MoENR Minister Lyonpo Loknath Sharma

Understanding the new Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, its new Water Department and the apparent contradictions between departments

The Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (MoENR) comprises five departments, including a brand-new one called the Department of Water that combines the management of water resources responsibilities from other agencies. The other departments are the Department of Geology and Mines, Department of Energy, Department of Forest and Park Services, and the Department of Environment and Climate Change.

The Civil Service Reform Act of Bhutan 2022 was put into effect on 30 December 2022, by the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC), which reorganized the 10 ministries into nine.

MoENR Lyonpo Loknath Sharma gave an explanation on the need for the new Department of Water.

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma remarked, “Bhutan has a Water Act, and anything relating to water was handled by the former National Environment Commission, with the forest handling some of it, including water management. The Health Ministry handled everything about hygiene and safe water. There was no cohesiveness, in particular.”

“Water has become very important, both now and in the future. We have seen that there is such a waste of water and that it is not properly coordinated. There is a shortage of water. Therefore, to coordinate all of this and take care of water through one agency, that is the rationale for creating the Department of Water,” he added.

When questioned about the departments’ apparent contradictions, such as the Department of Environment and Climate Change’s relationship to the Department of Geology and Mines, the minister said that he does not see any contradictions.

The minister said, “It is supplementary. The Department of Geology and Mines is not a business-oriented agency. The Department of Geology and Mines, not a business, is in charge of mine and mineral exploration in the country as well as resource gap analysis. And then, of course, properly and adequately extracting the minerals.”

Lyonpo said that the main job of the Department of Environment and Climate Change is to keep an eye on the environment. The Department of Environment and Climate Change is not actively involved in any of the mining or quarrying.

The minister said “Their role is also to sustainably see the business prospect and their impact on the environment.”

“The job of the Department of Environment and Climate Change is not only to converse. Their job is not only to control it; it has to go by and by because mining and minerals are also important resources and they must be exploited sustainably,” he added.

The minister said that the Department of Environment and Climate Change and the Department of Forest and Park Services are supposed to harvest minerals that are there in a sustainable way. The minister is optimistic that the economy in Bhutan will never take precedence over the environment, forest, and climate.

The minister said that bringing all the departments together will also address issues with public service delivery.

He said, “Before, one agency used to give the clearance and others did not. The public has to route through so many agencies, and there was a lack of coordination.”

The minister said that Bhutan is a small country, and it is always good to work harmoniously.

He said, “With all the departments together under the ministry of energy and natural resources, the people will understand why we need to conserve and sustainably harvest.”

The Department of Forests and Park Services moved from the former Ministry of Agriculture and Forests to the new ministry, MoENR.

The Department of Environment and Climate Change has replaced the National Environment Commission Secretariat (NECS). The department will serve as the National Environment Commission’s Secretariat. 

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