4 May, Thimphu: High level delegates from Bhutan, India and Nepal emphasised the need for regional cooperation on strengthening potentials and benefits of tourism at Thimphu in an event on ‘Shared Natural and Cultural Heritage for Sustainable Tourism in Kanchenjunga Transboundary Landscape’. Developing a short, medium and long term strategies focusing on nature and culture at transboundary level has been taken as a way forward as part of the Kangchenjunga Landscape Initiatives.
The Kangchenjunga Landscape (KL), which is shared by three of ICIMOD’s member countries – Bhutan, India, and Nepal, encompasses a part of eastern Nepal, Sikkim and part of West Bengal in India; and the western and southwestern parts of Bhutan. It has a total area of just under 25,086 sq. km – 5834 sq. km in Bhutan; 14,127 sq. km in India; and 5,125 sq. km in Nepal. Tourism is an important economic sector in the three South Asian countries that are included in the KL – Bhutan, India and Nepal. It contributes to the GDP of all three countries (2% of India, 6% in Bhutan and 4% in Nepal), while also supporting employment both directly, as well as indirectly (almost one million total jobs in Nepal and more than 37 million jobs in India). In Sikkim, KL-India, the contribution of tourism to the State GDP is 8% with annual growth rate of 16%. At least half a million tourists, majority of whom are regional tourists from India, Nepal and Bhutan, visit the KL annually.
The meeting was co-organised by Department of Forest and Park Services, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Royal Government of Bhutan and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) on 3 and 4 May 2017, to share the existing practices, potentials and discuss on future prospective of making tourism as a major conservation and development tools including opportunity for regional cooperation.
Presenting the Key Note, Dr. Eklabya Sharma, Deputy Director General of ICIMOD, emphasised the need for understanding mountain ecosystems and bring synergy and cooperation to make the Kangchenjunga Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KLCDI) among Bhutan, Nepal and India a success. Highlighting the trans-Himalayan transect approach, he said, “The transect concept has enormous potential to meet the challenges of climate change, particularly in relation to adaptation and biodiversity conservation and management in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas.” Biodiversity is a prerequisite for strengthening resilience and the KLCDI aims at developing and testing this approach by implementing conservation and ecosystem management strategies, and enhancing climate change resilience of communities through corridors and connectivity, he added.
Presenting the objectives of the meeting, Dr Nakul Chettri, Programme Coordinator, again emphasised the urgent need for bringing synergy and regional linkage in products, markets and benefits focusing on responsible tourism and concluded by saying “Regional cooperation is expected to enhance the inter-sectoral coordination that addresses regional and transboundary issues”. Three books on KLCDI were also launched by His Excellency, Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji, Minister of Agriculture and Forests, Royal Government of Bhutan; Dr. Amita Prasad, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India; and Mr. Bala Ram Kandel, Under Secretary, Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, Nepal.
While delivering remarks, Mr. Kandel, Head of the Nepal Delegates, highlighted the importance of nature and culture based tourism in Nepal and its regional potentials. Dr Sangay Wangchuk, Senior Nature Conservation Specialist, Department of Forest and Park Services, Ministry of Agriculture and Forest, Bhutan appreciated the KLCDI initiatives for providing platform to discuss regional conservation and development issues and learn from each other. Dr. Prasad, Head of the Indian delegates appreciated the process and the progress made by ICIMOD and three participating countries and suggested to explore benefits from shared natural and cultural heritage and strengthen regional cooperation. Dr Prasad also emphasised on addressing human wildlife conflict and wildlife crime at regional level and data and information sharing among the member countries.
Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji in his remarks highlighted the Royal Government of Bhutan’s effort on conservation and development and partnership developed with KLCDI member countries and expected for successful implementation. The MoAF Minister also appreciated the efforts put in by ICIMOD and his Ministry along with other stakeholder to make KLCDI a great example for transboundary cooperation.
The first day inaugural session concluded with a vote of thanks by Mr Sonam Wangchuk, Chief, Nature Conservation Division, Department of Forest and Park Services, Ministry of Agriculture and Forest, Royal Government of Bhutan.
– DoFPS, MoAF
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