… in an effort to encourage rural households to use cleaner fuels

Resource: Coinciding with His Majesty The King’s Birth Anniversary yesterday, the government distributed Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylinders to rural communities in the three dzongkhags of Samtse, Zhemgang and Lhuentse.

In Zhemgang, economic affairs minister Lekey Dorji distributed 121 LPG cylinders to rural households in Nangkor gewog. None of these households had ever used LPG cylinders before.

In Samtse, more than 125 people from villages in Phuentshopelri (Gomtu) gewog, acquired LPG cylinders for the first time in their lives.

The economic affairs ministry is introducing the scheme to improve access to cleaner fuels by rural households. Only 63 percent of rural households use LPG. The remaining depend on firewood for cooking which affects health and time use, as people have to search for firewood in the forests.

Under the scheme, villagers will still have to pay Nu 1,909 for a new cylinder but they will not have to visit a regional trade office, saving them time, money and energy.

Villagers will pay around Nu 500 each to refill the cylinders. The LPG cylinders will be brought to a collection point in the gewogs.

Speaking to Kuensel, Lyonpo Lekey Dorji said besides the main objective of extending and expanding LPG supply to rural areas across the country, the scheme is also expected to encourage people to stay in the villages. He pointed out that so far, 65 gewogs have been identified for the installation of LPG distribution points across the country.

Lyonpo Lekey Dorji said that there are enough LPG cylinders to supply the rural areas. Lyonpo pointed out that distributors do not pick up between 6,000 to 7,000 cylinders a month, and that the ministry has now made it compulsory for them to lift these cylinders, and that this excess would be supplied to the rural areas.

The minister said that Samtse has a requirement of approximately 3,900 new rural household connections, while Zhemgang and Lhuentse have a thousand each. All can be connected, he said, provided that the rural households want LPG.

The ministry will also carry out a similar exercise from March in other dzongkhags in collaboration with the three dealers, dzongkhag administrations and gewogs offices.

Lyonpo added that the ministry is also studying ways to use the gewog utility vehicles in picking up the LPG cylinders from the closest distribution point. Supply of non-subsidised LPG is also being worked out with the Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL) to meet the growing LPG demand in the country, he added. About 1,000MT of additional demand  is projected for import but nothing has been finalised so far, he said.

Meanwhile in Zhemgang, some were not sure how they would refill the cylinders once empty and hoped it would be an easy procedure.

Phuntsho Wangmo, 25, from Kikhar welcomed the government’s decision to supply rural households with LPG. “I will now buy a gas stove and start cooking using gas,” she said.

Leki Wangmo, 31, said although she uses electricity to cook, it is difficult to prepare tea as the water has to be boiled. “I have to make a fire using firewood to prepare tea,” she said, adding that LPG will make the task easier.

In Samtse, Sukhrani Rai, 55, from Dumshigaon was one of those who enthusiastically purchased a cylinder. “I do not need to fetch firewood anymore,” she said. With her children away studying, Sukhrani Rai said that she lives alone at home. Her husband died a few years ago.

Budhiman Rai, 70, from Dumshigaon was also upbeat about the new LPG scheme. “I am happy it is now easily available,” he said, adding that his family has been using firewood to cook until now.

Most villagers in Phuentshopelri said they used electricity to cook rice but preferred using firewood to cook curries. Many said they looked forward to not having to go into the forests to collect firewood.

A villager from Chutharsum, Damber Bahadur Chhetri had also come to get his cylinder yesterday. He explained that he attempted to purchase a cylinder from the Phuentsholing regional office before but that after filling up a wrong form, and being asked to restart the entire procedure, he gave up.

“It was both time consuming and expensive,” he said.

Phuentshopelri, which has 1,800 households, requires about 500 new connections. However, many villagers did not get cylinders yesterday as their names were not listed. Only 160 names were listed. But it was explained that they will be provided with cylinders once officials verify that the households are eligible for the scheme.

Dumshigaon Tshogpa Sukhrani Rai said many households still rely heavily on firewood. She said that many would be encouraged to switch to LPG under the scheme.

Around 77 metric tonnes (MT), equivalent to 5,400 LPG cylinders of the total 700MT supplied to Bhutan every month will be made available under the new scheme to rural households.

The three dzongkhags have been prioritised for the scheme based on their socio-economic conditions, limited LPG penetration and high poverty incidences.

Rajesh Rai and Nima Wangdi