Q&A: What has been some major ICIMOD interventions or work areas in Bhutan in the last Medium-Term Action Plan (MTAP) III?
We work in the Kangchenjunga landscape that covers Bhutan, Sikkim and Nepal, where we work on conserving natural resources and community development work in these high mountain areas. Bhutan has been a very active partner.
Secondly, in our adaptation programme, a lot of work is being carried out for livelihood improvement. We worked in Tsirang with different communities where we tried to look at alternative livelihood strategies so that farmers can get their produce to the market and make income. There is always focus on women farmers when we do that. We also work on vegetable farming in the area where we have been working with the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
We have also been partnering with the hydrology and metrology department on the glaciers and snow. Shortly after the earthquake in Nepal there was a glacier lake outburst and we had a team working with hydromet services to understand the situation. Basically, we were working together building the capacity to understand the snow and glaciers in the region. I think we have done a lot with remote sensing and the geographic information system (GIS). We have also worked with the National Land Commission to put the technologies into use in land use and land cover in Bhutan, among others. We have also worked with the National Environment Commission on looking at atmosphere and issues of air pollution. So, these are a few of the activities.
I can say that over the last five years, ICIMOD’s activities in Bhutan have increased a lot and I hope to continue the engagement in Bhutan.
What were some of the clear results of the interventions?
With the livelihood interventions with the communities, we have seen some improvement the people’s income and livelihood. The communities have learned better ideas for management of natural ecosystems. I think we have seen more collaboration across the borders between India and Nepal and setting up these corridors for wildlife in the area. We have better understanding of the snow and glaciers. We also have done some scientific studies on the status of the glaciers. We have the study showing that retreat of the glaciers is about 23 percent in the last 30 years. The study of the glaciers in the area and mapping through remote sensing show some glacier lakes are potentially dangerous.
Some lessons learned as a result of ICIMOD-Bhutan collaboration.
Lesson learneds were two-way streets. One is the importance of working with partners. It’s not that ICIMOD can come and do everything by itself. We have to work very much with government partners, with communities, with private sectors if any change is to come. Secondly, we have to have our feet on the ground to understand the ground realties and then link up to the policy makers to make sure that information gets translated into policy. The handbook on Climate + Change released last month talks about climate change and what is happening in Bhutan. That’s for policymakers and also for the general public to understand. The other lesson is to make sure we are responding to the needs of Bhutan. Bhutan has lot to offer to other countries when it comes to activities. We are trying to make sure we get more collaboration between the countries so people can share knowledge.
What would be ICIMOD’s focus in Bhutan in the next MTAP (IV)?
We will carry on the similar works in adaptation, cryosphere, atmosphere and the landscape, we want to work more on sustainable energy and disaster risk reduction, among others. We are trying to figure out ways to engage youth and people.
How can ICIMOD’s activities be aligned to Bhutan’s 12th Five Year Plan?
By working with the government and secretary of the agriculture ministry and also ICIMOD’s regional board member, Dasho Rinzin Dorji, we have clear idea of what is in the 12th Plan. We will make sure the activities in our programme support the plan. It’s very much possible and should be easy to do if we have close communications and collaboration with the government.
Ending poverty in all its forms, combating climate change and protecting and restoring ecosystems are some of the Bhutan’s priority areas in the 12th Plan. How would ICIMOD align these to help achieve these targets?
Central to our work are mountains and people and we recognise that there is poverty in the mountains. So the central focus would be to work with rural mountain people and reducing poverty. For combating climate change, we are looking at the glaciers, working on sustainable energy and working on air pollution. We work a lot on mountain environment and livelihoods.