Addressing the representatives, the Hon’ble Lyonchhoen shared that the highlanders living on the northern frontiers have a critical responsibility to ensure border security. He urged the meeting to deliberate plans to develop and promote highlanders’ livelihoods and their unique culture.
During the meeting, highlanders raised issues related to schools, basic health units, compensation for livestock, cordyceps collection, light and dairy equipment among others to help reduce urban migration. They expressed concerns over the lack of hostel facilities, experienced teachers and declining cordyceps areas probably due to illegal harvest.
On the school issue, the Director General for the Department of School Education shared that the Ministry is planning to upgrade schools in highlands with all necessary facilities. Relating to compensation, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests will soon launch compensation scheme for livestock claimed by wild species. The Ministry also assured to provide better assistance in terms of dairy and cordyceps.
The highlands are bestowed with rich biodiversity and home to four national parks, two wildlife sanctuaries and the country’s only nature reserve. It hosts majority of the country’s protected areas and many globally endangered flora and fauna. Some of the rare faunal species seen in the highlands of Bhutan are tiger, snow leopard, takin, blue sheep, Tibetan wolf and several species of birds. The origin of almost all river systems in the country are from highlands. The huge highland livestock population keeps Bhutan to third position in the world covering 1.3 million acres of Tsamdro.
The most amazing aspect of the highlands is the harmonious co-existence of transhumant yak herding system and protected areas. As of today there are 1,156 yak herding households with 40,438 number of yaks spread across 11 Dzongkhags providing primary sources of livelihoods to the highlanders.
Today, cordyceps has become the major source of income for around 3,433 collectors in seven Dzongkhags. According to a record, the annual average income for cordyceps was about 145 million between 2004 to 2015. The community also generates some subsidiary income from porter services to tourists.
Considering the richness, socio-cultural, economic and environment importance of highland, the Highland Development is proposed as one of the “Flagship Programs” in the 12th FYP.
His Majesty The King granted an audience to the highlanders in the afternoon. They were also provided the opportunities for free health checkups and offer Ku-sung-Thug Mendrel to His Holiness the Je Khenpo at Kuenselphodrang.
Organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, the workshop on Highland Development discussed challenges of highlanders, created awareness on existing legislation on conservation and development programs and came up with holistic plans and strategies for an integrated highland development.
Officials from the Gross National Happiness Commission, health, education, land commission and home and cultural affairs also attended the workshop.
Meanwhile, following the workshop, the highlanders also discussed on the pastureland act and related issues.
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