The allocation of budget to the local governments is up for change as the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) decides to allot budget to local governments to fix environmental problems.

Chief programme coordinator of development cooperation division of the GNHC, Wangchuk Namgay, said to allocate budget to the local governments at present, the commission used a formula that includes factors such as geographical location of the place, poverty incidents, transport cost, distance from border towns because most of the commodities come from across the border.

He said: “Recently, based on the GNH framework, we’re deciding even to have climate change and environmental component as one of the parameters to allocate resources to the local governments.”

Should the local governments have environmental issues, he said “they might get more funding or should the local government have biological corridors or protected areas, they would receive a larger chunk of the funding.”

When the GNHC allocates budget to the central agencies or ministries, it takes in to consideration the priorities for the respective agencies and the objectives of the five-year plan. 

Environmental conservation is one of the key components of Gross National Happiness (GNH).

He said that besides the Constitutional mandate to have 60 percent of forest cover, GNH commission screens every proposed policy through a tool that has the environmental indicator as one of the key aspects of the review.    

Wangchuk Namgay was one of the panelists at the opening session of the four-day regional Australian alumni workshop that began in Thimphu yesterday.

The panelists said that there was no dearth of proof that Bhutan is experiencing climate change.

Wangchuk Namgay said that for Bhutan water was a major climate change issue. Recent study shows that of the 6,624 water sources surveyed, 154 sources have dried up and 2,231 are drying up.

In 2001, Bhutan had 670 glaciers at the source of the rivers. The number has increased to 700, which shows they have disintegrated and separated from rising temperature.

UN resident coordinator, Gerald Daly, said that the world could learn from Bhutan in terms of efforts to conserve environment and tackle climate change effects.

“The leaders lead by example and the country is pursuing development with values,” he said.

He said that partnership among various sectors and focusing on actionable knowledge was important to derive social, financial and environmental benefits.

WWF Bhutan country representative, Dechen Dorji, said that people are increasingly realizing that they are not saving the tigers or snow leopards but themselves.

He said that despite being a poor country, Bhutan was committed to protecting the biodiversity and was a testimony to environment protection.

He said that the world must act and act fast on climate change.

An environment officer with climate change division of the National Environment Commission, Sonam Dargay, said it was important to involve the private sector or industries as they were the ones implementing on measures to curb climate change.

“There should be bottom-up planning, involving communities in making plans, if the prevailing infrastructure were to function in tackling climate change impacts,” he said.

The Australia Awards – South and West Asia regional alumni workshop is organised annually for alumni to present their work, share their experiences with peers formally and informally, and to build and strengthen relevant professional networks across the region. This extends the alumni experience beyond their national boundaries and offers an enhanced professional development aspect to alumni engagement.

Fourteen alumni groups from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were given small grants to implement projects on the theme ‘Australia Awards Alumni as Champions for the Environmental Protection and Climate Action’. The groups presented the outcomes of their projects on environmental protection and climate action implemented between May and November this year.

Scope Global manages the Australia Awards South and West Asia programme on behalf of the Australian government.

Tshering Palden