New Austrian resident representative looks to expand links

Cooperation: Austria will continue to support Bhutan in the 11th Plan and look to enhance socio-economic output in Bhutan, according to the new resident representative of the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC).

The budget for the period 2014-2018 is likely to be Euro 10 million (M), according to Bhutan Country Strategy 2015-2018.

Resident Representative Johannes Binder (Phd) said ADC will maintain cooperation in energy, tourism and governance.

The indicative budget of assistance for development of the energy sector is Euro 4.5M, Euro 2.5M in tourism, and Euro 3M in governance. The amounts include spillovers from the 10th Plan.

In the energy sector, Binder said the ADC will provide financial and technical support for electrification in Bhutan. The ADC has already connected 2,700 rural households in Bhutan.

He said the Austrian government will also train Bhutanese engineers in safety and maintenance of hydro power plants through a collaboration between Austrian and Bhutanese technicians. Currently, his office is helping the Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC) in monitoring and management of geological disturbances to ensure that catastrophic accidents are prevented.

From early next year, the ADC will be working with the economic affairs and the works and human settlement ministries to promote energy efficiency in Bhutanese buildings. “Affordable solar water heating systems and energy efficient construction materials will be tested promoted and mainstreamed in Bhutan,” he said.

Binder said ADC is proud that it can contribute to the development of the hydropower sector in Bhutan. However, he pointed out that that Bhutan should not rely only on hydropower. “Relying on only one type of energy source would possibly not be the most sustainable and safe option for Bhutan.”

In the tourism sector, however, he said the ADC will gradually withdraw its bilateral programme assistance. It has helped develop necessary educative infrastructure and modern qualification schemes in hotel management in the Royal Institute of Tourism and Hospitality (RITH).

In the governance sector, the ADC will support the overall goal of equal access for all Bhutanese citizens to justice. “In favour of an independent judiciary, we continue with hand tailored programs in addition to five already completed and operational courts,” he said.

The ADC in collaboration with the Swiss Development Corporation will help construct two district courts in Punakha and Wangdue. He said the construction of the two courts will be completed by February 2017.

He added that if the royal government requires, the two governments could also intensify the academic network of legal institutes between Bhutan and Central Europe for enhancement of training curricula and improvement of legal services.

Currently, two scholars are pursuing their LLM (Masters and Masters in Human Rights) at the University of Vienna among others. Two more students will join them in 2016.

Binder said the ADC wants to promote Austrian-Bhutanese business to business contacts to develop Bhutanese industries. He said the ADC will invite the Austrian Chamber of Commerce to Bhutan next year.

With support from ADC, he said the Dagachhu hydropower project will also have well trained Bhutanese engineers to manage the plant. In the ongoing project with DGPC, Bhutanese engineers will work hand in hand with the highly specialized Austrian engineers on the development of monitoring guidelines for securing the safety of hydropower plants.

Moreover, two engineers will receive specialized training on the “New Austrian Tunneling Method” – NATM – at the Montan University in Austria. All these training components will conclude in a technically sound Bhutanese construction and management system in the hydropower sector.

MB Subba

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