UNDP and the government have collaborated to design Bhutan’s first Green Climate Fund (GCF) project worth USD 42 million (M). This project will be submitted to the GCF by next week.

UNDP and the government worked for 18 months to prepare this first GCF  project. The project is aimed at making the agriculture sector resilient to climate change.

While there are many irrigation channels and farm roads across the country they are currently not resilient or adaptive to climate change. The government has identified numerous areas that require  attention in such areas, which will now be submitted to the GCF.

The UN assistant secretary general and the UNDP assistant administrator and regional director for the Asia and the Pacific, Haoliang Xu revealed this to Kuensel during his visit to Phuentsholing on March 12.

The UN assistant secretary general was in Phuentsholing to inspect  ongoing slope stabilisation and protection work at Rinchending.

UN resident coordinator and UNDP resident representative Gerald Daly and the UNDP deputy resident representative Niamh Collier Smith were also present.

Speaking to Kuensel, Haoliang Xu said climate change is causing difficulties all over the world. “It is affecting not only infrastructure but also agricultural production,” he said, adding that climate change is affecting how people view their production patterns. “I think UNDP will work with the Royal Government to not only build resilience in infrastructure but also use sources of funding like GCF.”

UNDP has the potential to leverage funding from this new source, Haoliang Xu added.

He also elaborated that the UNDP Asia Pacific over the last year helped six countries to mobilise USD 220M for climate change adaptation projects.

Similarly in Bhutan, UNDP is looking forward to working with the government to develop such climate change adaptation projects, especially in agriculture.

“It will be more effective with new technologies,” Haoliang Xu said.

He added that there are various ways to help communities such as helping farmers obtain drought-resistant seeds or building water storage systems.

Meanwhile, during his visit to Rinchending, Haoliang Xu said that the slope stabilisation project is important from an economic standpoint. “The road is a major artery for transportation and movement,” he said. “If the infrastructure is not resilient to natural threats and to changes caused by climate change then the economy will not be resilient and people’s lives will be affected.”

The Global Environment Facilities (GEF) is funding this stabilisation work and the funds are being coordinated and acquired by the UNDP.

This mitigation project is among three National Adoption Programme of Action (NAPA) II projects in Phuentsholing Thromde. Once this project is completed, the Phuentsholing to Thimphu highway, which was severely affected in the last monsoon, is expected to be more resilient.

There are other areas prone to landslides and flooding under Phuentsholing Thromde that have also been identified. The areas below Rinchending Goenpa and the town’s old hospital will be landslide proofed, while river training infrastructure is being constructed along the Barsa River in Pasakha.

The thromde’s project engineer, Gautam Thapa said that 70 percent of the stabilisation work has been completed and at least 25 percent of the flood mitigation work.

GEF is funding the mitigation work at a cost of USD 4.4M.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing