Paro, Bhutan, 23 November 2011. Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho, Honourable Minster, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Royal Government of Bhutan, inaugurated the ICIMOD Bhutan Partners’ Day with a Marchang Ceremony this morning at Hotel Zhiwaling, Paro, Bhutan.
ICIMOD - the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development – is a regional knowledge development and learning centre based in Kathmandu, Nepal, which serves the eight regional member countries of the Hindu Kush-Himalayas: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. The Partners’ Day highlighted collaborative work between ICIMOD and its partners in Bhutan, which include both governmental agencies (the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests and the Ministry of Economic Affairs) and a non-governmental partner, the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN).
Following the Partner’s Day, for the next two days, ICIMOD Support Group, Programme Advisory Committee, and Board of Governors will conduct their Annual Meetings in Paro.
In his inaugural address, the Honourable Minister drew attention to the need for the countries of the Hindu Kush-Himalayas to work together on pressing issues of relevance to the whole region, notably the challenges of climate change. He also emphasised the importance of subregional analysis and cooperation to cope with these concerns. “ICIMOD provides great opportunities for member country partners to gain exposure to new technologies, methodologies, and practices in the regional context”, he said, noting that he himself had been one of the beneficiaries.
Dr Andreas Schild, Director General of ICIMOD, said that the main objective of the Bhutan Partners’ Day was to enable ICIMOD’s partners in Bhutan to present their work and share it with ICIMOD’s governing bodies and others. The partners are engaged in a host of collaborative activities in Bhutan in such areas as conservation of medicinal and aromatic plants, ecotourism, rangeland conservation, biodiversity conservation, flood management, glacial monitoring, assessment of the environmental and socio-economic impact of climate change, and geographical information systems and remote sensing. “Bhutan has been a very good testing ground for ICIMOD, especially on topics of biodiversity and ecotourism”, Dr Schild noted. “It is vital to address the balance between conservation and development”, he added. “The countries of the region have large protected areas – about 39 percent of the total area of the Hindu Kush-Himalayas – which means that their ecosystem services have to be valuated and local communities compensated for their contributions. Otherwise it will be a great challenge to keep these areas protected.”
Prior to the week’s meeting, participants visited current and proposed collaborative project sites in Bhutan including the Common Facility Centre at Bjee Zam; the Ugyen Wangchuk Institute for Conservation and Environment, Wangchuk Centennial Park, Beekepers Association, and Milk Processing Centre in Bumthang; and the black-necked crane conservation centre operated by RSPN at Phobjikha.