UWICE at Lamai Gonpa provides the premises for the institute

UNESCO: The UNESCO Madanjeet centre for South Asia forestry studies at Lamai Gonpa in Bumthang was inaugurated yesterday, fulfilling a cherished dream of late UNESCO Ambassador Madanjeet Singh, who aspired to create a network of institutions of excellence across all SAARC countries.

The late Madanjeet Singh, an Indian artist, writer, diplomat and philanthropist, was the UNESCO goodwill ambassador from the year 2000.

“It is in memory of the late ambassador that we dedicate today’s celebrations coinciding with his birthday,” the director of Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE), where the institute is located, said.

The two-storied traditional building, which was funded by the late ambassador, who also founded the South Asia Foundation (SAF), houses a conference hall and IT labs, amongst others.  As part of UWICE, the centre will provide four years bachelor of science in forestry and sustainable studies.  UWICE was already offering forestry studies from 2012.

As of now, three batches of students from South Asian countries, such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh, have been trained at the centre.  Five students from Nepal and India also graduated from the centre.  This year, seven students from Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are undergoing forestry studies at the centre.  The fourth batch will be recruited in August, the centre’s programme director, Sangay Wangchuk, said.

Her Royal Highness, Princess Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck, France Jacqueline Pierrette Marquet (wife of the late ambassador), agriculture minister, Yeshey Dorji, and chairman of the SAF in Bhutan, former minister Sangay Ngedup, graced the inauguration.

In her keynote address, Her Royal Highness said the opening of the centre brings new opportunities for science and research in South Asia. “Given Bhutan’s rich biodiversity and forests, it is only fitting that such a forestry institute be established in Bhutan,” she said. “I am confident that the new centre will nurture the next generation of South Asian to environmental stewards, and grow into one of the most prestigious institutes in the region and beyond.”

Thanking SAF for its generous support, Her Royal Highness said that, through this centre, Bhutan would contribute significantly towards fulfilling the aspirations of the SAF to bring about regional cooperation and transformation through innovative education and sustainable development.

“Through cutting edge scientific research, the centre will provide the much needed knowledge and solutions for better and sustainable management of forest and water resources,” Her Royal Highness said.

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said the centre would offer the courses, in collaboration with UWICE and College of Natural Resources in Lobesa. “The centre will take one student on full scholarship every year from each SARRC countries,” he said.

SAF has committed USD 0.1 million annually to fund the programmes in the centre.

Meanwhile, Ugyen Wangchuck Museum for Ethno biology, which showcases over 250 indigenous devices from across the country, such as handloom, was also inaugurated yesterday.

Tempa Wangdi, Bumthang