Monday, March 21, 2016

Environmental Education, Bhutan

The Royal Government of Bhutan has made a significant commitment to protecting Bhutan’s natural environment by establishing an extensive network of protected areas and biological corridors covering over 51% of the geographical area of the country.  In addition to the protected areas and biological corridors, a nature recreation park has also been established and more nature recreational areas are planned in different parts of the country for conservation, recreation and educational purposes.

Bhutan is home to many internationally recognized threatened species including Bengal Tiger, Red Panda, Snow Leopard and Himalayan Black Bear, yet the integrity of   the country’s natural environment is threatened by forest fires, unsustainable use of natural resources, climate change, habitat loss and fragmentation, changing land use practices, increasing urbanization, human-wildlife conflicts, poaching, and pollution. In order to address these environmental issues, it is essential to gain support and active involvement from a wide range of stakeholders including politicians and other decision-makers, rural and urban communities, householders, students as well as members of the monk body and the armed forces.

This is consistent with the Article 5 of the Constitution of Bhutan, which regards every Bhutanese as a trustee of the Kingdom’s natural resources and regards it as a fundamental duty of every citizen to contribute to the conservation and protection of natural environment and adopt environmental friendly practices and ethos.

Environmental education has been recognized internationally as a way to help people understand the functioning and significance of the ecosystem in which they live, to provide experiences that will assist people develop positive feelings for their natural environment, and inspire them to care for the well-being of their environment. 

Bhutan’s nature recreation areas are recognized as ‘living classrooms’ and are ideal locations for establishing environmental education programs. In fact, environmental education has been identified as an important component of recreational area management in Bhutan and is one of the important mandates of the Nature Recreation and Ecotourism Division under the Department of Forests and Park Services, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests. This Division is the focal agency for facilitating and coordinating environmental education programs in the protected and recreational areas.

In order to promote and strengthen environmental education and nature interpretation in the country, Nature Recreation and Ecotourism Division uses Royal Botanical Park at Lampelri as a center for excellence in the country for environmental education and nature interpretation due to its close proximity to the capital city Thimphu.

At present, there is a lack of strategic environmental education programs in the recreational and protected areas of Bhutan for both formal and non-formal audiences. The development of a strategic environmental education master plan would ensure environmental education in Bhutan’s protected areas, biological corridors and recreational parks. Nature Recreation and Ecotourism Division has prepared as a discussion paper which require discussion with all park managers, relevant departmental staff and government organizations.

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