Monthly Archives: November 2011

Road must go to poor Lhuentse

A group has been created in the popular social networking site Facebook inviting users to ‘like’ the page titled ‘Stop the construction of Shingkhar-Gorgan road, Bhutan’. The page was yet to gain supporters at the time of writing this article, but it was surely anti-development. Conservation is a broad topic often ridden with conflicts, and the pains of conservation are often borne by the vulnerable people.

What should Bhutan prioritise? The tiger or the road? The panda or poverty? Is it the science or sentimentality that made people voice their opposition on the Facebook?

Digital explorer, Oliver Steeds, in his documentary titled ‘Conservation’s dirty secrets’ says, conservation work is undeniably complex, riddled with contradictions and competition but fundamentally it is underpinned by our own relationships to nature. We’re the cause and we can be the effect. Turn on our TVs and the natural world is often presented either as pristine or through an anthropomorphized looking glass – and that kind of makes sense. We need to love nature before we will want to conserve it. But we shouldn’t be deluded from what is really happening.” The documentary examines the way the big conservation charities are run. It questions why some work with polluting big businesses to raise money and are alienating the very people they would need to stem the loss of species from earth.

Research shows that conversation NGOs are one of the highest profit making organizations in the West. Let us look at the scenario in Bhutan. People who lived within or around the so-called protected areas generally led a simple life and have been able to conserve the resources of the region they inhabited. Their wants were limited to what the nature provided them. Their technology was simple. However, their scenario changed dramatically once they came in contact with culturally and technologically advanced people who promised them materialistic hopes in the name of conservation. They were denied access to their traditional habitats. Laws on the ownership of the land and forests were framed and many of the forests in Bhutan were declared as protected areas and reserved. People were denied access to their traditional way of life though they had been living there for ages.

Whatever reserved or conserved were figuratively and literally kept for future use but their rightful owner were denied access to them. In some parts of the park corridors, people were provided CGI sheets to replace their traditional wooden singles. It is ironic that the very organization that supplied or supported the purchase of CGI sheets to the people in park area in Bhutan are encouraging pollution and exploitation of nature in other parts of the world, mining ore for tin.

The prime minister rightly said that “the new ethics of environment conservation propagates the concept of poverty reduction strategy as part of the regular planning and management of protected areas… it is about living in harmony with nature through mutual protection of each other and not choosing one over the other. The rising human-wildlife conflict among others, he said, was a manifestation of Bhutan’s conservation efforts.” What did the so-called conservationists and ecological society do to address human-wildlife conflict in Bhutan? It is hardly right to say the wild animals started coming out to the farms because their habitats were disturbed, at least in Bhutan, because the forest cover has increased in the last one decade and Bhutan has been rewarded for it. What did these groups do to stop citizens of Samrang Gewog in Samdrupjongkhar leaving their village in fear of wild animal’s attack to their property and life? What did they do to address increasing human-wildlife conflict across the country?

Development is important and citizens around the country have the right to development like road, electricity, and drinking water. Conservationists may one day say that all spring water in the protected areas is for the tigers and humans cannot use it. The proposed road reduces the distance between Bumthang and Lhuentse and between Lhuentse and other eastern dzongkhags. Conservationists should also note that when the travel distance is shortened, the emission from the vehicles is less.

The government’s recent decision to go ahead with the construction of Shingkhar-Gorgan road may raise some environmental concerns but development must be taken to poverty-stricken places like Lhuentse. The new road is historically significant. Shingkhar- Gorgan route was once used by Jigme Namgyal to travel between Dungkar and Bumthang.

Rabi C Dahal is a Reporter of

Bhutan Observer pursuing his

Master’s in Australia.

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Shingkhar-Gorgan Road V

(Discussion on People’s Voice on BBS)

I completely agree with the Executive Director of RSPN, Dr. Lam Dorji that we cannot and should not override a standing law. If need be, amend the law first. In a democracy, the Rule of law is very important and it must be supreme over the authority of any individual or government. Laws must be dynamic yet it should not be easy to amend at the whim and fancy of any government. That is why we also have the opposition and the national council. Exhaustive discussions, debates and research must culminate into sensible and practical laws and there should be proper procedures and modalities to amend the law to suit the changing times. With regard to this road, if there is a contradiction with the Law, I would like to urge the government to first amend the law. No doubt the road is a necessity but let us not override the law. It is historic and significant that the government and the opposition both support this road and therefore should not be difficult to amend the law. So far, many of us complained that the opposition was only opposing to any initiative taken by the government. Now let’s not say the opposition is not opposing.

I also agree with Mr. Dago from RSPN again that if there are any alternatives to avoid constructing the road through the so called core zone, the government should explore. The fact that the government is willing to work with the environment agencies and NGOs is in itself a strong indication of the importance the government confers on the cause of the environment. The government is requesting all these concerned agencies to come forward and help in setting a trend to construct eco-friendly roads. I would see this as a big opportunity to contribute to the nation and revolutionize the way we built roads. As I said before, this is not the last road that we will built, there will be many more. If our environmentalists have supposedly spent a lot of time carrying out research in that area, they should probably suggest some alternative routes, if any.

However, I don’t agree with my MP Dasho Karma Rangdol’s argument that we should built the road because people want it and that the government should do what the people want. There is no limit to what we want. It is the government’s responsibility to weigh the pros and cons and then decide whether it is a basic necessity. How does it fit with the priorities of the government? That’s why we elect leaders.

Mrs. Thinley Choden from the Forest Department raised two points. One, we are taking poachers closer to the tigers. Two, we are depriving the people of Sengor and Thridangbi of their income. First one the PM already answered in his video interview. What if a poacher goes into this core zone and camps there for a few days and kills all our tigers? How will we monitor? As it is, we are always complaining about shortage of staff. The road will in fact facilitate to monitor the area better. With regard to the second point, Mr. Dawa, the moderator, asked a pertinent question. How about people of Tsimasham who are affected by the Chukha-Damchu bypass? How about people of Zhemgang affected by the Gomphu-Panbang road? And more so places like Sengor and Thridangbi have benefitted so far at the cost of rest of the people. Isn’t it time that we do something for the other section that has been neglected for long? And we are also not taking away their road.

Somebody probably from the Thrumshingla park management provided some statistics on how the park has helped the communities through the integrated conservation management program. He said CGI sheets were provided and fertilizers were distributed for free. Distributing CGI sheets is a hypocritical and debatable initiative. “It is ironic that the very organizations that supplied or supported the purchase of CGI sheets to the people in park area in Bhutan are encouraging pollution and exploitation of nature in other parts of the world, mining ore for tin”. There is also a Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. We should explore more holistic approaches than a onetime measure. I ask once again, if we have pumped in a lot of money in that area as claimed, why are people still in dire poverty? Where is the benefit? Where is the result?

Ironically, most of our poverty stricken people live around some of our parks, based on their geographic location on the map. People in Lhuentse and Mongar around the Thrumshingla National Park, people in Zhemgang and Kheng regions in Mongar around Jigme Dorji National Park and Manas Wildlife Sanctuary. Isn’t it worth a thought? Are we reaping the benefits from conservation at the cost of the very people who owned and lived in harmony with nature in these areas for ages? Why are our efforts in conservation in these remote areas relatively more successful? It is because our rural folks trust our “dashos” from the government. But what have we given them in return?

I am also disheartened to learn that the road has been downgraded to a farm road. I agree that farm roads are expensive to maintain and not always built in an eco-friendly manner. I also agree with Dasho Paljor J. Dorji that if it is to remain as a farm road, it serves no purpose and doesn’t justify the money spent and the damage to the environment. It will not be pliable for small cars and tourist buses. But the idea is to upgrade to a National Highway and the construction is to be undertaken by the Department of Roads as a special case. So given our financial constraints, perhaps it is right to go with a farm road to start with but if the intention is to leave it at that, than I urge the government not to build it in the first place. But the intention is clear that it will be upgraded to a National Highway at the earliest.

Another member of the audience also said that eastern Bhutan would benefit from tourism through the helipad at Yonphula. Well, reasonably it will not benefit Lhuentse much. Lhuentse is more than 200 kms of grueling drive from Yonphula. Perhaps Lhuentse can boast to be the most remote and inaccessible district even after being centrally located in terms of geography. Our “little Bhutan” within Bhutan in blissful isolation like we were a few decades ago.

In principle, everyone agreed that the road is going to be of immense benefit to the poor people. The bone of contention was the law and that it falls on the core zone. The way forward, in my opinion, is to first amend the law and meanwhile look for alternative routes if any to avoid the core zone. But, definitely, there is no second thought on whether we need the road or not.

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Shingkhar-Gorgan Road IV

The fact is we cannot stop development. We will always be faced with this dilemma of environment vs. development for eons to come.  And perhaps environment concerns will be protected when the victims are a voiceless community and perhaps these very concerns will pale if opposed by money and power. Whatever it is, we cannot deny a fair share of development to our common people.

The solution to preserving and protecting the environment is not in being anti-development but a development mindful of environment concerns.  Roads are the backbone of the economy and development. So are mining and industries. What is important now is to have in place appropriate and sensible laws guiding the operations of these activities and ensure that provisions of the acts are adhered to without any excuses. When a road is built, ensure that eco-friendly measures are put in place and more so that they are implemented. It may cost a little more now but it will definitely be worth it in the long run. Inculcate in the people a sense of care and concern for the environment because we definitely need a concerted effort from all sections of the people. If people have no sense of waste management, if people illegally fell more and more trees, an effort from a handful of our people will not be enough.

But sometimes the government confuses me. A case in point is the mining at Bjemina.  At one point they were seriously concerned about the damage caused to the environment and the health of the people in the locality. There was also news in the media that crops were damaged.  It is imperative that mining is hazardous to the environment if not done responsibly. As I said before what is important is to monitor these businesses in line with the appropriate laws but agencies responsible for monitoring are more or less defunct. But now the government goes ahead and approves two more operations in that area. It is as if like saying; well if we cannot protect lets destroy it together!

Coming back to the Shingkhar-Gorgan road; if Lhuntse had a road that rivals any dzongkhag, why is it that almost 50% of its people live under the poverty line? Why is it that even after being centrally located in terms of geography, it is one of the remotest both from the capital and also from the southern border from where everything has to be brought in? Even for the government, it costs more to do anything in Lhuentse. Someone mentioned about the Gyalposhing-Nganglam road and how it will benefit Lhuentse. He claims that what is important is to connect a place to the southern border from where everything comes in. Well I agree but for people to bring in everything from the southern border don’t they need an income to be able to buy the basic commodities? Unless the government distributes free of cost and people just have to go and collect it.

When it comes to availability of funds, the fact that the government has committed to build the road indicates that they have the money or at least they know where it will come from. I don’t know if the government would be so foolish to commit something without knowing how to fund it.

I don’t care much about pleasing the world when you can’t guarantee a decent livelihood for our own people. A few hundred thousand dollars from a global environment agency is not worth the lives of our people.  Why are we the scapegoat? They cannot experiment and dictate to us what they have failed in their own lands. Why do we have to impress the world? Impress the world at the cost of our own poor people so that our environmentalists can get some more trips abroad to boast about our achievements oblivious of ground realities at home?

I would like to earnestly request our environmentalists to come up with a strategy to resolve the human wildlife conflict. People are either killed or threatened, houses destroyed, crops destroyed; threatening the very survival of people in some areas and our officials happily compensate them a few thousand ngultrums and expect them to return to normalcy. I tell you I will pay a 100 times more or 1000 times more, will these officials or will you or I be willing to swap places with them? Poverty is a reality. For us our concern is whether we get balanced diet, if the paints in the apartment are not toxic, is the floor clean? But for these people, they have no decent roof over their head, the earth is their luxurious floor, when they eat in the morning they are not sure if they will have their lunch or dinner. Such is the plight of these people.

A friend of mine asked what will happen to our GNH if we build the road. While environment is one pillar of GNH, so is economic development. As per the constitution, the country’s resources belong to the people of Bhutan not just to the urban people, not just to the industrialists, not just to the people with money and power. GNH means the collective happiness of the nation and its people in harmony with the nature. When a quarter of our people are in dire poverty, how do we achieve GNH by protecting a section of our environment? A GNH society in my vision is a society with collective responsibility and values, towards oneself and others. But a simple vision of GNH propounded by our beloved king has now become too complex and beyond the comprehension and interpretation of our common people.

In terms of the country’s economy, while mega projects are important too, I feel it is the cottage industries and the small and medium sized industries which will have real benefit to our real people. Big industries only benefit a few industrialists. If we do more, we will again make them richer because only they can put in more money. We only create masters and servants then. And if these industries close down, hundreds of lives are affected. Cottage industries are either family owned or a community owned. It revitalizes community living but without a road they cannot market their products. If we really want to act now let us start new, assess where we have failed, and weigh them against the benefits to the people. I assure you this road will feature very high in the list. Yes we need big industries too to boost our GDP but did we not say GNH is more important than GDP? Or are we confused ourselves?

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Shingkhar-Gorgan Road III

Agreed. Roads to Merak, Sakteng, Gasa and Laya are happening for the first time. But so is the Shingkhar-Gorgan road happening for the first time for the gewogs of Metsho and Jarey, two of the poorest gewogs under Lhuentse district. And I marvel at how you confidently proclaim without any basis that the other roads will be cheaper. And even if it is cheaper the other roads just benefit a community of a few thousand, while the Shingkhar-Gorgan road benefit the whole of Lhuntse, Trashi Yangtse and even the other eastern dzongkhags. Roads, everywhere, are “basic necessities”. I challenge you, it might cost more to built a road to Jarey and Metsho gewogs connecting from the present Lhuntse road and ultimately benefit only these two communities while Shingkhar Gorgan road will not only benefit these two gewogs but the whole of eastern Bhutan. If Jarey and Metsho are gewogs, so are Merak, Sakteng and Laya. Everyone will and should get a fair share of development but everything cannot happen at the same time.

Yes I agree we shouldn’t be stuck talking about the past but what guarantee is there that these environmentalists have really woken up? Maybe they are just shouting in their dreams and then go back to sleep again. And in the process jeopardize an important development project. Stopping a project to protect the environment is like putting everyone in jail to stop crime! Close the roads to stop traffic jams! No! Instead, built the road and in the process put all you have learnt, share your expertise with the government, work as partners. Fortunately, there are enough mistakes to learn from! Our environmentalists are supposedly super trained and super exposed. As per RAA report, they are the ones who have availed most training and travel abroad. Isn’t it time and opportune that they now put their skills at work? Sacrifice a few trainings abroad and visit the construction site as frequently as possible. Advise the government. Point out the flaws. Offer solutions.

Agreed that the humble dwellings of our Kings are a matter of choice and not compulsion. Agreed that it is precisely for this reason that our monarchs are held in such high esteem and reverence. But when were our ministers deprived of that choice? You talk as if the only other choice apart from a mansion is a hut or a bagho! Are ministers barred from being held in high esteem and reverence?

And I am marveled that a decent dwelling for our donors and the SAARC leaders is something over and beyond the Taj, Aman and the tourist standard hotels! A decent meal is a seven course meal in the Taj and Aman! The only other option being kharang and joktang or a delicacy all the way from Lhuenste! Wow! If this be the case, I pray that we don’t have to organize another high level meet here lest we land up building a mansion each for the MPs as well!

As citizens we don’t dictate the government what to do and what not to do. If things don’t go right, it is not you or me who will be held accountable. At best, if things don’t go well, we would be more than happy to criticize again. Our responsibility is to suggest and not to impose. After consulting and taking in views from all sections, it is up to the government to take the decision which, in its view, is the best. If the government takes an arbitrary decision all together, yes then we have the right to question. If the proposed plan makes no sense at all, then we have the right. If it benefits only a few industrialists and upper class, then we have the right. But in this case government has been very forthcoming to views and suggestions, requesting environmentalists to come forward to work together and that too to uplift the lives of thousands of people who live in poverty.

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Shingkhar-Gorgan Road II

Dear Sir,

Actually until late I have not been totally passionate in support of the road. But what has prompted me to respond is because many of the environmentalists seem to be vehemently against the road when there are ample examples of how they have failed to perform their duties in the past.

Yes I agree with your example of how we have failed to consider the environment impact while doing the Thimphu-Paro highway. But what were our environmentalists doing then? Did they just wake up to protest against the Shingkhar-Gorgan road? What was our apex organization like the NEC who seems to be now very deeply concerned? Where were they when roads everywhere where built ad-hoc without environment clearances, especially the farm roads? What are they doing when illegal mining is rampant causing irreparable damage to the environment? What are they doing to tackle pollution in the industrial area of Pasakha? There is not even a proper water treatment system at the Olakha workshop area. What are we doing to combat illegal felling of trees which seems to be a very organized and rampant business? Where were our environmentalists when BBC falsely claimed to have sighted tigers for the first time in Bhutan? Was there no rule, no law then? Whether the contractors will follow or not is totally irrelevant. They are business people and they may not but what are the mandates of our monitoring and implementing agencies?

There is a road being built to Merak Sakteng, a road to Gasa and Laya. The road to Merak Sakteng will only benefit about the 1000 inhabitants there and to Gasa about 3000. I am sure they come at very heavy cost too. The road to Gasa will then be continued towards Laya to benefit about 800 people there. But I am not saying they don’t deserve or that their economic prospects don’t befit them of a road. They definitely need to be connected. We cannot expect our rural folks to live in poverty to showcase to our western world and claim to have GNH when every rule is being broken to suit the urban needs and demands of industrialists. From central and southern dzongkhags, let me pull out Zhemgang and Samtse, two of the poorest dzongkhags again. Zhemgang will benefit from the Gomphu-Panbang road on the southern Bhutan east west highway. This highway will also pass through Royal Manas National Park and Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park. A road to connect Samtse with Phuntsholing is being constructed within Bhutan. Almost the whole of Gasa Dzongkhag is under the Jigme Dorji National Park and almost the whole of Merak Sakteng under Sakteng wildlife Sanctuary. The fact is almost the whole of Bhutan is either a park, wildlife sanctuary or a biological corridor! There is nothing heavenly in Lhuentsi in comparison to this dzongkhags except for some of the most sacred baeyuls or hidden lands blessed by Guru Rinpoche such as Singye Dzong, Khenpajong, Phuning la, Rinchen Bumpa etc. The fate of the people there is no less or no better than many of our people around Bhutan who live in poverty.

And I have mentioned and it is apparent that the road will not only benefit Lhuentsi but will be extended towards Trashi Yangtsi which will reduce the travel to Yangtsi even more than Lhuentsi. The travel time to eastern Bhutan is cut by 30 kilometers. And unless you have proper statistics, I don’t think it’s reasonable on your part to hike up the cost of the road from Nu. 850 million to a staggering Nu. 3000 million.

Yes I also agree Chukha-Damchu bypass would carry 200 times more vehicular traffic. Perhaps with the bypass, maybe even 300% or 500%. So when there is proper infrastructure there will be more investment and definitely more vehicular traffic. Well yes the government of India is funding but where the budget should be allocated is as per recommendations of our government. If we want we could easily divert it to more pressing issues like you said.  Indian government in the 10th plan has a grant of 20 billion ngultrums the usage and allocation of which is to be determined by the Royal Government of Bhutan. It doesn’t come with instructions to specifically spend it for the Chukha-Damchu bypass.

Well yes, we have spent Nu. 450 million on the ministerial enclave and I don’t buy the idea that it served its purpose for the SAARC summit. I would have very much liked our SAARC leaders to experience the true Bhutan than to be given a false impression. We had to go to the extent of importing doors and windows from Malaysia, furnishing each mansions cost millions to the government. I don’t know if our SAARC leaders noted the irony that our Kings live in humble dwellings while our Ministers very conveniently built mansions for themselves in the name of SAARC summit. And this is also probably one reason why our donors are planning to phase out because they meet our Ministers in their mansions and not our common people in their huts. They dine in the Taj and Aman over a seven course meals and not a meager meal of kharang and joktang.

The Hon. Prime Minister on BBS yesterday said, “We will make sure that both the human and wildlife coexist and benefit from each other” and that “all concerned environmental agencies like NEC, WWF, RSPN will be invited to give their input and opinions on Shingkhar – Gorgan road. We need to know what is there and how the highway will affect those species. But the road is a necessity”. Now let us hold the Prime Minister responsible. Let us hold the government responsible and let us hold these environment agencies responsible to ensure that measures put in place.

Thank you.

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Shingkhar-Gorgan Road

Lhuentse dzongkhag is considered as one of the remotest and least developed regions in the country.  43% of the total population of about 27,000 live under the poverty line. Rural electrification coverage is only 68.42%.

The contention that the road is not justifiable considering the economic potential of Lhuentse dzongkhag is totally naïve.  You have stated yourself that there should be requisite infrastructure in place to stimulate economic growth and thus determine the economic potential of a region. Everything depends on the road;  the fact that no economic potential has been identified, the fact that 43% of its population live under the poverty line, the fact that only 68.42% of the households are only electrified;  all boils down to its remoteness and that everything gets costlier by the time it reaches there. If we strictly and vehemently go by your “basic principles of economics and rules of investment”, the bjob and brokpa populations can never justify for any development benefits due to their remoteness and modest population, unless they decide to incessantly produce babies to increase their population! (only Intended for humor)

Your presumption that people may still like to travel by the old route is best left as a presumption.  If our leaders in the 1960s, contemplating on the need to built the first road had based their decision on such a presumption that people may still like to walk; that no one owned a car in Bhutan-not even the King; that it was going to cost an infinite amount at that time; the fact that we had no money of our own; we would have been still living in blissful isolation, just as we were centuries ago. However, where we are today is all because of the decision taken by our leaders to build the road network. Road network is the backbone of development.

And it is not only Lhuntse dzongkhag that the road will benefit.  In future, this road will connect Trashi Yangtse, another remote and least developed dzongkhag. It also cuts the distance to Mongar by about 30 kilometers so this in turn will reduce the distance to the whole of eastern Bhutan via Mongar by that much.  So it is also a concocted fact that it will only benefit people of Lhuentse; concocted to suit the justifications against doing the road.

“Does it justify spending such a huge amount of money?” Well it sure does! It is directly benefiting two of the remotest and poorest dzongkhags and partially the whole of eastern Bhutan. Eastern Bhutan in general has not reaped the benefits of economic development as much as its counterparts in western Bhutan. Living conditions of people in the east can be compared to about 10 years ago in western Bhutan.  If we can spend over Nu. 2000 million (!!!) to do the Chukha-Damchu bypass that cuts the distance between Thimphu and Phuntsholing by mere 19 kilometers, it sure does make sense to spend Nu. 850 million (or 2000 million if you like with all your factors contributing to increase in cost) that cuts the distance to Lhuentse by 100 kilometers, much more to Trashi Yangtse, and rest of eastern Bhutan by 30 kilometers. It sure does make sense to spend that much and even more for the sake of the poor and neglected lot of the country. It sure does make sense if it is a crucial basis of survival for 43% of people in Lhuentse and a little less in Trashi Yangtse who are struggling under the poverty line.  If we can spend over 450 million ngultrums for the ministerial enclave, it sure does make sense. It is ironical that our ministers live in mansions while a quarter of our population is merely struggling to survive and that our Monarchs live in decent dwellings which don’t even qualify to be referred to as palaces. Even if based on bare mathematic calculations, Nu. 850 million divided by just the population of Lhuentse and Trashi Yangtse alone (approx. 50,000 people), the net expenditure is Nu. 17,000. Doesn’t it make sense to spend Nu. 17,000/- each for a section of our people who are struggling in poverty? Not to forget the generations of people of the east who will benefit. This figure doesn’t even consider the rest of the eastern dzongkhags who will also stand to benefit.

In terms of savings from fuel: if a modest 50 cars every day use the road to travel to eastern Bhutan; the mileage being 12 kmpl, fuel cost an average of Nu. 50 per litre; distance reduced is 100 kms: there will be a saving of more than Nu. 74 lakhs every year, only from fuel. This is not even considering the reduction in pollution, amount of time saved, expenses on wear and tear etc! So, by this calculation, the estimated cost of Nu. 850 million is in no way exorbitant but in fact trifles compared to what has been spent for other projects far less important and crucial than this road. Please share with us where it is even more justified to spend the money.

I wouldn’t state that Lhuentse dzongkhag is more deserving than any other dzongkhag or for that matter less deserving than any other dzongkhag as well. It would be interesting to know which dzongkhag in your opinion deserves more than Lhuentse and Trashi Yangtse and why?

Your reasoning that “It is quite possible that the overall length of the road may be shortened but the driving time may actually be longer” is but again a presumption. While you have asked for figures to back up how many households the road will benefit, the net cost on each individual and so on, I don’t know if you have any data and research to support many of your own presumptuous statements such as the one above and that people may still prefer to use the old road. You rightly asked, “If that happens, how have you achieved economy and savings and reduction in emission?” Rightly so, you are saying “IF”, but what “IF” it doesn’t happen as you foresee? The “IF” applies both ways!

To quote you again: “I have already said in my post that conservation should never be a hindrance to human development and progress. We are aware that such a thing is counterproductive and thus it must never be allowed to be seen as a stumbling block. Therefore, if paddy fields need to be usurped for the larger benefit of the country and the people of Bhutan, so be it.” I agree here. But in the same vein, doesn’t it make sense now to build the road which is going to be of great economic benefit to a needy section of our people? I understand the importance and the need to preserve the environment. In fact I myself have always been a very staunch supporter of environment preservation but the pursuit of any cause should not be such that as if a slight disturbance to it would mean the end of the world. I am sure we can find a middle ground where we also get the road while environment concerns are also being taken care of. I see it more rational that we use our citizenship right and duties to ensure that eco-friendly road construction methods are put in place not only for this road but for all others as well. It is our responsibility now to make the government live up to its words to built the road in the most eco-friendly and sustainable manner as stated by the Prime Minister himself.

I think we are already doing more than our bit in preserving the environment; perhaps even more than what we can chew.  Our environment policies are way too stringent and I would appreciate some flexibility to accommodate development activities to uplift the lives of our rural population. Considering the world ecology, our efforts can hardly make any difference when the developed world hardly pays any heed to all the climate treaties. However, by this statement, I don’t mean to undermine the importance and the need to preserve our environment, but if we have to make a little sacrifice for our very own disadvantaged people, so be it. By our constitution, 60% of the country is to be maintained as a forest and that is a huge contribution to the world from a small country like ours. But today we have over 70% under forest cover.

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The True Monarch

The dawn of November 11, 1955

A nation celebrated the birth of its future king

An assurance of yet another generation of unprecedented leadership

Continuance of a legacy of monarchs in the true service of the people

The nation was overjoyed; their future secured.

Today, over thirty years since His accession to the Golden Throne

The legacy of the glorious Drukpa still lives on.

 

I cried, Your Majesty, even as a man I cried

(And I am not ashamed of my tears)

I cried to see You abdicate in favor of Your worthy heir

A son of a lion will always be a lion, no doubt

But a simple tribute I had to pay

For the future we are yet to see, the past stands witness to our admiration

When time comes, I shall not regret to cry again-of course!

 

I saw, Your Majesty, I saw You as a true monarch of the people

Genuine kindness and compassion! Gods are not only in heaven!

My eyes are not divine yet I saw,

I saw and I felt, I felt the joy of serving

I bow to you, for that’s the least I can do

I bow to Your magnanimity.

 

A promise I make, Your Majesty, a promise I shall keep

I promise to work, to work with integrity, to work with inspiration

To work with dedication and to work for a purpose

The purpose-realization of Your vision of Gross National Happiness

If for that my little efforts can contribute, even a trifle

I promise to work with sincerity

A Bhutan You visualized, I pray, will be a Bhutan that the future Bhutanese will live in

 

We are at the threshold of a new era

An era reluctantly accepted by the people of Bhutan

Will not the unprecedented peace and happiness we enjoyed

Become a fairytale of the past? Many wonder…

My dear fellow Bhutanese, the past was glorious

The future lies in our hands

Let us join hands to make His Majesty proud of us, as much as we are proud of Him

 

History, my dear friends, history will tell…

History will tell of a King who served and not ruled

History will tell of a King who listened and not commanded

History will tell of a King who led and not directed

And this history perhaps might repeat once in a million years!

 

Dear gods in the realms of heaven

My deepest respects and reverence

My lord, were I to live my life all over again

I should like it just as I have done

Neither do I complain of the past

Nor do I fear the future

Yet a small wish a beg of thee

That the dragon Kings continue to guide us

And that the glorious Palden Drukpa continues to shine

That’s all I ask thee, My Lord, that’s all I ask thee

 

(The above is a poem I had written in 2008 and published by Tarayana Foundation in the book “Jewel of Men”- compilation of poems dedicated to His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, on the occasion of the Coronation and Centenary Celebrations. )

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