Some highlight of activities in Rinpung Region

There are five Forest Management Units (FMU) in Rinpung Region, namely, Selela, Lhonchu, Haa East, Betekha (Haa) and Zonglela (Paro).

The primary activity of the Region is the overall management of timber extraction from the FMU and any other adhoc operations and marketing them. Salvage, sanitation and protection of bark beetle affected forest areas to safeguard further spreading and damage to forests is taken up as and when required. Thinning operations in the designated area for forest improvement is also carried out. Woodchips supply to the Ferro Alloys Industries and Firewood supply to all customers also form part of the regular activities in the Region.

In order to get the first hand information on the activities of the Region, the General Managers of Operations and Marketing accompanied the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) on two days tour to Rinpung Region from 26-27th June 2014. The team met the Regional Manager (RM) and his section heads from the Region in Chuzom (Dawakha Depot). The depot at Dawakha has about 21,000 cft of timber. Out of this, 2000 cft are in block form and the remaining is in log form. The block timbers are taken from sanitation areas in Doteng gewog which are attacked by bark beetles whereas most other logs are taken from Nabesa in Isuna gewog.

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       The CEO briefs staff at Dawakha                                                                                                              Chapey Timber Depot

On the way to Haa, the team stopped by the road side near Bitekha to have an aerial view of Selela FMU. This FMU is operational till 2016. In order to extract timber, the construction of forests road is essential and it is a huge responsibility for NRDCL which often is expensive. Apart from contractual constructions, the Region had constructed 3 kms of road in Lhonchu FMU and 750 mts at Zonglela FMU departmentally. Existing road maintenance in the FMUs is another major activity for the Region.  After having seen the topography, the CEO felt that road should not be the option to reach the interiors of FMU’s and NRDCL should go in for long distance cable lines for extraction of timber. Some of the concerns with regard to construction of roads into the forest area are as below;

  1.   Road construction is deemed to be expensive,
  2.   It is time consuming,
  3.   It has a lot of adverse impact on the environment,
  4.   It compromises the future forest reserve of the country through over exploitation and retarded regeneration,
  5.   It opens up the area for illegal activities due to easy access to people even after the operations are completed.

With regard to the cable cranes, it was reported that there has been frequent break down of cable cranes as these are quite old. The CEO remarked that NRDCL is losing its core business focus and compromising its core competencies. It would be in the greater interest of the company to revive the core competency of the company in terms of timber extraction with the help of long distance cables in place or roads.

On the way, the team stopped to have a glance of Bitekha FMU as we could not go there due to bad road condition. The Region proposes October, November as suitable time to visit the site. This FMU has a stretch of 25 kms and connects Haa East and the plan period is till 2018. Around 6-7 lines will be in operations and will extract around 89,000 cft of timber annually.

Further up, we crossed the Bali Bridge constructed by NRDCL on our way to Lhonchu FMU. This FMU is connected by a 13 kms long forest road out of which 4 kms fall under farm road. The Unit Manager of Lhonchu Unit briefed the team about the activities at site. The depot is at around 8 kms distance from the starting point of Selela FMU near the bridge at Bali. This depot is a temporary one which is actually a pastureland for the locality and no lease rent is paid. The team met few NRDCL officials and the contractor in Lhonchu logging site. Lhonchu FMU is under Samar gewog with an area of 2567 hectares and has four blocks. The ten year plan is valid until 2020. Although the plan period was approved in 2010, actual operations started only in 2013.

The production in 2013 was 105,000 cft and the target for 2014 is 100,000 cft. Out of this, 40,000 cft has been extracted. The depot has around 35,000 cft of unsold timber leaving aside 56,000 cft of timber kept for Royal Academy Project in Paro. Out of nine cable lines, four lines have completed operations and each line is expected to extract about 10,000 cft of timber on an average. The forest cover is mixed conifer, spruce and blue pine with oak as the dominant species for which the production volume in general is low. The stand is new and spruce forests are over matured with lot of wastage in prime timber.

It was observed that lops and tops have been a matter of concern in view of the poor collection and associated disposal. Without the proper clearance of lops and tops from the operated areas, clearance to move to the next area is not permitted as per the forest management plans. Due to the distance factor, many prime timbers are left behind as lops and tops which not only becomes an eye sore to the public but is also a loss of revenue to the company.

The Unit Manager of Selela FMU highlighted on the activities of the two Units – Selela and Bitekha Units. Selela FMU with an area of 9157 hectares is divided into four blocks (Tegola, Selela, Holela and Chhep Jap). The FMU plan period is from 1st January 2011 till 31st December 2020.

It has a total road network of 23.15 kms out of which 2.69 kms is farm road. It has five staff. The timber production target for 2014 is 155,000 cft, 2000 m3 for woodchips, 150 truckloads for firewood, 4.70 hectares of plantation creation and plantation maintenance is 15.73 hectares. Out of the total target for timber production, 45,074 cft is achieved and 109,926 cft is the balance production target.

On the way to Haa, we stopped by Chapey office and also visited the depot at Chapey. The quality of timber is good and the depot is well maintained and timber stocked neatly. The depot has around 80,000 cft of timber. Out of this, around 32,000 are old timber extracted in 2013. The timber is collected from Bitekha, Lhonchu and Selela FMU’s. Out of the total, around 17,000 cft are already sold but not lifted by the buyers.

In the evening, the CEO addressed the gathering of about 15 staff of Haa. He expressed his satisfaction to meet most of the old staff after so many years and reposed his full confidence and faith in them to take the company forward with renewed support from all staff. He highlighted on the diverse mandate of the NRDCL as compared to just handling timber as in the past and asked the staff to be open and frank in sharing their ideas for improvement. He stressed in building the image of the corporation by being professionally sound and smart and fulfil the salient mandates of the company in terms of providing natural resources to all citizens of the country.

The CEO informed that the company had made huge capital investments in activities like the crushing plants and the need to capitalize on getting the returns for these heavy investments. Due to ill panned location, inexperienced staff, poor output of the plants and frequent breakdowns, the return from the crushing units has been poor so far and the management and the board is quite concerned and is constantly exploring ways and means to come up with appropriate plans and strategies to make this venture a profitable one in the long run.

In order to review and revive the performance of the plants, the time bound Accelerated Stones and Minerals Project (ASMP) is set up. He also informed the staff that some changes are seen and the yearlong performance for 2013 is already achieved by May 2014 with support from all concerned stakeholders. Market is being explored both internally and outside Bhutan. If things do not improve by 2015, the management is also seriously exploring other alternatives with regard to the plants. It is in the interest of the management to explore and exhaust all means to improve the financial position of the company.

The CEO also reminded the staff of the important mandate of the company and the expectations of the stakeholders. Unlike many other corporate entities, the prices for natural resources are regulated and hence service delivery is highly important for the company. The need to change the mind-set of the staff from a bureaucratic approach to service oriented approach was stressed upon. He reminded everyone to be accountable and take ownership of what they do.

The CEO urged everyone present to be competitive and output oriented to make a difference in the company. In case of sand, management is seriously concerned and an alternative of dredging facility is being introduced with a hope to augment the supply of sand in places where the demand is high.

It is in the interest of the management and all staff to make NRDCL an exemplary company through the cooperation of all employees and urged everyone to refrain from unnecessary indulgence in unproductive activities.

On the second day, the team proceeded to Paro via Chelela and visited Chelela nursery and the old unit office.  Along with the new seedlings, there are some over grown seedlings, as well. The activities at site constitute timber extraction, nursery creation and maintenance of seedlings for supply to the FMU and degraded/sanitation forest operations areas. The Region has created 12.70 hectares of plantation and maintained about 33 hectares in the FMUs and salvage/sanitation operations in degraded forests areas. Following this, the team drove along the Zonglela forest road to have first-hand information about the FMU and the proposed site for Royal Academy in Pangbisa. The requirement for construction materials like timber and sand is quite huge.

The CEO and the team met staff of the Regional office and shared the problems that the company is undergoing and the plans for improvements. He urged the staff to be mindful of their huge roles and responsibilities and contribute towards improving the performance of the company. The CEO expressed his satisfaction on the progress made and highlighted the important mandates of NRDCL dealing with natural resources in the country. He wanted everyone to be extra vigilant, quality conscious and customer focused for the overall achievement of the company’s goals. Cost cutting measures and unethical behaviour of the staff were some other highlights. He urged everyone to be proactive, customer centric and sought goodwill and cooperation of all the staff. Corruption of any form will not be tolerated at any cost, remarked the CEO.

The Regional Manager thanked the team on behalf of the Regional staff and briefly highlighted the activities of the Region. He thanked the CEO for selflessly guiding the company and expressed the readiness of the staff from the Region to support the management team in order to accomplish the goals of the company.

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CEO with staff of Rinpung Region