Thursday, February 8, 2018

One more – from among a slew of Humanitarian Projects by the Rotary Club of Thimphu.

Ms. Kezang Wangmo, a 26 years old Bhutanese young lady has a eye-related problem that is a mouthful to pronounce. The ailment is called – Keratoconus. Try and pronounce that!

 Ms. Kezang Wangmo - young and vivacious but Keratoconus bound!

Wikepedia describes Keratoconus thus:
Keratoconus (KC) is a disorder of the eye which results in progressive thinning of the cornea. This may result in blurry vision, double vision, nearsightedness, astigmatism and light sensitivity. Usually both eyes are affected. In more severe cases a scarring or a circle may be seen within the cornea. While it occurs in all populations, it may be more frequent in certain ethnic groups such as those of Asian descent.


Keratoconus

The girl approached the Rotary Club of Thimphu to help her correct the problem. However, the Club’s long established policy is that we do not take on individual cases. Regardless I happen to have a good friend in Dhaka, Bangladesh who is the Managing Director of one of the region’s best eye hospitals called Bangladesh Eye Hospital.

I contacted the good doctor for help, and he promptly agreed to perform the procedure needed - called CXL - absolutely free of cost. Not only that, he also agreed that his hospital would provide a guest room at a concessional daily charge of only Nu.1,000.00 per night. Over and above that, he would send someone over to pick up the girl and her husband from the airport. This is Rotary spirit at its highest - Dr. Niaz Abdur Rahman, Consultant Vitreo-Retina Surgeon & Managing Director of Bangladesh Eye Hospital, Dhaka is a Rotarian.

So, the cost of the procedure has been duly taken care of. Next hurdle was the cost of air ticket to travel to Dhaka and back. The girl and her husband are not financially capable for the reason for which she contacted us for help. So we then wrote to the national flag carrier - Druk Air for help. They readily agreed to issue two complementary round trip air tickets to the girl and her husband - in partial fulfillment of their CSR. In that respect, Druk Air has always been forth coming - we congratulate them for their sense of social responsibility, as the country's national flag carrier.

Now  it is all systems go - every thing is in place and the girl will soon be traveling to Dhaka to save her eye sights. She has problem in both her eyes.

Deliverance from darkness is what I call this. A worthy humanitarian Rotary project.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Yet Another Humanitarian Service Project by the Rotary Club of Thimphu

On Sunday the 28th January, 2018, the Rotary Club of Thimphu officially handed over 36 Pour-Flush Type toilets in the impoverished community of Bongo village, under Chhukha Dzongkhag.

21 of the 36 toilets can be seen in this cluster of village homes - structures with red roofs

It is a mystery why Bongops are so poor that they cannot build toilets for themselves. This village sits bang in the middle of Bhutan’s earliest hydro power projects - Tala and Chhukha Hydro Power Projects. From all accounts hydro power projects are supposed to bring riches to the community where they are located. The reality is that even the access road to Bongo village is unpaved and barely usable.

The Club's Logo stands out bold and proud atop one of the toilets

The quality of work done on the toilets by the Coordinator and the community is impressive

The Bongo toilet project is Rotary Club of Thimphu’s signature project. The level of community ownership and spirit of collaboration was such that the construction of entire 36 toilets were completed in 35 days – which is to say that one toilet took less than a day to construct. Around the world, the Rotary Club of Thimphu is credited with speedy and timely implementation of projects – but nothing comes even close to what we achieved in Bongo. The credit ofcourse goes entirely to one of the Bongo Tshogpa Members – Mr. Sangay Thinley. He tirelessly worked to ensure that the project was on schedule and that there was no cost overruns. Even better, what he and his team produced at the end of the project period is something that we can all be proud of.


Shinier they come, better they get! Club President Tsewang Rinzing with Rtn. Bharatbhushan Jayantilal of Rotary Club of Metro Kuala Lumpur who represented the Malaysian Clubs during the handing-over ceremony of the toilets

But it appears that we cannot rest on our laurels – not just as yet. The village next to Bongo called Ketokha is on to the act – they too want toilets. And they want 59 of them! And why not? Who are we to deny them their toilets? Happily, we are already working on the project – cash for 4 toilets is already firmly in the pocket – 55 more to go down. And, we will get there – with help from some 3 million bountiful Rotarians spread over 220 countries around world.

After all, I have to be kept honest too -  I cannot be allowed to forget that I was, after all, born on the World Toilet Day – 19th November!
Ketokha village in Bongo - they too want toilets and 59 of them

The names of the donors to the Bongo Project is listed below. As you can see, it has mostly been the Malaysians’ show:

Dr. Selva Kumar SIVAPUNNIAM, Rotary Club of Indera Mahkota, Malaysia
TEH Boon Chun, Rotary Club of Alor Setar, Malaysia
Mahandaran PERUMAL, Rotary Club of Sri Petaling, Malaysia
Allison FONG, Rotary Club of Bandar Utama, Malaysia
Joseph YEO, Rotary Club of Bandar Utama, Malaysia
Rotary Club of Bandar Utama, Malaysia
Rotary Club of Ara Damansara, Malaysia
James OOI Wah Chooi, Rotary Club of Puchong Centennial, Malaysia
William PU Meng Jin, Rotary Club of Puchong Centennial, Malaysia
Jimmy WONG You Min, Rotary Club of Puchong Centennial, Malaysia
Kejuruteraan Berdua Sdn Bhd, c/o Rotary Club of Puchong Centennial, Malaysia
Judy YU, Rotary Club of Tawau Tanjung, Malaysia
Estate of Mdm KUNG Dee Yot, c/o Rotary Club of Utara Subang Jaya, Malaysia
Rotary Club of Metro Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Modernform Sdn Bhd, c/o Rotary Club of Teluk Intan, Malaysia
Max Solution (M) Sdn Bhd, c/o Rotary Club of Sri Petaling, Malaysia
Cloud Data Sdn Bhd, c/o Rotary Club of Sri Petaling, Malaysia
Rotary Club of Chenai, India
Rtn. Asha Marina S, President 2016 -17, Rotary Club of Madras South, India
Rtn. Dr. Kameswar Singh Elangbam, Past President 2016 – 2017, Rotary Club of Shillong, India
Nubri Capital, Thimphu, Bhutan

One person's name does not appear on the above list - that of Rtn. K K Looi. He deserves special mention for his role in raising the money that made it possible for R C Thimphu to implement the project. He put together the donors who contributed money.

Token of Appreciation Plaque issued to Rtn. K K Looi, for his contribution, by the Rotary Club of Thimphu

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Rotary Club of Thimphu Service Projects

With funding from the Rotary Club of Sarasota, USA, the Rotary Club of Thimphu has recently installed a water filtration system at the Technical Training Institute, Rangjung, Trashigang. Made in Germany by Karcher, the reverse osmosis solution dispenses 100 liters of filtered water every hour. The institute has received 2 units of these advanced water filtration systems.

 Karcher water filter made in Germany

Institute Principal getting his dose of filtered water

Next in line is Udzorong Central School, Trashigang where a much, much larger filtration system will be installed during early February. Known as the SkyHydrant Filtration System, this single unit dispenses 12,000 ltrs. of clean and safe water per day. Donated by the Disaster Aid Australia, 5 of these mammoth filters are already in use in 5 schools across the country. Five more are in the process of being installed in schools that need safe water for their children.

SkyHydrant Water Filtration System donated by Disaster Aid Australia

Even as I am writing this Blog post, 36 Pour-Flush type toilets are being inaugurated in Bongo village, Chukha today. The Rotary Club of Thimphu, along with a host of Rotarians and Rotary Clubs from Malaysia, India, and individuals from across the world have contributed to this project. A detailed post will be made in the next few days.

Even as I write this Blog post, 36 of these Pour-Flush type toilets are being handed over to the Bongo community.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Imminent Water Wars of the World

By 2025, two-thirds of the world will live under conditions of water scarcity.
International Water Management Institute

Global water demands will increase by 40% in the next ten years.

Pacific Institute

Two-thirds of the cities in China suffer from water shortages. Clean water is even more rare.

Asia Water Projects

India WILL run out of water in the near future.

Arlington Institute

The world's highest unclimbed peak - Gungkhar Puensoom - located in North-Central Bhutan, reflected on the lake at its base where the as yet undammed Chamkhar Chhu originates

WATER: it is critical to all life forms on this earth. Without it, nothing will survive. And yet, even while we are being forewarned of the eminent disaster from which there is no escape, we remain blasé about it. The least that we can do is to secure what we have, even if adding to it is beyond us.

We may not be doing anything to safeguard our water resources but it looks like one country is certainly preparing themselves. Take a look at the following:

It is obvious that water is going to be a resource over which wars will be fought. If it is going to be that scarce, we have to stop compromising the value of our rivers, by pledging them as collateral for doomed hydro-power projects. All indications are that our rivers in their natural form would serve us better, instead of shackling them to eternal bondage by building dams over it – to turn hydro-power turbines that churn out debts by the hundreds of billions at 10% interest rate.

Let us be responsible to our future generations and make a pledge today to keep some of our rivers free flowing. In any event, solar power is fast emerging as a serious competition to hydro-power. In 1977 solar cells used to cost US$ 76.67 per watt. By July of 2016, per watt cost of solar cells had dropped to US$ 0.26. It will not be long before hydro-power is nudged out of the competition. Thus even from the point of view of investment, it looks like we are putting our debts behind a loser.

Let us stop further hydro-power projects. It is pretty clear that in the next 5-6 years, energy generated by hydro-power projects will no longer be competitive. Even worse, water may no longer qualify as a renewable resource, caused by global warming.

Fortunately for Bhutan, only two of our rivers originate in Tibet China - Kuri Chhu and Amo Chhu. So any acts of water terrorism by China won’t effects us. But it is a completely different story for some other riparian states downstream of some of the major river systems of the Himalayas, as the following maps demonstrates.

Major river systems of Bhutan

Major river systems that originate in Tibet China

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Vital Statistics



Photos for the Photo Lovers

The following is being posted for those of you who love photography. I selected these for their sharpness and near perfect exposure. The images have been intentionally cropped and watermarked to prevent some of you naughty guys downloading them












The photo of Punakha Dzong was taken on the last day of 2017 - clearly a dramatic end to the year.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

100 Rotary Peace Fellowships on Offer for the year 2019

The Rotary International is now accepting Rotary Peace Fellowship Applications for the year 2019. A hundred fellowships is on offer. The fellowships are intended for individuals who have chosen a career related to international relations, peace, and conflict resolution; who have work experience in these areas; and who have a commitment to community or international humanitarian services and to work for peace.

Two types of fellowships are offered: A Master’s program and a Professional Development Certificate program at premier universities around the world.  The fellowship includes: Tuition and fees, Room and board, Round-trip transportation, and Internship/field study expenses.

For more information about the Peace Fellowship, please visit:


https://www.rotary.org/en/our-programs/peace-fellowships

The application is available online at:

The Rotary Club of Thimphu will be happy to endorse all qualifying Bhutanese applicants. The application deadline is 30 April, 2018.

Please read up on the above two sites – everything you need to know is available on those two sites. The Rotary Club of Thimphu will only get involved at the stage of endorsement of the applications - we will not be in a position to assist you in any way during the application process.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Environmental Heroes & Assisins

Here is a THUMBS UP to the people of New York: I root for you in your endeavor to act meaningfully and realistically, to help save the earth’s environment. This goes to prove that no matter how debauched the present American administration may be, the American people still have your souls intact.

http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/022-18/climate-action-mayor-comptroller-trustees-first-in-the-nation-goal-divest-from#/0

And, here is a THUMBS DOWN to all those Bhutanese people who support the construction of the illegal and meaningless Shingkhar-Gorgan road. The debauchery among those who matter is such that I am told one Commission Member of the NEC refuses to attend the Commission meeting unless the environmental clearance of the construction of the road is on the agenda.


Talking of NEC, here is another THUMBS UP to the Commission’s Secretary Chencho Norbu, who unwaveringly stands his ground despite threats of dire consequences from some who think they are powerful enough to subjugate a spirit that has remained undaunted all his serving life.


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Thrizin, Thrizin, Thrizin of Zhemgang, Wherefore Art Thou A Thrizin?

Of late, I have been hearing of a bizarre decision supposedly taken by the Thrizin of Zhemgang Dzongkhag Tshogdu. From what I hear, the Thrizin wants to make it compulsory for every one in the Dzongkhag (District) to wear our national dress.

Zhemgang Dzong with the rarely seen view of the Black Mountain range in the background, covered in snow

The fact that whole lots of people have ridiculed the decision and made the Thrizin a butt of whole lot of jokes is clear indication that there are not many who think he is being serious. Such a regressive decision is neither progressive, nor productive. But I hear that the man is dead serious about carrying through his decision.

Now what is to be seen is whether the laws in place will permit him to enforce a rule that impacts at a national level - not merely the people of his Dzongkhag. Well, I suppose if we go and elect a XXXXXX, we have to live with one. My census too is in Zhemgang but I am happy to tell you that I did not vote for him.

There is something that intrigues me though. According to what I hear, the Thrizin is proposing this national dress rule - as a means to “serve the country and preserve our culture”. But he proposes that the rule be applicable only from 9AM until 5PM. That is generous of him.

But the question I want to ask the Thrizin is this: What happens to our cultural values, ethical standards and the need to serve the nation - after 5PM until 9AM in the morning? Can Khengpas go completely lawless and uncouth; shorn of culture, etiquette and discipline - during this time? Is it acceptable that cultural sensitivity and duty to the Tsa Wa Soom be given a reprieve at certain intervals?

Please hammer some sense into the Thrizin. He is obviously clueless about what he is doing.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Service At The Highest Level – A Contineous Endeavor

A tour operator who aspires to provide service at the highest level continues to worry whether he/she has been able to deliver the best that is possible - long after the group has departed for home, and long after the profits have been banked in. As a person engaged in the service and hospitality industries, I have long recognized the correlation between right price for the right service. But once the preliminary stage is crossed - that of obtaining the asking price, my focus shifts to the most important part of the deal - that of preparing for the delivery of the asking service. In its pursuit, I become completely oblivious of the asking price. The price is no longer important.

Nothing should gratify a tour operator more than the praises of their satisfied clients.

Recently I had a couple group from USA for whom I arranged a 9-days trek to Jumolhari/Soe Yaktsa. At the end of the trek, they described my facilities thus:

“Our tent and facility were like a palace among shanties".

This was an obvious reference to my tent and other facilities, compared to those close to 40 tents that were pitched at Jangothang camp site.

 Extreme high altitude tent that can withstand gusts of upto 100 KMs/hour - comfortable at center height of 5'.10"

A whooping 580 lumens Dining/Kitchen LED Lantern

133 lumens Head lamps that can brighten up the whole forest

Extreme protection for the guests' luggage - no less than Pelican hard cases - photographed at Dochu-La with the Himalayan rage as the backdrop

Soft comfort for the head and neck - Premium goose down pillows proudly made in the USA

 Super high 340 lumens LED lamps that brighten up the entire tent

I need no further feed back from my clients on how I performed in the delivery of service. However, the guide is as important as the facilities you provide on a trek ---- so I sent a mail to my clients asking them to rank the guide’s performance. The following is what the husband wrote:

Yeshey-

Xxxx Xxxxxxxx was a wonderful guide. He was very knowledgeable about the trails and terrain and weather. Xxxx Xxxxxxxx always told us what to expect and when we would arrive at different milestones or destinations. And he was very good about setting a hiking pace to fit our abilities. He seemed to work very well with the rest of the trail team. He is young and energetic, and sometimes very funny. For instance, when he heard his cell phone ring, he would excuse himself from our conversation by saying, “Oh, sorry, it’s the Prime Minister calling." Xxxx Xxxxxxxx took us on adventures we would never have dreamed of and left us with unforgettable memories.
 
-Steve

So it seems that even my guide scored 100%. Thus the guide will remain a team member on my future treks.

FOOTNOTE:
In fact the clients were so happy that they donated US$ 4,765.00 to the Rotary Club of Thimphu - to do 2 filtered water supply project to Soe ECR in Jangothang and Bitekha school, Paro.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Service Above Self - Rotary Club of Thimphu's Humanitarian Projects III

Even as we were heaving a sigh of relief upon successful winding down of our Migraine Treatment Project II and Water Filter Projects, word reached us that our Solar Fencing Project was ready for handing over to the beneficiaries in Kheng Nimshong, Zhemgang.

Under funding from the Rotary Club of Handa, Japan, we had begun work on the installation of 7 KMs long solar fencing project in Kheng Nimshong. Not one to be caught tottering in indecision, the Club President Tsewang Rinzing drove to Zhemgang to handover the project to the Nimshong community. While there, he also handed over the SkyHydrant Water Filter Systems at Zhemgang Central School and Yebilaptsa Central School.

 Solar Fencing handed over to the community of Kheng Nimshong

Club President Rtn. Tsewang Rinzing flanked by the community members of Kheng Nimshong

Two years back, we had installed a similar but smaller (4 KMs long) project at Kheng Goleng. This project too was funded by the same Japanese Club - Rotary Club of Handa, Japan.

Proud donors from Japan stand by the Solar fencing project funded by them in Kheng Goleng

The Rotary Club of Thimphu’s core areas of focus are: Agriculture, Education and Health. The Members of the Rotary Club of Thimphu believe that there is a need to focus on agriculture production since we have the necessary conditions to grow whatever we need.

The pace at which the Rotary Club of Thimphu delivers projects is breath taking, literally. We need to slow down to catch some breadth but that is not how it is destined to be: we have 4 more projects that are in the pipeline.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Service Above Self - Rotary Club of Thimphu's Humanitarian Projects II

WATER – GIVER OF LIFE: Our planet earth is sometimes called the Blue Planet – a name derived from the color of water. All life forms on earth must draw sustenance from it; it is a life giver, it purifies and is a great source of strength. But it can also cause great destruction. The military have been known to use it as a weapon of annihilation, while in the hands of a healer, it holds the power to cure and mend.

The Bhutanese people know different forms of water by a number of names that differentiate one from the other: seas and oceans are called Jamtsho; large free flowing rivers are called Tsangchhu. Rivulets and small streams are called Rongchhu; while waterfalls take on the name of Zarchhu. Pools and ponds are known as Umchhu and, best among the best of waters are called Drupchhu: blessed water that emanate out of cavities of rocks and cliffs.

Water plays a variety of important roles in the life of a Bhutanese. In traditional Bhutan, every mother of a newborn must be fed water to re-condition her body from the ravages of childbirth. Every newborn must begin life on this earth by being cleansed by water – a ritual known as the Lhabtsang Thruesey.

Bhutanese also use water as burial grounds. Stillborn babies and children under five years of age, including those who die at age 81 are not cremated but put into woven cane baskets and wooden boxes and submerged into deep pools of rivers.

But the most important use of water is for drinking purpose. Water is central to healthy growth of children and adults alike. While Bhutan has the highest per capita availability of water in the region, access to clean and safe drinking water is a huge challenge. The problem of plenty has been caused mainly because of our geography. While settlements and farmlands are on hilltops, most waters are in the ravines at the bottom of the valleys. Thus there is paucity of accessible water, quite often forcing people to consume unsafe water that are not necessarily contaminated - but mostly muddy.

The Rotary Club of Thimphu became aware of the lack of safe drinking water in some of our rural schools. Thus, over the past 3 years, we have been endeavoring to help in the delivery of safe drinking water, particularly to schools in the rural areas. So far we have done close to 15 projects around the country.

It was during February this year that we were made aware of a filtration system that was unique and most ideal for Bhutan’s conditions. Called the SkyHydrant Water Filtration Systems, these industrial capacity water filters that are built like tanks, are capable of dispensing 12,000 ltrs. of clean and safe drinking water a day. Since the time the Malaysian Rotarian - Rtn. K K Looi - introduced us to this filter, we have been relentless in our pursuit at acquiring few units of these fabulous filtration systems, for installation in our schools.

The massive industrial sized SkyHydrant MAX Water Filter System that can churn out 12,000 lts. of clean drinking water per day

Late September of this year we were informed that a Disaster Aid Response Team (DART) Member from Disaster Aid Australia would be arriving Bhutan with 2 units of these fabulous filters. Mr. Andrew Gunn, a DART Member from Disaster Aid Australia arrived Bhutan on 30th September, 2017 – carrying with him two enormous packages of SkyHydrant filters. Since then, we have received further 4 units. As of now, we have installed these filters in the following schools:

Bongo Primary School, Chukha

 Dashiding Higher Secondary School, Punakha

Lobesa Lower Secondary School, Punakha

Yebilabtsa Central School, Zhemgang

Zhemgang Central School, Zhemgang

One more unit is due for installation at the Udzorong Central School, Trashigang - bringing the total installation of these great filters to 6 units so far. It is our hope that Disaster Aid Australia will continue to support us in delivering clean and safe drinking water to our school children around the country.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Service Above Self - Rotary Club of Thimphu's Humanitarian Projects I

The months of September, October, November and December were very busy months for the Rotary Club of Thimphu. I dare say that the number of projects we did during this period has to be a record in the Rotary world.

It began with our signature project - The Treatment of Migraine by Acupuncture Project II during late September to mid October. Although intended to treat migraine only, this project treated a total of 1,194 patients of a variety of ailments - from knock-knees to cerebral palsy. The treatments were carried out in three different places: Thimphu, Paro and Punakha.

The project received validation at the highest level when the two doctors and the translator from the US working on the Project were informed that they would be receiving a Royal Audience from the Great Drukgyal Zhipa! For the doctors, they were aware that there couldn’t be a greater honor than to meet and talk to a Monarch without parallel. For their act of charity, the Royal Audience is their just reward.


The famed Dr. Lin treating a patient



 Dr. Yu examining a monk at Punakha


 A training course in progress for the Drungtshos at the Traditional Medicine Hospital, Thimphu

Even while the Migraine Project was in full swing, I get the sweet, sweet news that the Disaster Aid Australia has agreed to gift us some units of SkyHydrant Water Filter Systems. Now this has got to be absolutely Karmic! Combine the adulation of having our project recognized at the highest level, with the news that we are going to get these awesome filters that we have been eying for a while --- you can guess that my ecstasy was nothing short of subliminal!

Life is looking GOOD!

Full report of the Project can be read at:

http://www.rotarybhutan.org/rotary-club-of-thimphu-conducts-treatment-of-migraine-by-acupuncture-project-ii-2017/

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Albinism or Leucism

Is this an Alibino or is the bird suffering from a genetic condition called Leucism? The bird on the right is obviously a Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) – because I saw it foraging among Common Mynas in Tingtingbi, Zhemgang where I took this photo during my recent trip there. Except for its grayish/whitish coloring, the bird has the features of a Common Myna. But compare its colors to how a normal Common Myna is colored, on the left. I am tempted to believe that the bird is not an albino since you can see the presence of pigments. The other clue that should confirm it as Leucistic is its eye colors – they are normal colored and not pink or red that is typical in the Albinos.



Any views anybody? 

Whatever it is, it is still a bird