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Monday, January 24, 2011

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.

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