Bhutan wants to stay green, and promote green. Naturally Afforestation and plantation programs figure into the to-do list. An incongruous collection of Norms and Standards or a frequent inadequacy of budget to-do it was not, part of the plan.
The element of budget shortage has paradoxically always contradicted Bhutan’s otherwise adamant-will to maintain 60% forest for all times to come.
And a provision in the rule book mandates the Dzongkhag forestry sector not to exclusively carryout Afforestation, reforestation and plantation activities in barren places around the country. Records maintained with the Social Forestry and Extension Division (SFED) under the parks and forests department under the agriculture ministry, says Bhutan today has 57,148 acres of government land brought under vegetations through plantation and Afforestation program.
Consequently, the SFED have felt the urgent need to revise the Norms and Standards developed by the erstwhile Social Forestry Division in 2002, in order to respond to the increasing need for different components of plantation activities.
According to Sigyel Dema of SFED’s plantation section, the revision will be done soon to start implementation by beginning of the 11th five year plan.
Trongsa Dzongkhag forest officer Gembo Dorji, during one of the recent congregations, said budget inadequacy is widespread and applies both in creation and maintenance of the plantation areas.
“Those responsible slash the budget indiscriminately. Such slashing limits the opportunity to create a successful plantation area,” he said.
Sigyel Dema said that while budget aspect will be taken care of, there are other aspects which also need to be included in the revised norms. For instance, root ball concept doesn’t appear anywhere in the current version of the norms and standard which is in use.
“Production of large size root ball planting material either naked or containerized is important,” she said.
The Dzongkhag forest officers (DzFO) also expressed budgetary needs for periodic watering and irrigation of the plantation areas. “We do also need to appoint caretakers who’ll look after the plantation to ensure its safety from stray cattle and other threats,” said one DzFO from the southern dzongkhag.
Meanwhile, SFED is also working to carryout the nation-wide field verifications of the plantations. A division official said that the 2002 plantation record isn’t very authentic since repeated and double recording of same area cannot be ruled out.
The information collected during such activity would also be helpful in digitizing the plantation record which the division is currently mulling over. For this purpose, Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates have to be recorded.
With the update of records, plantations in the country can be comprehended from different categories. Specific information will be available in categories such as Recreation or avenue plantation, Water source protection plantation, Industrial plantation, Forest Management Unit (FMU) plantation, Soil conservation plantation, Normal plantation, Enrichment plantation etc.
The need to hand over government plantations within identified Community Forests and near settlements to communities was also discussed during the congregation.
However, since it negates Chapter IV, section 27 (1) of the forest and nature conservation rules (FNCR), 2006, which states:
“Any area of Government Reserved Forest, in and around villages and human settlement including government land situated in the interspaces between registered private land, suitable for management by a Community Forest Management Group (CFMG), may be designated as Community Forest, pursuant to the procedures described in this chapter. However, plantations raised by the Department shall not be included in the Community Forest.”
When it comes to inclusion of government plantations, official say nothing much can be done unless the rule is amended.