a town and a community strike a win-win deal

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The Mongar town municipality will pay the Yakpugang community forest management group for maintaining the town’s water source

In a first ever payment for Environmental Service (PES) scheme in the country, the Mongar town and the Yakpugang Community Forest Management Group has signed a three-year contract whereby the community will preserve the town’s water source and in return get paid in monetary terms.

PES is an approach that rewards people providing environmental services and makes the users pay for it. Here the service buyer will be the Municipal Corporation of Mongar town and the service provider, Yakpugnang, a village about seven kilometers away from the town.

The agreement between the two is that the group will provide environmental service by protecting the drinking water source for Mongar town while the Mongar municipality will pay Nu 52,000 a year as payment. The total amount the group will get after three years will be Nu 156,000.

“This scheme will go a long way in ensuring steady supply of drinking water for the water users not only in Mongar but throughout major towns in Bhutan,” said the Mongar town representative, Namkang.

There will be six activities undertaken by the community as agreed in the contract. These include a buffer area of 160 meters to be maintained above the water sources and 100 meters along banks of major streams for riparian protection.

It was agreed that cattle will be allowed to graze only during daytime in the community forest management area and no cowsheds will be constructed within the CMFG area while the Yakpugang community will not be allowed to keep more than 5 cattle a household.

Other activities include plantations by the group in the landslides and barren areas within the CFMG area which will reduce sediments getting into the streams. The group will also clear fallen trees from the streams within the CFMG area to aid in flow of water into the storage tanks. And finally, the group will guard the CFMG area from illegal extraction of forest resources and against grazing by cattle other than Yakpugang community.

The SNV Bhutan which has facilitated the PES scheme says there is a huge potential for PES in Bhutan. SNV Bhutan has also conducted trainings on water resources assessment for all the stakeholders of the PES scheme.

The training created awareness on water resources, the water conduction and distribution, infrastructure and system, and water users.

The Agricultural marketing advisor from SNV, Rik Van Keuler, said Bhutan’s first PES scheme will increase awareness on PES and create a market of buyers and providers.

“This is the first PES scheme and the only one running at the moment in Mongar while there are others in the pipeline” he said.

He said there are other PES opportunities in Bhutan. For example, the tourism sector is willing to pay for the protection of the Black necked crane’s habitat which is a tourist attraction.

The scope for PES in Bhutan is huge especially the demand of those services related to water and so another big PES opportunity is the hydropower plants. Currently, there are three hydropower plants in operation but another 15 are in the planning. Electricity generation already accounts for 20% of Bhutan’s GDP. The Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC) has also agreed to pump in 1% of their revenue generation for improved forest management.

“The PES scheme for the black necked crane’s habitat in Phobjikha and with DGPC is still under discussion at the moment and no contract has been signed yet,” said Rik Van Keuler.

As the PES scheme is new in Bhutan there are various constraints expected. Some of the constraints are lack of information on buyers and providers of environmental services, lack of awareness among both service providers and buyers on the concept of PES, lack of capacity of the stakeholders involved in the PES on various issues, lack of information on specific environmental services (ES) that can be offered and lack of capacity in valuation of ES.

With the PES program SNV Bhutan aims alleviate poverty through increasing the income of the communities by providing ES and also ensuring inclusion of the communities in the PES scheme as providers of the ES.