NA passes bill for effective conservation and management of natural resources

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Chimi Dema

On June 24, the National Assembly (NA) passed the Bhutan Forest and Nature Conservation Bill 2021 with 38 “Yes”, and two “No” and two abstentions.

Environment and Climate Change Committee Chairman Gyem Dorji said the law, which was enacted in 1995, has not been amended for more than two decades.

“During these years, the Forest Department has been guided by executive orders and notifications, which have been incorporated into rules, regulations and guidelines,” he said.

The law, he added, contradicts the Constitution, the Penal Code and legislations such as the Land, Mines and Minerals and Water Acts.

“The amendment would give synchronicity to all these laws,” Gyem Dorji said.

The law allows the government to declare any protected area while Article 5 of the Constitution allows Parliament to declare the area.

The law overlaps with Bhutan’s Mines and Minerals Management Act 1995 on the power to regulate surface gathering.

In the bill, forest products include trees, timber, non-forest products, wildlife, peat and soil, while the law included boulders, stones, sand, gravel and rocks. listed in the Mines and Minerals Act.

A statement report on the law indicates that the contradiction with other laws has caused practical problems for implementers and people. “Additionally, managers on the ground are also challenged to not have clear procedural guidance to guide them during the implementation and enforcement process.”

The report states that the law does not cover some of the aspects of forest protection and conservation such as watershed management, management of private forests, provisions for the establishment and regulation of the industry wood, waste management in classified state forests and soil and water management. .”

The House Environment and Climate Change Committee introduced the bill to the National Assembly on June 10 and made 134 recommendations.

The amendment enables the sustainable use and management of forests for the benefit of the people.

According to article 119 of the draft law, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry must adopt and implement innovative measures based on science, research and technology to prevent and mitigate conflicts between the Human and Wildlife (HWC).

In addition, Article 120 stipulates that the government must institutionalize appropriate measures with compensation to remedy the damage caused by wildlife to people, property, crops and livestock.

Gyem Dorji said that the ministry as prescribed by the rules only has one strategy to fight against HCWs and with the amendment of the law, the ministry will institute appropriate measures to fight against HWCs which will benefit To the population.

Thanks to the amendment, technologies such as drones would be used to assess HWCs.

The amendment of the law charges the government to compensate the losses of the farmers.

Introducing some relaxation, the amendment to the law states that the setting of snares or snares may be permitted on farmland to protect crops, livestock, private property and threat to human life.

The change in the law does not allow the allocation of wood from critical ecological sites, areas prone to landslides, risks of damage to roads and bridges, and important heritage sites and monuments.

Some sections that were repealed related to the seizure and release of livestock used to transport illegal forest products; the allocation of timber from forest lands reserved by the State; and the confiscation of any vehicle, equipment or machine used in the commission of forest offences, among others.

The House also repealed sections of the bill that were already in Bhutan’s Penal Code.

According to Article 56 of the bill, members of the community forest management group are limited to the use and management of trees and non-timber forest products and have no ownership rights over land, water resources, soil, sand, stone, rocks and river bed. materials in the community forest.

The bill has been sent to the National Council for deliberation.

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