Infrastructure development, colonisation by invasive species, overgrazing, pollution, and lack of proper boundary demarcation are among the challenges facing the conservation of wetlands in Bhutan.

Issues facing wetland conservation was discussed at a training programme for wetland managers.

Ramsar convention defines wetland as an area of marsh, fen, peat bogs or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water.

Ramsar convention is an intergovernmental treaty for the conservation and wise use of wetlands.

There are three Ramsar sites in Bhutan that are of international importance.

Director of Department of Forests and Parks Services, Phento Tshering, said that conservation of wetland is important. “Wetlands provide fundamental ecosystem services, such as water regulation, filtering and purification, as well as numerous scientific, cultural and recreational values within the watersheds. Wetlands are important for the maintenance of the broader ecosystem health,” he said.

Senior forest ranger, Wangda, said that there are conflicts concerning the exact boundary of the site. In Gangtey-Phobji site, for instance, the division is putting up signboards around the designated areas to resolve such issues.

Addressing the conservation challenges will require understanding the effects of colonisation by invasive species and biodiversity in Ramsar site, water bodies and wetlands inventory, advocacies and awareness programmes, and development of wetland management plans.

Senior forest officer with Watershed management Division (WMD), Sonam Choden, said that there was knowledge gap on wetlands.

She said WMD did a brief assessment to find out why springs were drying. It was found that there were possible human and climate interference.

She added that WMD would do a detailed research in a year. National wetlands inventory and mapping, and sustainable management of wetland are stipulated in the 12th FYP.

Senior agriculture officer, Kuenzang Om, said that through this training the wetland managers will know about Ramsar Convention and its tools such as rapid assessment of wetland ecosystem services, Ramsar management effectiveness tracking tool, help them share basic concept and experience in wetland science and management, discuss challenges and issues related to wetland and recommend solutions, encourage interaction among wetland managers and strengthen the network of wetland managers in the country.

Rinchen Zangmo