The Watershed Management Division (WMD) under the Department of Forest and Park Services (DoFPS) has designated Khotokha and Bumdeling as Ramsar site and it currently awaits approval from the Ramsar Secretariat.
The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance is called the Ramsar Convention which deals with a particular ecosystem. It provides framework for national and international cooperation for the conservation and using wetlands and their resources wisely. It was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971.
The Ramsar focal person with WMD, Sonam Choden said Bhutan is obligated to select at least one site to be a contracting party and subsequently many sites can be designated as long as it fulfills the requirements and also it would depend on whether there are significant wetlands for declaration in Bhutan. Bhutan’s obligations would be to dedicate itself in conserving wetlands and their biodiversity and report the status regularly to the network.
Bumdeling and Khotokha were designated as Ramsar sites due to many reasons. First, Bumdeling (riverine wetland) is unique as a Himalayan flood plain and there is a considerable population of Black-necked Cranes. It is also warmer than other roosting grounds. On the Northern part the national butterfly, Bhutanitis ludlowii is found. Even though, it is not in the same site it is still under the same region, she said.
One commonality in the two sites is the Black-necked cranes. They are the flagship species but the designation is not just limited to it, explained Sonam Choden.
Khotokha has marshes with peat bogs fens which are of a very important hydrological value as it acts as water sources. The place does not have much information and it would be interesting to have future studies and researches, she added.
Works would continue in the following years to designate Phobjikha wetland as a Ramsar site.
The high level inter-governmental treaty on wetland, Ramsar Convention was ratified by the government on January 10, 2012 during the 8th session of the Parliament. The treaty recognizes three wetlands including Phobjikha, Khotokha and Bumdeling which are all winter grounds for the Black- necked Cranes as Ramsar sites.
Bhutan’s membership shall be fully matured by Sept. 4th 2012 and will be declared as a contracting party to the Ramsar Secretariat if the proposed areas fulfill the Ramsar Criteria for designation.
To get a site approved by Ramsar it has to go through a lot of procedures and the Ramsar Information Sheet has to be prepared. It includes 34 broad information on the site of which mapping is a very important component. Also there are nine (six of which are pertinent to Bhutan) Ramsar criteria through which it would be known whether the wetland is unique, if it supports vulnerable species and is eligible to be part of the Ramsar list of wetlands.
The convention is dedicated to conserve the wetlands in lieu of the water birds and wetland bio-diversity, she said.