Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary to adopt climate vulnerability measures

The BTFEC-funded project worth Nu 7mn kick starts in july

The remote communities of Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary (SWS) will soon be getting electric cookers to ensure that timber species is utilized sustainably and fuel wood consumption is reduced.

This is part of the Bhutan Trust Fund for Environment Conservation (BTFEC)-funded project: socio-ecological resilience to reduce the climate change impact on community and species worth Nu 7.013mn. The project starts from July this year and will complete on June 2019.

The project will involve climate change vulnerability assessment of terrestrial and aquatic life, and communities in SWS to develop adaptation measures.

The Park Manager of SWS, Department of Forest and Park Services, Thinley Wangdi, said that the project will also establish gewog-level Water User Association (WUA) to ensure water security in the two gewogs: Merak and Sakteng.

Further, the authorities will conduct climate change adaptation workshop for local leaders and gewog extension staff to enhance their capacity to respond to future disasters related to climate change, he added.

The project will develop a waste management action plan including distribution of waste bins and construction of garbage pits, and conduct awareness campaigns to address waste-related issues in the park. Garbage pits will be constructed for settlements; they will be installed near campsites and loop trails for visitors as well.

Some of the challenges that the sanctuary is facing right now are scarcity of data on meteorology and lack of awareness among the locals about climate change and its causes.

“This limits the capacity to assess ongoing changes in the climatic regime and to have reliable coping measures,” said Thinley Wangdi adding that in some parts of the sanctuary, the park staff has observed a decrease in water availability and storage in the dry season.

According to the Park Manager, the water source is visited by cattle deteriorating the quality of water due to lack of proper fencing.

“If timely action is not taken, meeting the drinking water supply for villagers in the long run might be a problem,” he said.

Also, the project will support the restoration of traditional water sources in the sanctuary. The communities will carry out slope stabilization to reduce erosion and plant fast growing saplings on upstream areas.

Thinley Wangdi mentioned that increased demand on natural resources like timber and firewood from within and outside the sanctuary jurisdiction is leading to heavy exploitation of timber and fuel wood in some parts of the sanctuary and the issue needs to be addressed quickly.

After the project is completed, pressure on timber is expected to reduce through developing harvesting guidelines like Local Forest Management Plan, which will allow sustainable felling of timber.

One of the potential threads for the park in the near future as indicated by the Bhutan management effectiveness tracking tool plus (METT+) 2016 is climate change and severe weather.

Tracking tool plus (METT+) 2016 is a new approach to evaluate management effectiveness of protected area in Bhutan. The Bhutan METT+ 2016 is a holistic approach meticulously articulated to measure protected areas’ effectiveness to manage its biotic and abiotic resources.

SWS is located in the easternmost part of the country. It encompasses an area of 739 sq km² of alpine meadow and temperate and warm broadleaf forests. Three major rivers- Manaschhu, Badachhu and Dhansirichhu – have their origin here.

Red panda, Himalayan black bear, Wild dog, Snow leopard, Barking deer, and Himalayan red fox plus avifaunal species like Assamese macaque, Blood pheasant, Grey backed shrike, Grey headed woodpecker, Common hoopoe, Rufous vented tit and Dark breasted rose finch form the primary fauna in the sanctuary. Bhutan’s national flower, the Blue Poppy is also found here as well as Rhododendrons, Primulas, Gentiana and Cordyceps.

SWS is home to the much talked about villages- Merak and Sakteng. The inhabitants of these villages- the Brokpas have a unique way of life. They are basically nomads rearing yaks and herds of cattle for sustenance.

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu