The Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation (BTFEC) will provide Nu 28.956 million (M) to four environment conservation projects that will be implemented between July this year and June 2020.

The four projects are Samarzingkha Agro-forestry Project, Socio-Ecological Resilience in Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary Project, Environmental Science in Formal Education in Bhutan in Classes XI and XII Project, and the Samdrupjongkhar-based Zero Waste Project.

The grant agreements were signed in Thimphu yesterday between BTFEC, GHN Commission and the grant recipients. The total commitment for the four projects is Nu 28.956M.

During the signing, the Director of BTFEC, Dr Pema Choephyel, urged all recipients to be “responsible and accountable in successfully completing the projects benefiting the environment and the livelihood of the community.”

Chief programme officer of BTFEC, Ugyen Lhendup, said that the grants would be released in phases every six months. “Any individual, NGO or agency can apply for the grant,” he said.

The maximum ceiling of a grant is Nu 15M. According to him, the BTFEC has approved 206 environment conservation projects in the country worth about Nu 1.1429 billion.

Samazingkha Agro-forestry Project

The aim of Samazingkha Agro-forestry Project is to protect and convert the Samazingkha ridge into an agro-forestry landscape. The site is located at the heart of Thimphu valley covering 330 acres (including the extended area), and falls in the southern aspect.

With a grant of Nu 15M, the project will be implemented from July 2017 to June 2020. Thimphu forest division will implement the project.

Under this project, the ridge with steep slope will be converted into two-foot width terrace along the contour lines, with five-meter spacing. In these terraces, saplings of forestry trees, horticultural fruit trees, and ornamental trees will be planted with spacing of four-metres.

The space between the saplings will be used for agriculture crops. The area with gentle slope will be converted into paddy and horticulture crop fields.

Since the project site does not have water sources, the project aims to irrigate the site with water from the Thadra Geonpa area. As an interim measure, rainwater-harvesting method will be put in place.

Check dams will also be constructed at strategic locations to trap rainwater that will be used for irrigation. Wherever possible, the terraces will be irrigated using drip irrigation. Water from check dams will be used to irrigate the paddy fields.

Other infrastructure like project office, Royal rest house, roads, fencing, drains, gate, ESP quarters, and transmission lines will be developed. The forest division of Thimphu is the overall coordinator for the project.

Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary

The Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary will implement climate change adaptation measures in the sanctuary. The project will make an effort to mitigate the environment threats to human communities and natural ecosystems.

BTFEC has granted Nu 7M for the project that will be implemented from July 2017 to June 2019.

An assessment of the sanctuary, using Bhutan management effectiveness tracking tool Plus (METT+) 2016, identified climate change and severe weather as one of the potential threats to the park in the near future.

The Bhutan METT+ 2016 is a holistic approach to measure protected areas’ effectiveness to manage its biotic and abiotic resources. This project intends to tackle threats from long term climatic changes on the biodiversity, human livelihoods, and water resources in and around the sanctuary through three major activity components: Climate Change Adaptation, Land Use Assessment and Natural Resource Management.

Environmental Science in Classes XI and XII

Introducing Environmental Science in Classes XI and XII is aimed at contributing to a consistent, comprehensive and meaningful learning of environment science at the university level.

To be implemented by the Royal Education Council from July 2017 to December 2018, the total grant is Nu 5.236M.

The project is expected to make environmental science meaningful to students in terms of continuity and encourage students to pursue specialisation in environmental studies. This initiative will also contribute to curriculum diversification, according to BTFEC. With environment science regularised in schools, BTFEC expects more youth to be encouraged to pursue environment related studies in their higher education.

In the long run, the project is expected to help address the dearth of environmental experts within the environment sector in the country.

Zero Waste Project

Under the Zero Waste Project in Samdrupjongkhar and Wamrong, the Samdrupjongkhar Initiative (SJI) will upscale its project to Phuntshothang in Samdrupcholing, Langchenphu in Jomotsangkha and Wamrong satellite towns in Wamrong Drungkhag. Wamrong was chosen for its proximity to Narphung, SJI’s zero waste collaborators.

The project is granted Nu 1.707M and will be implemented from July 2017 to June 2019.

The SJI’s close collaboration with these places is aimed at making waste management and the zero waste practices a model. The idea is to create model villages and towns for replication and scaling up of zero waste activities in other urban and rural places, which in turn will have wider impact in turning Samdrupjongkhar and Trashigang Dzongkhags into zero waste dzongkhags.

MB Subba