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.