Environment: Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen inaugurated the Thimphu Eco Park during the World Environment Day celebrations yesterday.

The park was established to protect the wetland in the capital city. The 10.77-acre wetland below the Changangkha Lhakhang, has now been designated an urban park to protect the ecological wealth in the area.

The park has a large stretch of wetland harbouring diverse species of flora and fauna. Besides being a water reservoir, it is also an important carbon sink.

The theme for the World Environment Day this year is “Go Wild for Life: Zero tolerance for the illegal wildlife trade.”

The minister for Agriculture and Forests, Yeshey Dorji, outlined the government’s plans to curb illegal wildlife trade in the region during the event.

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said that wildlife crimes and illegal trade of wildlife products  are on the rise in the country.

Between 2013 and 2014, 159 cases of wildlife crimes were reported. The highest reported seizure is of Himalayan Black Bear with 32 cases, followed by Musk Deer and Common Leopard.

“Human-wildlife conflict is also one of the main causes of the loss of species of the high conservation value,” said Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji.

Despite several challenges, the ministry’s forest and park services department has numerous initiatives to protect wildlife and to curb illegal trade.

“We’ve increased investment in education and awareness, started a reward scheme for wildlife cases,” Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said. The illegal wildlife trade is one of the largest trades in the world along with drug trafficking. It has increased alarmingly worldwide, he said.

Around 100,000 African Elephants were killed within 2010 and 2012 out of an estimated population of 500,000. The world illegal trade is worth at least USD 15 billion.

Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen also inaugurated the One Gewog One Product (OGOP) shop and Traditional Cuisine House at the park. The OGOP shop is an outlet for local produce from farmers across the country, packaged and marketed with the support of the Queen’s Project.

A diverse range of organic food products and unique traditional handicrafts produced by villatic individuals will be sold at the OGOP shop, bringing direct economical benefits to the communities.

The Traditional Cuisine House will serve unique traditional Bhutanese food. It is managed by volunteers from the Trongsa Penlop Thuendrel Club comprising of recipients of the Trongsa Penlop Scholarship.

Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen also planted a tree in the park and launched the Bhutan State of Environment Report.

Her Majesty awarded prizes to the winners of the Youth Action for 4R’s Competition that was held among 10 Thimphu schools.

Tshering Palden