Gangtey-Phobjikha Ramsar Site formally inaugurated

Event: The Gangtey-Phobjikha Ramsar Site was formally inaugurated during the World Wetland Day celebration held at the Phobjikha Central School, yesterday.

World Wetland Day was celebrated under a disaster risk reduction theme. The day was also observed in Bumdeling, Trashiyangtse. Bhutan started celebrating World Wetland Day after the country joined the Ramsar Convention in 2012.

Department of Forest and Park Services focal person for water and wetlands, Sonam Choden, said the day was being observed in Phobjikha to formally launch the Gangtey-Phobjikha Ramsar Site that was listed under the Ramsar list in September, last year. She added that the day was also being observed to raise awareness among locals on the importance of conserving wetland.

Around 975 hectares of government wetland in Gangtey and Phobjikha gewogs have been listed in the Ramsar Sites list. Bumdeling in Trashiyangtse was the first Ramsar Site identified in the country followed by Khotakha in Wangduephodrang, said Sonam Choden.

“We try to designate the Ramsar Site as part of the Ramsar Convention and also as a tool to designate areas for conservation and to get more international support including how to manage it,” said Sonam Choden. The three Ramsar Sites are associated with Black-necked Cranes.

Sonam Choden said two more sites, Gatsa and Tangbi in Bumthang are associated with Black-necked Cranes and efforts have begun to include them as Ramsar Sites.

Ramsar is a tool to promote wetland programmes, Sonam Choden said. In Bhutan, wetlands are made up of rivers, streams, lakes, glaciers, marshes, peat bogs and fens. Wetlands are transitional ecosystems and the soil is saturated with moisture. Wetlands are rich in biodiversity and act as carbon sinks, she said.

Sonam Choden said that conservation of wetlands is receiving more prominence in the new forest and nature conservation rules. She added that for the rules to be implemented, a wetland inventory map has to be created. This map will then serve as a tool to implement rules related to wetlands. Including wetlands within the watershed management is another strategy being pursued to conserve wetlands.

Phobjikha mangmi, Sati, said they attended several public meetings prior to designating the place as a Ramsar Site. While he added that the community is still not clear what it means to be a Ramsar Site, it is hoped that it will help the community in long run.

The mangmi said that some feel that designating the area as a Ramsar Site might have both advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantages could mean that developmental activities like construction of a farm road could be disallowed.

However, the mangmi said the community would bear such restrictions as long as they still benefit.

Dawa Gyelmo | Phobjikha