First ever water park plan along the riverfront sparks objection from conservationists

The Druk Water World’s plan to establish the first ever water sporting recreational center along the riverfront in Wangdue led to conservationists, expressing their astonishment and complete disapproval of such plans.

Tshering Tobgay, the founder of Birds of Bhutan—a social forum actively engaged in conservation and scientific research of bird species in the country—was one among others to voice out his concerns on the plan. The Birds of Bhutan was launched in 2015.

“The stretch between Khuruthang under Punakha and Bajothang under Wangdue Dzongkhag is well known to conservationists in the country for the presence of diverse bird species and other wildlife. The stretch along the Punatshangchhu is an aquatic habitat that provides food, water, shelter, and space essential for the survival of aquatic animals and birds. Such a plan is of great concern, especially for the bird conservationists in the country,” said Tshering Tobgay.

He said that the aquatic lives inhabiting along the Punatshangchhu River are already being impacted with the construction of two mega hydro projects and an operational sand dredging site in the area. The proposed plan of establishing a water sports center in the area will further degrade the habitat, said Tshering Tobgay.

According to Tshering, as per the data maintained by Birds of Bhutan, the area is known to host more than 100 bird species and host 70 percent of water bird species found in Bhutan.

“It is important habitat for winter migratory birds to Bhutan and the area is a flyway corridor for trans-boundary migratory water bird species. Just within a few years, three new bird species— Oriental Pratincole, Whiskered Tern, and the Common Goldeneye were sighted for the first time in Bhutan,” said Tshering.

Of all such concerns, the gravest has been on the globally threatened bird species found in the area such as critically endangered White-bellied Heron, Vulnerable Black-necked Crane, and Common Pochard, Endangered Pallas’s Fish Eagle, and the Near Threatened (NT) listed bird species like Northern Lapwing, River Lapwing, Eurasian Curlew and Ferruginous Duck that are also found around that area. Other wildlife species found in the area include Smooth Coated Otter that is also listed as vulnerable species, and Indian Wolf said Tshering Tobgay.

“There is a need to conduct thorough Environmental Impact Assessment for the project as and when the proposal will be put forth given that the area is the key habitat of bird species and other wildlife in the area,” said Tshering Tobgay.

Similar views were echoed by others some of who came on the article link on facebook to comment.

Kinga Tshering, project adviser, said that the water park center going to be established as a small scale cottage industry investment.

“If we have such services in the country, we don’t have to go to Siliguri and Bangkok anymore to enjoy water parks. Imagine the millions of savings for the nation and dozens of job creation for our youth.  On the concerns -Yes, eco-system will be our priority. However, this is not a bird habitat area – the area where we plan to establish the recreational center is sandwiched by PHPA hospital and Dzongkhag Colony (West), Bajo Town (East), Tshokona, NRDCL Sand collection (upstream North) and NRDCL Sand Dredging (downstream-South),” said Kinga Tshering.

More importantly, Kinga Tshering emphasized that they are looking at operating 3 paddle boats and ten tents with an investment of around Nu10 mn for water sports, which, he said would be small, safe and sound. We are planning to put up tents and are not even building structures there,” said Kinga Tshering.

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