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Bhutan For Life: Leading Conservation Efforts

By Chimi Wangmo

Bhutan for Life, an initiative which was launched by Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck on 11th November, 2017, is the leading organization that spearheads conservation efforts in the country.

Of the many milestones and achievements, Bhutan For Life has highlighted some of their major hallmarks of 2020 that deserves special mention.

BFL reports that for the first time the countryโ€™s Protected Area Network (PAN) sequesters close to 2.5 million tons of Carbon equivalent annually.

It states that BFL project, in the last two years of its implementation, has ensured habitat conservation within the PAN and contributed towards ensuring biodiversity conservation and maintenance of total area under protected area network system.

โ€œWith no net loss in area of PAN reported for the last two years of implementation, BFL activities contribute towards up-holding the constitutional mandate of maintaining 60% forest cover for perpetuity. BFL project has contributed towards sequestering 5 million tons of carbon equivalent from the PAN in the last two years,โ€ it further elucidates.

Further, under BFL project, more than 1000 ha of land have been brought under climate smart restoration. A total of 1095.7 ha of land were brought under climate smart restoration in the first two years of project implementation spread across the country.

These Sustainable Land Management (SLM) and bioengineering activities implemented contributes towards the overall goal of bringing 3000 ha of deforested or degraded land under climate smart restoration initiatives.

Promoting Gender Equity

Apart of conservation efforts, BFL project has also undertaken concerted and consistent efforts towards promoting gender equity and women empowerment through mainstreaming gender in PA management planning and implementation and through creating enabling conditions to encourage women participation in trainings and awareness campaigns.

BFL trained 1295 people (519 female and 776 male) in conservation awareness programs while 2536 (1084 female and 1395 male) have been engaged in the waste management programs.

Further, around 57 community youths (15 female and 42 male) have been engaged in development of employability skills such as electrical and culinary skills in two parks. A training on gender data compilation, analysis and reporting of progress was completed successfully in October 2020.

A total of around 94 registered attendees (20 female and 74 male) with some more officials on screen-sharing attended the training.

โ€œAdditionally, based on the gender action plan, activities such as establishing womenโ€™s groups, ensuring active participation of women in consultation and decision-making during project planning and implementation, conduct training on gender mainstreaming for PA staff and mainstreaming gender in PA management plans were carried out,โ€ BFL states.

Among a host of achievements, a team from BFL visited various project sites in the country in June 2020 covering three parks and two BCs in the western region of the country. In November 2020, the BFLFS visited 4 parks and 1 BC in the east and east central region.

It states the purpose of field visits was mainly to sensitize on the Environment and Social Safeguards standards requirements, take stock of status of activities implemented and discuss issues and challenges in implementing BFL activities.

The team emphasized on the need to bring local communities and relevant stakeholders on board and to engage them in the implementation of BFL activities. The team also emphasized on the need to propose activities based on the requirement and relevancy to concerned Parks or BCs and shared the examples of activities carried out from year one and two which needs further scrutiny.

Lastly, the team recommended Parks and BCs to document the traditional practices during the consultations especially related to management of alpine meadow, grass land, salt lick and waterholes and recommend to Nature Conservation Division to include in the habitat management guideline.

Other milestones

BFL has made sure all our construction activities in all PAs and BCs are contributing to goodness of green and smart design infrastructure.

The organization believes that green and smart infrastructure will yield multiple benefits in an environmental-friendly way.

In line with the BFLโ€™s vision, it encompasses technologies and practices that use natural processes (or artificial systems that simulate natural processes) in order to improve the overall quality of the environment and provide social, ecological, and economic benefits.

The fund support from Bhutan for Life (BFL) was timely in constructing the much awaited Green and Smart office building for Jigme Khesar Strict Nature Reserve.

โ€œThe goal was to have an independent Reserve head office was to strengthen and enhance the management effectiveness of Jigme Khesar Strict Nature Reserve (JKSNR), Bhutanโ€™s only a strict nature reserve and one of the most diverse protected Infrastructure Developments for efficient service delivery areas containing globally significant biodiversity,โ€ the report states.

To protect species against threats from poaching and other illegal activities, protected area staffs were provided with the appropriate skills and equipment to conduct effective law enforcement.

This enforcement includes SMART patrolling, crime detection, anti-poaching operations, and crime scene investigation. Improved law enforcement in the protected areas will limit illegal activities, such as illegal logging and extraction of forest resources.

Climate-smart conservation will also enhance provision of ecosystem services and directly contribute to BFL goals related to mitigation and adaptation.

In two years of BFL implementation, creation or improvement of more than 100 waterholes, 80 salt licks, 20 snags and around 200 hectares of habitat enrichment plantation works have been carried out in all PAs and BCs in 2020.

It is stated that enrichment plantation helps in forest rehabilitation and control deforestation. These activities help bring those high biodiversity and climate resilient value habitats under improved management in the project landscape area.

BFL said the inventory and data collections of major invasive plant species were conducted.

In addition, BFL noted that invasive species are the second largest threat to biodiversity after habitat loss and are major global change drivers and many studies have shown that they can alter biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.

BFL said the inventory of the invasive species helps identify the invasive species and develop measures to control them to significantly reduce the impact of invasive alien species on our biodiversity.

โ€œThe RGOB has increased the number of competent full-time PA network staff in year 1 and 2. In year 1, the number was increased by 132 and in year 2 by 48 achieving the cumulative 560 from the baseline of 380. Fifty two percent (52%) of the target (722 by Year 5) has been achieved,โ€ it stated.

Bhutan for Life initiative was launched by Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck on 11th November, 2017 and the BFL Fund Secretariat was established through the Royal Charter granted by His Majesty The King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck on 27th July, 2018.

BFL holds tremendous significance for the environmental future of the entire country and planet as a whole. It holds USD $43.1 million fundโ€”the first of its kind in Asiaโ€”to permanently protect Bhutanโ€™s network of protected areas, which constitute 51.4 % percent of the country, the highest percentage of land designated as protected in Asia.

This funding will be combined with USD $75 million from the Royal Government of Bhutan, which will be contributed over a 14-year period, to sustainably manage Bhutanโ€™s protected areas.

The BFL Program brings together as financing partners the Royal Government of Bhutan, the Green Climate Fund (GCF), International private donors through WWF, Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation (BTFEC), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)/ Global Environment Facility (GEF) over the period of 14 years.

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