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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

assam villagers claim bhutanese mines and factories pollute rivers downstream, nec refutes

National Environment Commission officials say rivers are polluted by natural causes during monsoon
If an Indian media report is to be believed, Bhutan’s natural coal zone in the south may be polluting rivers that run through different villages downstream in India.
The media report claimed that polluted water released from coal mines in Samdrup Jongkhar posed threat to Paharpur, Hortola, Sukanjuli and nearby villages near Darangmela in the Indo-Bhutan areas of Basksa district in Assam.
The silicon factory upstream has been polluting the river and it has turned black due to the pollutants from coal mines, the villagers were quoted as saying in the Assam Tribune.
Villagers told the newspaper that a few years ago the water of Kalanadi was not black in colour as it is now.  The water used to be good for cultivation, drinking as well as for other activities, they said. The villagers also reported decrease in crop production and fish population, and that cattle and people were contracting various diseases.
They said that chemical substance like oil is seen floating on the surface of the river water which may be effluent of the silicon factory.
However, it is not an unknown fact that coal deposits along Bhutan’s southern belt are often washed into the rivers that flow through Indian villages during monsoon.
Speaking to Business Bhutan, an environment officer with the National Environment Commission (NEC) and the former Samdrup Jongkhar district environment officer, Tshering Dorji, said Bhutanese mines and silicon factory in Samdrup Jongkhar do not dump waste in the river as there are designated dumping areas.
He explained that coal deposits of a few abandoned coal mines might be carried away to the river during monsoon which polluted the river.
“The NEC has strict guidelines which the operators have to follow and if it is found to be violated, they will be penalized,” he said. “But there have been no such cases.”
The officiating environment officer of the SD Bhutan Ferro Silicon factory in Samdrup Jongkhar, Sonam Dhendup, said river Lebra is not very close to the factory as reported in the Indian media.  “It is situated around 5 football fields away from the river,” he said.
Sonam Dhendup said the by-products called micro-silica from the factory are transported to Kolkata. “We do not dump any waste in any river. We know it is harmful so we do not do it,” he said.
The general manager of Eastern Bhutan Coal Company, the only operational coal factory in Samdrup Jongkhar at present, B.B Tamang, said the reasons for the river turning black and muddy is due to natural causes.
“The river inside Bhutan is also muddy and black. This might be due to the coal deposits that are there in and around and that are eroded by rain and fed into the river. I don’t think we will dump coals in the river as it is very expensive,” said B.B Tamang.
“It is a concern but we are not dumping anything in the river. We have our own designated dumping sites inside the factory premises,” he said.
During a joint verification by the Bhutanese and the Indian authorities a few years ago on similar issues in a different area, it was established that rivers downstream were turning black and muddy during monsoons due to natural causes and not because of pollution from Bhutan.

environment trust fund to finance several conservation projects

One of the projects will reduce an estimated 196,668 tons of green house gas emission and 183,214 tons of fuel wood consumption for energy
The Bhutan Trust Fund for Environment Conservation (BTFEC) will spend Nu 32.587mn for various environment conservation projects starting next month.
The director for BTFEC, Dr. Pema Choephyel, said the project will be carried out in two phases.  “For the first half of the financial year we have five projects while similar amount will be in place for the second phase as well,” he said.
Out of the Nu 32.587mn, Nu 13.5mn will be allocated to the project that will improve fuel wood cooking stoves. This project will mainstream sustainable biomass energy production, conversion and utilization. It will further support innovative practices and market mechanisms for local sustainable biomass energy technology development and promotion.
This project is estimated to reduce 196,668 tons of Green House Gas emission and 183,214 tons of fuel wood consumption for energy.
The BTFEC will also provide Nu 8mn to Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM) project at Bajothang in Wangduephodrang. The project is expected to put ISWM system in place and introduce behavioral change and outlook toward waste management.
“Waste management needs due consideration. We would look at the waste management chain from collection of waste to middlemen to disposal to recycling,” said Dr. Pema Choephyel, adding that this will be a pilot project on waste management.
A total of Nu 2.122mn will be allocated to the Bumdeling black necked crane habitat reclamation project in Tashiyangtse. One of the main objectives of this project is to protect the wetlands from flash floods and provide conducive breeding and roosting place for the endangered cranes.
The fund will be utilized for the construction of embankment and plantation along Glingbuchu and Kholongchu. The project is also aimed at promoting eco-tourism.
Another Nu 2.7mn will be provided to help residents of Merak and Sakteng by supplying alternative roofing for their houses. The 236 households in Merak and 139 in Sakteng will be supplied with CGI sheets to reduce their dependence on forest resources for roof shingles.
In addition, Nu 1.9mn will be kept aside for the implementation of the National Human Wildlife Conflicts management strategy.
To combat increasing human wildlife conflicts in Sipsoo and Sarpang, the funed will be used to construct stone masonry, elephant trench, and solar electric fencing. Livestock insurance scheme to compensate wildlife depredation of livestock will also be put in place.
Today there are 12 on-going projects worth Nu 135.409mn for various conservation programs. Since its inception, the BTFEC has spent Nu 358.689mn on 87 conservation related projects in the country.

Monday, June 20, 2011

investments in green economy will have greater outcomes, predicts a unep study

Lungs of the earth could generate millions of jobs as well as help combat climate change if only 0.034% more of the global GDP is invested in it
Creating millions of jobs, halving deforestation rates by 2030, increasing tree plantation rates by 140% by 2050 and combating climate change would just need an additional investment of US$ 40bn a year in the forestry sector according to a report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
“The Green Economy initiative has identified forestry as one of the 10 central sectors capable of propelling a transition to a low carbon, resource efficient, employment-generating future if backed by investment and forward-looking policies,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director.
And with the right kinds of enabling policies, such an investment – equivalent to about two-thirds more than what is spent on the sector today – could also sequester or remove an extra 28% of carbon from the atmosphere, thus playing a key role in combating climate change.Today, Bhutan has a forest cover of 70.46%, of which 62.43% is broadleaf, 22.69% mixed conifer, 6.77% fir, 3.98% chirpine, 2.96% blue pine and 1.16% broadleaf with conifer.
The agriculture and forest minister, Lyonpo (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho, in his message during the World Environment Day (WED) said the goods and services we derive from forest are essential to support our lives on a daily basis. “We are fortunate that today we have a relatively healthy forest cover and enjoy the economic and ecological benefits from it,” said Lyonpo.
However, with emerging challenges Bhutan needs to do a lot more. Lyonpo (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho said the ability to buy more and consume more has not spared our forest resources, as is evident from the shortage of timber in the market.
He said the efforts to boost economic growth through various projects and to bring roads and electricity to rural communities have also taken their toll on the forest. “If we do not check these losses, our ability to honor our constitutional duty to maintain at least 60% of our geographical area under forest cover would be severely compromised,” said Lyonpo.
The UNEP report states that in the intervening period between 2011 and 2050, investment of US$15bn annually of GDP would raise the value added in the forestry industry by more than 20% relative to business as usual.
It also suggests that a transition to a Green Economy could increase forested land -currently close to 4bn hectares – by over 3% in 2020, 8% by 2030 and over 20% by 2050. Also, carefully planned investments would also contribute to increased employment from 25mn today to 30mn by 2050.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

global environment body gives green signal to bhutan to host the world environment day

Bhutan is in the spotlight for its conservation efforts and sound environment policies but is Bhutan ready to host the global event?
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) says Bhutan will be an ideal place to host the global World Environment Day (WED) in the coming years.
Speaking to Business Bhutan, the Under Secretary General of the United Nations and the chief of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Mr. Achim Steiner, said Bhutan would be a perfect place to host the event.
“I think UNEP will be honored and would be very pleased to do so because we consider Bhutan an inspiration not only in Asia but also to the world,” he said.
But this can only happen if Bhutan offers to host the event.  The officiating secretary of the National Environment Commission (NEC), G.K Chhopel, said that it is a good idea to host the WED.
“It would make sense to host the global world environment day in Bhutan looking at the conservation efforts that Bhutan is putting in place,” said G.K Chhopel.
However, there are logistical issues that Bhutan should look into before offering to host an event of such magnitude. For example, questions like whether Bhutan will be able to accommodate a large number of people from outside the country needs to be answered.
Mr. Achim Steiner said that the transition to a green economy is what Bhutan is doing at the moment.
“When we talk about the transition to a green economy, we are also talking about what His Majesty the King and Bhutan is doing when he talks about Gross National Happiness, when he talks about the idea that the current generation must hand over the world to the next generation in a good if not a better state,” he said.
He said that people often look at development only in terms of infrastructure (building, roads, bridges and railways) and that the ecological infrastructure of country is as important as its wealth.
“Forests are not only tree standing in a landscape, they are service to the society, they allow us to manage our water resources, they allow us to retain biodiversity and I think Bhutan’s decision is in a sense of recognition of the value of forest,” said Mr. Achim Steiner.
He also said there is a realization in Bhutan about what environment is really about and also the realization of the theme of this year’s WED, ‘Forest: Nature at your service.’
“Bhutan has taken some of the most inspiring decisions and leadership in this field and UNEP continues to be friend and an admirer of Bhutan,” said Mr. Achim Steiner.
The World Environment Day is celebrated on June 5 every year to create awareness on environment and to enhance political attention and public action.
WED, launched in 1973, is hosted every year by a different country with a different theme.
This year the World Environment Day was hosted by India for the first time .

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bhutan’s modern face

An article which i wrote for China dialogue..

Thimphu, the kingdom's fast-developing capital, is one of the cities most vulnerable to climate change in the world. But it is unprepared for the crisis, reports Dawa T Wangchuk...