Foresters call for its status to be at par with protected areas to prevent illegal activities 

Conservation: There is an urgent need to promote the status of the eight biological corridors (BC) to that of protected areas, if the protected area system in country is to thrive, a forestry and park services study stated.

Biological corridor is a continuous natural link between ecosystems, either spatially or functionally to conserve the connection between habitats that are fragmented by natural causes or human development.

Should the status be raised at par with that of the parks, the BCs could function more effectively and be protected, the report stated.

“The status of biological corridors will be lower than that of the Protected Areas but above Government Reserved Forest,” the agriculture minister’s executive order dated July 4, 2007 states.

The management of BCs was also entrusted to the territorial division of the forest department.

However, illegal activities carried out inside the BCs are imposed the same fines and penalties that are charged for crimes committed in government reserved forests.

Wildlife Conservation Division’s forest officer and the research presenter, Namgay Bidha, said, “The biological corridors exist only on paper and not much detailed field verification were done.”

There is also a lack of awareness on the existence of the corridor, its boundary and acquaintance of Biological Corridor Rules 2007.

“At present there are confusions in terms of management as some biological corridors spread over more than one territorial division leading to difficulty in making and implementing management plans,” the forest officer said.

The study found that of more than 600 community forests, 33 overlap with biological corridors. There are also eight forest management units overlapping with BCs as of last month.

There is also lack of clarity among territorial divisions on the management and budget proposals.

The boundaries of biological corridors were drawn in 1999 when the government declared nine percent of the country as biological corridors connecting nine protected areas or parks as a gift to the earth.

“It’s time we give importance and priority to Biological Corridors on the ground,” Namgay Bidha said.

While the Biological Corridors Rules 2007 has been in place since then, awareness continues to remain low.

The Biological Corridor Rules prohibit commercial harvesting except in accordance with the conservation management plan of the corridors.

“Today, there is a quarry in one of the BCs, and forest officials continue to issue clearances for activities in contradiction with the 2007 rules,” she said.

Forest officials said the recent tiger survey showed that more tigers are in the biological corridors than in the protected areas. Tiger population outside protected areas is higher. For instance, tigers were found in biological corridors in Zhemgang, Bumthang, Tsirang, Samdrupjongkhar, and Gedu setting a new record.

Wildlife Conservation Division’s chief forestry officer, Sonam Wangchuk said it’s for these reasons that biological corridors must be upgraded to the status of protected areas.

Foresters at the three-day national park conference that ended on October 3 said there is a need for a scientific study to assess the efficacy and functionality of the corridors.

The department is in the process of revising the Forest and Nature Conservation Rule and this aspect is also included in the revision.

The agriculture ministry has approved of a new biological corridor between Jigme Khesar Strict nature Reserve in Haa and Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary after a realignment of the other corridors. However, it has yet to get Cabinet approval.

Tshering Palden