Foresters share stories of experience and challenges 

Survey: The National Forest Inventory, the fieldwork for which concluded a month ago, claimed a life and many narrowly escaped death treading over cliffs, glaciers, in extreme weather conditions.

A ranger from Gedu range office lost his life after falling off 200-metre cliff in Pantang, Zhemgang on December 26 last year. The father of four was trying to clear a path while his friends tried to locate the area for mapping using satellite signal.

The four members heard a boulder fall. After a while they called out his name, tried to call him on his mobile. When he did not respond, they rushed to look for him. They found him at the base of the slope, dead.

“We were shocked and didn’t know what to do,” said forester Dorji.

On one of the trips during the National Forestry Inventory (NFI), another senior ranger, Sonam Wangdi, nearly drowned during four-hour walk across glacier in Lunana. His friends acted swiftly and saved him.

Some of them pushed themselves to the limits, taking painkiller tablets and sniffing garlic to avoid altitude sickness. Others braced snowstorms in the mountains, went without food, water and sleep for two days.

“We went through hell,” said a forester.

But despite troubles, foresters said they were happy that they could participate in the NFI and experience different cultures and lifestyles in the country.

“Now we understand our country and people better,” a forester said.

Tenzin Rabgay, a forester, said: “We only had theoretical knowledge of plants. We got to identify them all during the survey.”

The survey started with 60 foresters.  Some dropped out for higher studies and others due to medical conditions.  Only 49 of them remained to complete the survey.

The survey covered nearly 70 percent of the country. About 30 percent of the country remains inaccessible due to difficult terrain and permanent snow.

One of the NFI coordinators from Forest Resources Management Division (FRMD), Yonten Phuntsho, said the inaccessible parts would be covered using other scientific techniques before June.

Director General of forestry department, Chencho Norbu, said NFI was one of the most important milestones in the history of the department.

“It‘ll establish the baseline for any future forest conservation and other activities including payment for eco-system services,” said Chencho Norbu. “Until now we had good policies but lacked scientific approaches. We will now not have that gap.”

Under Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus readiness programme, national forest monitoring system (NFMS) will be established.

“This will enable monitoring changes in forest cover over time including 60 percent forest cover enshrined in constitution,” FRMD chief forestry officer Lobzang Dorji said.

The NFI is one of the building blocks for the system, a comprehensive survey to assess the health and state of the country’s forests.

“While NFI in isolation will generate the state of forest information, the NFI in combination with remote sensing will provide us forest cover, which is currently being initiated by the department,” added Lobzang Dorji.

“Remote sensing experts are extrapolating the data from NFI to draw out the forest cover of the country,” Yonten Phuntsho said.

The survey, which started from Paro in July 2012, had to be carried out in phases due to shortage of funds.

Independent teams are revisiting the surveyed areas to check the quality and report the variance. They have completed 20 percent in the western region and 10 percent in the rest of the country.

The survey until this month cost Nu 118.6 million.

The report will be released in June.

Tshering Palden