkha - the “Principal Language”. Why principal? Because this is a language most commonly spoken by most of the Bhutanese across the country. Because our script is in it. Because we need a Zhungkha - a common language - so that majority of Bhutanese can find ease in communicating with other ethnic groups with different mother tongues.

According to my late father, “Dzongkha” means “language of the Dzong”. Thus, according to him, “Dzongkha” is the language developed and spoken by the courtiers of yore and the Monk Body of Choetse - Trongsa Dzong. According to him – Ngalongs do not speak Dzongkha – they speak Ngalongkha, like I speak Khengkha.

NOTE: The Constitution of Bhutan also says Dzongkha is the "National Language" --- I wonder how it is termed in the national script version.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

P1 : A Very Expensive Joke

The Punatsangchu Hydropower Projects I is now becoming a joke – a very expensive joke. Today’s Kuensel tells us that the DPR for the proposed barrage to be located 820 Meters upstream of the project will soon be ready – to fill in for the failed Punatsangchu Hydropower Projects I dam construction project.

The KUENSEL Report that says that the DPR for the P1 is still a work in progress

Either the project managers at the Punatsangchu Hydropower Projects are born idiots, or they are calculatedly acting stupid or they think that the Bhutanese people are complete dullards. Pray, tell me, which donkey will believe that a simple barrage is expected to perform the functions of a massive dam measuring 130 Meters high and 239 Meters long?

How much of their cock-and-bull story are we supposed to tolerate? Look at the following – and see how they have led us up the garden path for the past 14 years since the project started in November of 2008. The project was supposed to come on stream by December of 2016.

The sinking Dam site of Punatsangchu Hydropower Project I


Initially the project size was planed at 1,095 MW. Without doing a proper investigation, the project size was increased to 1,200 MW.


The initial projection submitted to Bhutan was Nu.35.149 billion. My estimate is that the cost has now spiraled to over Nu.100.00 billion ---- and counting.


The project authorities of Punatsangchu I & II have been categorical that the projects are run-off-the-river schemes. And yet, for the Punatsangchu I project, they had planned to dam the Punatsangchu river with a dam cutting across the river – measuring a massive 130 Meters high and 239 Meters long. Are we to believe that the project authorities do not know the meaning of run-off-the-river scheme?


The project was supposed to come on stream by December of 2016. The completion date has been shifted over three times already. This is the year 2022 and the project is not even half done. They are still doing DPR that should have been completed way before the start of the project.


How is it possible that a simple barrage can replace a massive dam – both in function and purpose - a dam measuring 130 Meters high and 239 Meters long?

Additionally, don’t the project authorities know that a dam and a barrage have two distinctly different functions? From what I am given to understand – a dam is intended to store water and raise its level while a barrage is intended to divert water flow.


Another complete and utter bullshit! If a barrage was good enough, why was a dam measuring 130 Meters high and 239 Meters long planned for the Punatsangchu Project I? To me it looks like a foregone conclusion that there will be very significant drop in generation – which will result in per unit cost of generation shooting through the roof. This cost will be passed on very generously to the Bhutanese people.


This is another of the claims that get my goat every time I am told this. We are not in the business of liquidating loans at 10% interest. If we are doing hydropower projects at great cost to our environment, we are doing so because we want to generate revenue to fund our developmental activities – not to pay off loans at 10% interest.

How is the project going to offset the Nu 28.00 billion already spent on the failed dam construction project of Punatsangchu I?


Even if the barrage’s DPR come off positive and the barrage gets built, it will not have water storage capability. Thus the economics of the project goes for a spin. For sure the overall generation will fall far, far short of the planned and installed capacity of 1,200 MW.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Bhutan’s Postage Stamps: Fakes & Counterfeits

As I mentioned in my yesterday’s post, while the country was still relatively an unknown entity, it appears that our postage stamps attracted a number of fakers and counterfeiters. In a way it should be a matter of pride that so many fakes and counterfeit stamps of Bhutan were produced. It goes to prove that our stamps are popular and sought after by the global collectors. On the downside though, it must be bad business for Bhutan Post who would be losing a substantial market share to spuriously produced stamps.

The following are some of the fakes/counterfeits:


A fake intended for the world stamp collectors.

A pretty looking fake - most likely faked in China


These stamps were total fakes. No one knows who created these. They were auctioned to unsuspecting collectors around the world. Like our original silk series of stamps depicting Thangkas, these fakes too were printed on silk.

Faked in silk - 150th Anniversary of Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss"


Another fake targeted at the collectors – Bhutan Post never issued these stamps. As is evident, this was a poor job – notice that the alphabet “u” after “N” in Nu. is missing.

A set of 9 stamps depicting animals found in Africa


Yet another fake – this time with Christian overtones. Beautifully printed though – but fakes will always remain fakes, regardless.

Did this set of 9 fake stamps go to fund proselytism in rural Bhutan?

One long time collector of Bhutanese stamps opined that this could have been the work of a Christian zealot – as retaliation for barring him/her entry into Bhutan. My own view is that the faked stamps may have been produced to raise funding for the conversion of Bhutanese into the Christian faith. You may recall that some years back there were rampant conversions in the remote villages of Bhutan – so much so that the government had to intervene by bring out a law that prohibited conversion from one religion to another. It is clear that the same people who faked the African Animal series were responsible for this thuggery as well – given that these fakes also has “u” missing after the alphabet “N” in Nu.

The following 1999 Goldfish Set is an example of poorly executed fakes. While the stamp was touted as being Bhutanese – the value of the stamp is denominated in Laotian currency. 

An amateur's job - very badly executed

Another poorly executed counterfeit is the following “Save The Tiger” stamps issued by Bhutan Posts during the Male Iron Tiger Year in 2010. The counterfeit depicts the logo of WWF in gold while the original on the left does not have the logo on the stamps.

Very poor counterfeit of the "Save The Tiger Year" issue of 2010

The worst example of a counterfeit is the following Bhutan’s fiscal stamp of 1954. Whoever the cad was who did it, he/she used a rubber stamp to surcharge the stamp. I cannot imagine why someone would counterfeit a fiscal stamp. Perhaps the reason could be because, for a short while, before the coming of the postage stamps in 1962, His Majesty the Third King had issued a Kasho authorizing the use of fiscal stamps as postage stamps.

The counterfeiter tried to get away cheaply - he/she simply rubber stamped the real stuff.

In conclusion, I have to emphasize that we should be clear on what is a fake and what is a counterfeit. A very authoritative collector and historian went to great length to explain to me the difference between the two. He clarified that “fake” is when someone invents and entirely new design and content – totally unrelated to anything the Bhutan Posts had released.

Counterfeit on the other hand is something that a faker had attempted to reproduce an original item issued by the Bhutan Posts. In other words it is a copy.