In addition to supporting on-going research on the Black-necked Cranes and White-bellied Herons, RSPN’s Research Program is working to identify and conduct original research in several areas of upmost importance to the Kingdom’s natural heritage. RSPN’s research encompasses concerns such as species, biodiversity, and habitats that will meet the challenges of conservation in contemporary Bhutan. Additionally, this research program also aims to improve the knowledge base on natural resources while developing appropriate tools and models to mitigate degradation.
Under this program, research areas include:
1. Forest resources (including wildlife and plants)
Bhutan’s unique natural heritage includes a rich forest environment teeming with biodiversity. Laying within one of the world’s global hotspots for conservation, Bhutan hosts unique species and will face unique challenges as the country continues to change. Surveys, inventories, and species-specific research on Bhutan’s forest resources are essential steps in ensuring on-going environmental conservation within the Kingdom.
2. Land resources
Research is needed on the geological makeup and raw materials of many areas of great importance to conservation within the Kingdom. From a greater understanding of the natural endowments, RSPN will be able to help recommend policy that will enable Bhutan to meet its goals of conservation as well as economic development.
3. Water and wetland resources
Bhutan has a tremendous amount of inland freshwater resources including glaciers, rivers, streams, and lakes across the country. There are numerous rivers that origins from the glacier across the Himalayas and become the source of livelihoods and for industrial growth of the country. The significance of Bhutan’s water resources cannot be overemphasized as multiple sectors are dependent on it for social and economic development. The fundamental right of individuals to clean water for basic sanitation and survival cannot be overstated in the process of developing water management plans for any entity.
Generally, Bhutan is considered to have abundant water per capita, but there is unequal temporal and spatial distribution across the country. On the one hand, seasonal fluctuations in precipitation is reported to be on the rise; on the other, most settlements cannot access water from its numerous rivers and streams considering Bhutan’s difficult terrain and topography and partly because of lack of technological facilities and services. Therefore, localized water shortages for both drinking and irrigation are common phenomena for much of Bhutan’s 69% rural and agrarian population. Research that focuses on Bhutan’s water and wetlands is therefore a high priority.
As Bhutan’s population changes and rural-to-urban migration intensifies, RSPN will be engaged in studies of air quality to help ensure an on-going balance between economic development and environmental health.
5. Endangered Species
RSPN will continue to research and develop projects related to the preservation of the White-bellied Heron and Black-necked Crane. Additionally, the research program aims to conduct research on the habitats of these species.
6. Climate Change
In the last several years, RSPN has been very active in increasing awareness and capacity on the subject of climate change. In 2010, RSPN participated and organized numerous capacity-building workshops, including a two-day science-policy dialogue on climate change.
Research on climate change will include studies on the impact of climate change impact on biodiversity, extreme weather events, energy, water security, food security, population displacement, health risks, new technologies, and glacial lake outburst floods. RSPN will explore these issues and the linkages between them, the problems they pose as well as potential solutions, and produce policy recommendations and action plans for adaptation
7. Solid Waste Management
The need to reduce solid waste through feasible waste management models that can be replicated across Bhutan is one emerging issue of concern to RSPN. To create a waste management model, RSPN plans to:
- Develop pilot waste management systems for areas accessible by vehicles and remote areas without road access.
- Collaborate with and train local residents to manage the waste management systems.
- Engage relevant stakeholders in adopting the waste management systems.
In 2010, RSPN coordinated with local communities to create a mass-cleaning day and bring waste facilities to the several areas.