GUWAHATI, Nov 26 – At a time when large-scale deforestation is eroding Assam’s famed biodiversity, it would do well to take a cue from its neighbour Bhutan which has scripted and sustained a remarkable conservation saga.
“Bhutan is a small country but its commitment to conservation is deeply ingrained in its ethos. Our governments have been putting conservation of the natural environment at the core of its development policy so that environmental concerns are always heeded,” Sonam Wangdi, an official of the Department of Forest and Park Services, Bhutan, told The Assam Tribune.
According to Wangdi, a strong conservation policy and implementation, people’s participation, a sensible and sustainable approach to development, and last but not the least the culture and lifestyle of the Bhutanese that revere nature, have all combined to ensure that the Himalayan nation’s green enviable cover stayed intact.
“Over 80 per cent of Bhutan’s land is under forest cover, of which 51 per cent are protected forests. Significantly, all these forests are inter-connected that makes for contiguous wildlife habitats so essential for securing long-term conservation interests,” he added.
In fact, conservation of the environment is one of the four pillars of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness philosophy. “Our Constitution mandates that 60 per cent of Bhutan’s land must always be under forest cover. That we have succeeded in maintaining this testifies to the commitment of the people and the government. We also have a re-afforestation programme that supplements our conservation efforts,” he said.
Bhutan which is a major destination for nature-lovers has put preservation of its natural environment at the core of its tourism policy. “We are following a policy of what can be called a ‘low impact-high value’ approach to tourism that guards against the naturally and culturally destructive aspects of mass tourism. We have developed sustainable eco-tourism centring around our forests with the locals as active stakeholders and consequently beneficiaries,” Wangdi said.
It is not that Bhutan’s flourishing wildlife is entirely unproblematic. The presence of a large number of wildlife does occasionally result in man-animal conflict, with crop loss caused by herbivores and killing of yaks by snow leopards being a major irritant. “But we have a compensatory mechanism that also includes crop insurance, and the affected people have a high degree of tolerance as well,” Wangdi said.
(Source: The Assam Tribune)
Image: Representational image used from internet sources