Bhutan, a nation known for its pristine environment and rich biodiversity, has been facing an escalating issue of human-wildlife conflict. As human settlements expand and encroach upon natural habitats, interactions between humans and wildlife have become more frequent, often resulting in detrimental consequences for both parties involved. In order to mitigate this conflict and protect the well-being of both humans and animals, it is essential for Bhutan to implement sensible solutions that balance conservation efforts with the needs of local communities.

The root causes of human-wildlife conflict in Bhutan are multifaceted. Encroachment into natural habitats, such as forests, disrupts the natural movement patterns of wildlife, or the other way round. This leads to increased instances of animals straying into human settlements in search of food or shelter. Additionally, the expansion of agriculture and livestock farming has also created attractive food sources for animals, further exacerbating the conflict. It is crucial to recognise these underlying causes when formulating effective solutions.

As the honourable MPs bring this critical issue to the august table of the house, there is a need to adopt a multi-faceted approach that promotes coexistence between humans and wildlife. The establishment of biological corridors, as initiated by Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor, is a commendable step towards enabling animals to move freely between protected areas. By providing safe pathways, these corridors minimise the need for animals to venture into human settlements, reducing the potential for conflict.

This, though, is not a fair or permanent solution. 

Engaging in comprehensive public awareness campaigns is vital. Educating communities about the importance of wildlife conservation and implementing sustainable practices can foster a greater understanding and acceptance of wildlife presence. But then, the laws also look at how they are benefiting the people in the rural areas.

Resolving human-wildlife conflict requires collaborative efforts involving multiple stakeholders. There is a need to establish platforms for dialogue between local communities, conservation organisations, and government agencies. More important, the approach should enable the exchange of knowledge, experiences, and perspectives, leading to the development of innovative strategies and policies.

Losses incurred by farmers due to wildlife damage can have severe socioeconomic impacts. Implementing systematic compensation schemes and insurance programmes can alleviate the financial burden on affected individuals. 

Bhutan’s unique biodiversity and scenic landscapes offer immense potential for ecotourism. By promoting responsible and sustainable tourism practices, the country can generate revenue that supports both wildlife conservation initiatives and local communities. And, fostering sustainable livelihood options for communities living near wildlife habitats, such as eco-friendly handicrafts or organic farming, can reduce their dependency on traditional activities that may bring them into conflict with wildlife.

But the laws should be fair. Our farmers cannot sustain on mere compensations forever. If we can provide highways for animals, we can certainly build super-highways to link agriculture significantly to the country’s GDP growth.