Action taken to protect sacred cave and local environment

Action taken to protect sacred cave and local environment

In recent times, a surge in pilgrims visiting the revered Neye cave in Sombaykha Dungkhag, Haa has raised concerns over littering and its adverse impact on the environment. The cave is not only sacred but is also home to thousands of bats facing the risk of endangerment due to pollution.

To address this issue, the Organization for Youth Empowerment has initiated a project aimed at enhancing the environmental integrity of Rangtse Nye and its surroundings. Titled “Waste Management to Mitigate Climate Change,” the project secured funding from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Bhutan after being selected from among five submissions in July 2023. JICA Bhutan has granted Nu 2,50,000 for the project, with an additional co-finance of Nu 104,000.

A significant portion of the funding will be allocated for the procurement of waste bins to be strategically placed along the foot trail leading to the renowned Rangtse Nye cave. Located approximately 30 minutes from the secondary Haa-Samtse highway, the cave draws pilgrims from far and wide.

Nima Gyeltshen, the Executive Director of the Organization for Youth Empowerment, emphasized that the project’s execution will have a profound impact on local society and the environment. The activities covered under the mini-grant include advocacy programs targeting the local population, including civil servants and local government officials.

“The project’s advocacy efforts and the installation of waste bins along the footpaths will educate and raise awareness among pilgrims about the importance of waste management. Proper waste disposal at the source will benefit the environment by preventing the deposition of hazardous waste, thereby safeguarding biodiversity and preventing downstream pollution,” Gyeltshen stated.

The project’s primary focus is to advocate the adverse effects of climate change and promote proper waste management, targeting the populations of two gewogs, Gakiling and Sombaykha, within Haa Dzongkhag.

In the long term, the project aims to uplift the livelihoods of the local community by facilitating proper waste segregation and marketing of recyclable materials. Notably, the project will be managed by the Rangtse Nye Tshogpa, primarily comprising school dropouts and youth who could not continue modern education due to various reasons.

The mini-grant funding received will significantly enhance the project’s outcomes, adding value and bringing about a more significant impact on the local environment. It will also contribute to income generation through the sale of segregated waste materials, while simultaneously mitigating climate change and preventing further environmental pollution.

Tomoyuki Yamada, Chief Representative of JICA Bhutan Office, highlighted the project’s significance in fostering the Bhutan-Japan relationship. He stated, “The mini-grant award aims to support ex-participants of JICA training programs in contributing to the socio-economic development of Bhutan with the knowledge and experiences gained through the JICA training programs.”

The mini-grant initiative is designed for JICA Alumni members to apply the knowledge and skills acquired during their training/study programs in Japan under JICA scholarship. Additionally, it aims to strengthen people-to-people connections and promote mutual understanding between the people of Japan and Bhutan.

In parallel, the Organization for Youth Empowerment is also executing a project under the Small Grants Program, implemented by the Royal Government of Bhutan with a focus on biodiversity conservation and improving the livelihoods of local youth in the region.

Sangay Rabten from Thimphu