Lugar Theatre

Ian Brook ‹ Previous

Lugar Theatre has a unique place in the history of our capital city, Thimphu. Many elders and adults may have many fond memories of the cinema hall, which may have been the only place for modern entertainment available in the 1960s. Perhaps, the theatre is a true witness to the change we Bhutanese are experiencing and also a reflection of how far we have come as nation.

Our youth today must know that there was a time in Thimphu that the two most popular entertainments that enthused people were: His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo playing basketball in the evening at Changlimithang and; watching a movie at the Lugar theatre – matinee, evening and night shows.

To a great extent, as most watched were hindi movies, the typical story of a poor, honest and hardworking person ultimately becoming rich, powerful and happy, could have influenced many Bhutanese including the youth then. Hindi film dialogues and songs were common, which must have helped us in doing business with our immediate neighbour, India and while travelling through the country on other occasions.

One drastic change would be the shift in people’s taste from others to Bhutanese movies, which at that point of time we had none and appeared like a dream to have one of our own. Today, one of the major success stories of our development is our local film and music industries. Hats off to all those involved!

Now Lugar will see a sea change in its audiences and its surroundings. There is no affordability issue with tickets; where once the majority had problems taking out one Ngultrum for a ticket, today, most have no problem of Nu 100 and mingle with the elites and the seniors. The pride, prestige and the distinction of being in the balcony class it once saw may not be even possible today unless reserved.

Lugar will miss most of the young audience as they are now engaged in modern devices and television sets that even parents are facing difficulty to separate them.

The theatre would also find itself in the midst of a concrete jungle packed with cars, whereas, even in the 1980s it was a treat for the eyes to spot a car.

Being at the centre of the town, Lugar theatre has the opportunity to regain its past glory and bring people from all walks of life together.

Therefore, every citizen must know and share the changes witnessed by Lugar Theatre to our younger generations so that one day, even though many of them were not born then, they would understand the hard work, sacrifices and achievements of the past and continue the legacy.


Royal Highland Festival in Laya

Ian Brook ‹ Previous · Next ›

Royal Highland Festival in Laya begins

Festival: The three-day Royal Highlander Festival kicked off in Laya gewog, Gasa with the celebration of World Food Day.

The School Agriculture Programme (SAP), a joint project of the education and agriculture ministries awarded prizes to schools that excelled in school farming.

Damphu Central School (CS), Wanakha CS, Genekha Lower Secondary School, and Zangkhar Primary School in Lhuentse were recognised as schools with the best farms yesterday.

Chumithang Middle Secondary School (MSS) from Chukha was awarded the best vegetable go-to school project and Khasadrapchu MSS bagged the model school farm award.

Each of the schools took away Nu 10,000 in cash prize with certificates.

Gasa Dzongdag, Dorji Dradhrul dedicated the festival to the Birth of His Royal Highness The Gyalsey, the 60th Birth Anniversary of His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo and 400 years of Zhabdrung’s arrival in the country.

“The festival is to promote the tradition and culture of the highlanders,” the dzongdag said.

The chief guest on the first day, National Council Chairperson Sonam Kinga explained to the gathering the critical function of the monarchy in safeguarding the independence and sovereignty of the nation.

Remote highland communities such as Laya are equally important as other  areas of the country to His Majesty, he said.

He added that Bhutan though small is diverse with more than 20 dialects and ethnicity. “His Majesty is the unifying force of the nation,” National Council Chairperson Sonam Kinga said.

Unlike politicians who focus on their respective constituencies and dzongkhags, His Majesty, he said, looks after the country as one and one people.

The Snowman Run concluded yesterday and the winners will receive awards today.

His Majesty The King is expected to grace the festival today and tomorrow.

More than 100 farmers from Bumthang, Gasa, Haa, Lhuentse, Paro, Thimphu, Trongsa, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, and Wangduephodrang exhibited various livestock products.

Tshering Palden | Laya

A model GNH by

Ian Brook ‹ Previous · Next ›

Transforming Menchari into a model GNH village

Community: Recognizing the village of Menchari as one of the least developed communities in Samdrupjongkhar, the Samdrupjongkhar Initiative (SJI) of the Lhomon Society, a civil society organisation (CSO) is attempting to turn it into a model Gross National Happiness (GNH) village.

  1. community-500x330

The project was implemented in December last year to commemorate the 60th Birth Anniversary of His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo and to celebrate the philosophy of GNH.

The intention is to turn the village into a self-reliant and sustainable community. Other goals include sustaining the value of traditional knowledge and age-old wisdom, ensuring nutrition and food sufficiency at the household level and the creation of income-generating activities, among others.

Ten months into the project, the impact on the community is evident. But officials said much still needs to be done.

Menchari in Orong gewog has 23 households where villagers still live in thatched bamboo huts with roofs made of banana leaves.  The village is an hour’s walk from the Samdrupjongkhar-Trashigang highway.

The standard of hygiene, nutrition, health and sanitation, was found to be poor in the community according to the project’s officials. In addition, community harmony was also on the low side and alcoholism was ravaging the community.

Most of the villagers did not prioritise agriculture and preferred to work at construction sites. Most of their earnings were spent on alcohol. No one bothered to save money.

Twelve young college students from the Gaeddu College of Business Studies and College of Natural Resources along with SJI staff were involved in carrying out the project. They lived with the community for about a month.

The interns created awareness on alcoholism, bookkeeping and financial literacy.

Today each household has better bathrooms. A vegetable group has been formed and better agricultural practices are being pursued.

The consumption and brewing of alcohol has been reduced.

A farmer, Tenzin, said that earlier it was compulsory for each farmer to bring alcohol to any occasion such as a visit to a neighbour’s home or even for regular meals. But today, alcohol is not offered anymore.

The villagers are also now bookkeeping in an effort to save money. Each villager maintains an accounts book where daily earnings and expenditure are recorded.

“We expect in the long run that our village will develop. We’ve learned so much,” Changlupay, a farmer, said. “We’ll work hard to follow them because it is for our own benefit.”

Project coordinator Sonam Tshering said development programmes are designed together with the community and local officials. “The project is not only sustaining the positive impact but also recognising the importance of GNH’s intrinsic value,” he said. “It is challenging but worth pursuing.”

Yangchen C Rinzin | Orong



96 snow leopards in Bhutan

Ian Brook ‹ Previous · Next ›

Bhutan has 96 snow leopards survey finds

The estimated population of the endangered cat globally is between 4,080-6,590

Wildlife: Bhutan has 96 snow leopards (Panthera uncia) according to the first national snow leopard survey carried out by the Department of Forests and Park Services (DoFPS).

The report was launched yesterday to coincide with International Snow Leopard Day.

Listed as endangered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the snow leopard is found in 12 Asian countries such as Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia and Turkmenistan.

Its estimated global population is 4,080-6,590.

As per the report, empirical evidence of approximately 96 individual snow leopards was collected during the two-year long survey from 2014-2016.

“Now with strong empirical evidence, Bhutan can boast of harbouring an estimated 96 individuals of snow leopard,” the report states.

Two snow leopards have also been radio collared for the first time in the country. “This will feed us information on its whereabouts and their movement in winter and summer, and its feeding habits, among others, which will go a long way in protection and continuity of the species,” agriculture minister, Yeshey Dorji, said.

Jigme Dorji National Park has the highest number of snow leopards with 31. The Wangchuck Centennial National park has 17.

The report states that 96 snow leopards is a highly viable population with huge potential for growth and stability. “Coupled with strong political will and support from the government, the people and vast tracks of contiguous habitats, Bhutan is certainly a stronghold for snow leopard conservation in the eastern Himalayas,” the report states.

The survey also found that the Jigme Khesar Strict Nature Reserve and the northern part of the Paro Territorial Forest division are also home to snow leopards.

The Paro Territorial Forest division is recognised as the first snow leopard area outside the protected areas.

During his keynote address, Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said that although it was the fourth time the country was observing International Snow Leopard Day, this year is special because of the report.

He said the report is special because while 12 other countries including China, Mongolia, India and Nepal, among others, have made estimates of their snow leopard populations, none have carried out a scientific survey like Bhutan.

No image of the snow leopard could be obtained from the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary though camera traps were placed. The report however states that many images of blue sheep, which is the snow leopard’s regular prey, have been captured in the protected areas.

Nevertheless, the report is positive that with the sighting of blue sheep in the Singye Dzong and Shingphel areas, it offers potential for rehabilitation of a few snow leopards in the future.

The survey also recorded the presence of several snow leopards in the past as per reports from yak herders and monks in these places.

The Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary also offers a similar scope for the introduction of blue sheep and snow leopard as per the report.

But the report however emphasised that the government needs to continue maintaining the habitat quality and contiguity in order to ensure long-term survival of the snow leopard, which is on the brink of extinction.

The report points out that increasing collection of medical plants and eco-tourism in the alpine areas are emerging threats to blue sheep due to interference in breeding and competition for fodder. “This will in turn affect the snow leopard’s food chain and ultimate sustenance,” the report states.

It is recommended that an in-depth study on the impacts of these activities on blue sheep and snow leopard is carried out.

The ministry also issued 147 forest officials and a core team from the forests and park services department certificates in recognition of the success of the survey.

One of the survey members lost his life during the activity. A young forester from the Wangchuk Centennial National Park, Ratna Bahdhur Mongar, who volunteered for the survey died in September 2015 in Lunana, mid-way through a camera-trapping exercise. “If Ratna Bahdhur Mongar had been here with us today, he would be as proud as any of us. We express our respects for his perseverance and hard work,” Lyonpo said.

A moment of silence was observed during the event in memory of the late forester.

Meanwhile, the minister said that every year the ministry will initiate research of wild animals, flora and fauna to study the natural world of Bhutan. The ministry has already radio-collared a number of wild animals such as elephants, takins and the black-necked crane for studies. “Even some wild boars have been radio collared to understand and resolve human-wildlife conflict,” Lyonpo said.

He added that in December another report on takins that have been radio collared will be released.

Reports on ecology, morphology and genetic study of the Assamese Macaque (Macaca assamensis), status and distribution of the Central Himalayan Langur (semnopithecus schistaceus), birds of the Royal Botanical Park and an information booklet on the Royal Botanical Park were also launched yesterday.

Tempa Wangdi

Kuensel 2016-10-24.



Human-wildlife conflict

Ian Brook ‹ Previous · Next ›

Human-wildlife conflict leads to abandonment of Amochu village

Conflict: Despite having their own land and house, Sangay Tshering, 52, and his wife Pem Lham of Amochu village in Khamoed gewog have been staying in a rented house at Tashithang, on the Punakha-Gasa highway for more than a year.

The couple, unable to bear the rampant attacks on their crops by wild animals anymore, left their village. The village’s only irrigation source, which was located three hours away, had also been washed away. The two were the only people living in Amochu village.

The village which is around 7km away from the nearest road point at Tashithang has two households with at least 18 people as per census records. But most have left for the towns.

With their children working and living in other parts of the country, the couple were left alone in one of the remotest villages of Khamoed gewog.

“As we were left alone, wild attacks on our animals and crops started to turn more aggressive and scary each year,” said Sangay. The couple used to own 15 horses and many cows. But they lost nine horses and more than 30 cows to wild animals.

“The little crops we manage to grow were destroyed even before harvest,” Sangay said. “We spot many types of wild animals in Amochu like leopards, wild boars, bears and deer.”

Today the couple is dependent on their remaining six horses. They have to pay a monthly house rent of Nu 1,200.

Sangay Tshering said that when the irrigation source was washed away and the wild animal attacks increased, they approached the gewog and dzongkhag several times to request a land exchange away from Gasa so that they can resettle elsewhere. The initial request was made three years ago, Sangay recollects.

The officials came and conducted an investigation of the situation in Amochu three years ago. The couple are still waiting for a response.

“We have proposed for a land exchange as it would be expensive to construct an irrigation channel from a source that is too far and a farm road of 7km for a village of two households,” said Sangay.

Meanwhile, official sources said Khamoed gewog and the dzongkhag administration  reported the issue to the agriculture ministry when it was initially brought to their notice. The ministry’s technical team conducted a thorough investigation and visited the area three times.

Following which a report was compiled and forwarded to the land commission two years ago. But the land commission during a committee meeting did not approve the land exchange proposal citing it is not in line with the Land Act.

The former local leaders of Khamoed once again raised the issue at the mid-term review asking the government to reconsider the proposal.


Dawa Gyelmo | Wangdue



Boundary negotiations Bhutan – China

Ian Brook ‹ Previous · Next ›

Foreign Minister questioned on Bhutan-China boundary

 The foreign minister, Damcho Dorji, in the National Council today, said the difference in claims of boundary still exist between Bhutan and China.

It has been two decades since the boundary talks between the two countries began.

Lyonpo was responding to a question put up by the National Council’s Deputy Chairperson, Tshering Dorji.

Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said the two countries started a joint technical field survey for a proper demarcation.

The survey first began in 2013.

“The talks are, most of the time, based on traditional customs of usage of land and the administrative authority.”

The minister said the area include Pasu-Lam in the centre, Dok Lam in the West, Charithang, Sinchu la and Dangmana.

Lyonpo said they are working hard to solve the issue and that the relationship between the two countries is a priority.


Bhutan image archive 1980 – 1985

Ian Brook ‹ Previous · Next ›

A wide-range of photographs from Bhutan by Brian and Felicity Shaw.

Click the link above  On the new page click MULTIMEDIA on the on the toolbar and then  on Bhutan Image Archive in the dropdown menu. On the line that begins  “Click here to README” click the underlined word here.


Druk Journal

Ian Brook ‹ Previous · Next ›

The Druk Journal is a journal of thought and ideas. It is a nonpartisan publication aimed at serving Bhutan’s national interest by creating serious conversation around policy issues.

Read more