Zhemgang highlights

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On the sidelines of the three-day Bhutan Bird Festival in Zhemgang, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering met with people of three gewogs (Nangkor, Pangkhar and Ngangla), business communities of Panbang and Tingtibi, and teachers and students of about four schools.

Repair of roads connecting the district, bridges linking chiwogs, lack of budget for certain projects, or BHU left in want of health workers were some of the common subjects that surfaced.

We return to Wangduephodrang today, having taken note of all the issues and follow-ups. In doing so, we would like to share some of the few high points from the visit to the south central district this week.

1. Starting with an inspiring story first, in Buli, three people stood, requesting Prime Minister to call off transfer of their health assistant who worked in the gewog for about 10 years.

The contributions of health assistant Bijay Thapa, transcending his normal routine, be it odd hours or homes afar, have improved lives and touched hearts of many villagers. In fact, his transfer to another place two years ago was called off on a similar demand. There are many stories of Bijay Thapa’s selfless acts and today, villagers fear the replacement might not fill in the shoe.

The prime minister said it was always heart warming to hear stories of a fellow Bhutanese displaying great acts of kindness and making difference in the lives of the people. At the same time, the prime minister said it was important to respect Bijay’s choice, for he sought to move to a health facility closer to his aging parents.

2. In all the meetings, sharing meals and catching up with the prime minister in between, were the Parliament representatives of the two constituencies of Zhemgang. In fact, they accompanied the prime minister through the week. The two members of the Parliament, Dorji Wangdi and Gyambo Tshering, both from opposition, were prime minister’s classmates in Sherubtse College.

For the people, it was a stimulating display of unity. While contesting ideas and debating issues at the Parliament, it meant coming together to serve people in the grassroots.

3. On different occasions, the government was applauded for not indulging in party politics while in governance.

A businessman in Tingtibi stood up to mention that they did not feel division along party lines since the arrival of third government. He said such mindful conduct of the government gave them comfort and security.

The prime minister said division along political lines could prove too costly for this small nation. He assured that the government, in all its dealings would never encourage such practices, irrespective of opposition and ruling representations in the Parliament.

“The party tussle during elections should stop soon after one forms government and other, opposition,” he said. “After that, everyone should come together to work towards the progress of the country.”

4. In response to a question from one of the gups, the prime minister said Chamkharchhu project will not happen, at least not for this government.

The prime minister said Chamkharchhu and other projects were identified as potential projects, stated in Vision 2020, when Bhutan was at the best of hydropower harvest following success of Chukha, Kurichhu and Tala plants.

But today the hydropower scenario has changed. Time and cost overruns of Punatsangchhu I, and impediment with Kholongchhu has convinced the government to take cautious steps in hydropower.

Even otherwise, prime minister said its focus for Zhemgang is tourism and not hydropower. With that, government is exploring ways to improve access while also visiting many programs to make Zhemgang the ultimate destination for nature tourism.

5. Finally, on a lighter note, Tingtibi, for the first time, saw a traffic jam with about 400 cars crowding the venue of the bird festival. But what is not a joke is the potential of the district and those who are managing it that the festival unveiled.

Led by the passionate zeal and personal initiative of Zhemgang dzongda Lobzang Dorji, the officials and locals had come together to clear the slope that was converted into the festival ground. From cleaning streets, inviting guests, looking for funds, to collaborating and managing the three-day event, it was a pure show of team work.

Zhemgang Dzongkhag displayed an innovative nature based approach of the bird festival that brought a community together while boosting the local economy. Such kind of approach is what is required from our Local Governments.

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