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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

timber import formalized-will help protect bhutan’s forests

With the guideline for import of timber in place, any Bhutanese can now import timber from outside the country

Caught between a rock and a hard place, the government has been exploring avenues to meet the timber shortage in the country, which has become worse by the day. The country’s policy to maintain 60% forest cover for all times and the growing demand for timber has led the government to allow import of timber from other countries.

With the increasing pace of development and numerous ongoing constructions across the country, it has become increasingly difficult to meet the timber requirement. Construction industry has repeatedly complained of unavailability of timber in the market.

The government has now come up with a guideline for import of timber.

According to the guidelines, any Bhutanese individual can now import timber both for personal use and commercial purposes including resale within the country. This is expected to reduce the growing pressure on the forests besides creating employment for Bhutanese.

The guidelines aims to facilitate smooth movement of timber into the country and put in place an appropriate system to prevent the introduction of exotic pests and diseases through such imports, and ensure adequate monitoring of the imported timber.

It says that based on the directions of the National Forest Policy, 1974, and the legal protection provided by the Forest Acts, the government laid focus on ensuring all forestry operations are based on the principle of sustained yield and minimizing environmental damages by forest roads.

“It is this consistent policy that the country has been able to maintain more than 72 percent of the country under forest cover,” states the guideline.

The guideline states that the option of increasing the supply by compromising on the principle of “sustained yield” is non-negotiable as it could lead to deforestation, thereby not fulfilling the constitutional requirement.

“The demand for timber is not likely to plateau or go down. Therefore, one of the feasible options to deal with the demand-supply problem is to allow or encourage import of timber,” states the guideline.

The guideline sets clear procedures for one to import timber. For one to import timber, one has to provide proper and valid documents specifying the origin of the timber.

It says that the importer should first apply to the Department of Forest and Park Services for approval. And while arrival at the entry point the importer must declare the timber consignment to the Bhutan Agriculture and Food regulatory Authority (BAFRA) for meeting the quarantine formalities.

“Once the quarantine requirements are fulfilled then the consignment will be handed over to forest officials,” states the guideline.

The guideline also says that any individual importing timber should pay a certain import fee levied by the department and if the importer does not produce required documents the imported timber will be confiscated.

The pricing and marketing of the imported timber is left to the importers. “The pricing and marketing will depend on the market situation and it will not be fixed by the Natural Resources Pricing Committee (NRPC),” states the guideline.

The Department of Forests and Park Services has also explored various avenues to increase the quantity of timber including opening up new Forest Management Unit (FMUs) but has not been able to keep up with the demand.

bhutan faces difficulty in implementing the cbd but is on the right track

Bhutan, a country well known for its environmental conservation efforts, is facing difficulties in implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

This is due to the lack of financial resources and technical expertise, states a report on the implementation of the CBD by International Center for Integrated Mountain Development.

It says that Bhutan is making efforts to protect and manage its biological resources and biodiversity but the lack of financial resources and technical expertise are the main constraints limiting the implementation of the CBD.

These constraints have limited supporting actions for conservation, the sustainable use of resources, and benefit sharing, as well as for identification and monitoring processes.

“Despite these limitations, Bhutan is doing its part by developing and implementing landscape plans, and linking protected areas by establishing biological corridors,” states the report, adding that Bhutan is trying to raise awareness of its biodiversity through various means like media and the school curriculum by establishing nature clubs.

The Convention on Biological Diversity is an international environmental agreement established for the conservation, sustainable use, and fair and equitable sharing of benefits of biological resources. The agreement has been ratified by 193 countries including Bhutan. The implementation started in 1993.

The report also says that Bhutan is attempting to build a satisfactory network of institutions that will provide protection and sustainable development for its biodiversity and is trying to secure international cooperation and technology transfer.

“Bhutan has taken some direct actions to prevent and mitigate the negative impacts of the key threats to mountain biodiversity,” states the report.

The report also says that Bhutan’s location gives it abrupt altitudinal variation and diverse ecosystems rich in biodiversity and as a result Bhutan is included in several global priorities for biodiversity conservation.

Countries signatory to the CBD has its own priority on the CBD articles as well as Bhutan.

According to the report, emerging economies like China and India have given high priority to almost all of the articles of the CBD while developing countries like Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal, and Pakistan have given medium priority to most of the articles.

“The choices they have made reflect the fact that each country is at a different level with respect to embracing conservation measures,” states the report.

The reports says that efforts aimed at the protection and management of Bhutan’s biological resources and biodiversity are currently under way and in recent years, Bhutan has undertaken specific measures to conserve mountain biodiversity, such as developing corridors to link protected areas.

“The countries in the region have taken direct and supportive actions for conservation, sustainable use, and benefit sharing of mountain biodiversity and are moving in a positive direction,” states the report.

It also says that progressive conservation policies and legislation for management of biological resources in a participatory way have been developed which provide a strong basis for supporting CBD implementation in the region.

Bhutan’s constitution also mandates that at least 60% of forest cover should be kept for all times to come. In addition, nearly 40% of the country is designated as protected area, and an additional 9.5 per cent is set aside as ‘biological corridors’, which are treated as Bhutan Biological Conservation Complexes.

Bhutan currently has 10 protected areas (5 national parks, 4 wildlife reserves, and 1 strict nature reserve), of which 6 are currently operational and 4 will be operational by 2013. In addition, Bhutan has about 13 conservation areas of which two are under effective management and 11 are under some form of intervention.

Bhutan has three distinct eco-zones: alpine, temperate, and temperate conifer and broadleaf forest. Forests cover about 72.5% of the territory. The country harbors 5603 vascular plant species, 667 bird species, 200 species of mammal, 49 species of freshwater fish, and an uncounted number of invertebrates.