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Ramla Ali: From refugee who fled war-torn Somalia to undefeated boxer, model & activist

bbc - 4 hours 54 min ago
Boxer, author, activist and model Ramla Ali shares her remarkable story of arriving in Britain as a refugee to becoming the first female professional to fight in Saudi Arabia.

Eco-trail  in Trashigang

Kuensel Feed - 5 hours 1 min ago

Neten Dorji | Trashigang

Want to explore and experience the nature of Trashigang?

The Divisional Forest Office of Trashigang has widened an ancient route in Trashigang and developed it into a new trail for biking enthusiasts.

Calling it Shingtala-Kezang Eco-trail, the 3.4 kilometres eco-trail begins from Rawangko, which is a few metres away from dzongkhag court, provides a bird’s eye view of Trashigang Dzong, Yangner and valleys of Drametse.

The trail gently ascends to 1,220 metres above sea level and  passes  through a forest of chir-pine trees and gradually enters a lush green subtropical forest. There you will hear nothing but birdsongs and the sounds of your footsteps.

From the second canopy, Samkhar, Ranjung, and Phonmey villages can be seen.

The route was used by Shingtala Kezang, the last popular khochey of Samkhar village

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With funding support from Vanishing Treasure,  Bhutan Tiger Center, Department of Forest and Park Services(DoFPs), the eco-trail was constructed along the contours of the track used by the villagers of Samkhar.

“It is mainly constructed to improve the livelihood of the people through eco-tourism programmes thereby seeking support in conservation of tiger as an umbrella species,” said an official. “The trail not only benefits villagers but also serves as a trekking route for urban dwellers.”

The eco-trail boasts numerous species of exotic birds and mammals Photo: Tandin Jamtsho

In olden days, the route was politically used by Shingtala Kezang, the last popular khochey of Samkhar village. Trail also serves as a recreational facility as Trashigang town becomes congested due to development.

“It takes around 30 minutes to reach Trashigang town,” a villager, Kinzang Norbu, said. “It has also shortened the distance.”

With the development of the trail, he said, urban dwellers started hiking and visiting villages. “We see people coming with their families for a picnic during the holidays.”

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The eco-trail passes through the habitats of animals like langurs,barking deer, sambar, bear, and common leopards. It is also home to more than 60 species of birds, more than 37 different butterflies, and mamals.

“The trail is an excellent spot for bird lovers. You can see birds like black-napped monarch, common kestrel, grey-headed canary flycatcher, red-headed trogon and black eagle,” a forest official said.

Share prices settle after peaking in April

Kuensel Feed - 5 hours 3 min ago

..M-cap at Nu 53B

Thukten Zangpo

After share prices peaked in the secondary market in April this year, the prices slowly dipped from May.

Bhutan Stock Index (BSI) settled at 1,074.87 yesterday from 1,118 on April 29 this year, according to the Royal Securities Exchange of Bhutan (RSEB).

The BSI measures the stock market’s performance and serves as a benchmark for investors measuring the performance of their own investment portfolio.

It was set at 1,000 as the baseline on December 31, 2019. Gains above or drops below the baseline indicate the price change.

Consequently, the market capitalisation (M-Cap), which is the value of shares at the current market price, hit Nu 55 billion (B) in April this year. As of yesterday, M-Cap was Nu 53B.

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M-Cap is the value of shares at the prevailing market price of the 19 companies listed with the RSEB. It is derived by multiplying the number of existing shares by current market prices, meaning that an increase in the number of the prices of stock will contribute to M-Cap.

A broker said that market prices usually go up during the first quarter of every year when the companies declare dividends, bonus shares, and issue rights.

A rights issue is an issue of shares offered at a special price by a company to the shareholders in proportion to their holding of old shares.

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However, this time and last year, he said the company’s annual general meetings were postponed because of the pandemic. In these meetings, the companies decide to give dividends, bonus shares, and issue rights.

“The market prices would be steady in the next one to two months,” a broker said.

The stock market reflects the sentiments of the investors and the prices of securities in the market depend on the behaviour of investors. People trade either by looking at the company’s performance or when they have money at hand to invest.

Manufacturing sectors did well in gaining share prices. Of the 19 listed companies on the stock exchange, five companies declared dividends for the income year 2021.

Druk Wang Alloys Limited (DWAL) declared a dividend of 35 percent and Bhutan Ferro Alloys Limited (BFAL) declared a 300 percent dividend on February 24.

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DWAL’s per share prices increased from Nu 84 in April 2020 to Nu 161 in April this year to Nu 202 in July. BFAL’s price declined to Nu 83 in April this year.

The Druk Ferro Alloys Limited also declared an interim dividend of 30 percent last June. Its share prices rose from Nu 102 in January this year, touching Nu 192 in May and Nu 160 as of yesterday.

The State Trading Corporation of Bhutan Limited (STCBL), and Bhutan Carbide and Chemicals Limited (BCCL) declared a dividend of 25 percent and 110 percent in May and April this year, respectively.

The share prices of the financial sectors saw a steady level since the central bank froze dividends from the financial institutions in the last few years.

Observers say that despite the pandemic, the companies dealing with the export of ferrosilicon did well. However, the increasing price of raw materials, inadequate supply of laborers, and competitive markets in India could be among the challenges.

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Bhutan exported ferrosilicon worth Nu 15.28B in 2021.

This month’s top gainers were STCBL with 2.5 points up at Nu 63 per share, followed by Bhutan Insurance Limited (BIL) with 1.97 points at Nu 67 per share, and GIC Bhutan Reinsurance corporation Limited saw a 0.65 percent gained at Nu 27.5 per share.

However, BFAL saw 30 points down at Nu 83.73 per share, BCCL’s share prices dropped by 11 points at Nu 34.09 per share, DFAL by 5 points down at Nu 160 per share, DWAL’s share price fell by 2.52 points at Nu 190 per share, and Penden Cement Authority Limited with 2 points down at Nu 98 per share.

Five top-traded companies in July this year are Bhutan National Bank Limited, Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan, Sherza Ventures Limited, BIL, and Druk Punjab Bank limited.

A total of 353 investors traded 962,168 shares of 16 companies worth Nu 41.5 million in July.

Tsirang villages struggle with waste management challenges 

Kuensel Feed - 5 hours 4 min ago

Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

With increasing modern infrastructure and development in rural communities, plastic waste has penetrated deep into the villages where waste problems had been an alien concept until recently.  

Mounting waste has become an issue in most of the gewogs in Tsirang. Local government (LG) members recently requested the dzongkhag administration to increase the frequency of waste collection to three times a month.

At the dzongkhag tshogdu (DT), LG members from Tsirangtoed gewog said that with infrastructure development such as schools and hospitals, waste management has become challenging.

Tsirangtoed mangmi said: “Population living in the gewog has increased in recent years. If the dumper trucks could collect waste thrice a month, it would be easier.”

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Currently, a dumper truck alternately collects waste once a month from 12 gewogs.

Tsirangtoed Gup Nanda Lal Kharel said: “It is challenging to manage infectious waste from the hospital.”

The 10-bed hospital opened in the gewog earlier this year. Residents of Phuentenchu, Sergithang, and Tsirangtoed gewogs visit the hospital to avail health care services.

However, while some suggested waste segregation for efficient management, some LG members suggested that the gewog administration should be given the responsibility of managing waste instead of leaving it to the dzongkhag administration.

The dzongkhag’s landfill located at Mendrelgang is also quickly filling up, according to Mendrelgang mangmi Tshering. He said that there was no management at the landfill as waste is strewn all over the place. “Once it fills up, it would be difficult to manage.”

Mendrelgang gup suggested the need to compress the waste at the site to reduce the impact on the environment and the communities.

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Senior Dzongkhag Environment Officer Dorji Wangdi, however, said that it would be difficult to send the dumper trucks three times a month to each gewog. The single truck, he said, has been defunct for two months.

He said that with the budget slashed and the rise in fuel price, it has become challenging. The poor condition of the road in the gewogs resulted in high maintenance costs.

In the future, there are plans to outsource the waste collection to private individuals, he said.

He urged the LG members to encourage waste reduction at source for proper management.

First of its kind in the country, the waste collection system by the dzongkhag administration was started in 2016.

For energy-secure Bhutan

Kuensel Feed - 5 hours 5 min ago

Bhutan’s energy demand could grow by over 400 percent by 2030. This is a logical estimation, going by the consumption pattern in the country. To put it in numbers, coming from experts, energy demand could hit as high as 25,270.42 Gigawatt hours (GWh) by 2030 from 5,000 GWh currently. In other words, energy demand grew by 6 percent annually between 2010 and 2021.

As development projects in the country hit an upward trajectory, we need more energy. But, as yet, both demand and supply lines are unpredictable. While we export energy from our hydropower plants in the peak season, we are compelled to buy during the lean season. Having invested heavily in the energy sector, we are still not energy self-sufficient.

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Anticipating a huge energy demand and not doing enough to secure sources is disturbingly antithetical.

What has come to us, as a rude reminder, is that we cannot bank on huge hydropower projects. Not anymore. The linkages being offered by globalisation have rendered such deals with partners irrelevant. Even, scientifically, banking on hydropower entirely is loss-making in the long run.

Punatsangchhu I and II are living examples of how our planning can go wrong.

Bhutan has the potential of producing 12GW of solar energy and 760 megawatts (MW) of wind energy. The Department of Renewable Energy has an aim of producing 700MW of solar power, biomass equivalent to 3MW, and 50MW of wind energy by 2032.

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This gives us a picture of energy requirements and future energy demands. As experts claim, energy diversification will not be enough for Bhutan; energy security, and climate mitigation and adaptation programmes ought to be considered.

The way forward, is to invest in smaller hydropower projects to meet local demand. Headway has been made but momentum is more important. There are also plans to install other mini hydropower projects—Kuri-1 and Nyera Amari projects with a capacity of 1,125MW and 442MW, respectively.

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The plans are good but we can do much more. Investment in the energy sector has the potential to drive private sector growth. The good news is that the debarment of renewable energy is coming up with a renewable energy master plan, a renewable energy resource assessment report, and national energy efficiency and conservation policy.

These developments are welcome. Self-sufficiency, in any sector, is important for a country like Bhutan.

Local tea-making practice dying

Kuensel Feed - 5 hours 6 min ago

Chhimi Dema 

The traditional Bhutanese practice of making Ngeshing Jorma Tea using lye in Bhutan is on the verge of vanishing with evolving modern technologies and the scarce availability of the plant, according to a study by foresters.

A derivative of Mistletoe (Viscum L.), a parasitic plant, Ngeshing Jorma is used in making suja or drunk by adding it to water.

The Department of Forests and Park Services (DoPFS) to observe and document the traditional knowledge of Ngeshing Jorma tea making published The Traditional Practice of Ngeshing Jorma Tea Making in Bhutan: A Dying Local Art book last month.

The study was conducted by Dendup Tshering from Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research, and Sonam Peldon from DoPFS.

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The Ngeshing Jorma tea is made from the parasitic plant Viscum napalense and other species of Visum available in the local areas.

Viscum is recognised as one of the most important non-wood forest products in Bhutan. Products of Viscum are known to have health benefits such as treating bone fractures, backaches, and rheumatic pains.

According to the study, Ngeshing Jorma is popularly prepared and sold in Resnang, Dechenling, Nganglam in Pemagatshel; Thungshing, Gomdar in Samdrupjongkhar; and Berdungma, Rongthung, and Kangpara in Trashigang.

The study found that the shopkeepers in Narphung in Samdrupjongkhar, a place where tea was available in every shop, observed a decline in the sale of tea.

“They attribute this to the opening of Nganglam-Gyalpoizhing highway whereby commuters take the other route which is shorter and easier,” the study stated.

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Yuden, 53, from Narphung, said that many people were not keen on buying the tea today.

“Commuters used to buy it before, but with the opening of the Nganglam-Gyalpoizhing highway, not many visit Narphung,” she said.

Yuden said that the villagers do not bring the tea to sell as before. “I hear that it is difficult to collect the tea today.”

The study also noted that tea suppliers take the product to other places than Narphung.

A farmer, Karchung, from Orong gewog, said that before people used to earn additional income from the sale of tea.

“People after learning its health benefits, overharvested it, and now it is scarce,” he said, adding that in areas where the tea is available, it is protected as community forests.

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Although people can get a pass to collect the tea, many are not interested, he added.

The study found that the tea around the settlements had been “almost completely depleted”. One such area is Resnang village in Zobel gewog, Pemagatshel.

It observed that people travel days to collect the tea or occasionally buy from people of Merak and Sakteng.

Moreover, the plant takes time to regenerate and form harvestable clumps again making its availability scarce.

Viscum collected from the wild undergoes a process before labelling it as Ngeshing Jorma tea.

The traditional process consists of drying Viscum; boiling and frying it in lye made from wood ash boiled in water; drying it before packaging.

However, it was found that there were other improved modern alternatives and practices in local tea-making which was phasing out the traditional practice.

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The study recognising the importance of Viscum in Bhutanese tradition and livelihood gains made four recommendations such as; a need to conduct a national resource assessment for its distribution and developing a guideline for its sustainable harvesting.

It also recommended conducting a phytochemical to determine its chemical composition and research on developing Viscum propagation technology.

Mistletoe is locally called Ngeshing Jorma because it is said that people in the olden days used to fix the broken pieces of the wooden yoke with the milky sap that oozes from the Viscum plant.

Ngeshing in Tshanglakha means yoke and Jorma means to join or fix.

The Tigers humble Takins 8-1 

Kuensel Feed - 5 hours 7 min ago

Thinley Namgay  

The reigning champions Paro FC got off to a wonderful start in the 2022 BoB Bhutan Premier League (BPL) as they humbled Thimphu-based hosts FC Takin 8-1 yesterday at the Changlimithang Stadium.

It was an easy game for Paro FC. Five goals from newly signed veteran Japanese international striker Kazuo Homma and former Kerala Blasters striker Chencho Gyeltshen’s hat trick forced FC Takin to submission.

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The visitors grabbed an early lead through Kazuo Homma’s goal eight minutes into the game.  Kazuo Homma slotted from close range following an assist from Kabi Raj Rai.

Four minutes later Paro FC doubled the lead when Chencho Gyeltshen headed in the corner kick. Kazuo Homma scored his brace in the 29th minute and the first half ended 3-0 for Paro FC.

FC Takin returned stronger in the second half and pulled back a goal in the 48th minute through striker Sonam Yoezer.  However, Paro responded quickly and went on to score five more goals. Kazuo Homma added three more goals and Chencho scored two.

The newcomers held 48 percent of the ball in the first half, but couldn’t maintain the pace in the next half as they couldn’t match the Tigers both technically and tactically.

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The Changlimithang Stadium was lively and packed with audiences yesterday. “We want a goal from Chencho,” a group of youth chanted throughout the game.

Meanwhile, Thimphu City FC won against RTC FC 1-0 in the opening match on August 13.  The Cityzens’ lone goal in the dying minutes of the game came from Karma Shedrup Tshering.

The 2022 Coronation Cup champions Druk Lhayul FC will face BFF Academy FC tomorrow at 6pm at Changlimithang Stadium.

Too much money, too less credit

Kuensel Feed - 5 hours 7 min ago

MB Subba 

Financial institutions in the country have recorded significant growth in their liquidity positions amid a sluggish growth in credit, according to data published by the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA).

Liquidity (cash) in bank and non-bank financial institutions increased to Nu 29.52 billion (B) in March 2022 from Nu 20.87B in March 2021. In other words, the liquidity position increased by Nu 8.65B or 41 percent.

A sluggish growth in lending and accumulation of excess liquidity affect the profitability of financial institutions, as interests have to be paid to the depositors. More importantly, however, it signals a lack of expansion in economic activities, according to officials.

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The central bank’s data show that the surge in the liquidity is not only because of the increase in deposits but also lack of enough growth in lending despite the establishment of National CSI Development Bank and National Credit Guarantee Scheme, which provides collateral-free loans.

The total deposits increased by 15 percent from March 2021 to March this year, according to the RMA’s Financial Sector Performance report published recently. However, loans increased by 5.7 percent only during the same period.

In absolute terms, deposits increased from Nu 164.37B to Nu 188.84B, while loans increased from Nu 169B to Nu 179.57B.

Financial institutions say that the pandemic has led to a shrink in their investment avenues. However, officials from the banking sector say that the demand for credit is expected to pick up with the normalisation of the Covid-19 protocols.  

Finance Minister Namgay Tshering in earlier interviews said that the slow growth of credit is a concern amid efforts to revive the economy. He said the country needed to make use of the available liquidity for private sector growth and economic recovery.

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The data show that the loans to deposit ratio of banks fell from 80.12 percent to 73.23 percent in the past year. This means that the growth of deposits has exceeded that of lending.

Despite the pandemic, deposits from public companies surged from Nu 688 million (M) in March 2021 to Nu 1.156B in March this year. The deposits of private companies also increased from Nu 5.94B to 9.498B.

Deposits from retailers or individuals increased to Nu 118B from Nu 97.576B during the same period. Deposits of foreign currencies, however, declined from Nu 425.26M to Nu 333M (converted into ngultrum).

The profitability of financial institutions has increased as the profit after tax as of March 2022 stood at Nu 3.37B compared to a profit of Nu 1.63B in March 2021.

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According to the report, the liquidity position of the financial sector is expected to remain stable. “The domestic financial system has already played a significant role in supporting the liquidity needs of businesses so far in this pandemic.”

The deposit structure has remained stable and largely unaffected since June 2021, it states.

The profit was mainly brought about by the decrease in non-performing loan (NPL), which decreased from Nu 24.77B in March 2021 to Nu 17.56B in March this year.

About 28 percent, which is the highest share of the total loan, has been disbursed in the tourism sector. The NPL in the tourism sector constitutes 33 percent of the total NPL, which is also the highest share of the total NPL.

Changing kidney blood type may boost transplants

bbc - 5 hours 11 min ago
Many BAME patients waiting for a donor kidney are blood type B so development could be 'game-changer'

Paul O'Grady signs off final Radio 2 show

bbc - 5 hours 33 min ago
He hosted his Sunday afternoon programme for 13 years but recently rotated the slot with Rob Beckett.

Former Afghan presidents mark anniversary of Taliban rule

bbc - 6 hours 5 min ago
Ashraf Ghani and Hamid Karzai both criticised the rushed US withdrawal from Afghanistan last year.

Russia vows to expand relations with North Korea

bbc - 6 hours 12 min ago
President Vladimir Putin made the comments in a letter sent to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Leaders meet to try to pass a UN treaty to protect oceans

bbc - 7 hours 6 min ago
Nations are trying to agree a treaty to protect the high seas after four decades of trying.

Egypt church fire: 'We saved who we could', says survivor

bbc - 8 hours 20 min ago
Dozens of people have died, including children, after a fire at a Coptic church in Giza.

How much does university cost, and is it worth it?

bbc - 9 hours 11 min ago
A degree can be valuable in many ways. Here is a look at some of the financial pros and cons.

Letter from Africa: How racism haunts black people in Italy

bbc - 9 hours 56 min ago
The murder of a Nigerian vendor has shaken a community in Italy, writes Ismail Einashe.

Edinburgh festivals: Fringe performers camping to save money

bbc - 9 hours 56 min ago
Performers at the Edinburgh festival have taken to camper vans and tents to escape the city's high accommodation costs.

Independence Day: How Chicago Radio became the voice of India's freedom

bbc - 9 hours 57 min ago
For two decades, Mumbai-based Chicago Radio became synonymous with India's freedom struggle.

Partition: Why was British India divided 75 years ago?

bbc - 9 hours 59 min ago
Britain left India 75 years ago and the country became two separate states, India and Pakistan.

Afghanistan: What's changed a year after Taliban return

bbc - 10 hours 7 min ago
Economic collapse and a U-turn on girls' education are the hallmarks of Taliban rule this past year.