Chhimi Dema  

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Bhutan in collaboration with relevant government and non-government agencies implementing the Living Landscape: Securing High Conservation Values in South-Western Bhutan project endorsed the High Conservation Values National Interpretation of Bhutan document on June 15.

The National Interpretation (NI) is a guiding document defining key terms and concepts of High Conservation Values (HCV) in the context of Bhutan, and a guide to adopting and implementing HCV in Bhutan.

The approach of HCV ensures the conservation of natural resources, besides enabling their sustainable use.

It was first used in forest management in 1999 and gained momentum for its use in agriculture and other natural resource management.

Value in HCV is the area containing environmental and social values such as watersheds, grassland or archaeological sites of high significance or importance.

The project is being implemented by the WWF Bhutan in collaboration with the Department of Forests and Park Services (DoFPS), Tarayana Foundation, and the National Land Commission (NLC) secretariat.

DoFPS’ chief, Kinley Tshering, said that the next step was to pilot the contents of the NI document in the field. The pilot project will be implemented in Paro starting in July this year.

Kinley Tshering said, “From the learning experience in Paro we intend to develop the forest management framework.”

The HCV project in Bhutan aims to conserve biodiversity, ecosystems, and cultural values in nine dzongkhags that are without legal protection in the next eight years.

Bhutan’s conservation network is composed of 10 protected areas, one botanical park and eight connecting biological corridors, covering 51.44 percent of the country.

Kinley Tshering said that, often, national surveys found that a lot of biodiversity including tigers occur more in numbers outside the national parks.

“This [HCV] is a way of giving impetus to focusing our efforts in conservation and meeting public service demands outside national parks,” he said.

He added the project allows the development of forest management plans which enable sustainable use of forest resources.

The initiative covers 9,967.45 square km of areas that are 53.5 percent outside the protected areas.

The project is funded through the International Climate Initiative by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety.

The eight-year project was launched in October 2020.

National Interpretation HCV document

The document will serve as the guide for divisional forest staff, resource managers, auditors, academicians, students, scientists, and researchers to interpret different categories of HCVs in the Bhutanese context.

It states that the promotion of the HCV approach in Bhutan will offer opportunities to protect forests and promote biodiversity conservation, promote and preserve the cultural values, and safeguard the ecosystem provisions to meet community needs and services.

The HCV approach will also strengthen conservation legislation and management, strengthen carbon neutrality and build climate resilience, promote multi-stakeholder engagement and enhance integrated management.

The document states that the HCV approach in Bhutan is for national land-use planning, understanding the environmental and cultural landscape for conservation planning and prioritisation, and supporting divisional forest offices to develop holistic sustainable forest management plans.

The HCV National Interpretation of Bhutan will consider six categories, namely: biodiversity, landscapes, rare ecosystems and habitats, ecosystem services, community needs, and cultural values.