Every year, 2nd June is celebrated as the Social Forestry Day throughout Bhutan. It was on this day in 1974, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo ascended to the Golden throne of the Kingdom. Since 1985, the Coronation Day was also declared as Social Forestry Day and has been widely celebrated to encourage tree plantation and to involve communities in forestry activities.
What initially started as a tree-planting program to encourage public participation evolved into peoples’ participation in the sustainable management of our forests, the concept of which started with a Royal decree in 1979, wherein His Majesty, the Fourth Druk Gyalpo proclaimed that “the participation of the local community is the key to conservation and utilization of the forest resources”. Thereafter, people oriented forestry programs aimed at sustainable utilization of forest resources for income generation and enhancement of livelihoods, more commonly referred as “Community Forestry” is today one of the mainstay forest management in Bhutan.
Forests are no doubt fundamental for the well-being of humanity and are intricately linked to the very survival of a mountainous country like ours. Forests provide us with many goods such as food, timber, fodder and medicines as well as many ecosystem services such as regulation of air, water and temperatures besides conservation of soil and preventing erosion and landslides, which in turn helps in climate change adaptation. They also provide habitats for plants and animals to live and offer us numerous opportunities for employment, recreation, spiritual, health, and inspiration for intellectual and artistic creativity.
In spite of our small geographical area and economy, Bhutan has earned international acclaim and is considered a role model for the World in the field of environmental conservation. Today, Bhutan is one of the few remaining biological hotspots in the World and the unspoiled environment support thriving population of endangered species. However, like everywhere in the world, our forests are also under tremendous pressure from both manmade and natural causes. Climate change with erratic weather patterns, increasing wild fires and landslides result in forest degradation. And when forests are lost or severely degraded, their capacity to function as carbon sinks and regulators of environment is lost, resulting in a vicious cycle of increasing natural disasters and loss of valuable habitats for plants, animals and people. To curb such challenges, community involvement in sustainable forest management has become ever more important. So on this special day, I would like to take the opportunity to remind all the citizens of Bhutan to not only take pride in the accomplishment of our conservation efforts, and also to constantly remind ourselves of the role we play in the collective responsibility of protecting and rehabilitating our forests. Protecting nature today means a better planet for future generations.
On this auspicious Coronation Anniversary of our Beloved Fourth Druk Gyalpo, let us all come together and join hands to pay our humble tribute to His Majesty for his farsighted and enlightened leadership. But more specifically on this day, let us collectively celebrate His Majesty’s leadership in the field of environmental conservation for which Bhutan is renowned the world over as a Climate Champion.
Furthermore, let us take a solemn pledge to serve the Tsa Wa Sum with renewed loyalty and full dedication. Let us also pledge to protect our rich natural resources and appreciate the good conservation practices our leaders and forefathers has shown us. This, I believe, will be the most befitting way to honor His Majesty, the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and to serve His Majesty, the Fifth Druk Gyalpo with the same zeal.
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