THIMPU: The three regional member countries of International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) – Bhutan, India and Nepal – have agreed on an initiative for a new transboundary landscape.

Under the initiative, an area of about 16,000 sq-km covering parts of eastern Nepal, Sikkim and northern parts of West Bengal in India, and western Bhutan will become part of the Kangchenjunga Landscape, one of the seven transboundary areas identified by ICIMOD in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region.

The decision was formalised at the initiative’s second experts’ consultation held on April 16-18 in Thimphu, Bhutan.

Based on the concept and timeframe decided at the first experts’ consultation held in August 2012 in Gangtok, Sikkim, the three countries prepared feasibility assessment reports, which were shared at the meeting. “The participatory and consultative process followed during the preparation of Feasibility Assessment reports by the member countries are encouraging steps towards transboundary cooperation,” director of programme operations at ICIMOD Eklabya Sharma, said, expressing satisfaction over the progress made at the consultation and noted that all three countries have given their full commitment for the preparatory phase of the Kangchenjunga Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative.

The consultation was organised by the Department of Forest and Park Services, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Royal Government of Bhutan and ICIMOD with support from German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)/Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Austrian Development Agency (ADA).

More than 40 representatives of government and non-governmental organisations participated in the consultation.

During the opening session, secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Bhutan Dasho Sherab Gyaltshen launched a book ‘An integrated assessment on effects of natural and human disturbance on a wetland ecosystem: A retrospective from Phobjikha Conservation Area, Bhutan’. The book is the result of collaborative and multidisciplinary work from ICIMOD and Royal Society for Protection of Nature, Bhutan.

Various representatives emphasised the importance of the initiative during the event. “The challenges of biodiversity conservation and management in the landscape can only be addressed if all three countries cooperate at various levels from local to bilateral to regional scales,” said Dasho Sherab Gyaltshen. “The Royal Government of Bhutan is committed to the initiative.”

Likewise, joint secretary at Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation Krishna Acharya, on the occasion pointed out that transboundary cooperation is imperative in the face of the growing human-wildlife conflict as well as increasing evidence that species, like snow leopards, are expanding their habitat range across boundaries.

Joint secretary from the Ministry of Forests and Environment, Government of India, BMS Rathore emphasised the need to adopt participatory approaches and engaging communities in the management of natural resources.

Director at the GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, India PP Dhyani noted that the work around Mount Kangchenjunga ‘already provides substantial scientific information, and the second regional consultation is a good start for long-term cooperation among the countries.’

Likewise, director general at the Department of Forest and Park Services, Bhutan Chencho Norbu reiterated the need for greater focus on practical solutions for both conservation and development issues at national and regional levels.

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