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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

This is a sad story of a young black necked crane's first annual migration to Bhutan.
That winter he joined his parents on their annual migration: mission Bhutan in the south. He has never known such long-distance journey they need to undertake. Had it not been the encouragement from his parents and the winds which he used to float, he would have given up few hours into flying. His pair of inexperienced wings almost failed to serve it purpose having never in his life flew so long. However, after many days of flying, he reached their southern roosting ground in Minjay under Lhuentse Dzongkhag.

Monday, January 24, 2011

bhutan’s only environment ngo wins us$ 350,000 award

RSPN joins eleven other organizations in receiving the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions (MACEI)

The Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) of Bhutan is among the 11 non-profit organizations which were declared the winners of the 2010 MacArthur Foundation grants for its conservation works in the country.
“It is with great honour and pride that RSPN receives the US$ 350,000 MACEI award for proven creativity and effectiveness in nature conservation in Bhutan. It only strengthens our commitment and inspiration to continue our conservation work to foster equitable natural resource management policies and to ensure a sustainable natural environment for all Bhutanese people,” an RSPN press release said.
The awards ranged from US$ 350,000 to US$ 1mn and RSPN received a total amount of US$ 350,000. Of the total amount, US$ 200,000 will be added in the RSPN fund which will look after the operational cost. US$ 100,000 will be spent on establishing an environment research center which will have a research unit and a online library, and US$ 50,000 will be used for human resource capacity development.
“We have a long working relation with MacArthur organization and they have always supported our organization,” said the officiating executive director of RSPN, Tshering Lhamtshok.
To qualify for the award, organizations must demonstrate exceptional creativity and effectiveness; have reached a critical or strategic point in their development; have budgets under $5 million; show strong leadership and stable financial management; have previously received MacArthur support; and engage in work central to one of MacArthur’s core programs.
“One of the main reasons why RSPN was selected was because of its less budget but huge impact,” said Tshering Lhamtshok.
Winners of the award with operating budgets under US$750,000 received the US$350,000 grant. Those with operating budgets between US$750,000 and US$1.5 million receive $500,000. Organizations with operating budgets between US$1.5mn and US$3mn receive US$750,000. And those with operating budgets between US$3mn and US$5mn receive US$1mn.
The eleven recipient organizations were from six countries including Bhutan. The other winners include Action Research & Training for Health, which promotes sexual health in Rajasthan, India; the Urban Institute’s Tax Policy Center in Washington; the San Francisco-based Bay Area Video Coalition, which teaches artists and filmmakers to use digital technology to inspire action. REDRESS in London, which fights for justice for torture survivors; the Social and Economic Rights Action Center in Lagos, Nigeria; and the Sociedad Mexicana Pro Derechos de la Mujer in Mexico City, which protects the rights of Mexican women.
The MacArthur foundation’s president, Robert Gallucci, said the awards recognized the creative work by the organizations that deal with hardest problems humanity faces.“These exceptional organizations effectively address pressing national and international challenges and they have had an impact that is disproportionate to their small size. The MacArthur Foundation is proud to recognize them.  It is our hope that these Awards will help position them for long-term growth and even greater impact in the years ahead,” said Robert Gallucci.
RSPN was founded in 1986 by Dasho Paljor J. Dorji, the then minister for National Environment Commission as a non- profit, non-governmental organization. Since then, under the royal patronage of His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, RSPN has been working in the fields of nature conservation, environmental education and endangered species research.
From water and natural resource management to alternative livelihoods and climate change issues, RSPN’s mission is to inspire personal responsibility for and active involvement in the conservation of the Kingdom’s environment through community action and education.
Currently, RSPN works in four locations focusing on endangered species, habitat loss, forest and land degradation, water quality problems, and emerging concerns such as climate change and solid waste management.
The MacArthur Foundation is a private, independent group that has assets of more than $5bn. It hands out about $220m in grants a year. The awards have been given since 2006 by the same group that bestows $500,000 no-strings-attached “genius grants” to individuals.

bhutan to monitor health hazards related to climate change

Surrounded by snow capped mountains, people of Lhasa in Tibet had never even seen a mosquito in their lives. Today, studies have shown that the parasites have started appearing in the high altitude city. Similarly, it has started appearing in Thimphu which did not have the parasites just about a decade ago.
This is an example of the changing climate and its impacts which is having major impacts on human health. All such impacts will now be monitored and dealt in an organized way with the Ministry of Health having launched a adaptation project called “Piloting Climate Change Adaptation to Protect Human Health.”
Funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), the project is the first ever to work on planning, implementing and monitoring adaptation measures to protect human health against climate change. It will also strengthen the national capacity to identify and prevent adverse climate change related outcomes in Bhutan.
The health secretary, Dasho Dr. Gado Tshering, said that currently one of the biggest problems that the world faced is the environmental change and the problems related to it.
“All sentient beings are threatened by climate change and Bhutan is not free from it,” he said.
Bhutan is one of the seven countries to take part in the GEF funded project. Bhutan and Kenya were selected as a highland area, Fiji and Barbados as small developing states, Jordan and Uzbekistan as water stressed countries and China for its multiple vulnerabilities.
This project will support capacity building including institutional capacity for preventing measures like planning, preparedness and monitoring disaster related to climate change which will have great benefits at a national and community levels.
“This project focuses on institutional capacity building so that we are prepared to take actions whenever climate related disaster strikes,” said Dasho Dr Gado Tshering.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) will be the implementing agency for GEF and provide broad expertise in adapting to climate change while the World Health Organization (WHO) will be responsible for the project design phase, technical support and the selection and implementation of health protection measures. The Ministry of Health will be the key implementing agency in the country.
The UNDP and WHO country offices in Bhutan will also provide technical expertise on the project, report on the status of the project execution, and provide guidance regarding the technical soundness of the project.
The Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) will oversee the management of the project and other GEF funds and ensure timely receipt of the project fund and disbursement to the ministry of health for implementation of the project.
The total funding for this project for all the countries is US$ 4.5mn, of which Bhutan will receive US$ 0.450mn.

agriculture minister: environment clearance has just become a formality

Whenever you see a road construction or widening work in progress, it is normal to see bulldozers and heavy earth moving machines dump all debris down the slope at the very site without care for the flora it would be destroying.
The agriculture minister, Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho, made the scene glaring and evident when he proclaimed that environment issues are not taken seriously and the mandatory environment clearance (EC) certificate has just become a formality.
The agriculture minister, in a press conference last week, said “We have a stringent environment Act and also the requirement of environment clearance for any development project, but this has become more of a formality. In actual fact, there is no compliance,”
According to the National Environment Commission (NEC), every individual has the responsibility to ensure that environmental concerns are incorporated when formulating, renewing, modifying or implementing any policy, plan, program or project.
However, this does not seem to be happening.
Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho said that there was good observation of formalities like environment clearance only on paper. “But once the paper work is completed, it becomes the business of the contractor and the bulldozer drivers, site engineers to do whatever they like.”
Lyonpo also said that people have not been taking the environment clearance seriously “and in the end there is a lousy job done not to mention the significant impact on the environment.”
“If you go and see some of the farm and feeder roads, there is absolutely no compliance to the environment requirements,” said Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho, citing an example of a road in Gasa where the whole slope is falling apart because of the debris disposed.
The officiating head of the Environment Services Division (ESD), NEC, Thinley Dorji, explained that big projects that have potential of affecting the environemnt on a large scale have to undergo an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to get the clearance. Small projects need not undergo the full assessment but have to fulfill certain critical criteria.
“We can go ahead with any development activity but at the same time we should not compromise with the environment,” said Thinley Dorji.
Environmental clearances are required not only for new projects but also for expansion works of any project.
Environmental clearances have expiry dates and they have to be renewed at least a month before they expires.
When the necessary environment protection requirements are not fulfilled, penalties ranging from Nu 5,000 to 50,000 are imposed depending on the scale of the offence.
“In other countries, people put the environment first but here people look at the economic benefits first. It is therefore important that we create awareness on why environment is important,” said Thinley Dorji.
He also said that on an average NEC receives more than 30 applications for environmental clearances in a month. The maximum number of applications received is for rural electrification works and the construction of all kinds of roads.

cancun was a success: agriculture minister

Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho says Bhutan must take proactive measures on climate change and cannot wait for any globally binding agreement. He says the glaciers are melting, snowfall and rainfall patterns are changing and they are not waiting for a global agreement.

While the recent 16th world climate change conference (COP16) held in Cancun, Mexico, has received critical reviews from developing countries, Bhutan see it as a success.
The agriculture minister, Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho, who led the Bhutanese delegation at the summit, said it was a success with a special mention of the adoption of the Cancun Agreement, a set of decision that moves the UN Climate Change negotiations forward. Many see the Agreement as bringing the multilateral attempt of a global consensus back on track.
“The Cancun summit (COP16) has been successful compared to COP15. There were some positive outcomes which has high relevance for Bhutan and the Cancun agreement is substantive in terms of making progress and in restoring confidence in the multilateral process,” said Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho.
The Agreement strengthened the multilateral nature of climate change negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) despite differences between barious groups like the developed and the developing countries.
Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho said that last year after COP15 there were various talks of the multilateral process not making progress. Some of the parties were not very keen to get into the process. However, Cancun has restored the confidence and showed that multilateral parties can reach a consensus.
“This in itself is a significant outcome of Cancun,” added Lyonpo.
This was also attributed to the strong efforts and handling of the Mexican Presidency of the Conference.
The Cancun Agreement included two sets of decisions, one under the Adhoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) and the second on the Adhoc Working Group on further commitments under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP).
“While there was no decision made as such at Cancun under the Kyoto Protocol negotiating track, there were a number of steps made,” said the head of Environment Monitoring Division under the National Environment Commission and the country’s UNFCCC focal person, Thinley Namgyel.
Some of the steps under the AWG-KP include reduction of emissions in the range of 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 by the developed countries and greater ambition in reducing greenhouse gases. The work of the AWG-KP should be concluded as early as possible to finalize the rules and targets to ensure that there is no gap between the first and second commitment period, and the parties also agreed that the Clean Development Mechanism (CDB) and Joint Implementation (JI) shall continue while carbon capture and storage has also been approved as an eligible project type under CDM.
Under the AWG-LCA, countries recognized the need to keep average global temperature at two degree celsius below pre-industrial levels.
Bhutan, along with other LDCs and small island countries, supported a 1.5 degree celsius target to be maintained below the pre-industrial levels.
Other agreements from Cancun were on mitigation, adaptation, finance technology, and capacity building.
One of the most successful outcomes for the LDCs was the ‘Fast Start Finance’ of up to US$ 30bn which will be provided between 2010-12 for most vulnerable least developed, small island and African countries.
There was a similar pledge made last year at COP15 by developed countries which did not materialize because the pledge was not formally signed. Thinley Namgyel said that it will not happen this year as the developed countries made the pledge formally by penning it down on paper. The developed countries will report on the delivery of their pledges annually to the UNFCCC.
In terms of financing, there has been a significant progress and there have been pledges from various quarters on mechanism which would enable the LDCs to access funds much more easily than the past. Bhutan, as a LDC, can tap into the Fast Start Finance till 2012.
“The mechanisms have been simplified and many parties and countries are willing to work bilaterally,” said Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho.
However, the legal nature of the agreement was not resolved in Cancun. The AWG-LCA mandate has been extended for a year to work on the details contained in the agreement and also to continue discussions on the legal nature of an agreement by COP17, to be held in South Africa next year.
The concern is whether the final outcome of COP17 will be a legally binding treaty to complement the Kyoto Protocol or whether action will be through decisions of the Conference of Parties.
“We cannot afford to wait for any globally binding agreement to come into force. Our glaciers are melting very fast and they are not waiting for the agreement, the snowfall which is decreasing every year is not waiting for the agreement, the rainfall pattern which is changing is not waiting for the agreement, so we have to take proactive measures,” said Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho.
“We hope there will be a legally binding document at COP17 in South Africa. There is a good chance of that happening as people left Cancun with positive feelings,” added Lyonpo.

moving out of the ldc list doesn’t mean we do not need support

The head of Bhutan’s Environment Monitoring Division of the National environment Commission, Thinley Namgyel, one of the key climate change negotiators for Bhutan, talks to Business Bhutan reporter, Dawa T. Wangchuk, on the outcome of COP16

Q. Is Bhutan satisfied with the outcome at the sixteenth Conference of Parties (COP16)?
I think, compared to last year, we are satisfied with the outcome. In terms of adaptation we are quite pleased. The adaption frame work has been set up and it has given more prominence to what matters to us. However, on the mitigation front more needs to be done.
Q. Do you think there will ever be a proper outcome of the talks?
There should be eventually and we are all optimistic about it. However, we can’t hide the fact that it all depends on what happens with the major players. But there were concrete and positive steps at Cancun.

Q. Bhutan committed itself to remain carbon neutral for all times to come at COP15 last year, has Bhutan pledged anything at COP16?
This year we did not commit anything. Last year, we pledged to remain carbon neutral and we stick by it. We remind everyone in every forum on what we have done. While we highlight all these things we are still facing the impacts of climate change despite all our efforts.
Q. If ever Bhutan graduates out from the list of least developed countries (LDCs), what will happen regarding the financial assistance?
It’s going to be a challenge. If we come out of the list it’s good and it shows that we have progressed, but we will lose the preferential treatment. With this in mind, we go on with the negotiations. However, when you move out of the LDC list it doesn’t mean that we do not need the support, we do!
Q. In a recent media report, it was said that India changed its stand at the last moment at COP16, how will it affect Bhutan as well as the common SAARC stand?
Well, India actually played a constructive role. They have facilitated the deadlock that has been going on in the mitigation front. India found a solution for this. They were actually facilitative; this helps us because as a small country we want action. In terms of SAARC position we didn’t have a strong stand over it. We said we want concrete action that moves everything forward from Cancun.
Q. The money promised at COP15 last year by developed countries for developing nations came under the limelight after only half the amount was mobilized. Do you think the same will happen this year?
Well, this we have to see. Last year, they committed under the assumption that the Copenhagen Accord will be adopted but it wasn’t. So we can’t blame them also because the document was only taken note of and not adopted. However, this year it is formalized and everybody signed on it. The developed countries have also said that they will report each year to the UN secretary General on how much money has been mobilized each year.
Q. The Wikileaks issue was also deliberated at Cancun and it was revealed that developed countries like the US promised money to developing countries who in return support the US demands. Was Bhutan ever approached?
No! Bhutan was never approached. The list that Wikileaks revealed does not include Bhutan.

cancun fails to unite the world to combat climate change

Most of the developing countries have described the recent world summit on climate change called, COP16, at Cancun, Mexico, a failure while developed countries say some results were achieved.
One positive result was that the countries have agreed to keep the negotiation process on track with the parties to the convention agreeing to a general consensus.
This has led toward a possible binding deal at COP17 in South Africa next year. Known as the Cancun Agreement, the decisions adopted on the final day of the conference acknowledges for the first time in a U.N. document that global temperature must not rise more than 2 degree celsius above pre-industrial levels while global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must be adequate and meet the 2-degree target.
The Agreement also recognizes the emissions reduction targets submitted by some countries till date including the United States and China, the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters. Now, the countries will be required to report their greenhouse gas inventories annually to ensure their commitments.
Bhutan raised issues relating to least developed countries (LDCs) such as implementation of National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA) for short term adaptation needs and the LDC Fund which is the mechanism supporting the glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) Risk Reduction Project of Thorthormi Lake.
In issues related to a future international climate change agreement, Bhutan joined other developing countries in calling for an Adaptation Framework which would include a wide range of activities and implementation arrangements for adapting the adverse impacts of climate change and the need to ensure the financial and technological support for such actions.
Bhutan pursued for the approval of simplified procedures for small scale clean development mechanism (CDM) projects in LDCs, and the conservation of forests.
The agreement at Cancun will also prevent deforestation, promote transfer of low carbon technologies to developing countries and establish a Green Climate Fund.
While in Cancun, the agriculture minister, Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho, leading the Bhutanese delegation, said that Bhutan, as a small landlocked and least developed country, with a fragile mountain ecosystem, is aware of the dangers of climate change and the threat it poses.
“The catastrophic glacial lake outburst floods, drying water sources, increasing landslides and flashfloods, freak windstorms, decreasing snowfall and unpredictable rainfall patterns were some of the adverse impacts of climate change in Bhutan,” said Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho.
Lyonpo mentioned that in view of these eminent threats, Bhutan has made concerted efforts toward pursuing the goal of the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the highest UN body on climate change.
Increasing forest cover to over 70% of the land during the last few decades, protection of 50% of the land area as parks and protected areas, and adopting a green economic development policy to further enhance the protection of forests cover are a few efforts Bhutan has made.
“However, we are only too aware that our efforts are not enough and that we need both regional and global support to cope with the adverse impacts of climate change,” said Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho.
With the Cancun meet reigniting a ray of hope, the executive secretary of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres, said that nations have shown they can work together under a common roof, to reach consensus on a common cause.
“They have shown that consensus in a transparent and inclusive process can create opportunity for all,” she said.
Meanwhile, climate activist around the world have declared the summit a failure.
The director of Centre for Science and Environment in India, Sunita Narain, who is also one of the top advisors to the Indian government on climate change, said that instead of finalizing emission targets “it has been agreed that now these countries will take action based on what they ‘pledge’ to do.” She says that Cancun legitimizes the countries like the US with the “right to pollute,” and described the conference as a victory for the western leaders with the western media “ecstatic about the breakthrough.”

bhutan represents saarc at cop16 amid global worries of another failed summit

The million ngultrum question is whether poor countries including Bhutan will get more money to fight climate change risks
The sixteenth meet of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) began in the Cancun city of Mexico this week, raising questions whether this meet would just repeat the failure story at Copenhagen.
Last year’s Cop15 at Copenhagen did not conclude with the expected results as world leaders failed to create a legally binding framework for nations to address climate change. This time, countries have the opportunity to complete the unfinished business of COP 15 and are expected to design a long term climate solution.
While some countries made short-term commitments to support  mitigation and adaptation activities in developing countries at Cop15, Bhutan made a pledge to remain carbon neutral for all times to come.
This year at Cancun, Bhutan on behalf of the SAARC member states, will submit a common stand of the South Asian region.
Bhutan as the chair of the SAARC countries will convey the concerns of member states on adverse effects of climate change that threaten lives, sustainable development, and the very existence of some of the member states.
SAARC countries including Bhutan are expecting a concrete outcome for the effective implementation of the commitments made under the UNFCC, including the Kyoto Protocol and the Bali Action Plan.
SAARC will ask the international community to honor its commitments. Member states are committed to help global efforts to address the threat of climate change in spite of having contributed least to the problem.
“Any effort at addressing climate change must take into account historical responsibility and must be in accordance with the principles of the UNFCC, the Kyoto Protocol and the Bali Action Plan,” states the common stand.
SAARC will call on the international community to provide new resources easily accessible to tackle climate change, under a commitment of the developed countries to give at least 1.5% of their GDP for adaptation and mitigation.
SAARC also wants assistance for climate friendly technologies.
The Cancun meet aims to a timeline that puts the world on track for comprehensive post-2012 climate agreements because the Kyoto Protocol ends that year.
This timeline will feature social and environmental sustainable financing and initiate a process to establish clear guidelines for community and ecosystem-based adaptation solutions.The conference must establish legally binding agreements for this.
Delegations from 196 countries are joined by indigenous groups, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and other decision-makers.
Major pressure groups from different countries will inform and advice governments on scientific and policy expertise.

mountainous countries cautions about the impact of global warming on world mountain day

As the climate change talks comes to an end in Cancun without any positive signs, the mountain communities of the world and the United Nations joined hands to warn of the devastating impact of global warming in the mountain areas to mark the world mountain day today.
In an appeal to mark the World Mountain Day today, the UN Environment Program, experts and people from Bhutan, Switzerland, and Canada warned that climate change was already changing their landscape, livelihoods and sapping water supplies.
The Executive Director of the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN), Lam Dorji, said melting glaciers and changing temperatures in the Himalayas had increased threats such as glacial lakes, and soil erosion in the east of the country.
“People used to have springs close to their communities. These have dried out and people have to move further to fetch water,” said Lam Dorji.
A UN report released in Cancun, Mexico on Tuesday also warned that mountain glaciers in southern South America and Alaska were melting faster.
Even though negotiators have voiced hope that the climate talks between 190 countries would iron out differences nothing seems to be happening.
In a side event, ‘Mountains in Peril: Mainstreaming the Sustainable Mountain Development Agenda into Climate Change Agreements’ organized by ICIMOD on 2 October during COP 16 in Cancun, Mexico, experts from leading institutions and government organizations working in the field of climate change in the Himalayan region called attention to mountain issues and challenges in the light of climate change.
They linked these issues to the debate on how to mainstream the sustainable development agenda while planning adaptation and mitigation activities, including the management of risks and hazards in fragile mountain environments, and called on mountainous countries to join the Mountain Initiative promoted by the Government of Nepal.
Tashi Jamtsho from Bhutan called attention to the need for action. “In the Himalayas where the impacts of global climate change are manifesting at a rapid pace, the time for action is running out,” he said.
He told the audience how Bhutan is bringing its neighboring countries on the southern slopes of the eastern Himalayas (Bhutan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal) together to convene ‘The Climate Summit for a Living Himalayas’ in Bhutan in October 2011, where they plan to agree to a common 10-year adaptation plan for the region.
According to UNEP, mountains cover 20% of the earth’s surface and are home to just 10% of the world’s population but half of humanity depends on freshwater water from mountains.
“While the international community continues to be deadlocked in its efforts to negotiate a new climate deal, UNEP wants to remind the world that the consequences of higher increase in temperature would be devastating for mountains, for the services they provide and for the large population who depend on them,” said UNEP Europe director Christophe Bouvier.

bhutan signs historic biodiversity protocol in japan

193 countries have agreed to adopt the most important document consolidating global efforts to protect and preserve biodiversity in a fair and systemic way
After years of negotiations, the world finally has the bible to guide biodiversity protection and preservation efforts globally.
The 193 signatory countries worldwide, Bhutan included, of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CDB) adopted a historic protocol at Nagoya in Japan last week.
The Nagoya meet can be mainly summarized in three important decisions. Firstly, the adoption of a new 10-year Strategic Plan to guide international and national efforts to save biodiversity through enhanced action.
Secondly, it also finalized a resource mobilization strategy that provides the way forward to a substantial increase to current levels of official development assistance in support of biodiversity.
Finally, a new international protocol, to be called the Ngoya Protocol, was agreed upon to allow the access and to share the benefits from the use of the genetic resources of the planet. The protocol will also act as a guide to nations in protecting and preserving biological diversity.
The Nagoya meet will go down in the history of conserving biodiversity as one of the most successful forum on biodiversity.
“If Kyoto entered history as the city where the climate accord was born, Nagoya will be remembered as the city where the biodiversity accord was born,” said the Executive Secretary of the Convention, Ahmed Djoghlaf.
He also said that Nagoya has given birth to a new era of living in harmony and a new global alliance to protect life on earth.
The Strategic Plan of the Convention on Biological Diversity or the “Aichi Target”, adopted by the meeting includes 20 headline targets, organized under five strategic goals that address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss, reducing the pressures on biodiversity, safeguarding biodiversity at all levels, enhancing the benefits provided by biodiversity, and providing for capacity-building.
The 193 countries agreed to at least halve and where feasible bring the rate of loss of natural habitats including forests close to zero.
They also established a target to retain 17% of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10% of marine and coastal areas. Through conservation and restoration, governments will restore at least 15% of degraded areas and will make special efforts to reduce the pressures faced by coral reefs.
The President of the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP-10), the Minister of the Environment of Japan, Mr. Ryu Matsumoto, said, “The outcome of this meeting is the result of hard work, the willingness to compromise, and a concern for the future of our planet. With this strong outcome, we can begin the process of building a relationship of harmony with our world, into the future.”
The conservation of biodiversity also received support of many donor communities. Representatives of 34 bilateral and multilateral donor agencies agreed to translate the plan into their respective development cooperation priorities.
The Prime Minister of Japan, Mr Naoto Kan, announced US$ 2bn for financing the implementation of the convention. Additional financial resources were announced by France, the European Union and Norway. Some US$ 110mn was mobilized in support of projects under the CBD LifeWeb Initiative aimed at enhancing the protected-area agenda.
It was also decided that financial support for the strategic plan of the Convention will be provided under the framework of the resource mobilization strategy.
Bhutan became a party to the Convention on Biological Diversity – a multilateral environmental treaty under the aegis of the United Nations to address the concerns of loss of biodiversity through international cooperation and collective actions - in 1995, three years after the Convention was conceived.
Bhutan’s effort in conserving biodiversity has several initiatives. These include the establishment of protected areas; establishment of biological corridors linking the protected areas; creation of conservation areas outside the protected areas system; targeted programs to protect globally threatened keystone species such as the tiger, snow leopard, white-bellied heron, and black-necked crane; the establishment of the National Biodiversity Center including facilities such as the Royal Bhutan Gene Bank and Royal Botanical Garden; and strengthening of programs to conserve indigenous varieties of plant and animal genetic resources.
Bhutan is recognized as one of the world’s most important areas for biodiversity conservation because of the great diversity and concentration of plants, animals, and habitats protected.

tiger countries to finalize major conservation measures in russia next month

The upcoming tiger summit in Russia is seen as a crucial meet which may determine the future of the big cats from total extinction

Finally, after two years of consultation among the Tiger Range Countries (TRC), Bhutan and 12 other countries have finalized a global program last week for restoring the disappearing population of tigers at the Consensus for Conservation meeting held in New Delhi, India.
The Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP) will be endorsed by the representatives of the 13 TRCs at the Tiger Summit, the first of its kind to be held at St. Petersburg, Russia, next month.
If it fails to be endorsed, conservationists say it will lead to the extinction of the tiger across much of Asia. This is the only hope for the big cats roaming across Asia.
The head of the Wildlife Conservation Division, Sonam Wangchuk, who will be attending the summit, said the summit will be a success. “There is no way the summit will fail because all the TRCs have come up with their programs and are ready to work toward it,” he said.
He said the summit will jointly declare the commitment to save the tiger.
The GTRP is supported by 13 parallel National Tiger Recovery Programs. According to the Global Tiger Initiative (GTI), the GTPR has a high probability of success because all 13 TRCs are working together with a high level of political commitment to implement a comprehensive program which will be supported and closely monitored by the global conservation community.
Bhutan’s tiger recovery and conservation program has four priority components.
1. Habitat and species conservation
Although Bhutan’s constitution mandates it to maintain 60% forest cover and about 51% of the country is within protected areas and biological corridors, surveys in the past decade indicated that a significant proportion of tigers roam about outside the protected areas and biological corridors.
Therefore, a revision of the corridor system is prioritized to include important tiger habitat outside the current park-corridor system. Parks should be zoned to identify core tiger habitats, and corridors should be clearly designated and identified to enforce rules and regulations that govern land-use and land-management.
2. Integrating tiger conservation and rural livelihoods
While people in Bhutan live in the protected areas and corridors, and use forest resources for everyday use and livelihoods, living within the tiger habitats has various opportunity costs like livestock depredation.
Therefore, compensation in the form of alternative income generation, insurance for depredation, conservation payments, etc. are prioritized to elicit support for biodiversity conservation and community stewardship.
3. Building institutional capacity
The current human resource capabilities are inadequate to carry out scientific conservation of key species of special concern.
Linkages among the different units of the Department of Forests and Park Services (DoFPS) are inadequate or non-existent, and no single unit has a clear mandate to coordinate the national park and wildlife protection services in the country.
These shortcomings are prioritized to be rectified for more effective conservation and protection of tigers and tiger habitats.
4. Sustainable Financing
Tiger conservation will be greatly expedited if sustainable fund is available. Therefore, a sustainable financing mechanism will be developed, incorporating innovative fund sources to allow for planning, implementing, and achieving ambitious and long-term conservation goals.
However, various challenges are foreseen. According to the WWF, tigers could be extinct within 12 years. In the last century, illegal hunting, a shrinking habitat and the trade of tiger parts used in oriental medicine had sent the number of the big cats worldwide plunging 97% to around just 3,200 tigers today.
New trends are also emerging challenging the conservation efforts. Recently, hidden camera footage in Indonesia revealed forest destruction for illegal palm oil plantations. In Singapore officials seized several tiger skins that were advertised for sale online. At the Panna Reserve in India, two young restocked tigers were found missing.
Back at home, the human conflict with the wild cats continues to be a concern. For example, last month, a tiger killed a man at Dorji goenpa in Trongsa.
Today, there are around 1,800 tigers in India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh, 450 in Sumatra, 400 in Malaysia, 350 spread throughout Southeast Asia and around 450 in Russia. Bhutan has an estimated tiger population of 67-81 tigers. The 13 tiger range countries are: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

deteriorating human health linked to climate change

The impact of climate change on human health has not been discussed in many of the climate change conferences around the world. Today, we clearly see the effects of climate change on human health and the need to address it.
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in cases of dengue in the South-East Asia region. Bhutan started reporting dengue at higher altitude since 2004. The dengue mosquitoes previously found at an elevation of 500 meters above sea level have now been sighted at altitudes of 2,200 meters in Darjeeling, India and 4,000 meters in Nepal.
Climate change will have mixed effects on malaria incidences. It is likely to decrease in plains having high ambient temperatures throughout the year. However, with an increase in temperature, new windows for malaria will open in cooler regions, such as mountains presently free from malaria, and the season of malaria transmission will also expand.
While Bhutan has attended a number of environment and climate change conferences, for the first time the country hosted a regional conference of parliamentarians on protecting human health from climate change. It was organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Thimphu this week.
“Despite the obvious link between climate change and health, this is a subject that has until now been hardly discussed in the various climate change forum at the national, regional and international levels,” the Prime Minister, Lyonchen Jigmi Y. Thinley said.
Lyonchen added that while no nation will be spared from the adverse impact of climate change, it will be felt disproportionately by the poor and the geographically vulnerable populations of small island countries, mountainous regions and the coastal areas.
This regional conference focused on parliamentarians because the conference is expected to create awareness among politicians and garner their support in transferring the resolution from paper to actions across countries.
The conference will also contribute meaningfully to enhancing their understanding of the diversity and natures of risks posed by climate change and thereby facilitate the adoption of appropriate mitigation and adaption policies and measures by respective governments.
The World Health Report 2002 estimated that about 82,000 persons died due to climate change in South-East Asia in 2000, and among WHO regions, South-East Asia had the highest estimated deaths.
“We must focus on building public health systems that go beyond merely reacting to climate change to systems that will ensure the development and maintenance of healthy environments. We must strengthen our efforts to integrate climate change policies and actions plans in the key sectors to improve public health and happiness,” said Lyonchen Jigmi Y. Thinley.
Bhutan has been taking measures to protect human health from climate change and is now initiating a new project with the support of WHO, UNDP, and the Global Environment Facility. The project will consolidate several programs such as vector borne disease program, rural water supply and sanitation, nutrition program, control of diarrheal disease program to address health impacts with a holistic approach.
“The project will help us to develop early warning systems, strengthen health system capacity, and implement community level interventions, to protect populations from threats such as floods, and outbreaks of infectious diseases,” said the health minister, Lyonpo Zangley Dukpa.
Bhutan’s water resources are also depleting which has serious consequences for the health and hygiene of its people.
Diarrhea is one of the most common causes of death among children under five years in South-East Asia. Climate change increases the incidence of diarrhea diseases.
Heavy rains and floods contaminated drinking water sources with human excrete by flooding septic tanks and sewerage system. Scarcity of water caused by drought, decreased glacial melt water, increased salinity of coastal areas due to rising sea levels and storms compromise the quality of drinking water and sanitation. There are reports from the region of increased incidences of cholera and rota virus diarrhea associated with higher sea surface temperature and atmospheric temperature, respectively.
The climate change now threatens with not only health challenges but with the question of human survival on this planet.

bhutan reiterates its effort to patch the hole in the sky

A Bhutanese farmer enters the scene. He disposes a refrigerator in an open area. Suddenly polluting carbonaceous gases rise from the refrigerator and create a hole in the ozone layer up in the sky. Through the hole, harmful rays of the sun hit the farmer and he is in pain.
Then enters Ozzy Ozone, the universal ozone mascot. Ozzy Ozone tells the farmer how the ultraviolet rays of the sun is harming him and that it followed after he disposed his refrigerator in the open area. The farmer then disposes his refrigerator properly.
This short animated series is a section of a Bhutanized version of Ozzy Ozone documentary which is part of the initiative taken by Bhutan to create awareness to protect the ozone layer.
About two decades ago, a large hole was discovered in the ozone shield around the earth over the South Pole. It was attributed to the use of long range of chemicals called Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS). Today, after a global initiative the production and consumption of the ODS have been cut by more than 98%.
Bhutan has done its share.
“The entire international community has worked hard toward reversing this trend, and now with every country in the world being a member to the Montreal Protocol, the efforts have paid off through signs that suggest that the vital shield protecting us is regenerating,” said the vice chair of the National Environment Commission (NEC) and the works and human settlement minister, Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba, at the international day for the preservation of the ozone layer in Thimphu on September 16.
Enormous efforts have been put in place to ensure Bhutan’s success. Many activities have been carried out which include retrofitting of industries, training of trainers, technicians and custom officials.
“We have overcome the daunting task of meeting the obligations of the stipulated ODS phase out timeframe ensuring compliance with the phase out schedule of 50% reduction of CFC consumption in the country by January 2005, and 85% reduction by 2008 and then completely in 2010,” said the secretary of NEC Ugyen Tshewang.
Bhutan is now working toward phasing out HCFC from the country. Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba said that by starting the implementation of the phase out, Bhutan can achieve dual benefits of combating climate change as well as protecting the ozone layer.
“We have made much progress, but the coming years will be critical in seeing the job through with the implementing of the HCFC phase out,” he said.
The minister added that Bhutan’s enviable reputation in environment conservation thus far is testimony of its commitment of pursuing sustainable development based on the philosophy of Gross National Happiness which underscores that development cannot be pursued on the premise of economic growth alone but has to take place in combination with the emotional and spiritual wellbeing of the people.
The Secretary General of United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, in his ozone day address, applauded the role played by the Montreal Protocol in the fight to protect the ozone layer and also labeled the issue as similar to climate change. “It has already averted greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to more than 135 billion tons of carbondioxide, and will continue to play an important role,” he said.
Ozone depleting substances are certain manmade chemicals which have a high potential to deplete the ozone layer. These include CFC, HCFC, Methyl Bromide, Carbon Tetra Chloride and Halons.
In Bhutan, ODS are commonly used in refrigeration, air conditioning, fire fighting, aerosols, and as solvents for cleaning applications in industries.
By the end of 2009, the Montreal Protocol had resulted in the elimination of over 98% of historical levels of ozone-depleting substances worldwide.

bhutan reaffirms to combat land degradation

To combat land degradation, Bhutan has been implementing various programs but most of them have been largely in a piecemeal fashion induced with individual sector plans without a more streamlined macro-level policy or strategic perspective.
“In spite of this situation, Bhutan has managed to maintain a relatively healthy environment in line with its philosophy of Gross National Happiness, which promotes the need to balance economic development with ecological and cultural preservation,” said the agriculture minister, Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho.
Last month, 15 influential leaders representing different countries and organizations including United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Bhutan met in Brazil to commit toward the United Nations decade for deserts and the fight against desertification or degradation.
According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), deserts and desertification must not be confused. “They are linked yet separate: natural deserts make up an important part the earth’s ecosystems, while desertification is what happens when once-healthy landscapes in dry land areas turn barren from human mismanagement and worsening drought,” said the executive secretary of UNCCD, Luc Gnacadjia.
He said the world is working together as never before both to deepen its scientific understanding and strengthen practical ways to tackle the global challenge.
The agriculture minister, Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho, said Bhutan, as a small and land-locked mountainous country located in the eastern Himalayas, is highly vulnerable to land degradation from soil erosion, landslides, flash floods, drought and windstorms.
“World leaders, scientists and farmers need to work together in innovating technologies and approaches to arrest the process of land degradation and desertification both within and beyond the context of the Convention,” added Lyonpo.
Bhutan has a homegrown policy to combat land degradation called the National Action Plan to Combat Land Degradation (NAPCLD). It identifies urbanization as one of the main causes for land degradation. Urbanization has taken place at a very rapid pace over the past decade. It is estimated that between 2000 and 2005 the country’s urban population grew at an annual rate of 7.3%. At this rate, the urban population is projected to grow from 196,111 in 2005 to 564,284 in 2020 to constitute 73% of the country’s population.
With a growing population, Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho said the concurrent demands on limited land resources coupled with changing climate patterns, the country is likely to face increasing challenges in protecting its fragile environment.
“Realizing the need to better manage our land resources, Bhutan became a party to the UNCCD in 2003. Since then, with  support from Global Environmental Facility (GEF), World Bank, and UNDP we have been able to initiate pioneering projects to test and adopt various measures to prevent land degradation and improve land husbandry,” said the minister.
Other causes contributing to land degradation include forest fires, excessive use of forest resources, overgrazing, unsustainable agricultural practices, poor irrigation system management, and construction of infrastructure without proper environmental measures, mining, industrial development, and urbanization. According to records maintained by the Department of Forests, 643 incidents of forest fires affecting a total forest area of 83,759 hectares have taken place between 1999 and 2008. Almost all forest fires in the country are caused by humans.
To combat this, Bhutan’s Action Program includes forest fire management, sustainable production and utilization of forest resources, rehabilitation of degraded and barren forest lands, participatory forest management and, livestock and grazing management.
Bhutan also has sound environmental policies and legislations in place through which land degradation problems and issues can be dealt with.
Worldwide, it is estimated that 3.6bn hectares, a quarter of the Earth’s land area, are being affected by desertification and various forms of land degradation.
The UN Convention to Combat Desertification was adopted in June 1994. The process began in 1992 at the UN Conference on Environment and Development where the international community called on the UN General Assembly to establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to prepare a legally binding international instrument to combat desertification.
Bhutan acceded to the UNCCD in August 2003. At present, 193 countries are party to this immensely consequential international treaty.

himalayan debacle calls for change in top un climate body

One glaring erroneous prediction that the Himalayan glaciers could completely melt by 2035 has led to a chaotic debate about whether the top Nobel prize winning climate research body of the United Nation – the Noble Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – should be overhauled.
Discovering the prediction was faulty about four months ago, the UN initiated a review, the finding of which was released on August 30. The review slammed the IPCC and called for a strict change in the Panel’s structure including an appointment of an executive director and said the chairman should become a part-time position and change with every review.
The time limit for officials holding senior positions in the IPCC, including that of chairman, should be shortened to one term, instead of two which has implications for current chairman Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri, already in a second six-year term.
It also recommended replacing the top eight officials responsible for producing the UN reports every seven years or so and that the climate panel should make predictions only when solid scientific evidence was in place.
Most pressure is on the chairman of the IPCC, Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri, to resign after the review report was presented to the UN following which he has been backed by the his home nation, India, to retain the top position. However, he admitted that the mistakes in the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report and the prediction about Himalayan glacier  had badly damaged the IPCC’s credibility.
The review was jointly requested by Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in March this year after many criticized the 2007 global warming report.
Speaking at a press conference at the United Nations in New York, Dr Rajendra Pachauri said the credibility of IPCC had been challenged, and said the IPCC had realized from the outset that only an exhaustive, impartial and independent review would be acceptable. “We were prepared to accept whatever results were forthcoming. We were determined to gather recommendations that would further the IPCC’s transparency, the accuracy and value of its findings, and minimize the potential for errors,” he said.
However, he said the IPCC is yet to review the findings of the review. “So I am not able to comment on its findings,” he added.
Despite the support of the Indian government, Dr Rajendra Pachauri is still under pressure from all over the world. He insisted the IPCC report’s core assertion that the world is heating up has not been challenged and he condemned what he called posturing in attacks on the climate change body.
He also said that he will stay to implement the changes unless he is dismissed by the representatives of the 194 government who run the IPCC which is most unlikely to happen as heads of organizations are rarely unseated when they are backed by their own governments.
It took four months for the UN to review the prediction and other related errors of the IPCC. The review also examined every aspect of how the IPCC’s periodic climate science assessments were prepared, including the use of non-peer reviewed literature and the reflection of diverse viewpoints. The review also looked into institutional aspects, including management functions as well as the Panel’s procedures for communicating its findings to the public.
It was also made public that the 194 governments which form the IPCC will carefully review the recommendations from the review at a plenary in October and decide what actions to be taken.
Six other independent reviews have looked at various aspects of climate science this year. Of those that examined the quality of the science itself, all of them found that the IPCC’s work had been carried out appropriately.
The review and its recommendations come from a panel made up of 12 experts from 10 countries. The report has also called for the IPCC management to be open to people outside the organizations through the creation of an executive committee that would have external non-executive members. The IPCC’s communications strategy should emphasize transparency and include a plan for rapid but thoughtful response to crises, and strictly called for a clear policy guidelines to adjudge conflict of interest of panel members holding outside positions.
No comprehensive study has been done to understand impacts of climate change on the Himalayan region which provide water to more than a billion people in Asia caused unnecessary panic in the region.

gearing up for the climate meet in bhutan

Bhutan commits to phase out HCFCs a decade earlier than other countries

After Bhutan successfully met an international obligation this year, it has embarked on a more challenging task by committing to fulfill another obligation a decade before the international deadline.
Bhutan completely phased out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) by the beginning of this year which was the deadline prescribed by the Montreal Protocol. Now, Bhutan has committed a complete phase-out of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) in the country by 2020, ten years before the Protocol deadline.
“Our decision to phase out HCFCs will demonstrate to the world our determination to protect our planet,” said Peldon Tshering, the National Ozone Officer of the National Environment Commission Secretariat.
All 196 countries signatory to the Montreal Protocol have to start phasing out HCFCs, an ozone depleting substance (ODS), by 2030 according to the Protocol.
The 19th Meeting of Parties to the Montreal Protocol in 2007 called for the accelerated phase out of HCFCs with specific reduction targets as well as directions for the Executive Committee and the Parties to expedite actions that will prioritise projects and programs to meet the phase-out.
However, this is not going to be easy for Bhutan. The senior regional coordinator, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Mr. Atul Bagai, said the phase-out of the gas will be a challenging task for Bhutan.
Even if Bhutan phases out HCFC by 2020, he said neighboring countries like China, India and Thailand which are popular import destinations for Bhutan would still produce HCFC and HCFC based equipments beyond 2020. “The challenge on Bhutan’s side is to see that such equipments do not enter Bhutan,” he said.
Peldon Tshering said Bhutan will be able to phase out HCFC faster than other countries as Bhutan is not a large consumer of the HCFCs.
“With concentrated efforts and cooperation from all the different sectors, we would be able to phase out by 2020, especially as our sectors are small,” she said.
“Such a strong commitment of Bhutan to Phase-out HCFC will help Bhutan reach its ambitious target. OzonAction Program will work shoulder to shoulder with Bhutan to stop the consumption of this group of chemicals earlier than the Montreal Protocol phase-out deadline, as was done when CFCs were phased out by Bhutan” said the head of UNEP OzonAction Program, Mr. Rajendra Shende. He added that OzonAction would help by providing capacity building and technology support.
Some of the Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) which have successfully been banned after 2005 include eight types of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and Carbon Tetrachloride (CTC).
HCFCs are produced from equipments used for refrigeration, air conditioning and manufacturing of insulation foams. HCFC producing equipments are largely used by big industries, hotels and resorts, corporate offices, governmental sectors as well as domestic services.
According to the HCFC Phase out Management Plan (HPMP), in 2009-10, the Bhutanese industrial sector used 1,174.5 kilograms of HCFC, hotels and resorts used 543.8 kg, large offices used 3,294 kg and domestic services used 513.3 kg.
To phase out the use of HCFC, various strategies are being created by the NEC including retrofitting of industries, end user conversion, incentive program for domestic refrigeration conversion, and equipment support to vocational training institute for MAC curriculum. It also includes capacity building exercises like strengthening of enforcement officers, ozone officers, custom officers, refrigeration technicians, and technician training in retrofitting.
Strategy to use advocacy material to create awareness is also put in place. One such advocacy material is a 3D stamp that would be introduced as the first ever 3D stamp in the world creating awareness on the impact of HCFC.
The NEC has initiated the development of the HCFC Phase-out Management Plan (HPMP) for Bhutan and is in the final stages of its development with assistance from UNEP and UNDP.
The HCFC Phase-out Management Plan is an overarching plan with a staged approach to achieve total phase-out. The first stage is to provide concrete funding proposals to freeze the target amount by 2013 and then a subsequent 10% reduction by 2015.
The 147 countries under Article 5 of the Montreal Protocoal, which includes Bhutan, that have a total HCFC consumption of up to 360 metric tons will be provided funding consistent with the level of consumption in the refrigeration servicing sector on the understanding that project proposals will still need to demonstrate that the funding level is necessary to achieve the 2013 and 2015 phase-out targets.

waiting for the green light to go green with redd

While the United Nations Collaborative initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) in developing countries is gaining momentum under the banner of climate change programs, it has not really received the green light from the government in Bhutan.
The Watershed Management Division of the agriculture ministry is trying to convince the government of the crucial role of REDD and its potential to attract international funds. The Chief Forestry Officer, Watershed Management Division, Karma Tshering, said they are still waiting for a concrete decision from the government. “The delay is because the government has to take into account the issues of overall national interest,” he said.
While REDD is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development,  REDD+ goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
In Bhutan, areas have been identified to have a high rate of forest degradation which could be turned into REDD+ potential project sites.
The REDD+ initiatives are aimed to provide alternative revenues for development and additional income streams for local communities depending on forests. Karma Tshering said REDD+ projects must be ecologically, economically and socially sustainable for which carbon finance mechanisms must be transparent and equitable in the distribution of those benefits like recognizing customary rights in community forests.
As REDD mandates low carbon strategies, which have already been prioritized by the government, “The need to move forward quickly in order to originate carbon credits from Bhutan REDD+ projects has been emphasized so that the benefits to the environment and local communities can be realized,” he said.
There are various opportunities that may also be generated from the carbon market. These are generation of money to finance forest protection, conservation and sustainable management, conversion of forests into more profitable land uses, enhancement of overall forest governance, improvement of  wildlife habitat and species preservation, overall improvement of biodiversity and ecotourism, promotion of private sector involvement, and cooperation between governments, NGOs, corporations and between many carbon traders.
However, one of the biggest challenges faced in the pursuance of the carbon market is the risk of human displacement and eviction from the REDD identified areas. “The people will then have to be resettled in another area which would be difficult if people of that area refuse to leave. Their customary rights will be violated,” said karma Tshering.
The agriculture minister, Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho, during a seminar on REDD+ potential in Bhutan in June said the presence of human settlements in the forests and even in the protected areas is a reality in Bhutan that must be respected and preset under any terms of REDD implementation.
Other challenges include development concessions and logging subsidies, replacing old-growth forests with monoculture tree, problems in assuring broad-based participations, community involvement, benefit sharing, risk of increased corruption and crash in carbon price.
The minister then said that REDD has been politically challenging, technically perplexing and economically enticing for Bhutan to provide a definitive context under which it can be applied without undermining the sublime themes of GNH.
Karma Tshering said the REDD programs, globally, is victim to the wider breakdown in negotiations, no internationally agreed finance framework, country selection and policy priorities. “REDD is just a political statement and not a legal binding document,” he said.
Meanwhile, the UN-REDD program was launched in developing countries in September 2008 to assist developing countries prepare and implement national REDD+ strategies. The program currently supports REDD+ readiness activities in nine pilot countries, spanning Africa, Asia and the Pacific and Latin America: Bolivia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Indonesia, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, United Republic of Tanzania, Viet Nam and Zambia.
While the current funding is limited to the nine pilot countries, 13 other countries have become observers to the program. The observer countries include Nepal, Argentina, Ecuador, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Kenya, Mexico,  Nigeria, the Philippines, Republic of Congo, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, and Sudan.

the future is black for the white bellied heron

The threat of hydropower project along the Punatshangchu river basin may lead to the extinction of the white bellied heron

Efforts to save the critically endangered white bellied heron seem to be getting harder by the day.
A report by the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) notes that “eight years of research on white bellied heron ecology has been driven down to drain due to development activities of Punatsangchu hydropower project.”
According to RSPN, chicks of the white bellied heron are already falling prey to predators like serpent eagle, pallas fish eagle, osprey, yellow throated martin and to some small cats.
“This is due to the growing competition for food as a result of displacement of birds and animals from their original feeding habitats along the Punatshangchu,” said ecologist with RSPN, Rebecca Pradhan.
Experts say that this is due to the chain effects of the hydropower project development activities along the Punatshangchu basin.
This chain effects of the development are driving away all the birds and animals from their usual habitat to inner valleys or along the small streams.
The feeding habitats decreased in size. Predation of the fishes increased and fish migration are disturbed by the development work.
According to Rebecca Pradhan, herons used to get two to three fishes in an hour but now it is difficult for the birds to catch one fish in about three hours. This means that the parent herons have to spend long hours looking for food which leaves the chicks without care for long hours exposing them to predators.
In the last two years, six eggs were lost to predators including two to climatic factors, six chicks to predators, one adult was killed by stoning, and another one electrocuted.
According to RSPN, the nesting sites are concentrated toward smaller tributaries like Digchu, Kisonachu, Haraongchu, Ada lake in western Bhutan and Bertichu in central Bhutan. Chirpine (Pinus roxburghii) forest is the key nesting and roosting habitat for the white bellied heron.
However, almost all the birds, with the exception of just one or two strays, are found only along the Punatshangchu developmental activities.
According to Rebecca Pradhan, the birds select the site to build the nest in very strategic places where the front view is open or clear.
“We might not be worried if the white bellied herons are found along rivers all over the country, but unfortunately maximum numbers are found only along the Punatshangchu,” said Rebecca Pradhan.
The fledging takes place in the monsoon when the small streams are full of fish and juveniles prefer to fish in smaller streams when the main river is flooded.
Protecting the birds is a major challenge and Rebecca Pradhan says that continuous awareness campaign to encourage the local people, hydropower project staff and workers to participate in the white bellied heron conservation effort is the only hope to save the birds.
As per the latest report, there are only 26 birds existing in Bhutan.
The white bellied heron is known from the eastern himalayan foothills in Bhutan and north-east India to the hills of Bangadesh, north Myanmar and, historically at least, across west and central Myanmar.

roaring to save tigers

Thirteen tiger range countries including Bhutan met in Bali, Indonesia for the three-day Pre-Tiger Summit Partners Dialogue this week and agreed on a rescue declaration to save tigers from extinction.
The summit’s declaration will be further discussed at the Tiger Summit in St. Petersburg in Russia from September 15 to 18, later this year. The Global Tiger Recovery Program is based on national plans developed by the tiger range countries (TRCs).
According to the WWF Tiger program leader, Michael Baltzer, individual governments have come with strong national plans to help tigers recover in numbers in their countries, but they cannot do it by themselves.
“These governments now must collectively lay the groundwork for a global plan to save wild tigers ahead of the Tiger Summit in Russia,” he said.
According to WWF, the wild population of tigers of all species in the world has fallen from about 100,000 to an estimated 3,200 over the past century and early estimates suggest that the cost of implementing the global tiger project will be more than US$ 350mn and even more if the target of doubling tiger numbers within 12 years is to be met.
According to a draft national tiger recovery program, Bhutan is unique in having tigers at an altitude of 4,100 meters. Bhutan also has plans to monitor cross border movement of tigers and establish cross border administrative coordination mechanisms for joint petrol and policing for wildlife trade.
Threats to the tiger include massive habitat fragmentation and destruction, loss of prey, poaching and illegal trade. Tigers are also lost due to retaliatory killing when they come into conflict with villagers living around tiger habitats.
To protect tigers, WWF and Bhutanese wildlife authorities are working together to establish anti-poaching units and strengthen anti-poaching law enforcement. In addition to poaching, WWF and its partners are addressing human-wildlife conflict by setting up a compensation fund for local farmers whose livestock are often killed by tigers.
Tigers found at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Park in Bhutan are shorter with bushy fur and a facial structure that resemble the Siberian Tiger of Russia. This, according to the Nature Conservation Division’s chief forestry officer, Dr Sonam Wangyel, could be because of a natural adaption or a level of inbreeding taking place.
However, in the absence of a nationwide tiger survey in Bhutan it is difficult to know with certainty where tigers are found in the country. But sightings have been reported in various protected areas.
This pre-meeting is a follow up to earlier governmental meetings on tiger conservation. The first in Kathmandu, Nepal in October last year, recommended a series of 15 global actions that needed to be taken to change the trajectory of tigers from extinction to recovery, as well as commitments from several tiger range countries.
The Kathmandu meeting was followed by the first Asian ministerial conference on tiger conservation held in Hua Hin, Thailand, in January 2010, and which adopted the goal of doubling the number of wild tigers by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger.
Other 12 countries who attended the meet were Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.
World tiger experts and representatives from NGOs, the Global Tiger Initiative (GTI)/World Bank, and donor agencies such as USAID, AUSAID and GEF were some of the participants.

climate change is changing bhutan

Unlike in the past, Bhutanese people understand climate change and its impacts according to a recent study on Bhutanese communities.
The report - Understanding Sectoral Impacts of Climate Change - under the Regional Climate Risk Reduction Project studied three communities in three dzongkhags on the risk posed by glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF). The report focused on Samdingkha community in Punakha, Bajo-Thango community in Wangdue and Bathbalathang in Bumthang.
According to the study, at Simdingkha, people were aware of the process of global warming and climate change “to some extent.”
“People now understand how increase in population, increase in machineries, and forest depletion causes global warming and thereby climate change,” the report says.
Many people also mentioned the change they saw in their communities. Phurba Namgay, a deputy village headman from Tsheytshog Gewog, Wangduephodrang, said that flooding caused by cyclone Aila last year was more severe than the 1994 glacial flood.
“We cannot follow the pattern of cultivation we have been doing for ages due to rainfall inconsistency. We sometimes get rain during our usual harvest period in August-September,” said Tauchu, the village headman of Taewong, Punakha. Some said that snowfall during winter has now decreased.
The report also showed consolidated impact on various sectors. Rainfall in most places has become very intermittent, untimely and heavy in some instances. The general trend of increase in volume of water during monsoon and decrease during lean period still exits.
According to the report, in recent years, there has been a shift in rainfall both in terms of duration and period of occurrence. “Consistency is at stake,” the report says.
While there has been some shift in rainfall, snow, and frost, there has also been a change in agriculture and cropping pattern.
In Punakha and Wangduephodrang, inconsistency in rainfall has led to a shift in paddy cultivation. Chili growers also share similar brunt. Chili plants start flowering in March-April while early rain destroys them all.
A decade ago, farmers in Samdingkha had enough oranges in their orchard but now there is hardly enough for consumption. This is attributed to a new disease called citrus greening. Other pests like the Common Cutworm (Agrotis Segetum) and Bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera) have become rampant in recent years which feed and damage chilies and tomatoes.
Due to inconsistency in frost occurrence there has been drastic reduction in potato production in Bumthang.
However, not all changes are bad. There are also positive impacts of climate change.
According to the report, in Bumthang, the temperature and the surrounding environment has become conducive for the growth of chili, paddy and maize.
These are crops for low altitude where it is much warmer. The emphasis on cultivation of these new crops by the farmers in Bumthang has taken a revolution, so much so that buckwheat, the main cereal in Bumthang, is declining.
So is the case in Punakha, dying orange trees have given way to the growth of Mangos.
Various measures are now taken up by the communities to counter the negative impacts of climate change. Apart from government led interventions, the communities have started planting trees to counter landslides and soil erosion.
In Bajo-Thango, gabion walls have been constructed along the river banks to avoid flooding.
Although the understanding of climate change between the educated and illiterate seems to differ, there is a consensus on its impact.
The compilation of the report involved three components. The first one is focused on assessing the impact of hydro-meteorological hazards on mountain communities and the socio-economic infrastructure. It was designed to help develop a better understanding of the nature, occurrence, impacts and trends of hydro-meteorological disasters and their inter-relationship. This would also identify risk mitigation and preparedness measures which can be implemented at community and local administration levels to address them.
The second component emphasizes more on identification and implementation of low cost, easily implementable community based disaster risk reduction initiatives including community based natural resources management.
The third component focused more on knowledge networking, information sharing, and policy documentation which will help develop institutional frameworks and appropriate policies for disaster risk reduction.
“The project is also contributing toward better understanding of specific hazards and feasible risk mitigation measures at the community level,” stated the report.

the only way to go is green

Branding Bhutanese people to be among the most eco-literate people in the developing world, Lyonchen Jigmi Y. Thinley said Bhutan has today become a leading example of harmonious living between man and nature.
“This is not because we have good laws and strategies but because we have one of the most diverse ecologies in the world as a result of our collective stewardship of our inheritance,” said Lyonchen. He was delivering the state of the nation report to the parliament Thursday.
One of the main initiatives and achievements in the past year was declaring Bhutan to be carbon neutral for all times to come. During the world climate change summit in Copenhagen (COP 15) Bhutan pledged to remain carbon neutral and serve as a net carbon sink.
“We did so not because it would make Bhutan famous or it would attract further development assistance but because it is the right thing to do and in the hope that others who were haggling over how much reduction they should impose on each other would be inspired into going a little further to make this world a safer place,” said Lyonchen.
Lyonchen added that it was because more than any other country Bhutan’s fragile Himalayan mountain kingdom was vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
The prime minister also expressed his hope for a major breakthrough in terms of global agreement on mitigation and adaption measures.
Additional steps taken by the government in strictly monitoring the pollution levels in the industrial areas has significantly improved the environmental performance of industries. “One might have noticed that the sky over our valleys last winter was much clearer than in the previous year,” said Lyonchen.
To keep an eye on the air quality, the Lyonchen said the media will be given daily air quality report (SPM) and a monthly report on the average gaseous pollutants across the country. This is done to raise public consciousness and participation so that the air quality becomes a matter of public concern and ownership.
To mitigate the threat of glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF), the works to lower the water level of the Thorthomi glacial lake by five meters is also on the right track. The main and two subsidiary lakes have been lowered by more than 80 centimeters.
However, the Lyonchen said the achievement could have been more had it not been for the affects of cyclone Aila. “With the experience gained, we are hopeful of achieving a much higher reduction this year and to that extent mitigate the risks of a major disaster in the valleys of the Punatsangchu,” said Lyonchen.
Lyonchen also added that a fully automatic flood warning system in the valley is being installed to become operational by June next year.
With Bhutan recognized to be in an earthquake prone zone, a comprehensive earthquake hazard mapping is being initiated along with a strategy to build capacity and expertise to monitor and make rapid response to earthquakes.
A wide range of activities were undertaken to mitigate fire hazards using volunteers and the army personnel. Likewise, several initiatives have been taken to prevent landslides through tree planting for slope stabilization.
Ensuring that the economic development policy promotes growth and development of a green and sustainable economy, Lyonchen said that green technology, products, and practices will be given attractive incentives.
“In this regard, a very good beginning has been made by the pledge of all the school heads to make their schools green, free of non-biodegradable waste,” added the prime minister.
Apart from incentivizing green economy, green buildings are being encouraged to make cities greener.
An architect’s association has also been sensitized. According to the prime minister, a special meeting has been planned for an extensive discussion with the members aimed at promoting full partnership with the government in ensuring a high standard guide to monitor the construction of all future buildings that must incorporate sustainable features including seismic resilience.
For a start, the Office of the Attorney General and the IT Park will be constructed as model green buildings.
However, the government was not happy with the water supply and waste treatment systems in the capital as well as in other urban areas. While efforts are being made to overcome problems in other parts of the country the water supply problem in Thimphu is being addressed with the budget already allocated for it.
On waste management and sewage treatment, the government will take a fresh look at the most efficient and eco-friendly technology to tackle the issue. However Lyonchen said the funds for the project has to be explored.
The prime minister also reminded that the government has not given up on its dream to make Thimphu a bicycle and pedestrian city despite the initial setback. “Our determination comes from the knowledge that many residents of our capital, young and old are enthusiastically supportive,” said Lyonchen.

now it’s the eagle that is threatening the white-bellied heron

Even though the white-bellied heron found a different habitat following construction activities, the endangered bird is faced with another threat

The rare and endangered White-bellied heron moved away from their original habitat ever since developmental activities started along the Punatshangchu. Now, these birds have found sanctuary along the smaller tributaries of the river where there are less developmental activities.
But the story has taken a different twist after that.
Carnivore  birds like the Crested Serpent Eagle (spilornis cheela), Pallas’s Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus levcorrphus), and Osprey (Pandion Haliaetus) have all moved toward the Heron habitats.
Reason? The predators are starving and they have discovered the Heron to be a good meal material.
Ornithologist Rebecca Pradhan of the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) says this is not a good sign for the bird.
“These carnivore birds feed on fishes and even the birds,” she said.
There will be serious impact on the nesting white-bellied herons. A latest study by RSPN says that of the 30 White-bellied Herons six are nesting.
Locals near the habitats say that recently more number of eagles have been spotted in the area. These carnivore birds are a threat to the nesting herons and their food supply.
RSPN’s proposal for an artificial habitat for the birds is still in its infancy stage. However, this too might pose problems in food supply of the herons. Even if an artificial habitat is developed, the migration of the fish is still affected by the developmental activities along the Punatshangchu, thus affecting the food supply for the Herons.
Environmentalists say that a fish ladder across the Punatsangchu would be impossible as there will be more than one dams coming up in the area and also that the dams are high.  The only solution would be an artificial fish raising pond from which fishes can be taken and put into the artificial habitat areas. “This will be very expensive but to save the birds it’s worth it,” said an environmentalist.
However, more research is required, said Rebecca Pradhan.
There are two types of White bellied herons - breeding and non-breeding. Non-breeding herons can be found along Phochu and Mochu and Kamechu, Gewarongchu and Burichu. Breeding Herons are found in Ada, Nanzhina, Hararongchu in Wangduephodrang and Bertichu in Zhemgang.
White-bellied heron can be identified from their long legs for wading, grayish slender body with long head and neck, and huge thick bill. Its color camouflages it in the surroundings making it difficult to spot. It was sighted in Bhutan as early as 1975.
The white bellied heron is categorized under the critically endangered species under Red List Category by the IUCN in May 2007.