18 March, Thimphu: The Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB) has always accorded continued importance to the sustainable land management (SLM) in the country. However, increasing land degradation problem caused by both the natural disasters and human activities like unsustainable agricultural practices including improper irrigation, water management, cultivation on steep slopes without any measures, forest fire, overgrazing, infrastructure development, urbanization, mining, etc. has become a concern for the National Soil Services Centre (NSSC), Department of Agriculture (DoA) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests.
As part of the proactive initiative and implementing measures to combat land degradation and its impacts in the country, a daylong workshop on assessing the Economic Benefits of SLM Practices in Bhutan was conducted at Hotel Taj Tashi in Thimphu with the aim to diagnose potential policies that are beneficial for long-term growth.
His Excellency, Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji, the Minister for MoAF graced the opening ceremony of the workshop and informed the gathering that land degradation is increasingly becoming an issue of serious concern both locally and globally. Lyonpo specifically highlighted that population growth, poverty and unsustainable use of land and natural resource base for food production, grazing, industries, infrastructure development and urbanization without environmental considerations in ecologically fragile landscape as the key causes at global level. On the other hand excessive use of forest resources, overgrazing, unsustainable agricultural practices, poor irrigation system management, construction of infrastructure without proper environmental measures, mining, industrial development and urbanization were identified as some of the main causes of land degradation at local level. Lyonpo also added that RGoB has been implementing various programs and projects that in one way or the other contributed to minimizing land degradation since the beginning of Five Year Plans in early 1960s. He further stressed that MoAF is responsible and mandated for policies, plans and programs that ensure sustainable management of agriculture, forest and livestock resources for the socio-economic development and environmental well-being of the Bhutanese people.
Experts from International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) presented their research finding and technical papers on policy implications, changes in the landscape, impact of SLM on sedimentation, economic impacts of SLM and officials from NSSC presented a SLM project history and achievements in Bhutan.
The workshop was concluded with the resolution to address several issues such as land use change and impact on sediment loading in hydro-electric plants, impact of roads, land tenure, extension services on land management practices, economic costs and benefits of sustainable land management practices as compared to land degrading processes, current and future investments that are both profitable and sustainable and policy implications of the research finding on sustainable land management in Bhutan.
The workshop was jointly organised by IFPRI and NSSC with funding support from World Bank. Official from various Government agencies and international organisations attended the workshop.
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Reported by Penjor with Photograph by Choidup Zangpo.
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