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Smart green infrastructure

A system of national growth that’s sustainable and therefore environment friendly

Tiger: Smart green infrastructure (SGI), costly and time consuming though it may be, is a must for Bhutan’s long term sustainability and environment preservation, said World Bank’s program manager for the global tiger initiative, Andrey Kushlin.

Citing the example of road construction, the program manager explained that, being smart, meant calculating all cost in total and not just the initial cost of doing a quick, cheap and dirty road, and green meant executing the construction in a manner that the environment is not hampered.

“Implementing SGI is a must, as destroying first and reclaiming afterward isn’t practicable,” Andrey Kushlin said.

He said that unique pristine environment is the landmark and defining feature for Bhutan that attracts international investments.

Bhutan committed to initiate SGI in May 2011, when it hosted the Thimphu recommendations on SGI in tiger conservation landscapes conference.

Developing countries, in an effort to conserve environment, use SGI in roads and hydroelectric project constructions, ecotourism development and land-use planning.

Andrey Kushlin, in his presentation on understanding and implementing SGI infrastructure in tiger conservation landscapes, said, besides poaching, illegal trade and trafficking, habitat loss, land fragmentation and degradation are causing tiger crisis in the range countries.

He said that, while no infrastructure should be developed in core tiger habitats, it’s important to mainstream natural habitat conservation into infrastructure development at national policy, planning and when implementing projects.

“Habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation are driven by unprecedented, rapid economic growth,” he said.  He said infrastructures could have serious direct and cumulative impacts, as it affects tiger and prey movement, population fragmentation and human access to wildlife.

“For tigers, SGI is defined as infrastructure that avoids the habitat, minimises and mitigates adverse impacts through tiger-friendly design,” the project manager said.

It is, however, a must to avoid development in priority tiger conservation landscapes, particularly corridors and core habitat, the program manager said.

“Tigers need immediate action from decision-makers in charge of environment protection and infrastructure development,” Andrey Kushlin said.

He said that global tiger initiative raised global awareness, but local actions are needed on ground.

For Bhutan, the program manager said it was important to make smart choices on which road to build, and where not to build. “That’s where the smart part comes.”

Referring to Bhutan as the jewel of Himalayas, he said Bhutan has a unique image in the world, for taking a balanced development approach, and it is important to maintain that image not only on paper but also in reality.

By Tashi Dema

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