A project that will manage the protected areas in the country, ‘Bhutan for life,’ will start this November, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said at the first meeting of dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) chairpersons in Thimphu yesterday.

The funding initiative is aimed to provide a sustained flow of finance to maintain the country’s protected areas and biological corridors for perpetuity.

Prime Minister said that the Green Climate Fund committed USD 26.5 million (M) during his recent visit to New York. The country requires USD 45M to begin the initiative.

According to the WWF Bhutan, this will be Asia’s first project finance for permanence where donors commit funds but are not distributed until the total fundraising commitment goal has been reached.

“When all the conditions are met, these donated funds will be placed in a transition fund that will make annual payments, starting high and declining to zero over a projected period of 14 years.”

It is also stated that the government will increase its funding by approximately 7 percent annually over the 14-year term. “Bhutan is responsible for the full funding of all protected areas after that.”

The website also stated that the potential sources of internal funding have been identified as the green tax levied on the import of vehicles, payment for ecosystem services from hydropower, and revenue from eco-tourism in the protected areas.

Lyonchhen said the fund will be used to strengthen enforcement and management of protected areas, diversify eco-tourism activities and products in other areas of the country as the general tourism routes get saturated, and support people in the protected areas through job creation and income-generating opportunities, among others.

“While the project will be approved this year, the fund will mainly benefit the 12th Plan and beyond,” he said. “Most of the money will be used in the 12th Plan.”

He said that works on the formulation of the 12th Plan and arrangements for its budget are progressing well. “This morning I met the Indian foreign secretary, who conveyed strong support of his government and expressed their interest to help in the 12th Plan.”

He said that international donors like the European Union, UN agencies, and Japan remain unwavering in their support.

Addressing the DT chairpersons, he said that empowering the local government is critical given their role in driving growth from the grassroots. “That’s why once we’ve a draft of the 12th Plan, we’ll consult you so that the draft that we will leave for the next government can begin work without problems.”

He said that this is the right time to point where the government is lacking to make amends to fulfill the 11th Plan.

Thimphu dzongkhag thrizin Gado asked the government to look into the possibility of providing either a duty car or a vehicle quota as they bear additional responsibility.

The Prime Minister, however, said that it might be early. “You might think you’ve only four years to serve and time is running out. Others will think that you are trying to exploit your position,” he said. “There’re more disadvantages and risks.”

Local government director general, Lungten Dorji, said that frequent interaction among the local government leaders is necessary to help them understand their roles and responsibilities.

He said the ministry has invested Nu 20M in training and awareness workshops for the local government leaders.

During the two-day meeting that ends today, the DT thrizin will discuss issues related to human resource, governance or authority under the amended Local Government Act 2014, and budget including entertainment budget for gewogs.

Except for the PM’s opening session, the media was not allowed to attend the meeting.

Tshering Palden