Bumdeling and Khotokha wetlands gain international significance

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With the inclusion of the two protected wetlands, Bhutan joins the race to cover 250mn hectares of protected area around the world by 2015

The wetlands of Bumdeling and Khotokha have been identified and officially included in the Ramsar Convention on Saving Wetlands, ensuring the marshlands international importance and protection.

This came after the National Council of Bhutan ratified the Ramsar Convention earlier this year and recognized three wetlands of Phobjikha, Khothokha and Bumdeling- all wintering grounds for black necked crane- as potential Ramsar sites in the country.

However, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands identified Bumdeling and Khotokha wetlands. Ramsar Convention on Saving Wetlands is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands, to stem the progressive encroachment on and loss of wetlands for now and in the future.

Bumdeling is located in north eastern Bhutan at 1,900 meters in Tashiyangtse Dzongkhag and Khotokha falls under Wangduephodrang at 2,617 meters.

Both sites are important wintering ground for some 160 black necked cranes.

The secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in its website posted “Secretariat is delighted to welcome Bhutan to the Ramsar family as its 161st Contracting Party. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has confirmed that the instrument of accession and the names and maps of two Wetlands of international importance were received on May 7, so that the Convention will come into force for Bhutan on September 7, 2012.”

Bhutan’s designations contribute to one of the goals contained in the Ramsar Convention’s Strategic Plan for 2009-15, which is to reach a protected area of 250mn hectares by 2015.

The agriculture minister, Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho, who introduced the wetlands in the National Council session then said the decision will only further benefit the country in its effort to conserve wetlands.

Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho said wetlands constitute a resource of great economic, cultural, scientific, and recreational value, the loss of which would be irreparable.

“Being a member of the Convention will result in Bhutan benefiting in areas of wetlands preservation such as fish and wildlife habitat, natural water quality improvement, food storage and mitigate the affects against climate change,” he said.

Recently, the agriculture ministry announced that it will designate and regulate specific wetlands as critical components of watershed ecosystem.

This, the ministry said, was to avoid possible long term and short term adverse impacts associated with the destruction or modification of wetlands and to avoid direct or indirect support of new developmental activities in wetlands whenever there is an alternative.

The agriculture ministry has also announced that all public, private or community based developmental activities falling within a wetland area should make possible efforts to avoid adverse impacts to the extent practicable.

“Efforts should be taken to minimize impacts that could not be avoided. If a wetland has to be converted and it is unavoidable, efforts should be made to restore an equal area of degraded wetlands,” the ministry said.

Meanwhile, some of the benefits of being a member of the Ramsar Convention are increased support for public awareness about the importance of the sites, participation by local stakeholder in its management, protection of the site and its surrounding areas, conservation funding, and opportunities for promoting scientific research and ecotourism.

There are various types of wetlands in Bhutan including flowing water in rivers, streams and springs with associated riverine wetlands and wetlands encompassing areas of constant soil saturation or inundation with distinct vegetation and faunal communities.

With the inclusion, Bhutan is the 161st contracting party to the Ramsar Convention on Saving Wetlands.