Conservation: Around 975 hectares of wetland from the two gewogs of Gangtey and Phobjikha in Wangduephodrang, are now listed in the Ramsar List making it the third such site in the country and second in the dzongkhag.

The Ramsar List is a list of wetlands of international significance.

The other two sites are Bumdeling in Trashiyangtse and Khotakha in Wangduephodrang. Together, the three sites measure 1,226 hectares and are home to the vulnerable Black-Necked Cranes (Grus nigricollis).

The inclusion of the gewogs as Ramsar sites is another trophy for the country’s conservation efforts and makes a huge impact on value addition to protecting the biodiversity, forest officials said.  The sites further assert Bhutan’s prominence on the international arena on conservation.

“It’s the department’s effort to conserve and promote the sustainable use of the important wetlands area,” watershed management division’s Ramsar site focal person, Sonam Choden said.

“We will now focus on building management plans,” Sonam Choden said. She added that while the three sites are important, the division would focus conservation efforts on all wetlands in the country.

Parliament approved the proposal of the three sites as Ramsar sites in 2012. Bhutan became the 161st contracting party to the Ramsar Convention in the same year.

The Ramsar list tries to develop and maintain an international network of wetlands, which are important for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life through the maintenance of their ecosystem components, processes and benefits or services.

Wetlands in the country are made up of lakes, rivers, streams, glaciers, marshes, peat bogs and fens.

Functional wetlands are critical segments of the watershed, as they support a high level of biological productivity and diversity, provide habitat for flora and fauna, including rare and threatened communities and species, maintain local and regional hydrological regimes, remove nutrients and pollutants, act as stores for rain or flood water, and support human activities and values, forest officials said.

Wetlands provide fundamental ecosystem services, such as water regulation, filtering and purification, as well as numerous scientific, cultural and recreational values. Wetlands are also important for the maintenance of the broader ecosystem health.

The Ramsar Convention, the oldest global environment agreement, was adopted in Ramsar, Iran in February 1971. It promotes the wise-use and conservation of water and wetlands.

Tshering Palden