Sixth National Report
Section I. Information on the targets being pursued at the national level
National Target 1: By 2018, at least 60 percent of the population is aware of values of biodiversity and steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably. ()
Currently, about 66 per cent of the population interacts with Protected Areas (PA), where environmental education is part of the PA management as mandated by environmental legislations. However, these programmes are ad hoc and limited to raising awareness on environmental rules and regulations or basic understanding of the environment and environmental problems. There are also a number of on-going Environmental Education programs targeting different sections of the population. However, what has been lacking quintessentially is an institutionalized mechanism to ensure that the public understanding of the importance of biodiversity and their role in conserving it, as well as environmental legislations are elevated. Thus, as a first step, it is crucial to ascertain the proportion of the population aware of biodiversity and its values, which will guide in assessing of the efficacy of the existing awareness initiatives, and identify gaps and target groups. In targeting 60 per cent of the population, efforts will be focused primarily on the population living within the PAs. Existing Environmental Education programmes will be strengthened to target the general population, including schools, institutions, private and corporate sectors.
The National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plan 2014 was developed by a National Task Force through rigorous consultations. During the stakeholder consultations, this target received the highest rating considering it as an extremely important target at the national level. This is also based on the premise that this target cuts across all other national targets.
National Target 2: By 2018, establish national capacity for valuation of biodiversity and ecosystem services to integrate into national development planning and policy making process and national accounting system, as appropriate. ()
Currently, the valuation of biodiversity and ecosystem services is limited to national capacity building initiatives for REDD- readiness, Payment for Environmental Services (PES), National Forestry Inventory, and ad hoc valuation of some protected areas and ecosystem services. However, there is a lack of systematic valuation of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the country. This has been mainly due to inadequate national capacity and institutional mechanism to coordinate and lead programs for valuation of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Therefore, the focus of this target is to build national capacities for valuation of biodiversity and ecosystem services, and incorporation of these values into the national planning and policy making process and accounting system, where appropriate.
The adoption of the National Targets rated this target as extremely important. During the preparation of the NBSAP, several initiatives on the valuation of ecosystem services had begun. This is also because the economic sector recognized the value of natural capital in the development of economic policies and poverty reduction strategies,
National Target 3: By 2020 incentives harmful to biodiversity are reformed and positive incentives are enhanced. ()
The different forms of incentives provided in the renewable natural resources sector (RNR) are mainly targeted at realizing the goals of food and nutritional security, enhancement of rural livelihood and reduction of the high import dependency. Even though, these incentives are relatively small, they are considered positive in terms of their contribution but their impacts on biodiversity are yet to be assessed. In the Forestry sector, subsidized timber and the right to collect NWFPs are generally perceived to be harmful since these resources are extracted on an ad-hoc basis from unmanaged forests. The Integrated Conservation and Development Progammes is seen as a positive incentive, albeit with sustainability issues. Therefore, the focus of this target is on ascertaining the impacts of incentives on biodiversity for appropriate interventions.
National Target 4: By 2020, relevant stakeholders adopt the principles of sustainable production and consumption of natural resources and keep have kept the impacts of use of natural resources well within safe ecological limits. ()
Some of the natural resources that are under severe consumption pressures are timber and fuel wood for construction and energy. The over harvesting of Non-wood Forest Products has exerted pressure on landscapes due to unsustainable agricultural practices, overgrazing by domestic animals and concentration of mines in certain areas.. These pressures, if left unchecked, will have severe ramifications on the fragile ecosystem and biodiversity. The lack of relevant data and knowledge to ascertain the safe ecological limits of these vulnerable production sectors is a well-known gap. Therefore this target will focus on assessing the operation of key natural resources-based production sectors within safe ecological limits and sustainability where necessary to encourage adoption of sustainable production by these sectors.
National Target 5: By 2018, high-biodiversity value habitats are mapped, the rate of losses is accounted, trends monitored and overall loss and fragmentation reduced. ()
Many of the high-biodiversity value habitats such as primary forests, high altitude wetlands, and home-range of flagship species fall within the protected area system. However, some other high-biodiversity value habitats such as Important Bird Areas (IBA), Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA), Ramsar Sites, Areas rich in crop-wild relatives are yet to be mapped in order to understand their status and to implement appropriate conservation measures. Currently, there is no concrete data to ascertain the rate of habitat loss although land use conversion and forest fire are considered as leading factors. Therefore, the focus of this target is to firstly map the high-value biodiversity habitats and assess the extent of degradation and fragmentation for appropriate interventions.
National Target 6: By 2020, baseline for fish and key aquatic biodiversity established for implementation of sustainable management plans, as appropriate. ()
Since there are no large scale fishing or fisheries, the national target focuses on developing baseline for fish and aquatic diversity and associated management planning.
National Target 7: Areas under agriculture and forestry, including rangeland are managed through the adoption of sustainable management practices, ensuring conservation of biological diversity. ()
Forestry legislations require all areas under state forest to be strategically guided by sustainable management plans. However, as of now, only 6.4 per cent under Forest Management Units and Working Schemes and 2.2 per cent under community forest have well formulated resource management plans. Although resource allocations for rural uses are also done within the protected areas, the management plans are conservation-centric and lack resource management strategies. The overall impact of the lack of sustainable management plans leaves these areas highly vulnerable to degradation due to factors such as over-extraction of forest resources, land use conversion and overgrazing. Therefore, the progressive inclusion of unmanaged forest areas under a sustainable management regime still remains one of the key challenges. In agriculture, the National Action Plan to Combat Land Degradation addresses unsustainable agricultural practices through appropriate management strategies which are harmonized under this target. Therefore, this target is to focus on strengthening sustainable management practices in the areas under forests and agriculture to ensure the conservation and sustainable utilization of biological diversity.
National Target 8: By 2020, pollution from different sources, including from use of fertilizers and agro-chemicals affecting biodiversity and ecosystem functions are maintained within the national environmental standards. ()
Currently except in areas around main industrial estates and localized water pollution, the ambient air and water quality at macro level is found to be in good state. However, increasing sediment loads in the rivers and streams due to developmental activities, impacting the aquatic biodiversity as well as hydropower plants, is becoming one of the emerging environmental issues. Although agro-chemical and fertilizers are potential sources of pollution of both land and water, especially if used without proper management practices, currently there is no report on the extent of the impacts of these agro-chemicals on land and environment in general, except for sporadic observations. The country has legal measures in place to address pollution from all sources but the overriding issue of concern is the weak implementation and enforcement of environmental standards and inadequate monitoring. Therefore, this target is to focus on strengthening national mechanism to implement and monitor standards for all sources of pollution, including agro-chemicals and fertilizers.
National Target 9: By 2020, invasive alien species and pathways are identified and prioritized, priority species are controlled or eradicated, and measures are in place to manage pathways to prevent their introduction and establishment. ()
Since there is no comprehensive inventory and assessment of invasive alien species (IAS) in the country, there is limited knowledge on IAS and its impacts. Therefore, this target will focus on understanding the diversity of IAS and its impacts, instituting measures for control and/or eradication of prioritized IAS and development of technical capacity.
National target 10: By 2020, potential impacts of climate change on vulnerable ecosystems identified and adaptation measures strengthened. ()
Since marine ecosystems has no relevance for Bhutan, the National target has been replaced by climate change given that climate change actions will contribute to marine conservation downstream.
National Target 11: Maintain the current Protected Area System with enhanced management effectiveness and financial sustainability. ()
National Target 12: By 2020, the information on conservation status of prioritized taxonomic groups available and actions are taken to improve the status of prioritized species. ()
Bhutan is yet to carry out a national-level evaluation of the conservation status of its biodiversity which has resulted in inadequate legal protection of threatened species and implementation of species-based conservation programs. Further, the lack of evaluation makes it difficult to understand the status of the globally threatened species at a national level and the actions that are required to improve its conservation status. It also limits national actions for those species which might be of concern at the national level. Therefore, the focus of this target is to understand the conservation status of the globally threatened species and of nationally important taxonomic groups and species in the country. Evaluation will be followed by development and implementation of species-based conservation action plans for prioritized species.