Developmental activities has picked up its full pace in our country particularly during the 10th Five Year Plan. As mega projects like the commencement of biggest hydroelectric projects like the Punatsangchhu I and II, Mangdechhu and of course the upcoming 4,060 MW Sankosh project, estimated to cost more than Nu 210B, not only Bhutan’s target of harnessing 10,000 MW power by 2020 would be fulfilled but also there will be a creation of many jobs, thus reducing the unemployment rate. The government would be generating millions of revenue and the rural livelihood would also be greatly enhanced, thus achieving the Gross National Happiness.
But the other side of the coin is that by commencing such mega projects, not only the local populations dwelling by the sites are affected by the dislocation of their homes and abandonment of their age old practiced farm lands but also there is a great threat to the depletion of forest resources. Somehow the local populations get compensated either in terms of cash or kind but the diversity of species threatened by such move left uncompensated.
Just for an instance the construction of Sankosh project would be affecting one-third of Dagana’s population (9,356 people out of about 25,070) living in eight gewogs. Besides around 5,900.70 hectares of forest land would be submerged which will pose threats to 250 species of plants and trees, including 58 species of medicinal plants and four rare species of plants. Fourteen species of mammals, such as Assamese macaque and evidence of Asian elephants, sambar, sloth bear and golden langur, 86 species of butterflies, and 21 species of fish were also found by the site during the study. This would mean there would be great threat to the biodiversity if precautious measures are not undertaken.
Biodiversity loss is one of the world’s most pressing crises with many species declining to critical levels. If not taken care there are great chances of extinction of endemic species of plants and animals which are affected by the developmental activities in our country as well. Once the species shift its risk level from one category to another (near threatened to vulnerable, vulnerable to endangered, and so on) their risk of extinction become higher.
Biodiversity remains the visible and invisible basis for human existence. All human beings are dependent on biodiversity for their wellbeing. Their material, social and cultural well-being is founded on the rich biodiversity of our nation. The belief that unseen spirits live everywhere- in earth and on trees, skies and water, rocks, forests and valleys and even in the ground under our feet, has indeed helped in conservation of our biodiversity by the local populations. Moreover people are entirely dependent on the natural forest for all the basic necessities and have always sustained the resources so loss in biodiversity means population living in poor economic conditions are particularly vulnerable as they depend on primary food and fuel sources for their livelihoods.
Therefore before the commencement of such developmental activities there is a need to adopt the conservation measures for our rich biodiversity so as to maintain our nation as one of the biological hotspots throughout the years to come. This could be achieved by strictly adhering to our already implemented national legislations and multi-lateral environmental agreements. This would mean the meeting of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generation thus representing the new synthesis of economic development and environmental protection.