Bhutan takes on world’s largest climate change project

12 Jun 2014

Paro:  The government together with UNDP convened the Inception Meeting for the world’s largest climate change adaptation project. The project “Addressing the Risks of Climate-induced Disasters through Enhanced National and Local Capacity for Effective Actions”, aims at responding to immediate and urgent climate change adaptation needs. The key objective is to build national, local and community resilience in the face of natural disasters.

Ugyen Tshewang, Secretary of the National Environment Commission in his opening statement articulated, “If adaptation needs are not addressed in a timely manner, it will only increase risks and higher costs in the long run.” He added that Bhutan cannot remain unguarded from climate induced disasters, recalling the 1994 and 2001 flashfloods and more recently the rising number of forest fires.

Hideko Hadzialic, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative said, “The first National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) project achieved lowering of the Thorthormi Lake by more than five metres and established the early warning system in Punakha and Wanduephodrag reducing the risks from glacial lake outburst floods.” She added that the second NAPA project will be another success, making Bhutan further known as a top leader in the area of climate change induced risk adaptation.

Karma L. Rapten, Head of UNDP’s Environment and Disaster Management Unit said, “The project has been screened through UNDP’s Environmental and Social Screening tool to assess both the positive and negative impacts of the activities under the project and all precautionary measures have been adopted. An environment impact assessment will be conducted for project activities that are likely to pose social and environmental impacts.”

Karma Tshering, Director of the Department of Hydromet Services said, “There is no development sector in the country that is not impacted by climate change.” He also highlighted that Bhutan’s development is dependent on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, hydropower and forestry which are also the most impacted sectors during disasters. The country is facing changing weather patterns defined by rainy seasons, increased forest fires and windstorms, all of which pose a threat to people’s livelihoods and the economy.

The project will focus on effective measures to reduce flood and landslide risks in Phuentsholing and the neighboring industrial estate of Pasakha. Consequently it will build community resilience by designing and building systems for water harvesting, storage and distribution in selected villages. The project is also expected to improve the quality, analysis and dissemination of real time climate information to respond to extreme weather events. This will involve expanding and upgrading the network of meteorological stations for real-time weather observation and forecasting, and strengthening the National Weather and Flood Forecasting and Warning Center.

The project is funded through the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), administered by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) with an investment of US $ 11,491,200 (Nu. 712,454,400).

The project will be implemented by eight implementing partners from different government sectors, the Phuentsholing Thromde and Tarayana Foundation and will be coordinated by the National Environment Commission Secretariat (NECS).  UNDP will provide technical and advisory support as well as assist in the management and oversight of the project during the implementation period (2014-2017).
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