An overview of the past, threats, issues and opportunities

Biodiversity: Coinciding with the International Day of Biodiversity, Bhutan launched the revised national biodiversity strategies and action plan (NBSAP) at the National Biodiversity Centre in Serbithang on May 22.

The plan contains an overview of the past biodiversity, threats to biodiversity, issues and opportunities in biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, and implementation of the plan, among others.

According to NBSAP, one of the major factors of natural habitat loss affecting the ecosystem of Bhutan is land use conversion, while forest fire is the major factor causing habitat degradation and fragmentation.

The other direct pressures affecting biodiversity include over-grazing on rangelands and unsustainable agricultural practices leading to soil erosion and subsequent land degradation.

Climate change, population and poverty are the indirect pressures affecting biodiversity in the country.

Some 20 national targets have been set in the action plan, based on the issues, threats, gaps and opportunities identified through a series of stakeholder consultation workshops carried out throughout the country.

Agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji said the revised strategy would provide a clear coordination mechanism for fund mobilisation and effective implementation of the strategies outlined in the plan.  The plan presents a comprehensive overview of the past biodiversity action plans, outlining not only the significant achievements, but also the weaknesses and the lessons learned.

Lyonpo said some of the significant achievements in biodiversity management since the first biodiversity action plan was the increase of the protected area system from 26.23 percent in 1997 to 51.44 percent in 2008.

Two sites in Bumdeling and Khotokha, representing a total surface area of 256 hectares, were designated as wetlands of international importance in 2012.

More than 12 acts, policies and strategies supporting biodiversity conservation and use were either enacted or adopted.  Species conservation programmes on tiger, snow leopard, white-bellied heron and the black-necked crane were also instituted.

A human-wildlife conflict management endowment fund was established and the national crop and animal gene banks were institutionalised.  A total of 556-community forest covering 2.3 percent of the total forest was set up.

However, lyonpo said, there was inadequate coordination mechanism for the implementation of the action plan and a lack of a clear funding strategy.

“We commit to ensure that this NBSAP is effectively mainstreamed and becomes a basis for guiding national priorities on biodiversity management in the country,” he said.

The first biodiversity action plan was developed in 1997, two years after Bhutan became signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity.  The plan was revised in 2002 and 2009 to reflect the changing needs and priorities in biodiversity management.

The molecular genetics laboratory at the NBC was also inaugurated on May 22 to mark a start of molecular work in the field of biodiversity conservation in the country.

Lyonpo said this launch was an important milestone for the centre and marks the next level of biodiversity assessment through molecular techniques in the country.

“This will add value in understanding the genetic diversity of existing unexplored biological resources in the country.”

By Dechen Tshomo