Bhutan for Life was founded on the Royal Command of His Majesty the King
Bhutan-Conservation Is A Reality
Over the last 45 years, a small, little-known country in the distant Himalayas quietly and unassumingly became a conservation treasure. This is the incredible story of Bhutan’s commitment to conservation that few people are aware of. Blessed with a lineage of enlightened monarchs, Bhutan has consistently balanced national economic growth with cultural preservation, environmental sustainability, and social development.
Bhutan’s commitment to sustainability is manifest through its unique development philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH), which looks beyond gross domestic product (GDP) growth to measure progress, and in so doing values environmental sustainability as an integral component of development. Given its uniquely strong commitment to environmental and ecological integrity, Bhutan has integrated its environmental ethos into its Constitution. It is the only country whose Constitution mandates that a minimum of sixty percent of Bhutan’s total land shall be maintained under forest cover forever.
The result: one of the world’s smallest countries now has one of the world’s biggest commitments to conservation.
But Bhutan is also experiencing increased poaching and the country’s current enforcement capacity is unable to effectively tackle it. And because of Bhutan’s geographical location, Illegal wildlife trade will become a serious concern for wildlife conservation in the coming years.
Low economic diversification is causing high youth unemployment. Human wildlife conflict is on the rise and currently Bhutan faces several challenges to have adequate interventions to help rural residents mitigate it in a responsible and conservation friendly way. And just as Bhutan needs critical funding to address all of these emerging threats, foreign aid is declining because Bhutan will soon be graduating to a middle income country.
Recently, the Government of Bhutan and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has initiated an innovative project called Bhutan for Life that will prove to be the strategic and long-term solution to ensure that Bhutan remains economically and environmentally sustainable forever.
A wealth of Native Wildlife
This abundance of pristine protected areas is a haven for wildlife. Some 5,000 plant species are found in Bhutan’s natural areas, as well as more than 200 species of mammals-all with the space they need to roam free.
Bhutan, with most of its are under forests, offers one of the best hopes for maintaining a viable tiger population into the future. Tigers have been recorded to be residing in the low tropical forests in the south and at high altitudes of Bhutan.
A wealth of benefits to people-locally and globally
Bhutan’s rivers which flow into neighboring countries like China, India and beyond are part of a region that provides water for at least one-fifth of the world’s popultion.
Bhutan is net sink for greenhouse gases. Its forest sequester more than 6.3 million tons of carbon dioxide, which is four times more than what Bhutan emits, helping to reduce global warming.
Bhutan is not carbon neutral, it is carbon negative, Our entire country generates 2.2 million tons of carbon dioxide, but our forests sequester more than three times that amount so we are net carbon sink for more than 4 million tons of carbon dioxide each year.
Promise to remain carbon neutral forever
Bhutan first made the promise to remain carbon neutral for all times in 2009 during COP 15 in Copenhagen. Then, in December 2015 in Paris, Bhutan reaffirmed to remain carbon neutral and pursue low emission development to achieve the ambitious global targets of climate change post 2020.
Here are some of the ways Bhutan is already keeping this promise:
- Bhutan provides free electricity to rural farmers to curb the use of firewood
- Bhutan is investing in sustainable transport and subsidizing the purchase of electric vehicles. Similarly, Bhutan subsidizes the cost of LED lights.
- The entire government is trying to go paperless.
- Bhutan is cleaning the entire country through Clean Bhutan, a national program and we are planting trees throughout our country through Green Bhutan, another national program.
Poaching and human-wildlife conflicts are on the rise
Bhutan is experiencing increased poaching and the country’s current enforcement capacity is unable to effectively tackle it.
Human-wildlife conflict is also rising and Bhutan does not have adequate interventions to help rural residents mitigate such threats in a responsible and conservation-friendly way.
Increased climate change threats make protecting Bhutan's forests even more crucial
Bhutan is highly vulnerable to adverse impacts of climate change due to its fragile mountainous ecosystem. it is projected that both the frequency and intensity of extreme climate events would increase with changing climate.
Outside aid is decreasing...while pressure to develop is increasing
Just as all these new threats and critical funding needs have arrived at Bhutan’s doorstep, its foreign aid is declining.
As the country’s funding sources decline, there is an ever-rising pressure to mine and build on land in or near Bhutan’s protected areas. Without any other financial solution, these options may become more attractive than conservation.
Bhutan needs balance
At this critical juncture, Bhutan is in need for a balanced and sustainable development paradigm to:
- Balance the need for economic development with the need to protect natural resources.
- Balance opportunities in the cities with incentives in the rural villages.
- Balance tradition with the desires for modern amenities.
Therefore, Bhutan for Life is going address these challenges through:
Goal I: Forest and vegetative cover within the protected area network help Bhutan remain carbon neutral
Goal II: Socio-economic wellbeing of communities in and in the vicinity of the PA network enhanced by climate-informed natural resources management
Goal III: Maintain stable and thriving populations of key species contributing toward national and global biodiversity goals. Maintain habitat and ecosystem diversity and contiguity. Protected area network provides sustained ecosystem services for socioeconomic and ecological wellbeing.
Goal IV: Organizational, institutional and resource capacity strengthened for effective management of the protected area network. Support the Government of Bhutan to develop new sources of financing for Bhutan’s protected area network.
Milestone 1: From Year 2 onwards, forest quality and extent (at 1.1 million hectares) maintained within the PA network, thereby securing the storage of 240 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent and increasing climate resilience through forest ecosystem conservation
Milestone 2: By Year 4, degraded lands within the PA network are brought under climate-smart reforestation mechanisms to enhance the carbon stock (above and below gr`ound) and increase climate resiliency
Milestone 3: By Year 8, all communities in PAs value, support, and engage in conservation, including waste management and climate change adaptation
Milestone 4: From Year 7 onwards, all communities living within PAs use traditional knowledge, best available science and technologies to increase their climate and disaster resilience
Milestone 5: By Year 4, 80% of all households within PAs benefit from reduced human wildlife conflict as a result of adoption of appropriate policies, technologies and systems
Milestone 6: By Year 9, 80% of all households within PAs have increased access to nature-based employment and income-generating opportunities including ecotourism and sustainable harvesting of NWFPs, enhancing their resilience to climate change
Milestone 7: By Year 6, populations of tigers and snow leopards, two flagship species that represent major ecosystems, are increased or stable (tigers increased by at least 20% over 2015 levels, and snow leopards stable at 2016 levels)
Milestone 8: By Year 6, information on the conservation status of 10 other high-profile, lesser known, endangered or endemic flora and fauna species established, and five climate-smart species conservation plans developed (in addition to those for tigers and snow leopards)
Milestone 9: By Year 2, Zero Poaching Framework and SMART/effective patrolling instituted in all PAs/BCs to prevent, combat, and monitor poaching, wildlife trade, and other illegal activities
Milestone 10: By Year 6, key high-biodiversity and climate resilience value habitats (and areas that connect them) are under improved management
Milestone 11: By Year 6, at least one high conservation, economically and culturally valued stretch of river linked to a PA is designated as free-flowing and effectively managed to continue to provide important ecosystem services for conservation and climate-resilience of local communities
Milestone 12: By Year 7, watershed conditions in ten critical catchments within the protected area network improved for climate resilience, wildlife and socio-economic development
Milestone 13: By Year 7, National Five Year Plans and all PA management plans incorporate natural capital valuation, key ecosystem services provided by PAs/BCs, and salient climate change risks and mitigation/adaptation strategies
Milestone 14: By Year 2, the PA network has climate-smart management plans and a system to track management effectiveness, and by Year 6 the PA network is clearly demarcated
Milestone 15: By Year 5, PAs/BCs are equipped with adequate and competent staff, and by Year 10 all PAs/BCs are equipped with essential equipment and infrastructure
Milestone 16: By Year 2, feasibility assessments for new sources of sustainable financing have been completed, and by Year 8, new sources of long-term sustainable financing for Bhutan’s protected area network have been developed, approved by the RGoB, implemented, and are producing funding that is flowing to the PA network
There are 80 plus major activities that contribute towards achieving the 16 milestone and covers the 5 major themes namely:
- Climate Resilience
- Economic Opportunity
- Effective Management
- Healthy Ecosystem