FAO supports climate-resilient water resource projects

…in preparation for designing a climate-resilient water resource project

STAFF REPORTER | Thimphu

To mainstream climate change in Bhutan’s water sector, feasibility studies in the six eastern dzongkhags has begun on 16 November from Pema Gatshel Dzongkhag.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) project titled “Building Climate Resilient Water Resources in Bhutan (BCRWR)” aims to improve the climate resilient basin-management and adaptive resilience of the people and communities in six eastern dzongkhags.

The project through the National Water Flagship Program (NWFP) is supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in collaboration with the government.

The project will be implemented in Lhuentse, Mongar, Pema Gatshel, Samdrup Jongkhar, Trashigang, and Trashi Yangtse along the Drangmechhu river basin, and the national capacity to scale up river basin management across the country.

Following the initial scoping mission for the project held virtually in March this year, a joint FAO-RGoB project-scoping mission was conducted in May in all six dzongkhags and identified preliminary locations of the proposed interventions, including climate rationale for the project leading to the project concept note, which will be submitted to the GCF secretariat.

The project is designed to put in place processes and capacities to incorporate changing climatic conditions into sector investment planning and the design of infrastructure and nature-based solutions, strengthening the adaptive capacity of particularly vulnerable people and communities.

Besides, the project intends to pave way for successful up-scaling of investments across all of Bhutan’s river basin and catchments.

The project is also designed for national-level planning and information, basin-level interventions, watershed-level interventions, and support to communities to adapt to the impact of climate change.

Over the last 10 years, of 6,555 water sources in the country, 2,317 or 35 percent were drying up while 147 were reported as dried up, according to the survey by the Department of Forest and Park Services (DoFPS), Ministry of Forests and Agriculture (MoAF) in 2019.

FAO Bhutan in its press release mentioned that the situation is alarming because most watersheds in Bhutan are in stable condition with strong vegetation and forest coverage (over 70 percent).

“The declining discharge cannot, therefore, be linked to the degradation of catchments, as they are often associated with elsewhere in the world,” it stated.

It states that rapidly expanding farm roads have certainly disturbed the hydraulic gradient of aquifers, resulting in the shifting of spring locations and altering recharge conditions, but they do not change the overall water balance of the area nor the total recharge volumes available.

“There is strong evidence that climate change is affecting the hydrology of springs and is a key driver of diminishing water resources,” it stated.

The assessment will confirm the project activities and location based on the outputs of the scoping mission and in alignment with the water flagship program, and assessment of spring sheds to identify watershed issues and spring shed recharge and management interventions.

It will also assess risks and mitigation measures for environmental and social safeguards to prepare environmental social safeguards, and discuss institutional arrangements for project implementation and management.

Following the assessment, FAO will prepare and submit a full funding proposal worth about USD 36.1 million to the GCF secretariat. 

GCF proposal is supported by FAO investing USD 358,000 for project preparation and USD 134,000 for preparing climate rationale by Deltares, an independent knowledge institute for applied research in the field of water and subsurface based in the Netherlands.

The feasibility studies will end on 6 December 2022 with a national stakeholder workshop in Thimphu.

The next phase of the project preparation will be the feasibility assessment in the selected gewogs and dzongkhags.

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