Male Iron Rat Year

Glaciers are feared to be melting at an alarming rate

Choki Wangmo

Global lockdowns have lowered emissions although scientists said longer-term changes are required for environmental conservation. Back home, the agrarian society grappled with vagaries of natural calamities and studies have shown that glaciers are fast retreating.

In early 2020, many people, including commuters and residents were taken by surprise when it snowed in Gedu, stranding vehicles and causing inconveniences to commuters. Official records indicate Gedu received its first snowfall in 2020. Many people attributed the snowfall to climate change.

Meteorologists say 2020 is the hottest year since records began. The national hydromet centre reported that Bhutanese glaciers were retreating at an alarming rate as climate change impacts become more pronounced over the years.

There was a significant drop in the number of Ruddy Shelduck in 2020. The migratory waterbird once found in thousands, the annual waterbird count survey  last year spotted only 487 individuals across various locations in the country.

Studies have shown that human-induced changes are threatening the habitats of Bhutan Takin and the developmental activities endangered Golden Langur.  The Snow leopard in Bhutan is also under very high risk, research studies found. Bark beetle ravaged trees along Chelela bypass.

Bhutan recorded 27 White-bellied Herons in 2020 with the first sighting of the species recorded in Bumdeling. Bhutanitis ludlowi was spotted in Phrumsengla National Park for the first time. Meanwhile, conservation sites in Bhutan and India received awards for doubling tiger population. Millions across the world ran for Tendrel Zangmo, a tigress in the Royal Manas park.

However, waste from quarantine facilities increased drastically as scrap businesses came to a halt due to lockdowns. Domestic tourism doubled waste along tourist destinations Paro faced challenges from a mounting waste problem. Indiscriminate littering was blamed for clogging drains in Thimphu.

Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation funded Nu 85M to frontload waste management activities.

Bhutan launched National Environment Strategy and also saw a rise in the Environmental Performance Index. The National Environment Commission made changes to the environment clearance process.

The forest department introduced insignia system and biodiversity monitoring protocol was launched to integrate conservation activities.