Bhutan is a small, land locked country located in the fragile eastern Himalayan ecosystem for which climate change is not just an environmental problem but a serious challenge to sustainable development and the livelihoods of its people. However, the environment in Bhutan is one of most pristine in Asia with clean air, water and primeval forest. Around 70 per cent of the country is forested (much of it primary forests), and approximately 80 per cent of the country’s population depends on subsistence farming for their livelihoods (RGB, 2006). Bhutan’s hydropower production—much of which it exports to India—is described as the backbone of the country’s economy, and there are early concerns that this resource may be adversely impacted by climate change (RGB, 2008).
With high growth rates in population, unchecked rural to urban migration, increased population density in the towns and cities, rapid increases in imports of cars, and rising demand for fuel wood, roads and building construction, the future suggests many negative effects on environmental assets, which can further expose the population to climate change vulnerabilities. Some of Bhutan's adaptation projects include: a disaster management strategy, a weather forecasting system, landslide management and flood prevention and community-based forest fire management and prevention.
Bhutan’s development is highly dependent on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, hydropower, and forestry. The most significant impact of climate change in Bhutan is the formation of supra-glacial lakes due to the accelerated retreat of glaciers with increasing temperatures. The risk of potential disasters inflicted by Glacial Lakes Outburst Floods (GLOFs), which pose new threats to lives, livelihoods and development, is mounting as the water levels in several glacier lakes approach critical geostatic thresholds. Although current disaster management policies, risk reduction, and preparedness plans in Bhutan are able to address recurrent natural hazards in the country, they are not yet prepared to deal with the new GLOF threat. Bhutan’s entire northern region has glacier/snow-fed lakes near its mountaintops. With a majority of Bhutan’s population and infrastructure development concentrated in large river valleys, climate-induced GLOFs could cause significant human and economic devastation. Rising mean temperature, attributed to climate change, are the main cause of glacial retreat and are correlated with faster rates of glacier melt. The result is that glaciers in Bhutan are receding at a rate of almost 30-60 meters per decade. The melting ice from these receding glaciers is increasing the volume of water in glacial lakes, and the melting of ice-cored dams is destabilizing them, pushing the hazard risk for GLOFs to critical levels.
- Drought combined with more frequent lightning may cause greater risk of forest fires;
- Possible loss of endemic plant and animal species;
- Change in migratory pattern of transboundary wildlife, which may result in loss/degradation of forest ecosystems and reduction of alpine range lands; and
- Possible increase in vector-borne disease in wildlife due to warming.
- Possible crop yield instability, loss of production and quality (due to variable rainfall, temperature, etc.), decreased water availability for crop production, and increased risk of extinction of already threatened crop species (traditional crop varieties);
- Loss of soil fertility due to erosion of top soil and runoff; loss of fields due to flash floods; and loss of soil and nutrients;
- Crop yield loss (flowers & fruit drop) to hailstorms; deteriorated produce quality (fruit & vegetables) due to unanticipated heavy rains and hailstorms;
- Delayed sowing (late rainfall), as well as damage to paddy and potato crops due to sudden early and late spring frost respectively; and
- Outbreak of pests and diseases in fields and during storage where they were previously unknown.
- Debris-covered glaciers forming huge moraine dam lakes that ultimately lead to GLOFs (i.e. flash floods and landslides, heavy siltation of the rivers, and other geotechnical hazards);
- GLOF will affect “essential” infrastructure, namely: (1) Hydropower systems (generation plants, transmission and distribution infrastructure), Bhutan’s main export product; (2) industrial estates/infrastructure; (3) Human settlements: urban, suburban and rural settlements; (4) Historical and cultural monuments: dzongs, monasteries, chortens, etc.; and (5) Public utilities: roads, bridges and communication systems
- Temporal & spatial variation in flow, notably affecting electricity production/exports due to disruption of average flows for optimum hydropower generation;
- Increased sedimentation of rivers, water reservoirs and distribution network, affecting notably irrigation schemes’ productivity/ agricultural crop yields;
- Reduced ability of catchment areas to retain water/increased runoffs with enhanced soil erosion (deterioration of environment); and
- Deterioration of (drinking) water quality.
- Loss of life from frequent flash floods, GLOF and landslides;
- Spread of vector-borne tropical disease (malaria, dengue) into more areas (higher elevations) with warming climate; and
- Loss of safe (drinking) water resources increasing water borne diseases.
Islam, Faisal; Hove, Hilary; Parry, Jo-Ellen. (2011) “Review of Current and Planned Adaptation Action: South Asia.” Adaptation Patnership/International Institute for Sustainable Development, pp.75-85
Infographic summarising results of the project 'Addressing the Risks of Climate Induced Disasters in Bhutan through Enhanced National and Local Capacity for Effective Actions' (NAPA-II)
Infographic summarising results of the project 'Addressing the Risks of Climate Induced Disasters in Bhutan through Enhanced National and Local Capacity for Effective Actions' (NAPA-II), 2014-2018
This briefing on the process to formulate and implement the National Adaptation Plan in Bhutan considers firstly the country context and the climate change risks. The groundwork for supporting the NAP is considered, covering the policy, planning and budgetary framework, priority adaptation sectors in NDC, climate assessments, the implementation of adaptation actions and plans thus far. The briefing contains a timeline of the Bhutan NAP process. Challenges, successes and opportunities are also discussed.
The 'Enhancing Sustainability and Climate Resilience of Forest and Agricultural Landscape and Community Livelihoods in Bhutan' project (2017-2023) will operationalize an integrated landscape approach in Bhutan by strengthening biological corridors, supporting sustainable forest and agricultural systems, and building the climate resilience of community livelihoods.
The project addresses concerns regarding the adverse impacts of climate change on rural livelihood security and poverty, and the effects of sector-led development practices on the ecological integrity of biodiversity-rich forested landscapes. Bhutan’s renewable natural resource (RNR) sector, which is made up of agriculture, livestock production and forestry forms a significant part of the national economy, as the largest employer with 58 percent of the working population, and with agriculture contributing 16.7 percent to the national economy in 2015. However, the RNR sector is very vulnerable to climate change impacts, which have been increasing as a result of heavy rainfall, drought, frost, hailstorms, windstorms and related land degradation.
In addition to climate-related losses, damage to crops and livestock from wildlife causes major production losses. Bhutan’s biodiversity resources are of regional and global significance and the preservation of intact, forested landscapes through the protected areas network and associated biological corridors is needed to sustain these values. However, climate change impacts and other anthropogenic threats such as land conversion, forest fires, infrastructure development and unsustainable agriculture are placing increasing pressure on biodiversity and the integrity of ecosystems in the country.
The long-term solution envisaged by the project is to ensure the effective climate resilient management of forest areas including biological corridors and adjoining protected areas, securing ecosystem services that underpin livelihoods, local and national development and climate change adaptation (CCA). However, there are several barriers that need to be overcome: 1) Insufficient institutional capacity for integrated landscape management (ILM) and CCA; 2) Insufficient capacity to operationalize the biological corridor system; 3) Limited capacity, awareness and support for building livelihood resilience; and 4) Inadequate knowledge on natural resource status, ecosystem services and resilient livelihood options.
The primary rationale for the selection of the project landscapes in the central belt of the country is based on the need to strengthen the ecological network connecting protected areas in the northern third of the country with those in the centre and south of the country – in other words, biological corridors that generally follow the alignment of river valleys and intervening ridges. This is of great importance for key wildlife species such as the tiger, leopard, snow leopard and elephant with large ranges. In particular, Bhutan is regarded as key source population for the tiger across the Himalayan range and this project will be of great significance in supporting national and global tiger recovery plans.
The project landscapes contain some of the finest representational samples of a continuum of ecosystems, connecting the largely subtropical zone of southern Bhutan and the predominantly sub-alpine/ alpine zone of northern Bhutan. These landscapes, with proper conservation management plans in operation and sustainable livelihoods in practice, will cushion the adverse impacts of climate change to key development sectors and local livelihoods and enhance the ecological resilience to changing climate and associated risks.
The primary global environmental benefits that will be delivered include the mainstreaming of biodiversity and ecosystem service conservation and climate change resilient livelihoods over a landscape of 1,304,958 ha, some 75.3 % of which is under forest cover, 9.7% shrub cover, a mere 1.6% agricultural land (due to the rugged terrain), and the remainder meadows, rocky terrain and snow 13.4%. 176,400 ha lies in the four BCs and 324,405 ha in the three associated PAs, thus totalling 500,805 ha of land within the national protected areas system (including the BCs). This far exceeds the PIF target of 350,000 ha of globally significant landscapes under improved management.
The project’s climate smart agriculture and sustainable land management interventions will target SLM practices in at least 2,000 ha (some 10% of the agricultural land within the project landscapes), and SFM implementation will be supported over at least 100,000 ha of FMUs, LFMP areas and CF areas within the landscapes, in line with the PIF target. Sustainable forest management and forest conservation is anticipated to result in avoided GHG emissions of some 3,578,372tCO2 eq over 10 years, exceeding the PIF target of 3,084,953 tCO2 eq.
The project components can be summarized as follows:
Outcome 1: Enhanced institutional capacity for integrated landscape management (ILM) and climate change resilience: this component will focus on building institutional capacities for ILM as well enhancing climate resilience across rural communities. Specifically, it will incorporate biodiversity conservation objectives and safeguards and climate change concerns in the land use and natural resource use planning and management process, aiming to catalyse an economically and ecologically optimal land use mix and practices in the biological corridors and neighbouring landscapes.
Outcome 2: Biological corridor (BC) governance and management established and demonstrated with management linkage to adjoining PAs: this component will enable the RGoB to operationalize four BCs in the project landscapes through the development of climate-smart conservation management plans and the development of technical capacity and basic infrastructure, including strengthened biological monitoring and law enforcement systems and human-wildlife conflict management interventions to address threats including encroachment and poaching in conjunction with adjoining PAs in the project landscapes.
Outcome 3: Livelihood options for communities are made climate-resilient through diversification, SLM and climate-smart agriculture and supported by enhanced climate-resilient infrastructure: this component supports communities and service providers to enhance climate resilience of livelihoods by optimizing and diversifying production, adding post-production value and improving sustainable access to markets. In addition, it will demonstrate how climate change adaptation and biodiversity conservation as well sustainable forest management objectives can jointly be addressed, creating synergistic impacts for sustainable local development.
Outcome 4: Knowledge management system established to support sustainable management of forest and agricultural landscapes and climate-resilient communities: through this component, the project will ensure that information and knowledge accumulated and produced within the project will be documented and made available for wider communication and dissemination of project lessons and experiences to support the replication and scaling-up of project results.
‘Protect landscapes to protect everything’: Bhutan announces national push for climate resiliency and conservation, UNDP Bhutan, November 11, 2017 Bhutan. As COP23 international climate talks continue in Bonn, Bhutan launches a ground-breaking US$13.9 million Global Environment Facility project 'Enhancing Sustainability and Climate Resilience of Forest and Agricultural Landscape and Community Livelihoods in Bhutan', aimed at enhancing the resilience of communities and protecting the country’s unique and rich biodiversity in the face of a changing climate.
'Enhancing sustainability and climate resilience: UNDP and Gross National Happiness Commission sign Least Developed Countries Fund-financed project' , Kuensel Online, October 31, 2017. The six-year project, until 2023, will focus on creating climate-resilient livelihoods for the communities, effective corridors and improving institutional capacity at national, sub-national and local levels to manage forest and agricultural landscapes sustainably.
'UNDP-GEF to help Bhutan look beyond the climate-environment realm', ReliefWeb, December 14, 2016 - With support from the Global Environment Facility, UNDP and the Least Developed Country Fund, the government of Bhutan is now working to reduce climate change vulnerabilities and sustain community livelihoods and forests. The project will prioritize capacity development for forest and agricultural land management, biological corridor governance, climate-resilient livelihoods, knowledge management and monitoring and evaluation. The Royal Government expressed the project as being timely to deliver results against the Sustainable Development Goals 1 on Poverty, 13 on Climate Change and 15 on Life on Land.
Outcome 1: Enhanced institutional capacity for integrated landscape management (ILM) and climate change resilience
Outcome 2: Biological corridor (BC) governance and management established and demonstrated with management linkage to adjoining PAs.
Outcome 3: Livelihood options for communities are made climate-resilient through diversification, SLM and climate-smart agriculture and supported by enhanced climate-resilient infrastructure.
Outcome 4: Knowledge management system established to support sustainable management of forest and agricultural landscapes and climate-resilient communities.
Brochure - ADAPTING TO CLIMATE CHANGE: Implementing Bhutan’s National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) II Project
The attached brochure gives details on 'What is Climate Change Adaptation?', "What is NAPA?", the Project Rationale for the Bhutan NAPA II Project and details for the Project Activities.
Addressing the Risks of Climate Induced Disasters in Bhutan through Enhanced National and Local Capacity for Effective Actions
The current NAPA II project, Addressing the Risk of Climate-Induced Disasters through Enhanced National and Local Capacity in Bhutan, will address urgent and immediate climate change adaptation needs and leverage co-financing resources from national government, bilateral and other multilateral sources, and the private sector. The project is working to “enhance national, local and community capacity to prepare for and respond to climate induced multi-hazards to reduce potential losses of human lives, national economic infrastructure, livelihood and livelihood assets.”
The USD 11.49 million project is funded by Global Environment Facility/Least Developed Countries Fund, and coordinated by the National Environment Commission Secretariat in partnership with UNDP, Bhutan. The project will safeguard essential economic and livelihood infrastructure in hazard-prone communities and key industrial areas from increasing climate hazards such as floods, landslides, windstorms and forest fire through reducing vulnerability at high-risk areas and increasing adaptive capacity of community-level disaster risk management institutions.
Source: UNDP Bhutan Project Identification Form (May 1, 2012), and the Bhutan NAPA II brochure, June 2015.
The land-locked country of Bhutan is exposed to a wide range of climate change-induced threats, including glacial lake outburst floods - known as ‘GLOFs’ - flash floods and landslides, windstorms, forest fires, and seasonal water shortages (affecting not only people’s consumption but also the viability of livestock and agriculture).
Brochures, Posters, Communications Products
Assessments and Background Documents
Plans and policies of relevance to NAPs for Least Developed Countries (LDCs)
The overarching objective of the project is to increase national, local and community capacity to prepare for and respond to climate-induced multi-hazards to reduce potential losses of human lives, national economic infrastructure, livelihoods and livelihood assets. This objective is fully aligned with the development priorities of the RGoB as set out in Bhutan’s tenth 5-year plan, which is in turn underpinned and guided by the long-term development vision of Gross National Happiness (GNH) and Bhutan 2020: A Vision for Peace, Prosperity and Happiness. Under the four pillars of GNH (i.e. sustainable and equitable socio-economic development; environmental conservation; preservation and promotion of culture; and good governance), the 5-year plan places a strong emphasis, among others, on balanced rural-urban development for poverty alleviation, expansion/maintenance of key economic infrastructure including road infrastructure that connects rural and urban centers, and strengthening of the agricultural sector which continues to employ the majority of Bhutanese and be the backbone of the rural economy.
This project will implement priority interventions addressed in Bhutan's National Adaptation Programme of Actions corresponding to the following objectives, in part or full, as outlined in NAPA profile:
- Disaster management strategy
- Weather forecasting system to serve farmers and agriculture
- Landslide management and flood prevention
- Flood protection of downstream industrial and agricultural area
- Rainwater harvesting
- Promote community-based forest fire management and prevention
Situated on the southern slope of the Eastern Himalayas, Bhutan’s landscape is mountainous and rugged with elevations ranging from 100m in the southern foothills to 7500m towards north. Due to its topography, habitable and arable areas are limited to approximately 8.3% and 2.9%, respectively, of the landmass. Agriculture, which employs 69% of the population and accounts for 78% of monetary income in rural households, and industrial activities are largely practiced in this highly confined space that its topography permits. While Bhutan is in general endowed with abundant water resources from the four major rivers and their tributaries, most of the large rivers are at the bottom of valleys and gorges rendering these rich water resources largely inaccessible for agriculture or domestic use. As a result, irrigation is limited to areas near small perennial streams that exist above main rivers and majority of farmers rely primarily on monsoonal rains, which account for 60-90% of annual precipitation.
Bhutan is one of the most disaster prone countries in the Asia-Pacific region, irrespective of the presence of climate change. The country is exposed to multiple hazards, most prominently flash floods, landslides, windstorms, earthquakes, forest fires, and glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs). In terms of relative exposure to flood risks (as % of population), Bhutan ranks fourth highest in the region. Although the direct human risks of landslides, windstorms, and forest fires are not particularly higher compared to other countries, the socioeconomic repercussions from these events are thought to be high due to the baseline poverty prevalence.
Climate change is likely to magnify the intensity and frequency of these hazards. In fact, according to the International Disaster Database, among the top 10 natural disasters in Bhutan between 1900 to 2012, in terms of the number of casualties and number affected, all of them occurred in the last two decades (except epidemic outbreaks), which makes certain degree of attribution of climate change to the increasing magnitude of such hazards plausible. The most pronounced consequences of climate change in Bhutan are two folds: disruptions in the monsoonal system and increasing/intensifying trends of extreme hydro-meteorological hazards, both of which are obviously closely linked. These disturbances will amplify the socioeconomic challenges for the Bhutanese society, especially in rural areas where the majority of the population is engaged in rain-fed agriculture and rampant poverty makes them least equipped to adapt to creeping changes in climate.
Monsoon rains generally arrive during the summer months (from late June to late September). Downscaled simulations undertaken in Bhutan’s SNC indicate that the mean annual rainfall will increase by 26-30% by 2069 compared to the baseline year of 1980. This increase occurs primarily during the summer monsoon season while the dry winter season rainfall is projected to decline slightly. In addition, accelerated melting of glaciers, which act as a gigantic natural water retention and dispensing mechanism to communities downstream, is disrupting the hydrological regime of the perennial river systems in the region. All in all, climate change will increase the uncertainty of water availability throughout the year, and rural farmers are likely to have to better manage high fluctuation of rainfalls – increasing volume of monsoonal rain so that they can sustain longer dry periods. This poses significant risks to development when built rural infrastructure to alleviate water shortages, such as communal rainwater harvesting, is minimally available.
Source: UNDP Bhutan Project Identification Form (May 1, 2012)
- Outcome 1: Risks from climate-induced floods and landslides reduced in the economic and industrial hub of Bhutan
- Output 1.1: Protection of Pasakha Industrial area from flooding events through riverbank protection, river training and development of flood buffer zones
- Output 1.2: Slope stabilization to reduce climate-induced landslides in the Phuntsholing Township
- Output 1.3: Integrated risk hazard assessment and mapping completed in 4 critical landslide and flashflood prone areas with data collection standards compatible with the national database
- Outcome 2: Community resilience to climate-induced risks (drought, flood, landslides, windstorms, forest fires) strengthened in at least four Dzongkhags
- Output 2.1: Climate-resilient water harvesting, storage and distribution systems designed, built and rehabilitated in at least four Dzongkhags, based on observed and projected changes in rainfall patterns and intensity
- Output 2.2: Community-level water resource inventory completed and maintained by Dzongkhag administration to increase the adaptive capacity of communities in the face of increasing water scarcity
- Output 2.3: Disaster Management Institutions at various levels established and trained in four Dzongkhags to prepare for, and respond to, more frequent and intense floods, storms and wildfire events
- Outcome 3: Relevant information about climate-related risks and threats shared across community-based organizations and planners in climate-sensitive policy sectors on a timely and reliable basis
- Output 3.1: Enhanced quality, availability and transfer of real-time climate data in all Dzongkhags which experience increasing frequency of extreme hydo-meterological events
- Output 3.2: Increased effectiveness of National Weather and Flood Forecasting and Warning Center through improved capacity to analyze, manage and disseminate climate information in a timely manner
Source: UNDP Bhutan Project Identification Form (May 1, 2012)
- Project Inception Workshop: will be held within the first 2 months of project start with those with assigned roles in the project organization structure, UNDP country office and where appropriate/feasible regional technical policy and programme advisors as well as other stakeholders. The Inception Workshop is crucial to building ownership for the project results and to plan the first year annual work plan.
- Day to day monitoring of implementation progress: will be the responsibility of the Project Manager, based on the project's Annual Work Plan and its indicators, with overall guidance from the Project Director. The Project Team will inform the UNDP-CO of any delays or difficulties faced during implementation so that the appropriate support or corrective measures can be adopted in a timely and remedial fashion.
- Project Progress Reports (PPR): quarterly reports will be assembled based on the information recorded and monitored in the UNDP Enhanced Results Based Management Platform. Risk analysis will be logged and regularly updated in ATLAS.
- Annual Project Review/Project Implementation Reports (APR/PIR): This key report is prepared to monitor progress made since project start and in particular for the previous reporting period (30 June to 1 July). The APR/PIR combines both UNDP and GEF reporting requirements.
Periodic Monitoring through Site Visits:
- UNDP CO and the UNDP RCU will conduct visits to project sites based on the agreed schedule in the project's Inception Report/Annual Work Plan to assess first hand project progress. Other members of the Project Board may also join these visits. A Field Visit Report/BTOR will be prepared by the CO and UNDP RCU and will be circulated no less than one month after the visit to the project team and Project Board members.
Mid-Term of Project Cycle:
- Mid-Term Evaluation: will determine progress being made toward the achievement of outcomes and will identify course correction if needed. It will focus on the effectiveness, efficiency and timeliness of project implementation; will highlight issues requiring decisions and actions; and will present initial lessons learned about project design, implementation and management. Findings of this review will be incorporated as recommendations for enhanced implementation during the final half of the project’s term.
End of Project:
- Final Evaluation: will take place three months prior to the final Project Board meeting and will be undertaken in accordance with UNDP and GEF guidance. The final evaluation will focus on the delivery of the project’s results as initially planned (and as corrected after the mid-term evaluation, if any such correction took place). The final evaluation will look at impact and sustainability of results, including the contribution to capacity development and the achievement of global environmental benefits/goals. The Terminal Evaluation should also provide recommendations for follow-up activities.
- Project Terminal Report: This comprehensive report will summarize the results achieved (objectives, outcomes, outputs), lessons learned, problems met and areas where results may not have been achieved. It will also lie out recommendations for any further steps that may need to be taken to ensure sustainability and replicability of the project’s results.
Learning and Knowledge Sharing:
- Results from the project will be disseminated within and beyond the project intervention zone through existing information sharing networks and forums.
- The project will identify and participate, as relevant and appropriate, in scientific, policy-based and/or any other networks, which may be of benefit to project implementation though lessons learned. The project will identify, analyze, and share lessons learned that might be beneficial in the design and implementation of similar future projects.
- Finally, there will be a two-way flow of information between this project and other projects of a similar focus.