Yangyel Lhaden

As the frequency of climate-related events affecting livelihoods increases, there is a growing interest in purchasing climate-related insurance products and credits to mitigate losses.

Laya Mangmi, Pema Jamtsho, is among the survivors of one of the worst tragedies of 2021 that killed 10 highlanders after their tents near Tshari-Jathang at Ri-Druzhi in Laya, were submerged by a landslide.

“While I cannot confirm whether the tragedy occurred due to climate change, it is noteworthy that the camping site in Laya was our usual spot, and everything seemed perfectly normal the night before the landslide struck,” Pema Jamtsho said. 

Following the incident, each victim received Nu 30,000 in compensation from the Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan Limited (RICBL). 

Rural residents are required to subscribe to the rural life insurance scheme (RLIS) offered by RICBL, and in the event of their demise, they are entitled to receive Nu 30,000. Each member pays Nu 87 yearly. 

“In the aftermath of the tragedy and out of concern for potential future losses, Laya residents began exploring additional insurance schemes offered by various companies and even sought whether they could pay a higher amount for the RLIS,” Pema Jamtsho said. 

It is not that people are not interested in purchasing insurance schemes, but rather due to a lack of awareness and the mindset of waiting until something happens, he said. 

He said that highlanders are among the most affected by climate change, as they rely heavily on nature for their livelihoods. He suggested that it would be beneficial to have a scheme specifically tailored to address climate change-related events. 

In Jigmechhu, Chukha there have been incidences where people lost their land near river banks during summer by flood. 

A resident in Jigmechu said that the area faces problems of either too little or too much rain, issues they did not encounter earlier. “People who lost their land were compensated, but it would be better if we could insure  our land for protection.”

Chitra Kumar, who runs a tree house camp in Jigmechu, said that his community’s business was at risk because it was located on river banks. “If there is an insurance scheme where I can insure the property and, in turn, would receive money, it could save their livelihood.”

An orange orchard owner in Khebisa Dagana, Sukraj Rai, said that the future was uncertain, despite his orchard faring well. Although oranges faced pest infestation, dying from the top, and fruit dropping, Sukraj Rai noted that oranges did not grow well in the past in Khebisa. 

“However, slowly due to climate change and warming, oranges are thriving in our area,” Sukraj Rai said.

He said that he had witnessed the challenges faced by lowland orchards in Dagana, where fruit trees were chopped down to control disease, adversely affecting livelihoods. “I fear that in 15 years, it will be our turn to chop down the trees, which is why I am interested in insuring my crop to mitigate losses caused by climate change.”

He called for an affordable insurance scheme, where villagers could pay semi-annually or annually for crop protection against losses. 

“The rural life insurance scheme has been very beneficial. Even if we do not have immediate money for rituals when someone dies, we can easily borrow money since RICBL would give us Nu 30,000 after completing their due procedures,” Sukraj Rai said. “Similarly, crop insurance for climate change related impacts  could help us in this way.”