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Wangdue Dzong Among the Five Dzongs Nominated for World Heritage

The Wangduephodrang, Punakha, Paro, Trongsa and Dagana dzongs have been nominated for the first ever World Heritage tentative list of Bhutan,
1783 Wangdue Dzong- watercolour by Samuel Davis
The culture department’s conservation of heritage sites division head, Nagtsho Dorji, said the UNESCO has encouraged the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritages around the world.

“The five dzongs witnessed significant political events and cultural development throughout the history after the unification of the country,” Nagtsho Dorji said.

She explained that these dzongs have witnessed important historical events and continue to do so. She said that these dzongs today hold a significant status and illustrate the peak of collective architectural achievements of the people of the country.

“However, the dzongs are in the tentative list and currently, we are deliberating with experts from the World Heritage and Reconstruction on this issue,” she said.

The submission to the tentative list was announced during a workshop on structural issues related to traditional Bhutanese buildings especially dzongs, held on December 24 in Thimphu.

The workshop aims to deliberate on measures to strengthen and reinforce traditional Bhutanese buildings among the experts from different countries that have similar and rich traditional architecture.

“To receive concrete recommendations on such measures, the department has identified Wangduephodrang dzong and focused on structural issues related to reconstruction of the dzong after it was destroyed by fire on June 24, 2012,” Nagtsho Dorji said.

Built in 1638 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and largely extended in 1683 by Gyalsay Tenzin Rabgye, the dzong has stood the test of time. Having retained its history through hundred of years, the dzong stood as an epitome of Bhutanese traditional architecture.

“Therefore, cautious measures and strategic planning are necessary during its reconstruction,” Nagtsho Dorji said.

The department is placeing high importance in retaining the existing walls left by the fire and in order to rebuild the dzong at the original location, it will be rebuilt over the existing surviving walls.

“Therefore, it is critical to examine strength of the remaining walls and look into appropriate and feasible measures to strengthen and reinforce the dzong’s stone masonry walls in the manner of respecting traditional materials and techniques,” she said.

Experts were invited to present recommendations and to identify measures for the remaining wall as well as new walls to be constructed.

“The reconstruction works began immediately after the command by His Majesty the King during the same year and the works are expected to complete in 2018, at the end of the 11th Five Year Plan,” she said.

The project team has been undertaking the reconstruction of the southern end of the building, since October last year.

However, for the reconstruction, the design also includes increase in height of some buildings and partial extension of dzong’s outline.

“For this design, we need more deliberation and concrete decision should be reached whether such changes from the original design will impact the stability of the buildings or not,” an official said.

At the end of the reconstruction, the dzong is required to house 15 shrines, living spaces for around 100 monks and office spaces for more than 30 different sectors of the Wangduephodrang administration.

Experts from Italy, Japan, Australia, Switzerland, UK, Portugal and India presented their recommendations to the guests, stakeholders including the steering committee members for the Wangduephodrang dzong reconstruction project chaired by home minister Damcho Dorji during the workshop.

By Thinley Zangmo, Kuensel 26.01.2015

Food Against the Ecosystem- Hornet Harvesting

Hornets and wasps larvae are considered very rare delicacy and are sort after by rich and elite in the cities, however the following Kuensel story warns about the danger of damaging the insects ecosystem which could lead to invasion of pests like army worm:
Hornet Larvae 
 Collection and harvesting of Bjam Bji Ngyem (hornets) and potom (wasps) are on the rise, according to the park services department.

The department, through a public notification, recently warned people against collection and consumption of the insects.
“The increase in the illegal collection or harvesting of different species of hornets for consumption and sale in the country is having an adverse impact on the population of this species in the wild,” the notification stated.
Hornets and wasps play an important ecological role as natural pollinators and biological control agents for natural pests.  And as apex predators, the department says removal of this species could have “serious consequences on the fragile eco-system”.
The insects prey on other large insects, such as bees, other hornet species, and mantises.
Any individual or group, caught in the act of hunting, possession and trade of hornets, will be penalised, as per the forest and nature conservation rules of Bhutan, 2006, it has said.
“Hornets and wasps are at the top of the insect food chain and, if they’re destroyed in a large scale, we could face a consequence, like the armyworm infestation epidemic Bhutan saw in the spring of 2012,” a senior forest and wildlife protection official in Thimphu, who requested anonymity, said.
Some believe that consumption of hornets can treat impotency and enhance overall health.  However, the official said, while people may get protein, the belief the insects carry medicinal value is a misconception.
“Excessive hunting of these insects can only lead to ecological imbalance,” he said.
According to the official, collection of the insects is rampant in Dagana, Tsirang and Wangduephodrang districts, and are most sought after in Thimphu.  According to him, a kilogram of hornets costs Nu 1,000 to Nu 2,500 in the capital.
“When they go commercial, there’s a big risk to our ecosystem,” he said.
Ideally, the insects are harvested from the beginning of September to the end of November.
Hornets make nests underground, while wasps raise their offspring on tree branches and in bushes.  According to him, digging the ground and felling the trees to collect the insects could have adverse impacts on ecosystem.
He believes that awareness has to be created about the importance of the insects to the fragile eco-system. “Though we have rules, people are unaware of the penalties for hunting these insects,” he said.
The official informed that the forest and park services department is in the process of reviewing the forest and nature conservation rules to effectively control collection and hunting of these insects.
Hunting of hornets and wasps is an “unlisted offense” as they were not particularly specified as protected species when the rules were framed. “Now we want to include these insects as protected species in the act so that we can implement the rule effectively,” he said.
Passang, a resident of Dagana, said villagers hunt the insects under cover of darkness, when the insects are not able to attack humans.  This, he said, also made it difficult for officials to catch the culprits.
“People dig ground and fell trees to collect the insects. So the hunters contribute to illegal felling of trees and deforestation,” he said.
“While most of the villagers hunt them for their own consumption, some of them send them to their relatives and high officials in Thimphu as gifts or for cash,” he said.
By MB Subba, Kuensel, Nov 17, 2014

Cactus in Wangdue

Cactus may be ornamental plant for people living in any place other than Wangdue. Here it is nuisance. It over-grows everywhere. It got me wondering if Wangdue was a desert once upon a time, or at times I fear if Wangdue is going to become a desert some day too soon. Of course, my understanding is cactus grows in deserts. The question remains; why would this plant which is supposed to grow in arid land, grow along side the Punatshangchhu.
Over these years I have come to understand the thorny plant and learnt to live with it in harmony- I have realized it is not as attractive as I have known it. I have learned to forgive it. Of all the wonderful species of cactus Wangdue has the ugly Prickly Pear of Opuntia family, which is commonly found in North America.

Good side of Cactus
Golden blossom
  • It flowers seasonally. The golden yellow blossom spellbinds many first timers.
  • The fleshy stem can be cooked and fed to cattle after removing the sharp thorns.
  • If used for fencing it can be more secure than bob wire.
  • Though not done here but records in Wikipedia shows that same cactus found in Wangdue can be used for medical purpose, can be consumed as food, and can be used as intoxication. (Hotel Dekiling should try some recipes with this plant)
Bad side of it:-

If you are touching the plant, its fruit in particular, by the time you realize hundred and one almost-invisible thorns called glochids would have dislodged and pricked your skin. Forget about removing it you can’t even trace it with your naked eyes. But the pain is in contrast to its size. These fine spines are blown by wind and it can reach your room posing threat to your children’s comfort causing irritation and if not removed can cause infection (Sabra Dermatitis).
Glochids on close-up

The bigger thorn has a strange natural character, if it pricks you it can’t be removed backward without medical surgery. It has to be driven further in to be drawn from the other side of your body part.
It is the worst enemy of vehicle tires. Once it gets into your tire, unlike nails, it is impossible to trace therefore every time you fill in the air your new tube will be punctured by the hiding thorn.

Further this plant had bad history with countries like Australia where it was once introduced as natural fencing but later it invaded the farmland resulting in making huge amount of land unproductive. The government had to go as far as creating a Commonwealth Prickly Pear Board to get rid of the plant. 

Larvae of Cactus moth

One thing to learn from history; introduction of certain moth called cactus moth or nopal moth can gradually bring an end to the Pickly Pear population outburst. The Larvae of the moth feeds on the plant.

This article was first published in PaSsuDiary.com August 2010.

National Flag of Bhutan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kingdom of Bhutan
Flag of Bhutan.svg
UseNational flag
DesignDivided diagonally from the lower hoist-side corner; the upper triangle is yellow and the lower triangle is orange; centered along the dividing line is a large black and white dragon facing away from the hoist side
The national flag of Bhutan (Dzongkha: ཧྥ་རན་ས་ཀྱི་དར་ཆ་; Wyliehpha-ran-sa-kyi dar-cho) is one of the national symbols of Bhutan. The flag is based upon the tradition of the Drukpa Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism and features Druk, the Thunder Dragon of Bhutanese mythology. The basic design of the flag by Mayum Choying Wangmo Dorji dates to 1947. A version was displayed in 1949 at the signing of the Indo-Bhutan Treaty. A second version was introduced in 1956 for the visit of Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuk to eastern Bhutan; it was based upon photos of its 1949 predecessor and featured a white Druk in place of the green original.
The Bhutanese subsequently redesigned their flag to match the measurements of the flag of India, which they believed fluttered better than their own. Other modifications such as changing the red background color to orange led to the current national flag, in use since 1969. The National Assembly of Bhutan codified a code of conduct in 1972 to formalize the flag's design and establish protocol regarding acceptable flag sizes and conditions for flying the flag.

Historically Bhutan is known by numerous names, but the Bhutanese call the country Druk after the name of the Bhutanese thunder dragon. This tradition dates to 1189 when Tsangpa Gyare Yeshe Dorje, founder of the Drukpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, was in Phoankar (Tibet) where he reportedly witnessed the Namgyiphu valley glowing with rainbow and light. Considering this an auspicious sign, he entered the valley to choose a site for the construction of a monastery, whereupon he heard three peals of thunder – a sound produced by the druk (dragon) according to popular Bhutanese belief. The monastery that Tsangpa Gyare built that year was named Druk Sewa Jangchubling, and his school of teaching became known as Druk. The Druk school later split into three lineages. One of these three, Drukpa, was founded by Tsangpa Gyare's nephew and spiritual heir Önrey Dharma Sengye and afterward spread throughout Bhutan. The nation itself would also later become known as Druk. This legend offers one explanation for how the symbolism of the dragon came to form the basis of the national flag of Bhutan. An alternative hypothesis maintains that the notion of symbolizing sovereign and state in the form of a dragon emerged in neighboring China and was adopted by the rulers of Bhutan as a symbol of royalty in the early 20th century.

According to The Legal Provisions of the National Flag of the Kingdom of Palden Drukpa as Endorsed in Resolution 28 of the 36th Session of the National Assembly held on June 8, 1972, and as restated in the Constitution of 2008, the yellow signifies civil tradition and temporal authority as embodied in the Druk Gyalpo, the Dragon King of Bhutan, whose royal garb traditionally includes a yellow kabney (scarf). The orange half signifies Buddhist spiritual tradition, particularly the Drukpa Kagyu and Nyingma schools. Druk, the Thunder Dragon, spreads equally over the line between the colors. The placement of Druk in the center of the flag over the dividing line between the flag's two colors signifies the equal importance of both civic and monastic traditions in the Kingdom of Druk (Bhutan) and evokes the strength of the sacred bond between sovereign and people. The white color of Druk signifies the purity of inner thoughts and deeds that unite all the ethnically and linguistically diverse peoples of Bhutan. The jewels held in Druk's claws represent Bhutan's wealth and the security and protection of its people, while the dragon's snarling mouth symbolizes Bhutanese deities' commitment to the defense of Bhutan.

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