For a Green & Beautiful Bhutan

For a Green & Beautiful Bhutan

From next month, travelers between Thimphu and Paro can stop over at the Issuna cafeteria and relax within the cafeteria and the lush surroundings around. Similarly, those traversing along the lateral route from Thimphu towards the East and vice-versa, can have their breakfast, lunch and refreshments at the Lamperi cafeteria, in an atmosphere of sheer natural beauty. Very soon a zipline will be part of the Lam Pelri recreational park to provide the public an adventurous experience. The courtesy goes to Green Bhutan Corporation Limited (GBCL), one of Bhutan’s premier organizations working to ensure that the nation remains unwavering in two global green assurances: the constitutional mandate to have 60 % of Bhutan’s area under forest cover and the commitment to remain carbon neutral. Additionally, GBCL is venturing forward to become a competent and creditable green company and to build expertise in landscape development projects in the region. It is also confident to contribute in the establishment of the Gelephu Mindfulness City (GMC).

A state owned enterprise (SoE) established in 2017, since inception, GBCL has completed numerous projects, few of which were the establishment of about 3,000 hectares of plantation, completion of landscape and greening projects at Bumthang, Dagana, Chukha, Sarpang and Thimphu and the soil stabilization project along the Damchu bypass roads with support from Project Dantak. However, these are just the beginning of greater things to come. According to GBCL’s chief executive officer (CEO) Karma Jigme Temphel, since 2023, GBCL has been exploring new opportunities with institutions, agencies and private individual to cater to landscaping and green development services, plantation, demanded seedling productions, mined area restoration, and carbon offset initiatives, like pay and plant. And the SoE has several programs lined for 2024.

“GBCL is developing plans with project Dantak for Motanga Industrial Park development at Samdrup Jongkhar, and soil stabilization and construction of shed for travelers between Nanglam to Deothang road,” Temphel says. There are also others, such as the plan to create plantation of 38 hectares and maintaining more than 100 hectares of plantation, with support from the Department of Forests and Park Services. “Besides that, GBCL will be working with private companies to fund and plant more seedlings. MyBhutan along with Ecomatcher is already supporting plantation programs. They have supported Nu. 4 million worth of plantation in 2023 and in 2024 they have committed to support plantation worth Nu. 6 million,” the CEO added.

Other programs include the restoration of mined areas of State Mining Corporation Limited. GBCL has already started planning of mined area restoration at Hebrang, Pemathang. The restoration work is estimated to start by July 2024.

“One million seedlings (forest and ornamental species, flowers, root ball tree) will be raised in various GBCL nurseries for different purposes. GBCL aims to make seedlings of any species ready in the nursery so that people have access to it any time,” Temphel underlines, apart from continuing work on the Phuntsholing Thromde Avenue plantation.

2024 will also see GBCL continue and expand the carbon offset plantation. GBCL has identified areas and got approval from the Department of Forests and Park Services for plantation. Till date, GBCL has identified areas at Lam Pelri, between Paro and Thimphu, Samzingkha, Bumthang and Yongphula. “This is mainly to provide opportunities to tourists and locals to participate in plantation activities,” Temphel notes.

Like most SoEs, GBCL has its share of problems, especially financial. Though launched with an authorized capital of Nu.500 million (with estimates that it would cost Nu. 286 million as initial equity and an annual subsidy of Nu. 25 million) for the establishment and functioning of GBCL, only Nu.33.33 million was received during the initial establishment in 2017.

“GBCL does face huge challenge to sustain financially,” the CEO adds. However, in 2023 Nu. 22.58 million was injected by the Ministry of Finance (MoF) to support GBCL. The CEO explains that GBCL products have longer gestation period compared to other products. “For instance, any plants or flowers seedling would take at least 3 to 18 months to get ready for sale. GBCL has its corporate social responsibilities (CSR) and we provide free tree seedlings to schools and relevant agencies,” he added.

Nonetheless, plans are being made and programs implemented in its endeavor to sustain financially, such as landscape and green development, plantation, production and sale of seedlings (forest and ornamental species, flower), operation/management of recreational parks by charging nominal fees. “Currently, GBCL is managing two recreational Parks; Lam Pelri and Issuna Recreational Park but generates minimal revenue. We are constantly improving and adding more amenities. Budget constraint has been hindering the profit generation of GBCL besides huge potential. If there is a capital investment support, without doubt, GBCL can make profit,” the CEO explains.

For the near future and related to GMC, GBCL has plans to develop a modern nursery at Sarpang and make it a source of planting and landscape materials for GMC. For this, the corporation is developing the 20 acres land it has at Sarpang into nursery (seedling production and tree root ball farm).

“Efforts are made to increase and improve seedlings production and reduce the import of plants and seeds from other countries, which will contribute hugely on hard currency reserves. All retailers of plants and flower can see GBCL as a source of plant materials,” Temphel underlines.

There are also plans to establish water amusement parks so that Bhutanese people do not have to travel far to enjoy the water world facilities, apart from establishing and managing recreational parks with good facilities, so that the public with their children can go out and interact with nature in diverse ways. Temphel believes that with cities getting crowded and workload increasing, people will definitely look forward for such spaces to relax.

Beyond what the corporation is already doing, it is also mandated to provide consultancy services on green and environmental sectors and collaborate with private sector/FDI in executing landscape development and commercial plantations.

For a small SoE, its mandates and plans appear challenging. But nothing is impossible for an organization inspired by the golden words of His Majesty the King. “GBCL was established in line with His Majesty’s speech during the first flower show held at Paro in 2016, where His Majesty said, ‘Where we live must be clean, safe, organized and beautiful, for national integrity, national pride and for our bright future. This too is nation building,’” Temphel says. “Apart from playing a vital role in climate adaptation and mitigation programs, we will strive to be the champion of a Green and beautiful Bhutan,” the CEO continues, adding that GBCL has huge opportunities and a bright future.

By Ugyen Tenzin, Thimphu