Friday, December 22, 2023

Our Energy Potential To Power Our Growth

Writing for the Business Insider, Polly Thompson, on 25th November, 2023 made a startling revelation that Bhutan, a longtime exporter of hydropower to India, imported US$20.7 million worth of electricity during the year 2023.

Amazing numbers! But if it is true, we have to begin to wonder: what can we attribute this reversal of fortune to? A quantum jump in domestic consumption? That is good news! It means, Bhutan need no longer be dependent on the export market for our energy production potential: our in-country demand and consumption can finally deliver us from the cruel clutches of the single-basket market vagary.

Such a shift in scenario opens up a whole lot of possibilities for Bhutan – for one, project financing. I believe that access to finance will now be lot easier than in the past.

Bhutan's Hydro Committee in 2018 recommended that Amocu and Chamkharchu basins remain hydropower free for all times to come. Accordingly, the withdrawal of the Amochu and Chamkharchu Hydropower Projects was announced by the Royal Government of Bhutan during the National Assembly Session in May, 2019. Regardless, we have many other potential projects in the pipeline.

For years some have unjustly accused me of being anti-hydropower although I have gone hoarse shouting that I am NOT against hydropower – but in the MANNER IN WHICH IT IS CURRENTLY DONE IN BHUTAN. Hopefully, now we can look forward to doing things the right way: speedily, with the right intentions, minimal corruption, purposeful and appropriate management team, competent design and engineering, environmentally less destructive, and site selection that will not encounter the now famous “geological surprises” in the middle of project implementation.

His Majesty the King was categorical during His 116th National Day speech that in the scheme of things, we must not fail to harness our abundant potential in wind, solar and hydro - to produce energy to power our growth. I agree!

So, let us put the show on the road – let us begin with the Bunakha Reservoir Project to start with – I am talking of just the reservoir – sans the HE component for the moment. It will be the fastest, cheapest and technically less daunting! It will nicely complement the planned Gelephu initiative.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

A Super-Natural Story

Miracles, like the proverbial Angle’s visit, do seem to occur. As incredible as they seem, I know of some stray incidences that can only be explained as “miraculous”. Not that this should serve as an encouragement – but the following is proof that there are things in nature that can only be called super-normal – the other name for miracle.

Past President of the Rotary Club of Honolulu Sunset of Hawaii, USA - PP Dr. James Ham and his wife were married for many years. For years they were childless.

Then, in November of 2018, the couple visited Bhutan. During the visit, someone suggested that the couple visit Chimmi Lhakhang known as the Temple of Fertility. They did, and quite extraordinarily, the wife was pregnant on the first moth of the visit to the temple.

Exactly nine months later, at 6:54AM on 10th August, 2019 a healthy son weighing 5 pounds 13 ounces, 20 inches was born to the couple.

They named their son Kinley Jin Ham. The following is how he looked at birth:

The mini Drukpa Kinley in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Over the years, although I am no longer a member of the Rotary Club of Thimphu – not even of the venerable Rotary institution - I kept in touch with the good doctor. On 14th December, 2023, Dr. James sent me the following photograph of his growing up son - Kinley Jin Ham, who is now a hulking 4 years, 4 months old!

Kinley Jin Ham - all of 4 years and 4 months as of this month

I encouraged the good doctor to bring his son to Bhutan for a visit to Chimmi Lhakhang – so that the boy may receive blessings from Drukpa Kinley’s relic at the temple.

CONTEXT: In my capacity as the Club Secretary of Rotary Club of Thimphu, I met Dr. James when he attended our Club Meeting at the Druk Hotel in 2018. Our association developed over the next years that resulted in a Global Grant Project that saw the implementation of a  training program for the trainers at KGUMSB and some select trekking guides - in wilderness emergency evacuation and treatment. Dr. James was the driving force behind the project.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

National Day of Bhutan

On 17th of December, 1907, entire population of Bhutan represented by 47 of their representatives congregated in Pungthang Dechen Phodrang Dzong to install Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck as the first hereditary Monarch of Bhutan. The day marked the start of the Wangchuck Dynasty under whose successive rulers Bhutan saw a period of peace, tranquility and progress.

His Majesty Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck the Ist King of Bhutan

According to available information, Bhutan celebrated our National Day for the first time on 17th December, 1971. Today the 17th of December, 2023 we will be celebrating our 116th National Day.

One hundred and sixteen years ago, the peoples’ representatives, including the regional rulers and administrators, and the monk body, affixed their respective seals to the following Declaration of Allegiance - installing Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck as the first hereditary King of Bhutan:

The "Gyenja" executed on 17th December, 1907 at Pungthang Dechen Phodrang Dzong

Those of you who can read the "Gyenja" will notice something intriguing: Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck has been named as "Sir Ugyen Wangchuck". Even the date of the "Gyenja" has been recorded in the Gregorian calendar. I wonder if that was done due to the presence of his good friend J C White? Regardless, one Bhutanese scholar tells me that the language of the "Gyenja" is truly outstanding - far superior to anything he has seen so far.

The signatories to the document, including the foreign dignitaries, were recorded as follows:

1. Seal of The Monk Body         Je and the Lopoens
2. Seal of Choetse Poenlop         Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck
3. Seal of Zhoong Droenyer         Tshewang Penjor
4. Seal of Thimphu Dzongpoen Kuenzang Thinley
5. Seal of Punakha Dzongpoen Palden Wangchuk
6. Seal of Wangdue Dzongpoen Kuenzang Norbu
7. Seal of Rinpoong Chila         Dawa Penjor
8. Seal of Daga Chila                 Tshewang Dorje
9. Seal of Gongzim                         Kuenzang Tshering

10. Seal of Zhoong Droensop         Shar Tshering
11. Seal of Tapoen                         Rigzin Dorje
12. Seal of Zimpoen Nam                 Namgyal
13. Seal of Japoen                         Samdrup
14. Seal of Punakha Zimpoen         Kuenleg
15. Seal of Punakha Ngyerpa         Sangye Thinley
16. Seal of Gasa Dzongpoen         Dargo Ngoedrup
17. Seal of Thimphu Zimpoen         Sithup
18. Seal of Thimphu Ngyerpa         Phurpa Tashi
19. Seal of Lingzhi Nyerpa         Taya Gup
20. Seal of Wangdue Zimpoen         Tshewang Doendrup
21. Seal of Wangdue Nyerpa         Garpon
22. Seal of Paro Droenyer         Pelzang
23. Seal of Paro Nyerpa                 Yeshe
24. Seal of Paro Zimpoen                 Sigyel 
25. Seal of Drugyal Dzongpoen Samten Yoezer
26. Seal of Haa Droongpa         Ugyen
27. Seal of Daga Zimpoen         Dorje
28. Seal of Daga Nyerchen         Wangpo
29. Seal of Trongsa Zimpoen         Dorje
30. Seal of Jakar Dzongpoen         Chime Dorje
31. Seal of Zhongar Dzongpoen Dorje Penjor
32. Seal of Trashigang Dzongpoen Sonam Tshering
33. Seal of Lhuentse Dzongpoen Thinley Gyamtsho
34. Seal of Zhemgang Dzongpoen Karma

35. Seal of all Class III Officers of   Punakha Dzong
36. Seal of all Class III Officers of   Tashichho Dzong
37. Seal of all Class III Officers of   Wangdue Dzong
38. Seal of all Class III Officers of   Trongsa Dzong
39. Seal of all Class III Officers of   Paro Dzong
40. Seal of all subjects of                 Wang Tshochen Gyed
41. Seal of all subjects of                 Thed Dargyed Chusoom
42. Seal of all subjects of                 Sha Dar Gyed
43. Seal of all subjects of                 Barkor Tsho Druk
44. Seal of all subjects of                 Gyue Zhi of Haa
45. Seal of all subjects of                 Tsentog Ling Druk
46. Seal of all subjects of                 Sharchog Kholo Sip Gyae
47. Seal of all subjects of                 Three Lings of Daga

It is not clear if they were official guests of the British Empire - but it is recorded that the following were present during the occasion:

i. John Claude White CIE, British Political Officer based in Sikkim
ii. Major Renik
iii. Mr. Campbell
iv. Captain Hyslop
v. Zarwala Suvidar Jihaden Khanna
vi. Rai Bahadur Lobzang Choeden

From all indications, the 116th National Day Celebrations will be an event unlike any before it. Even better, His Majesty the King is rumored to be announcing some major economic initiatives – such as the much-anticipated final plans of the Gelephu Administrative Region. Thus, I am honored to be able to attend it - from within the Changlemithang celebration grounds.

The Invitation Card to the 116th National Day Celebrations. Whoever was responsible for the design and printing of the Card – he/she has done a great job - it is such a pleasure to see someone do such an exquisite job: the choice of paper, its size, its texture, weight and the choice of font is simply superlative!

Monday, December 11, 2023

Copping Out COP28

Over three hundred years back, the English astronomer, mathematician and physicist Edmond Halley implied that for the environment to survive, the human race has to go extinct. Amazing that such a thought had already occurred some three centuries back. One has to wonder - what may have been happening those early days that someone foretold - quite accurately - the state of our environment, many centuries later?

In June of 1992, a total of 154 countries got together to sign the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Thirty-one (31) years later, and after deliberating for twenty-eight (28) years of COP after COP (Conference of the Parties), our environment is in greater peril than when the UNFCCC was initiated.

Twenty-eight years of yacking in great pomp and pageantry has not resulted in any improvement to the health of our environment. Apparently, the human society is running out of ideas – we are now forced to hold the 28th COP in a country that contributes to the top ten polluters of the world.

As I told one American friend – the way of the GNH could save the environment – but its very idea is antithesis to the basis of human development as we understand it. I told her that unless the present human society is willing to dismantle everything on which the supposed human progress is founded, NO WAY we can halt the march of environmental devastation.

Because, the human society has gotten used to exacting the cost of our competitiveness and efficiency on the environment. That would explain why the chilies grown at the other end of the world can be sold cheaper in your local Sunday Market, than that which is grown in your backyard. No one will stop to ponder: how is it possible that chilies trucked and moved tens of thousands of miles across the seven seas can be cheaper? The answer: abuse of the environment.

The processes we have developed to manufacture, transport, distribute and package our manufactured goods is such that it disregards the environment completely. We have gone so far that it is not an option to dismantle it – for the sake of the environment – it is a scary thought!

Consider, for instance, the European manufacturing conglomerate - Airbus SE, a company that holds almost 50% of the global civil aviation market. Its success is not because it manufactures all of their over a million parts that go into a single aircraft – its success is attributed to building partnerships among a number of countries such as France, Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, UA, Canada, China. They build competitive edge over their competitors – by allocation manufacturing and assembly to different countries in different geographical locations, based on their core competences. This way, they distribute the burden of investment, tap into talents and skills based in a number of locations, instead of in one country and one location. This way they achieve economies of scale – cost savings, efficient distribution, cheaper cost of storage, ease of transportation to markets and consumers etc.

Same is with the Apple iPhone – they are built, assembled and shipped from multiple locations spread across multiple counties around the world, such as: China, the Czech Republic, Malaysia, Thailand, and South Korea among others.

Similarly, the car we drive may carry the brand name of one company such as TOYOTA – but over a hundred manufacturing companies spread across the globe would have contributed to the final product.

This means that the principal manufacturing company and the hundreds of ancillary companies based in over a dozen countries must function in synch with each other – they must use the same technologies – follow the same objectives and, above all, must be tuned into each other – the moment one part of the whole collapses, the entire chain gets broken. No single company in the world has the wherewithal to bear loss at this scale! Thus no one will dare shift to something new that calls for investment from ground up.

This means that the principal of GNH manufacturing – as charming as it may sound – is impractical as well as impracticable – it will be too costly to make it work.

Can you imagine the chaos it will create – the day you decide to shift over to a new order of things? It will fast-forward the collapse of the human race!

A simple thought: Can you imagine the catastrophe that will befall the automotive industry if they have to change over to electricity as the source of energy to power their engines? Can you imagine how many million companies will go bankrupt? How many millions of workers will be rendered jobless? How many fossil fuel producers (don’t forget they are also members of the human society) will go out of business?

Monday, December 4, 2023

A Fitting Ode To The Fallen Soldiers Of Destiny

Most are wont to tell us that winning and losing is a way of life. Alas! for those who are given to entering a battle with the sole intention to win, being flippant about losing cannot offer any solace. After all I do not believe that losing was in the scheme of things. Thus, I can understand the pain of the finality of loss when it comes staring you in the face.

Each of us have our own choices and preferences – we do not need to explain to anyone why we make those choices – it is a strictly personal matter. No one has the right to tell us that our choices and preferences are wrong – we have our own set of reasons, and values, that we believe are good for us. And yet, after all the bravado – losing is still a painful experience, and those of us who understand the emotion, we empathize with those who lost. And, it appears that some of us do have the guts to express our solidarity with the fallen heroes - even if we do fall far short of openly supporting them in their moment of grief. The following editorial by Business Bhutan dated 2nd December, 2023 is a case in point:

I whole-heartedly second the editorial!

When the Bhutanese people finally settle down from their frenzy of misplaced sense of patriotism and misguided show of camaraderie, and when they have the time to sift through the list of DNT’s achievements – provided they do so with a lens that is not tainted with greed or self-interest, a picture will emerge where the DNT government under the leadership of Dr. Lotay Tshering will stand tall – as a most courageous government who had the gallantry to rise above politics. They were a government that was most severely tested – they were struck with all sorts of calamities - both natural and man-made. From where I stand, in less than two and half years’ time in which they had to make their mark, their performance was nothing short of praiseworthy!

If they lacked the resource competence to implement lofty, star-spangled programs, they made up for it by being able to courageously dismantle many evils that had permeated into our system of governance. I have said this many a times before – greatness is not necessarily about doing – it is also, often times, about undoing!

I am not serenading the DNT government – but sending them off with a song of praise worthy of the valiant warriors who fought a winning battle for the country and the people of Bhutan – at a time when mightier nations buckled under the burden of an invisible, stealthy ravager. No doubt, they had a most competent Commander to guide them in their many battles during the COVID-19 pandemic. But what is undeniable is that the DNT as a team was comprised of the most competent and qualified foot soldiers who did not fail their Commander-In-Chief - in every one of His directives. The world record Bhutan set during the COVID-19 pandemic was possible because the DNT cohort served the King and the people with unflinching dedication and wholehearted commitment, without question or doubt, or skepticism. For that alone – the DNT government was a praise-worthy government deserving of our gratitude. The point that whether any other government would have excelled, as they did - given the challenges - will have to remain mute at this point in time.

But at the end, Dr. Lotay and his DNT team are nothing more than instruments of destiny through whom the will of Providence was conveyed and executed. As destined, they played out their role to the hilt. Importantly, they lived out their usefulness to society - their deed is done. And, in keeping with the ways of the world, it is now time to consign them to history and obscurity.

Seemingly they walk away - spent and wasted - with unsure gait and stooped posture. But not even God can deprive them of their just reward – the reward that in the hearts and minds of the wise and the knowledgeable, the truth of their service will remain forever etched. The trackless sands of time may not hold their footprints – but that wasn’t their purpose anyway.

Come 9th of January, 2024 Providence will once again guide our fingers to elect yet another equally competent bunch of foot soldiers to uphold, preserve and perpetuate the good work left behind by the DNT. I pray that if nothing, they have the fortitude to safeguard - even shield - the many edifices of courage and selflessness that has been the hallmark of the DNT government headed by Dr. Lotay Tshering.

If that happens, it will be my honor to once again burn the midnight oil - to yet again compose another eulogy at the end of five years from now.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

A Goat In Place Of A Sheep

The proverbial storm in the tea cup is yet again brewing with the customary zeal – the spirited ado about nothing!

Bhutan’s fourth elections is days away and the nation is abuzz with a million inconsequential questions: Who do you think is going to win? Are you voting? Who are you going to vote for this time? Do you think Dr. Lotay is likely to come back? So forth and so on ……

The five political parties and their promises

Most offer the view that the PDP will most likely emerge as the winning horse. Their logic: people believe that the vote bank of their traditional rival – the DPT – would have been halved and quartered by the two new political parties entering the fray. However, they say that PDP had better pray hard that the DPT does not end up in the final round – the DPT emerging from their ten years of having been made to languish in the Bardo (purgatory) could very well curdle the milk for them.

Others think that the Southern voters will be the king makers given their astuteness and remarkable capability to think collectively - they think objectively while the rest of the Bhutanese tend to be sentimental about their choices.

As for me, I remain unimpressed – for me it would be nothing more than a goat in place of a sheep, or vise-versa. As long as the Captain of the Ship has the rudder firmly within His grip, things should trot along reasonably OK. My worry is something else.

In 2018 when rumor was rife that Dasho Chhewang Rinzin, the incumbent Managing Director of DGPC was joining politics, I gawked. I promptly went to see him. Sitting across the table and sipping black tea, I asked him:

“I understand that Dasho is joining politics. Is that true?”

He said; “Yes, you heard it right - I am told that such a rumor is doing the rounds in certain circles.”

“Are you? But why? I mean, look behind you. The Bura Marp and the Patang hanging behind you are the symbols of the highest honor any person can hope for. What more can you hope to achieve? What greater honor can there be – above and beyond that which you are already decorated with?

I agree that we need good and capable people in the political arena. But that is not to say that the bureaucracy should be drained of them. We need equally capable and dedicated people in the civil service – after all you are the ones who will implement the plans and programs conceived by the political leadership. We need people with strong character in the civil service – people who have the wherewithal to implement and carry forward the plans and programs; people who can ably keep the politicians in the straight and the narrow.

Why is it important that the smartest and the brightest must join politics? Isn't the bureaucracy important?

Afterall, when the dream merchants have dusted and gone – when the winning horse has galloped away with the booty, you will still be around - to try and mop up the bloodied floor and pick up the litter of carcasses - to give hope that there will be another day – a new day when renewed attempts can be made to mend and patch the broken promises – when new dreams can be dreamed, if only to be broken, yet again.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Is It A Forgery Or Is It A Forgery?

Hi Kris,

Thanks …..

Your classification of “FORGERIES” is rather intriguing for me – in the sense that, in the context of Bhutanese coins, what exactly is a forgery? From what I understood is that forgery is:

“The action of forging a copy or imitation of a document, signature, banknote or work of art”.

My understanding is that Bhutan’s coining journey began as a limited forgery – right from the first coinage. In some cases, they were exact copies of the Koch Narayani. From what is apparent is that Bhutan continued to forge some select Narayanis right to the early part of 1900’s.
Silver Half Rupee of Rajendra Narayan of Koch Kingdom: 1770-1772. This coin has a distinctive (X) on its reverse. The Raja was put on the Koch Kingdom throne by Bhutan. This is one of the coins forged by Bhutan. But it may not qualify as a forgery because Bhutan issued the coin mostly in copper, while all the Koch Kingdom’s coins were hammered in silver.

Also, please note the following interesting revelation:

The East India Company accuses Bhutan of producing spurious Narayanis

From the above, the East India Company that ruled most of India during the period under reference believed that Bhutan was forging Narayanis. They were wrong – I believe that Bhutan was actually hammering away real Narayanis using dies acquired forcibly from Koch Kingdom. Now, what is not clear is whether the Bhutanese were aware that they were committing forgeries – or they believed that they were producing money for use in trade with the people in the southern borders of Bhutan, as legal tender. Whatever the case may be, the act would still tantamount to forgery – whether done knowingly or unknowingly!

As one of the recognized authorities on Bhutanese coinage you would have noticed that it sometimes becomes difficult to distinguish the Bhutanese coins from that of Narayanis. To me only very few coins can truly be said to be Bhutanese - authenticated by the all-Bhutanese motifs on the coins.

Under the circumstance, I am not sure that any one coin verity can be said to be a forgery – because we do not know if those were coined by unauthorized persons, or were hammered by a ruling Je/Desi/Poenlop/Dzongpoen. Even more confusing, can we pass off a complete forgery as a legit coin - just because it was coined by a legitimate authority?

What do you think?

Bye and take care


Monday, November 20, 2023

The Edifice of Disgrace

As a Khengpa (a person belonging to the Kheng region of Central Bhutan) I cannot help but feel a sense of affinity towards anything even remotely related to Kheng. Thus, when it was announced that the Bhutan Bird Festival would be held once again - after having been suspended for the past three years due to COVID-19 pandemic, I decided that I want to attend the festival - if for nothing, at least to add to the number. Even better, my two American guests also agreed to attend the festival - all three days - from 13th to 15th November, 2023.

First thing upon arrival at Tingtibi on the evening of 12th November, 2023, I headed straight for the festival grounds - to check things out. I did not get past the Welcome Gate - one look at the Gate and I was dumbstruck - my heart sank and I remained rooted to the ground where I stood - incredulous at what I saw plastered all over the Gate.

There were a total of 10 images of different birds and animals depicted on the vertical and horizontal posts and beam of the Gate. To my absolute horror, 5 of the images – or 50% of the total images portrayed - were images of birds and animals that are TOTALLY NON-EXISTANT in the country - let alone Zhemgang District!!!

How is it that any sane person can be capable of such incredibly shoddy work - particularly among people who pride themselves as sane and with eyes wide open? I mean such atrocious blunders can be attributed to mindless zombies - not to educated people with weighty responsibilities. I cannot believe that the whole of Zhemgang Dzongkhag does not have people who can differentiate an African Elephant from that of an Asian one; a Pallas’s Fish Eagle from that of the Bald Eagle; A Black-necked Crane from that of a Red-headed Crane? Where were the Forestry officials in the Dzongkhag? It is fantastic that they do not know the commonest of the most common of the country’s birds and animals.

Waste of precious time notwithstanding, it was so shameful - even worst, it was soooooo telling on the Bhutanese character - clueless and yet adamantly moronic; unwilling to put one’s best foot forward, and yet vehement that rest of the world is steeped in mediocrity!

One has to wonder: Will the Bhutanese people ever improve?

Friday, November 10, 2023

Bhutan’s Unique Democracy

I have been Googling and Googling and Googling … but uncle Google has not been very forthcoming to my queries.

I have been Googling to find out if there was ever a moment in the many thousands of years of democratic culture - where a regulator required political entities to have their party manifestoes appraised and approved by a bunch of shadowy, clandestine persons of unknown origin and competence – before the parties are allowed to speak of them to their electorate. I cannot find such a record – not a single one since the birth of the concept of democracy in ancient Athens around circa 508 BCE.

Political Parties' Manifestoes: Approved, endorsed and sanctified by a bunch of shadowy, clandestine persons of unknown origin and competence

I am of the view that the ECB is utterly confused about their role and responsibilities. But come to think of it – if the ECB can be so unashamed about what they are doing, can it be that we may be the ones who are in confusion, and not them? Hmmmmm looks like this calls for some serious homework – I think I need to read up the Constitution to see what the real deal is.

But for now, it is pretty strange that the ECB announces a democratic election while, at the same time, forbidding the political parties from saying anything that is not approved and authorized by the ECB to be told the electorate. That is democracy?????

Thou shalt not spake beyond what is authorized 

So what are our political parties – puppets and mouth pieces of the ECB?

Damn!! I think I may have been wrong all this while – I think Bhutan and the Bhutanese people may be, after all, UNIQUE as we unabashedly and repeatedly claim we are!

Sunday, October 29, 2023

The Case Of The Rotting Potatoes

In recent times, there have been repeated reports of hundreds of tons of farmers’ potatoes rotting in the auction/storage yards of the Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB) in Phuentsholing.


Why are the potatoes allowed to rot?

Hundreds of tons of potatoes are allowed to go to waste - through rotting!
Photo courtesy of BBS

In the aftermath of the COVID-19, the government was encouraged to set up a network of cold storage facilities across the country so that surplus or unsold food produces could be stored safely – for release during times of shortage.

From what I know ---- in the last year or so Bhutan has set up a substantial number of cold storage facilities at strategic locations spread across the length and breadth of the country. Then why are they NOT used? What is the reason?

Are the facilities none-functional? Or, are the farmers too greedy?

There is a need to get to the bottom of this!

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Of Rare Birds & Pretty Butterflies

A legally protected butterfly in India, Kaiser-i-Hind (Teinopalpus imperialis) is the State Butterfly of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. This beautiful Swallowtail Butterfly was supposedly discovered around Dochu-La Pass, Thimphu by some Japanese Lepidopterologists many years back - a claim sadly not backed by evidence.

In 2021, Sonam Dorji, a driven conservationist doing pioneering work in the area of bird life and their habitat, and butterflies, in the East of the country discovered a dead specimen of the butterfly, in an area called Kheng-Thong Mani - close to Kanglung/Yonphula areas of Trashigang - conclusively proving that Kaiser-i-Hind - Emperor of India - does exist in Bhutan. The specimen is currently lodged at the UWICER, Bumthang. Sonam also observed that during season the butterflies could be seen flying above and around the tree crowns - sadly, just too high for him to photograph them.

Sonam is currently documenting the life cycle of Bhutan’s other rare butterflies - the Ludlow’s Bhutan Swallowtail (Bhutanitis ludlowi) (Bhuan's Naional Butterfly) and the Bhutan Glory (Bhutanitis lidderdalii). By the by, he is also studying the habitats of some of Bhutan’s rare and beautiful birds - the world’s three vulnerable varieties of Tragopans: Satyr Tragopan, Temminck's Tragopan and Blyth's Tragopan.

More than a decade ago, Sumit Sen, one of India’s foremost birders got 38 birders - among them I was one - to short-list 10 of India’s prettiest birds. Thereafter, he put them to open vote. He received a total of 544 votes. I fielded above image of the very pretty Fire-tailed Myzornis captured at Dochu-La in 2007. The bird was adjudged the second most beautiful bird in India.

This bird is one of the few that the lady embroiderer in the East is attempting to replicate on tapestry.

In an effort to educate the local populace on the importance of conservation, Sonam has been encouraging local youth to engage in efforts that help conserve and protect species that are fast disappearing elsewhere in the world. One of the initiatives he has undertaken is to get young talents to reproduce rare species such as butterflies and birds - on tapestry. He has been supported with a small grant from the Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation.

My small cash contribution to augment Sonam’s admirable conservation work helped a young lady purchase much needed threads - so that she could practice her skills at embroidery. For a novitiate, the work she produced was pretty remarkable. She sent me her first work - as a gift. In appreciation of her thoughtfulness, I honor her by reproducing her work as part of my Blog’s latest Masthead, above.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Six Years Since : Down Memory Lane

Hi Andrew,

Greetings from Bhutan.

I learn with great pleasure that you are still with DAA and busy installing SkyHydrants.

Although I am not in the Rotary anymore .... DAA honors me by continuing to send me their Quarterly News Letters and the recent one (received yesterday evening – 23/10/2023) tells me that you are currently busy in Nepal .... doing the same things you do best --- installing SkyHydrants.

Please keep up the good work ...... !!!

I cannot thank you enough --- for your role in "BHUTAN2020 Project". It is now into its 5th year. As you are aware DAA has successfully delivered its first three years, one million dollars Safe Water Project ----- for 120 of Bhutan's largest schools. No doubt you know that DAA has been kind enough to renew the project for another three years. From all accounts ----- things are going well and on track ...... Thanks to your "batting" (in your own words) for Bhutan after your first trip to Bhutan as a DART Member of DAA in 2017. You may recall that I was the first Bhutanese you met - upon landing at Paro airport when you arrived from Nepal on 30th September, 2017 - to deliver two of DAA's first SkyHydrant water filter systems for Bhutan.

Launch of the three years BHUTAN2020 Project in Toronto, Canada on 25th June, 2018. Under the project Bhutan received 120 SkyHydrant Projects for installation in 120 of Bhutan's largest schools. The project has been renewed for further three years for the same number of these patented water filer systems.

Bye and take care ... and Thank You once again. Do you bump into any Bhutanese down under? There are many thousand Bhutanese studying and working there in places like Perth, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane and Sydney etc. Should you come to know of any opportunities that might be suitable for them, please do not forget to "bat" for them as well ---- as you did for thousands of Bhutanese students after your first trip here.

MoE's Letter of Appreciation to DAA

Please convey my VERY BEST to Phillip Gribble another of DAA's DART Member who accompanied you to Bhutan during your second trip - to deliver four of the first six units donated by DAA - before the start of the BHUTAN2020 Project.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Alpha Five Two Alpha Alpha Live from Bhutan

After struggling for two days - the struggle is still on - HAM Operator Abie Alexander from the USA who has been allocated the visitor's local CallSign of A52AA is now on air from Jambayang Hotel in Thimphu. He is still experiencing massive interference - it is yet to be established whether it is a man-made one or it a solar activity that is causing such severe interference. We think it is electrical noise - caused by some unknown electrical activity - but that is a wild guess.

Today we are going to try something that hopefully will confirm or eliminate the possibility that the noise is caused by radiation generated by electrical activity .... 

Recording of a live QSO between A52AA from Bhutan and a VU2JFA from India.

Something tells me that it is electrical activity that is the cause of this unusually powerful interference. If I am right, I have to wonder what unknown operation is underway in and around Thimphu Municipal area and its periphery that is the cause of such massive electrical radiation? There are no radars installed atop our mountains ... so what is that that is pulsating and throbbing at such a monumental scale? Damn .... !

So far the A52AA station has made connection with Japan, Russia, India, Bangladesh, Uruguay, Brazil and few other countries ..... He hopes to cover many more countries during the remaining days of his operation from Bhutan.

I wish him BEST OF LUCK!

Friday, October 20, 2023

CQ …. CQ …. CQ …. A52AA Calling from the Land of the Thunder Dragon, Come in….

Beginning this morning, a HAM Radio operator from the US of A will start broadcasting SSB HAM Radio voice signals from Jambayang Hotel in Thimphu. He is provably the first HAM Radio operator to operate from Bhutan - after the legendary “ZORO” - Mr. Yasuo Miyazawa of Japan went “Silent Key” in March of 2022. Zoro maintained a permanent Ham Radio Shack at the Royal Thimphu College from where he operated Ham Radio to the delight of Hams around the world, whenever he was in Bhutan.

A52AA arrives Bhutan and begin operations as of today

A SAARC HAM Radio Member operator based in Guwahati, India announces to the world the arrival in Bhutan and operation of HAM Radio by A52AA

Bhutan’s first HAM Radio Shack - called a QTH in HAM parlance. It was located at Wirelesspang, above Dechenchholing Palace. It became operational in 1954-55. For the first time Bhutan sent out HAM radio signals in 1954 from a place called Rida in Wangduephodrang. The operator was N. Chawna, a wireless instructor in the employ of the Royal Government of Bhutan.

Ham Radio is a form of wireless communications that is so versatile and efficient that one can operate it from the top of Mount Everest - or the middle of Atlantic/Pacific Ocean. It is one communications system that will never go down - when every other communications is down. It is a critical communications mode and system that is first to report world’s most devastating calamities, from the remotest of locations. In times of emergencies, this is the communications of choice - without parallel.

When every form and method of communications was blocked and disbanded, His Majesty Palden Thondup Namgyal, 12th and last Chhogyel of Sikkim used HAM Radio communications system that was installed inside his Palace, to inform the world community that his Kingdom was being besieged by India, in 1975.

I have been trying to get Bhutan to train people in the use of this mode of communications. This is critically important for us - given our land-locked geographical positioning. Sadly, no one is interested.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Rest & Respite

When one’s soul is on fire and the heart is singed with disappointment, one tries to find solace elsewhere ---- not necessarily that you will find it - but it gives you momentary diversion and respite from the monotony of chasing a seemingly hopeless cause.

But failure to achieve success cannot cause life to stop and living to come to a standstill - it should be the very reason why one must persist, stubbornly. As they say, if you knock hard enough, the dead will rise and open the door for you.

Time out for a while!

To allow myself the much-needed adjournment, I rummaged through my collection of old CDs where some of my very earliest photographs are stored - when external hard drives were too expensive. I stumbled onto some photographs of novitiate monks that I had taken some 22 years back - on Monday, January 1, 2001 at 6:00 AM. The location was Dechenphodrang Monastery, Thimphu.


Some of these monks would most likely be in their early 30's now. I wonder how life has treated them?

What am I saying? .... there cannot be any doubt - life would have treated them as they deserve. That is the thing about life - one eventually gets what one deserves - that is the irreversible law!

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Bhutan’s Culture of Mulling: Part II

It has been my experience that it is not in the character of the Bhutanese people to act with speed and precision. The sloth-like pace at which we act would explain why progress in this country is lethargic at best. For the bosses at the helm of things, it does not really matter - the dogs can continue to bark  - the caravan will move all the same. They are not the leaders - they are merely the seat warmers. Corporations like DrukAir can tumble and rot away, in the process causing misery to one and sundry - there is no one to whom they need be accountable - it is not money out of, or into, their pockets. If more is needed, there is the public exchequer into which they can dip their hands at will. Small wonder then that His Majesty the King speaks of our wanning Ngar! For proof, read the following:

Shingkhar-Gorgan Road
The Shingkhar-Gorgan road construction debate went on for close to one and a half decades. The law is clear why it cannot be done - and yet three successive governments “mulled” over the matter for years. After having “mulled” over the issue for close to 15 years, the issue of the road seems to be finally put to rest when, on 29th January, 2020, DNT’s Works & Human Settlement Minister Dorji Tshering said;

“Shingkhar-Gorgan road won’t materialize. Since 2008, there were 15 discussions on the topic. It is stale.”

The Timbre-less Timber
It was in 1979 that Bhutan decided to ban the commercial harvesting of our abundant timber stock. There was very good reason for it. But sadly, the forests remained locked-up and rotting for close to half a century, thereafter. Only last month the DNT government woke up to the realization that there was money to be had from harvesting our timber that remained rotting in the forests. The government has now lifted the ban - but it took 44 years to do so!

Vehicle Quota System
The Royal Audit Authority (RAA) reported rampant misuse of vehicle quota system. They found that the state lost Nu.3.00 billion in tax revenue during a five-year period under review, in addition to turning certain class of public workers into crooks and lawbreakers. The RAA also reported that the quota system contributed to “exhaustion of the country’s foreign currency reserves and increase in import of vehicle, spare parts and fuel”.

The Vehicle Quota System was introduced during mid 1970s. The country spent “mulling” over the issue for close to half a century before the DNT government thankfully axed the quota system in 2022. Today if you ask me very, very few have any understanding as to why the quota system was introduced - you may be surprised the reason behind it.

Alas, true to form, this has yet been another case of a good intention gone terribly sour. Sadly, there are already scavengers lining up the corridor - waiting to pick up the eventual carcasses that are bound to come tumbling out of the goody bag of the government - whoever is next in line.

Duty Free Quota System
I am not sure when this came into being. But it was many decades before the government saw evil in the system. It came to light that some supposedly respectable members of the society were merrily peddling their Duty Free entitlements in the open market. It not only contributed to depletion in foreign exchange reserve through import of such silly things as chocolates and perfumes and cigarettes etc., it bred whole lot of unethical people in the government/public sector. Thankfully the DNT government removed this most vile practice - late last year.

Hydropower Projects
After I spent close to two decades hollering to go easy on the mismanaged hydropower initiatives, it was not until in 2018 that finally the Hydropower Committee recommended going slow and smart on hydro projects - that is 44 years after the ill-fated hydropower initiative that first began in 1974.

In the next year (2019) – that is 45 years after deciding to systematically desecrate our entire river basins, the DNT government announced that two of our 7 river systems will remain hydropower free for all times - Chamkharchu in Central Bhutan and Amochu in the West-South of the country. The rest of the river systems - Wangchu, Punatsangchu, Magdechu, Kurichu, Drangmechu, Gamrichu and Nyera Amachu - all of them being fair game for hydropower. Mercifully, in recent years, the hydropower as a technology of choice for electricity generation has lost its sheen – hopefully we are now safe.

Freedom of Speech
In 2008 the Constitution granted every Bhutanese the freedom of speech - among others. Yet, year after year the media and individuals continued to be muzzled of the freedom of speech - some even lost their jobs because they had a mouth. It was only after fifteen (15) years that a sitting Prime Minister had the courage to reiterate the Constitutional provisions. Prime Minister Dr. Lotay Tshering announced on 28 of January, 2023 that:

“Sharing information with the media is our responsibility. By sharing information with the media, they are not doing any favor, they are doing what they are mandated to do and they are doing what they are paid to do. Whatever we do, if it is for public benefit, the public must know. For this important information to go to the public, the media is the only thing that we can ride on”.

But alas - we are constrained by almost everything - doing is not always easy. But I have also repeatedly made the point that achieving greatness does not necessarily have to do with doing great things - dismantling great evil is also greatness. All it takes is courage!

Sadly courage is in short supply in this land of surplus verbosity.