Biological Corridor 9 won’t cause problems for the involved local communities: MoENR Minister

Bhutan took a significant step towards enhancing its environmental conservation efforts with the introduction of the Biological Corridor Nine (BC9) Bill in the National Council. The Minister for the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (MoENR), Loknath Sharma, presented the Bill, which aims to establish a biological corridor connecting the previously isolated Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary and Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary.

Covering five gewogs of Trashi Yangtse and one gewog of Trashigang, the proposed corridor received scrutiny from the National Council (NC) regarding potential restrictions and its impact on local communities.

The minister acknowledged the concerns raised by MPs, emphasizing that the proposed corridor would not impose restrictions on routine activities. He assured the NC that the corridor, spanning an area of 216 square kilometres and featuring diverse flora and fauna, would instead offer numerous benefits to the local people.

The advantages include the possibility of a water pipeline, extension of farm roads, and opportunities for eco-tourism, bird-watching, and tiger conservation. Additionally, the corridor would allow for the gathering of non-wood forest products, although the initiation of new commercial activities would be restricted.

The proposal, aimed at reinforcing ecological connectivity between Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary and Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, faced queries from NC Members. Concerns ranged from potential human-wildlife conflict to restrictions on development activities and land use. Lyonpo Loknath Sharma assured the members that conservation funds generated from the corridor’s implementation would mitigate negative impacts, including increased human-wildlife conflict.

Furthermore, the BC9 initiative underscores Bhutan’s commitment to preserving its natural heritage and fostering ecological balance. The proposed corridor, spanning parts of Toedtsho, Yalang, Khamdang, Bumdeling, and Yantse gewogs in Tashi Yangtse, and Phongmey gewog in Tashigang, represents a vital addition to Bhutan’s protected area coverage.

The corridor, covering a distance of approximately 60.2 kilometers, is home to globally threatened mammal species such as the clouded leopard, Royal Bengal tiger, Himalayan red panda, and musk deer.

The introduction of BC9, while addressing environmental concerns, also opens avenues for community development. Lyonpo highlighted plans to support local residents in starting ecotourism, community tourism, homestays, and campsites, ensuring that the corridor’s benefits are shared by the communities residing within its proximity.

While challenges remain, the declaration of BC9 serves as a testament to Bhutan’s dedication to environmental conservation and sustainable development. The National Assembly had previously adopted the declaration of the eastern biological corridor on 15 June 2023, marking a significant milestone in Bhutan’s efforts to preserve its unique biodiversity.

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