YK Poudel

A project that will plant one billion trees and restore one million hectares of land, the Great People’s Forest of Eastern Himalayas, was launched on September 2.  

India (Northeast), Bhutan, Nepal, and Bangladesh are part of the project which is an outcome of G20 Presidency in New Delhi and has the potential to raise US dollars 1 billion. 

Last year, 1.5 million people in the eastern Himalayan region were displaced due to extreme weather events—devastating consequences are projected by 2050 if the situation continues.

Through this initiative, forest conservationists at the local government level will be involved—the initiative is expected to be completed by 2030. 

Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation (BTFEC) and Bhutan Ecological Society (BES) will lead the project implementation in the country along with other regional implementers. 

BTFEC Managing Director, Karma Tshering (Ph.D), said that Bhutan has long played a key role in fighting the climate crisis by putting the environment first, recognising how important the environment is for the wellbeing of its people. 

“We are keen to be part of the Great People’s Forest initiative and through it, support the scale, expansion and growth of restoration efforts in Bhutan and protect its rich, biodiverse forests,” he said. 

Founder and Executive Director of BES, Dr Nawang Norbu, said that the climate crisis needs to be addressed at multiple scales, with urgency, intent and ambition.

“The BES intends to play its part by supporting the plantation of 10 million trees by 2030, the partnership with GPF will enable BES to build rural prosperity while helping Bhutan remain carbon-negative and climate-positive.”

The Great People’s Forest of the Eastern Himalayas

It is one of the largest restorations and conservation efforts in South Asia—a partnership between Conservation International, USA, and Balipara Foundation, Assam, India. 

Around 1 billion inhabitants reside between the mountainous Bhutan and Nepal and the mangrove-growing people from India and Bangladesh.  

The four countries share a massive single connected ecosystem—Ganges and Brahmaputra which start from the mountainous peaks of Bhutan and Nepal and reach the delta in Bangladesh.

The initiative is led by the Balipara Foundation, Assam and Conservation International. 

Balipara Foundation, President, Ranjit Barthakur, said that this initiative was a movement to protect the region which has come as an encouragement from India’s G20 Presidency. 

“This historic effort will put the Eastern Himalayas, and the 1 billion people who rely directly on it, on the international conservation agenda we hope to better the lives of the billion people who rely on the land and water of this beautiful region,” he said.  

Conservation International Asia Pacific, Dr Richard Jeo, said that the people of the Eastern Himalayas are some of the most climate-vulnerable on our planet, threatened by melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and ever more frequent and more violent storms. 

“The Great People’s Forest is the response to this crisis. Its ambition and scale should rightly bring international attention to the ecological importance of this region,” he said.  

He said that people in the Eastern Himalayas have contributed only a fraction of the emissions that have caused the climate crisis that they are now on the frontlines of.