16 April, Bumthang: Her Royal Highness Ashi Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck inaugurated the UNESCO–Madanjeet Centre for South Asia Forestry Studies at the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) located at Lamai Goempa. The centre was a cherished dream of late Madanjeet Singh, the UNESCO goodwill ambassador from the year 2000 who also founded the South Asia Foundation (SAF).
Also present at the occasion was the chairperson for SAF of Bhutan, former minister Sangay Ngedup; France Jacqueline (the wife of late Madanjeet), UNESCO Director, Shigeru Aoyagi and His Holiness Petseling Trulku along with the Agriculture Minister Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji and other senior officials.
The centre was inaugurated coinciding with the birth anniversary of the late Ambassador who granted half a million US dollar to build the two storied building as centre. As a tribute, participants offered flowers in front of the late Madanjeet Singh’s portrait and lighted butter lamps.
According to a spokesperson, the centre will offer Diploma, B. Sc and M. Sc courses in forestry in collaboration with the College of Natural Resources, Lobeysa. UWICE has been offering the forestry studies from 2012. As of last year, five students have already completed BSc. programs. The centre will also facilitate and conduct research in areas related to forestry with relevance to South Asia.
Currently, six students from Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are undergoing the forestry studies through centre. The centre is expected to recruit the fourth batch of students in August. To fund the programs in the centre, SAF has committed USD 0.1 million. This includes an eight fully paid scholarship every year for students from all SAARC countries. SAF with the help of late Madanjeet Singh has established 12 centres for excellence in South Asia.
In her keynote address, Her Royal Highness said the opening of the centre brings new opportunities for science and research in South Asia to help nurture the environmental students. . ‘The centre will provide much needed knowledge and sustainable management for forest and water resources, ‘ she said.
Appreciating the wonderful work started by late Madanjeet and thanking SAF for its generous support, Her Royal Highness said that, through this centre, Bhutan would contribute significantly towards fulfilling the aspirations of the SAF to bring about regional cooperation and transformation through innovative education and sustainable development.
With the centre inauguration, Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said that there is a real potential to enhance science and knowledge in the Himalayas, South Asia and beyond. He added that the coming together of students from SAARC countries will bring our region closer and as a step towards realising a prosperous South Asia, the centre will play a key role. He further assured that the Ministry will work closely with SAF to ensure the success of the Madanjeet Centre.
On the day, Her Royal Highness also launched the centre’s website and the UWICE policy brief series.
The series aims to bring the latest research findings into mainstream policy domain and provides recommendations on key environmental issues particularly for tiger conservation in Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park.
The report states that as of now, about 12 unique individual tigers have been identified in the park through camera traps, of which two were found with two and three cubs each at different locations. It is believed that Bhutan with most of its area under forests offers one of the best hopes for maintaining a viable tiger population in the future.
The global population of tigers stands at a dismal 3,200 currently with three of the eight tiger subspecies have already gone extinct.
Tshering Doma with inputs by Tshering Dhendup, UWICE
Photo by Choidup Zangpo, ICS
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