Eco-tourism for Conservation and Development of
Phobjikha Valley, Under Wangduephodrang District in
A. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
The merging of tourism with ecology represents an opportunity for the symbiotic
relationship that can benefit both. Tourism provides ecology with an opportunity to
develop new audiences, not only to understand and appreciate their values but also
generate additional revenue. Similarly the ecology provides tourism with new product
offering, one that has substantial market.
Trend to blend the bests of the tourism and the ecology/or culture therefore has been
foreseen as the best tourism strategy in the present world of tourism industry. This trend
is even faster in developing countries, many of which can offer what (between 40% to
60% of) tourists are looking for, natural “untouched areas”.
Given such scenario, Bhutan possesses immense potential to become one of the best
tourist destinations because of it treasure of natural environment (72% of the land still
under pristine forest cover). Today, the country has been identified as one of the ten bio-
diversity hot spots in the world. Its eco-systems harbour‟s some of the most exotic
species of the eastern Himalayas with an estimated 770 species of birds and over 50
species of rhododendron, besides an astonishing variety of medical plants and orchids.
Despite tourist pressure the Royal Government has been very successful in its pursuit to
preserve its natural heritage intact through the adoption of the policy of low volume high
value tourism. Now the country is at the process of development of the long-term eco-
tourism policy to supplement the present policy and add newer dimensions to the tourism
industry. The newer dimensions include a new slogan “ high value low impact”, which
more clearly explains Bhutan‟s determinedly cautious “ product led” and “ values-led”
approach to tourism development. It also includes promotion of equal benefit sharing
among the tourism stakeholders, on-site community participation and raising capacity of
the stakeholders on the conservation of the destinations‟ natural heritage.
In order to realize the concept of the eco-tourism a pilot project is proposed at Phobjikha.
Phobjikha has been chosen because of the following facts: 1) Officially declared
conservation area; 2) Valley is the winter home of the endangered Black Necked Crane;
3) it is close (one day drive) to capital city, Thimphu; 4) valley is potentially rich in a
variety of unique natural resources (landscape, cultural monuments and flora and fauna);
5) it is already a important tourist destination, receiving about 1000 tourists annually and
6) the site is already experiencing some activities on Integrated conservation
development programme (ICDP) initiated in 1999, by RSPN.
Organizational Background and Capacity.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN) was established in 1987. Over the
years, it has evolved as a complementary partner to the Royal Government in its
endeavours to conserve Bhutan‟s rich natural resource base. The organization started its
work with the annual monitoring of the rare and endangered black-necked cranes that
come to winter in Bhutan. Financial support from WWF–US, Macarthur Foundation and
the Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation has enabled RSPN to develop
itself into a legal non profit NGO that implements diverse environmental programmes
throughout the country. Its conservation strategies now include awareness building,
environmental education, species conservation and promoting alternatives to solve
environmental problems. A nine member Board of Directors regulates RSPN‟s
management and an Executive Director that reports to the board heads the organization
The patronage of His Royal Highness, the Crown Prince of Bhutan coupled with a team
of twelve dedicated staff make RSPN a transparent, accountable and experienced
organization that has gained credible experience in addressing environmental issues at
various levels of the society.
RSPN is a member driven organization, with over 3000 members who primarily consist
of students, trainees and professionals. Members are affiliated to RSPN either through
"nature clubs" which function within institutions such as schools, training institutes and
colleges; or through "support groups" which function at the district level, and are more
involved with community participation in conservation activities. In some Districts these
two groups work together to bridge the gap between communities, institutions and
Government in collaborative efforts.
RSPN is also involved in Conservation education at the community level within the
Royal Manas National Park. RSPN is responsible for environmental awareness activities
within the park, which is implemented through the holding of workshops and meetings
with different communities to engender ideas of sustainable resource management.
It has been identified that RSPN must not only be involved in awareness and education,
but also offer practical alternative to solve environmental problems. The work in Manas
has shown that there is ample potential within RSPN to implement conservation
programs at the grass roots level. Counting and monitoring of the rare and endangered
black-necked cranes was the first activity RSPN was involved in This was further
enhanced, when in 1997 collaboration with the International Crane Foundation (ICF)
enabled RSPN to embark on a scientific research to find out their migratory routes. The
desire to offer practical alternatives mentioned earlier led RSPN to carry out an in-depth
socio-economic survey of the Phobjikha valley during 1997/98. The survey focused on
people' attitude towards the Black Necked Cranes, and their links with peoples‟ economic
and development needs. A community program aimed at promoting the black-necked
crane conservation as well as the local economy has now been initiated. A committee
comprising of representatives of the Gangtey, Phobji, Bjena and Sephu communities of
Phobjikha, together with representatives from the monk body, the school, and the
agriculture, animal husbandry and forestry sectors has been formed. The committee
receives active participation from its members and support from the local communities in
the Phobjikha valley that it represents. It was these Committee members together with
RSPN staff, who jointly organized the first Black Necked Crane festival in November
RSPN is well placed to implement the proposed activities. RSPN has had a long
association with the communities in the Phobjikha valley during which our capacity for
Biodiversity conservation has grown and our partnership with the communities
strengthened. RSPN has experienced and trained staff with backgrounds In Agriculture,
Environmental Education, Geography, taxonomy, avifauna and forestry.
Developments in the work of RSPN in Phobjikha as outlined are being matched by
initiatives in other areas particularly in Environmental Education. The affording of legal
status to RSPN as a non-profit organization has been a particularly encouraging recent
development. RSPN has also recently undertaken a strategic planning exercise to evaluate
it's past performance to help to look forward to the next five years. Resulting from this
exercise, RSPN's mission has become "to inspire personal responsibility and actively
involve the people of Bhutan in the conservation of the Kingdom's environment through
education, applied research and information dissemination; and collaboration with
concerned agencies and indigenous institutions".
The Strategic plan sets out the following goals:
Goals 1 Become a catalyst in promoting positive attitudes and self-sustaining
citizens" action to conserve Bhutan's rich environmental heritage.
Goals 2 Become an efficient, effective and financially self-reliant conservation
Goals 3 Become a major resource for information on Bhutan's environment.
To support its activities RSPN receives inputs from various sources, with the Bhutan
Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation (BTFEC) and WWF - Bhutan Program being
the two major donors of RSPN. Besides Macarthur Foundation, RSPN has also received
grants from various other donors in the past such as JICA (Japan), GEF (UNDP) and
SNV (Netherlands) to name a few. RSPN also has close connections with the
International Crane Foundation based at Baraboo (WI, USA) from whom it receives
mostly technical support for its Black necked crane (BNC) Program.
For this Project, It is proposed here that the Conservation and Development unit of the
Society will implement the project with support from the Phobjikha Conservation Area
Program Committee and other program staff of the society.
Below please find the details of the core staff for the proposed project and the support
SL. No. Name of staff with designation Qualification
1. Jigme Tobgay, Conservation and B.A. (Hons) in Geography.
Development Coordinator (CS))
2. Dago Tshering, Field officer (CS) Diploma in Forestry
3. Mr. Tashi Penjor, Administration and Diploma in accounting and
Finance Coordinator (SS) auditing
4. Miraj Pradhan, Publicity officer, (SS) B.SC/M.A in Sociology
5. Mincha Wangdi, Environment Post Graduate in Environmental
Education Coordinator (SS) Education
6. Ugyen Lhendup, Environmental Graduate in Primary Teaching
Education Ofiicer (SS)
6. Chenning Doji, Driver (SS) Driver
7. Sonam Jamtsho office assistant (SS) ICSE (class X) pass.
CS: Core staff of the Project.
SS: Support Staff for the Project.
B. PHOBJIKHA VALLEY- AN OVERVIEW
Bhutan has received international recognition for its commitment to conservation, and
Phobjikha has been an important conservation area for many years. Out of a small
percentage of wetlands (9.97) in the entire kingdom, Phobjikha, located at an altitude of
2900 meters above sea level, in the proximity of the Jigme Singye Wangchuk National
Park under WangduePhodrang district, is the largest and most significant of all wetlands
in the country covering an area of 2,227 hectares. It is an ecologically and biologically
diverse area. It is representative of alpine, wetland and temperate eco-systems. Phobjikha
has been officially declared as a conservation area due to its importance as the largest
wetland habitat for the globally threatened black-necked cranes (grus nigricollis) in the
entire kingdom. Of the estimated global population of 6,000 black-necked cranes, about
500 of them winter in Bhutan. Of the 500, more than 250 black-necked cranes spend their
winter in Phobjikha alone. Besides being known for its status as the winter home of the
globally threatened black-necked cranes, Phobjikha is also known for its beautiful scenic
highland valley with floral and faunal diversity. The climate ranges from moderate
summer to extreme winter of temperature ranging from 200 Celsius in summer to as low
as –12 0 Celsius in winter. Precipitation ranges from 50mm to 300 mm. The hottest and
wettest months coincide with July and January is the coldest month.
Phobjikha is home for the people of six administrative units under the Wangduephodrang
district. There are total of 37 villages of which some households are villages by
themselves. The total population is estimated at 5000 comprising of about 500
households ad an average family size of eight. Most of the population is farmers and
students, comprising about 53% of the total population. Most households migrate out of
the valley to lower areas during winters from November to March, which coincides with
the time when the cranes inhabit the area.
The local people are Buddhists and their reverence for nature has been noted. Local
legend has it that Chu Karp referred to as the wild boar and Chu Nap referred to as the
snake once had a bet. They were to see who reaches first at the point of their present
confluence. The bet was that if Chu Nap reached first, Phobjikha would have the
capability to produce rice and if Chu Karp reached first, Phobjikha would not have the
capability to produce rice. Unfortunately, Chu Karp – the boar rushed down straight to
the point while Chu Nap – the snake was meandering his way through. That‟s the
legendary reason as to why Nakay Chu menders its way through the valley and that
paddy cannot grow in Phobjikha.
The local economy of Phobjikha is agricultural based. Subsistence farmers striving their
way through to catch up with economic development inhabit the valley. The livelihood of
almost all households is based on subsistence agriculture and livestock rearing. Livestock
comprise mainly of sheep, cattle, pigs and poultry. Horses and yaks are also owned by
few of the households. Barter is still prevalent amongst the non-migrating residents who
barter cane products for rice and chili from people of lower altitudes. Potato is the most
important cash crop of the valley. About 86.3% of the households depend on potato as
the main source of income. A recent survey revealed that some 30% of the 234
households secured loans or borrowed money. Poor subsistence farmers borrow money
from local sources at higher interest rates.
Whilst the level of economic activity in the valley is limited, there is plenty of scope of
improving the living standards of the community. The valley is endowed with many
qualities that make it attractive for tourism. Besides the Cranes and the natural setting of
the valley, it is also the starting point of the popular Gangtey- Gogona trek. There is an
important monastery in the valley and this makes it a special cultural attraction for local
visitors due to its significant historical background. It is becoming an increasing
attraction for international tourists as well. At average about 1, 300 tourist visit the valley
(Bhutan has only about 7000 tourist a year) with most staying in the valley for only a
night and some making day visits only due to low level of infrastructure in the valley.
C. THE CHALLENGE
The Trans- Himalayan region shared by Bhutan, China, India and Myanmar is a region of
substantial biodiversity. Modern development and its threat to the survival of the rich
biological resources have alerted and put Bhutan on the track of careful development.
This has enabled Bhutan to be a safe heaven for the rare and endangered black-necked
cranes that come to winter in Bhutan. Phobjikha in western Bhutan and Bomdeling in the
east are the two major winter habitats of these cranes. The Black Neck Cranes have
always been a part of the scenery in these valleys and the local people know them well.
They are reflected in local culture, tradition and beliefs. However, while rules and
regulations for Black Neck Crane conservation are imposed, the need for modern
development remains pressing. Although people still attach a religious value to the
cranes, as the Bhutanese become more aware of the economic opportunities forgone as a
result of their conservation, there is a feeling that moral benefits alone are not enough.
This changing attitude will affect the long-term survival of the cranes if not tackled
appropriately now. The continued existence of these birds, whose numbers have
dwindled to 6,000, is of concern to environmental organizations all over the world.
Phobjikha is not just the home for diverse plants and animals that include globally
threatened species but also the livelihood base for about 5000 people living in about 500
households. The local people are mere subsistence farmers that have aspirations for
economic development. This poses tremendous challenge to biodiversity conservation
and wise use of natural resources. Owing to its status as a conservation area, research
shows that people are beginning to look at conservation as an obstacle to economic
development, which in the long term is detrimental to ecosystem integrity. Issues in the
valley are related to current and potential threats to the alpine, temperate and wetland
ecosystems of the valley. A number of threats to biodiversity conservation have been
identified in the valley. Some of the current threats include the desire of the local people
for materialistic development that could lead to encroachments and conversion of
wetland to agricultural land; lack of knowledge and awareness on environmental
conservation; increasing use of fuel wood that degrade the nearby forests, which serve as
habitat for many animal and bird species; wildlife crop predation and damage which is
viewed by the locals as undermining their subsistence livelihood; unplanned extraction of
forest products that cause flash floods and soil erosion; growing tourism that provides
negligible benefit to the local community and diversifying economic ventures of the
community that have the potential for unsustainable use of biological resources. These
factors pose tremendous threat to the ecosystems and related species in the valley that
include the rare and endangered black necked cranes and their wetland habitat. This will
not only impoverish the local people in the long run but also greatly undermine the
potential contribution of Phobjikha to global environmental condition.
It is seen from this that ultimately, the goal of conserving and protecting the fragile
wetland and its associated endangered species can be attained only if people see
economic benefits emanating from conservation activities. Therefore, efforts must be
made to establish a clear link between conservation programmes and the material well
being of the people. Integrating development with conservation programme is aimed
towards this goal. In this connection, the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN)
has embarked on an Integrated Conservation and Development Programme (ICDP) in
1999 of which Eco-tourism is one important component. The ICDP aims to integrate
economic development and conservation efforts to protect the wetland ecosystem in
general and the black-necked cranes in particular and to develop Phobjikha into a model
for bio-diversity conservation. This project hopes to provide solutions that can be
replicated in other areas of Bhutan having similar conditions.
D. PROJECT GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
The overall goal of this project is to develop Phobjikha into a model Eco-tourism
destination so that experiences gained is resourceful for national eco-tourism policy and
strategy and its success an option for replications. Towards this end, this proposal will
provide series of activities that will assist accomplish the following objectives:
Developing Capacities of project personals and PCAP committee members to
efficiently manage community based eco-tourism program and conservation of
Developing tourism activities that lead to ecologically sound economic
development of the community.
Developing tourism activities that do not exploit the tradition and culture of the
Develop tourism activities that do not lead to degradation of the crane population
and its habitat.
Developing tourism activities that educate the tourists and increase their
knowledge on traditional culture and on flora and fauna of the valley.
Maximize benefits to the local communities by developing linkages between
tourism and household economics, raising their capacity for natural resources
Phobjikha valley is blessed with many qualities that make it an attractive destination for
tourism activities. Phobjikha offers Bhutanese tourism something that is not found
anywhere else – accessible and reliable wildlife Eco-tourism. Only a one-day drive from
Thimphu, it offers the visitors an opportunity to visit the most easily accessible Black
Necked Crane roost in the world. During winter, upon arrival, visitors are sure to see
many of the big, beautiful birds they have come to see. Phobjikha is also potentially rich
in a variety of unique natural resources that are not easily available and accessible to
international tourists in other parts of the world.
Though Phobjikha is a beautiful valley, an average of only 1000 tourists visit Phobjikha
annually and most of them stay in the valley only for a night or make day trips due to low
level of infrastructure facilities and lack of specific/special interest eco-tourism products
(especially during the summers when the cranes have already migrated to Tibet) in the
valley. Phobjikha has ample scope to develop new tourism products by virtue of its
natural gift. A local institution known as the Phobjikha Conservation Area Program
(PCAP) committee already exists. The PCAP comprises of members from the local
village, such as the village heads and government sector agencies. The main purpose of
establishing the PCAP committee is to optimize community and cross-sectoral
participation in order to promote social and economical development of the valley and at
the same time to ensure the greatest possible consideration of environmental and
conservation concerns. In addition, the presence of the crane observation and education
center is an added attraction for tourists and visitors. Further some income generating
activity such as weaving has also been initiated. Promotion of tourism will provide the
community a market for their products.
This project has potential to make the biggest difference both to the economic well being
of the local people and conservation of the significant wetland and its associated species.
Currently, there is no Eco-tourism within Bhutan, and it is therefore hoped that the
project will be both a success for the Phobjikha valley and also provide lesson for how to
improve upon and expand such activities in other parts of the country.
The main conservation objective of this project is the rare and endangered black-necked
cranes and their wintering habitat. The black-necked crane has international value, with
the total number world wide only 6000. Out of 6000 about 500 of them winter in Bhutan.
Of the 500, more than 250 black-necked cranes spend their winter in Phobjikha alone.
Bhutan receives international recognition for this laudable approach to conservation. The
partnership of conservation and development that this project outlines epitomizes the
aims of the RGOB and its international partners. As Bhutan follows its careful “middle
path” of development, the lesson learned from this project will be increasingly important
in helping to ground these policies in reality, and to replicate further similar projects.
The presence of the globally threatened black-necked cranes and diversification of
tourism products in the valley will encourage tourist to visit the valley all year round and
thereby provide opportunities for economic benefits to the local community. This will
ensure the communities long term cooperation for the conservation of the rare and
endangered black-necked cranes and their habitat.
The project that is being proposed here is very much in line with strategic objective of the
UNESCO‟s project on Development of Cultural Eco-tourism in the Mountainous region
of Central Asia and the Himalayas i.e. to promote community based cultural and eco-
tourism in selected mountain areas, with specific focus on poverty eradication,
reduction of rural –urban migration and the preservation of the cultural and
natural heritage. It is also in line with the objectives of the RGOB “to foster new,
innovative styles of tourism, especially in the attraction sector and particularly involving
products aimed at spreading the tourist season, increasing length of stay and positively
enhancing the conservation of the environment and cultural while responding to the needs
of the local communities”. Besides the above, the project also aims to complement the
efforts of the RGOB “to create a vibrant and dynamic industry making significant
contribution to national development goals and to be a positive force for the cause for
conservation of the environment and promotion of our culture and tradition-the very
resources on which tourism depends.
F. DESCRIPTION OF PROPOSED ACTIVITES
The following activity that is being proposed here is a part of the Eco-tourism plan
developed for Phobjikha. The eco-tourism component has been chosen as one of the
main aspects to focus upon, as in many ways this exemplifies the goals of the whole
ICDP to make Phobjikha a model eco-tourism destination. The eco-tourism component
also offers opportunities for community management that will strengthen the ability of
the community to take responsibility for their own development initiatives
F1. Review and Re-assessment of Eco-tourism Management Plan.
Recognizing tourism as a multi-dimensional and an inter-disciplinary activity, the
Department of Tourism and the Nature Conservation Division of the Royal Government
in close collaboration with stakeholders are in the process of formulating a viable strategy
for promoting community-based tourism in the Country. It is in this regard that the above
activity is proposed. Phobjikha has been identified as one of the premier eco-tourism
destinations in the Country and in 1999 RSPN developed a Management plan involving
all stakeholders. However, it is felt essential to carry out the proposed activity so as to
ensure that the Eco-tourism plan of Phobjikha is in line with the new strategy of
community-based tourism that is being planned. Besides, there is also a need to exactly
determine financial and operational cost for such plan and the income streams required to
effectively sustain long-term recurrent cost. Other important aspects that could be looked
into, as part of the reassessment activity would be:
a. Socio-economic analysis of eco-tourism potential in Phobjikha valley,
particularly the capacity to generate revenue for conservation while respecting
b. Carrying capacity and impact assessment of tourism in the valley.
c. Developing participatory, marketing and promotional techniques.
F2. Capacity Development.
Eco-tourism is a rapidly growing segment of international tourism industry and for
Bhutan it is fairly a new phenomenon of recent origin. Though Phobjikha possesses an
enabling environment for eco-tourism however it is important to consider the capacity of
the institutions (for instance here it would be RSPN and the local Phobjikha Conservation
Area Program Committee) involved in implementing eco-tourism programs.
Opportunities needs to be created /provided in order to develop skills and to strengthen
the existing products and to develop new ones. Currently, there is a serious lack of
capacity as well as funds to develop products/facilities/ programs etc in order to
maximize the benefits that may arise out of eco-tourism in the valley. Therefore, a major
capacity building is foreseen for successful implementation and management of eco-
tourism activities in the valley. Capacity needs to be built at two levels for Phobjikha. at
the institutional level and at local levels. At the institutional level the activities would be;
To provide appropriate short-term training for project personal that are
multidisciplinary and include traditional knowledge system, dispute resolution,
and community development skills to efficiently manage community based eco-
To organize Study tour for PCAP committee members to Eco-tourism (ICDP)
At the local level several activities have been identified such as:
Training interested individual on small-scale enterprises, such as handicraft
development, kitchen gardening, etc which will not only develop their skill,
provide job opportunities for self employment but will also enable the framers to
generate income in addition to farming.
Training concerned people to become professional chefs in preparation of
varieties of food in order to provide wide range of choices in the menu to the
tourist and the visitors
Training interested individuals to become environmentally sensitive tour guides to
carry out their tour programs in a professional manner.
Training interested individuals to become professional restaurant table waiting
F3. Operation of Crane Observation and Education center.
RSPN with assistance from GEF/SGP, UNDP, SPIEC, JEC, and ICF members has
constructed a crane observation and education center on the edge of the Phobjikha valley
overlooking the crane roosting area. This center will be the base for crane viewing and
interpretation, delivering an early morning viewing experience for visitors and acting as
the starting point of guided excursion to the bird‟s blind for the more intrepid. This center
is also designed to function as base for filed research and nature club activities and home
of RSPN staff in Phobjikha. Though education and observation facilities/ equipment are
present in the center, the absence of communication and operation facilities makes it
difficult to make the center fully functional and operational as desired. Therefore there is
an immediate need to fully establish such facilitates in the center, as it is the base for
operation as a hub of eco-tourism and implementation of eco-tourism activities in the
valley. The activity that are proposed will enable RSPN and the PCAP committee to
strengthen Eco-tourism in the valley, make the center operational by initiating a number
of tasks that promote Eco-tourism and Environmental education. However, at present the
center has only an in charge and it is necessary to recruit a caretaker to run and keep the
center open in the absence of the In charge. A draft educational package on crane and the
valley has also been developed for visitors and school children‟s, which needs to be
printed and promoted. It is also proposed here that the center be equipped with necessary
office equipment such as a computer and a printer so that it would facilitate the field
personnel and make his work more professional. It would also facilitate him to write up
proposals from the field itself and store information and data‟s. Therefore, the center‟s
initial operation will consist printing of the educational tour package and equipping the
center with a computer and recruiting a caretaker, the caretaker will be responsible for:
Looking after the center and its property.
Maintaining cleanliness of the center and its surroundings.
Report to the in charge.
With the operation of the crane center tour/travel agents will be in a position to use the
center as a resource for their tourist/ guests. School children and community people will
also benefit from the center by way of facilitating camps, training, workshops and
F4. Development and Repair of Nature Trails
Initially, there were seven sample nature trails existing in Phobjikha, out of these three
trails, which the PCAP Committee found to be suitable for trekkers of all age groups
were selected. These trails provide a healthy green walk for nature lovers, a glimpse of
the rare Black Necked Cranes during autumn and winter. Besides indirectly benefiting
the local community and school going children‟s it reduces disturbances that can be
caused to the black-necked crane by visitors. The Three trails that were selected for
trekkers of all age groups are; - the Gangetey Nature trail, the Tshelea trail (towards
Gogona) and the Kilkhorthang Nature trail. In 1999 RSPN and the PCAP committee
developed these trails and since then the visitors and the local communities have
extensively used it. With the existence of these trails as an added attraction for tourist, the
following suggestions has been provided by the local people and it is proposed here that
the activities are carried out as part of this project:
Maintenance and repair of the nature trails and wooden bridges that was laid in
the past. Existing paths are to be made more attractive by smoothing or
stabilizing boulders and reducing waterloggs in order to prevent people diverting
from existing paths;
Signboard with the map of the trail needs to be prepared so that it can be erected
at the beginning of the trail to provide better information about the trail to the
Along the trail and the trekking route „point signs‟ reminding trekkers of their
responsibilities to be installed;
Install composting toilets along the trekking route to curb trailside waste;
The direct and side product of tourists like litter, polythene bags and wrappers,
garbage piles and related materials attract rodents and crow which attract bigger
animals and birds thus changing entire habit and habitat eventually, therefore it is
necessary to provide garbage bins with lids along the trail. Wooden bins that
aesthetically blends with nature are preferable;
Information brochure/ pamphlet of the trails needs to be developed and printed for
Gangtey Nature Trail; The Gangtey Nature Trail is preferably one of the most beautiful
trails for nature lovers. The trail leads downhill along the slope of Gangtey hill, passes
through a pine forest and gently descends down to the foothill adjoining the feeding
ground of the Black Necked Cranes. This trail can be reached by driving up to Gangtey.
Interested trekkers can pay a visit to the monastery (Gangtey Gompa). The trail takes
about one and a half-hour to get back to the road leading to the guesthouse. If one
chooses to take the path leading to photographic blind, then it would take about two
hours to get to the road that is nearer to the guesthouse.
The Tshelela Trail: This trail leads to the Tshelela pass (3400 m), which goes over
Gogona. This is a fairly easy trekking route with not much of steep climb. It is suitable
for all age groups. The trail starts at less than half a kilometer distance from the
guesthouse on the east-facing slope. It takes a maximum of three hours to reach the pass.
The altitude range covered by this trail is 2900 – 3400 m.
Kilkhorthang Trail: This is more a less a round about trail that passes through the
village. The trail bifurcates from the main road near Damcho Lhakhang, descends down
to the marshland and leads to the stream. On the other side of the stream is the
Kilkhorthang Lhakhang standing on a small hillock. The trail joins the feeder road
leading to the school. From the school the road leads back to the main road just below
the guesthouse. The altitude of this trail is 2900 m with very little variation. This trail is
appropriate for people interested in marshland ecosystem.
F5. Developing Tour Package for Phobjikha
Lack of appropriate tour package is one of the major constraints towards development of
Phobjikha as eco-tourism destination. A tour package at hand is anticipated to encourage
travel agents and the tourists themselves to spend more time in the valley, giving the
economic opportunities to the local community. Once the package is drawn, potential of
market will be further examined and new products such as horse rides and cycling will be
added to it.
Phobjikha has ample scope to develop new tourism products by virtue of its natural gift.
The core product will be the tour program/ itinerary built around the natural and cultural
attributes of the surrounding area, which include: landmark (Phobjikha – the largest
glacial valley in Bhutan), unique natural attraction, habitats (one major winter habitat of
the rare and endangered cranes of Bhutan), fauna (the presence of the black necked
cranes during autumn and winter) and flora. It is also the community, its culture and the
F6. Development of Accommodation.
There is a shortage of accommodation facilities at Phobjikha for tourists and local
visitors, one major option therefore is to develop community owned and operated simple,
ecologically sustainable accommodation facilities that will make tourists spend relatively
more days in the valley. „Model Community lodge‟ and „Campsites‟ therefore are
proposed. The traditional Bhutanese architecture that blends into the landscape will be
specified for all the infrastructures to create the sense of rural Bhutan. The lodge and the
campsite will invariable serve as a model and training ground for later experiments for all
The development of ecological campsites with necessary facilities will alleviate the
accommodation shortages, which generally is experienced in the valley during peak
tourist seasons. It is therefore proposed that RSPN will develop a total of two campsites,
one in Phobjikha valley and the other along the Gogona – Khotokha trekking route.
Kitchens and toilets will be constructed within the campsites. The kitchen will be
equipped with gas stoves with proper water supply system. Visitors will be charged user
fees and the local villagers will maintain the campsites. The community committee is yet
to decide the amount to be charged as the user fee of these campsites.
In keeping with RSPN‟s status as an environmental NGO and the principles of eco-
tourism, the project will:
Use environmentally friendly material that does not decrease the intrinsic value of the
Install energy-saving devices, water saving devices and ensure waste minimization
Use local labor and building material wherever appropriate.
*Mud enclosures are necessary to protect the campsites from strong wind.
Model Community Lodge/ Community Home Stays:
Since Phobjikha lacks accommodation facilities for the growing number of tourist
visiting the valley, it is felt here that a model community lodge or community home stays
be promoted and constructed like the ones at the Annapurna Sanctuary in Nepal.
Community owned and operated lodge will ease the situation of present accommodation
shortages in the valley, especially during the peak seasons. For this, however, a detail
feasibility and market situation needs to be studied and then initiate as a pilot program
involving a village/ few households from the valley. Upon successful operation of these
lodge or home stays, it can then be further promoted. If adequate funds are available,
RSPN also wishes to promote this activity as part of the Project.
F7. Continue to Organize Annual Black Necked Crane Festival
The sole purpose of the ICDP project in Phobjikha is to conserve BNC and their habitat
and simultaneously promote well-being of the locality through adoption of environment-
friendly activities. However, execution of conservation activities (rules and regulations)
was not always an easy task. There were instances when the local people felt that
conservation had negative impact on their lives. Example, many still feel that absence of
electricity in the valley is because of the danger of power lines that may jeopardize safety
of cranes. In fact, it is a matter of economics that is prolonging the Government to
electrify the valley. It is therefore imperative to first change the negative attitude of
community, and simultaneously provide alternatives for their economic development so
that they are alone not left behind in their districts. This concern has actually stimulated
RSPN to initiate various conservation activities that integrate development. The Black
Necked Crane festival is one of them.
RSPN initiated the Black Necked Crane Festival in 1999 to foster and encourage co-
existenence is between the black necked cranes and the local community sharing the
habitat through increased involvement of public activities. It is also aimed at raising
funds for ecologically sustainable economic development of the valley and generating
alternative income to the local community. This is likely to contribute substantially to
the local economy and thus convince the local community that no economic opportunities
have been foregone as a result of the conservation of these cranes. Rather this will also
make them view conservation of the cranes as an economic benefit for the long term,
which will also protect and save these birds and their habitat.
The festival is organized every year tentatively on 12th November by the Phobjikha
Conservation Area Program (PCAP) committee with support from RSPN. In order to
sustain the activity it is proposed here that financial assistance is sought from UNESCO
that will cover;
The cost of organizing the crane festival on an annual basis;
Promotion of the crane festival locally and internationally through multi-media.
Contribution to community fund as an incentive for continued participation of the
community in the festival and eco-tourism.
F8. Inventorisation of Local Cultural and Heritage Sites.
Phobjikha valley has always been famed for its ravishingly beautiful natural settings of
the valleys, which have in turn always proved undisputed beautiful places to be fittingly
called as 'tourist destinations'. Taking note of the areas' gifts for tourist resorts, it is in our
initiative to further promote and locate the areas of attraction: whether it is the natural
grandiose tapestry of the valleys, overlooked by snaking chains of mountains, or it is the
kind of people with very rich traditional heritage, or it is the Black Necked Cranes that
haul a good number of tourists every year. Besides, the Cranes and the natural settings
the valley possesses unique culture and religious sites. For eg there are couples of
interesting monasteries and chortens in the valley and this makes it a special cultural
attraction for local visitors due to its significant historical background. For instance, the
Gangtey Monastery is the oldest as well as the biggest Nyingmapa Monastery in the
Kingdom and it is becoming an increasing attraction for international tourists as well for
pilgrims. However, in order to develop a complete natural and cultural tour package for
the valley it is necessary to consider and take into account the potential of these sites to
promote tourism in the valley. Therefore the following activities are proposed:
An inventory of temples and monasteries and their status, religious significance and
overlooking agency in the valley
Restoration of cultural and religious identities.
G. EXPECTED OUTPUTS
In relation to the objectives outlined previously, the following outputs are expected at the
1. Eco-tourism Management Plan for Phobjikha in line with the new strategy of
community based tourism.
2. Facilities would have been created to encourage tourism.
3. Capacities enhanced, Increase in fieldwork capabilities, sound implementation
and management of the activities.
4. Nature trails repaired and used by the visitors and local communities. Better
commuting and service facilities installed and in place. Diversified specific/
special interest of tourism product in the valley.
5. Tourism strongly linked with community development.
6. Link between community and RSPN strengthened.
7. The local community will be economically benefiting from tourism, rural –urban
8. There will be a decreased in the disturbance cause to the black-necked cranes, as
the cranes would be seen as an economic opportunity.
9. Increase in awareness and participation by local communities in conservation and
10. The center would be fully operational.
It is also expected that this project will also have global environmental benefits,
particularly as Bhutan is one of the 10 global hotspots for biodiversity conservation
through habitat conservation of the black-necked cranes, sustainable use of biological
resources and use of renewable energy, which mitigates climatic change.
H. IMPLEMENTATION PLAN, TIMELINE AND BUDGET
The project is planned for completion of the activities within three years. The project
activities aim to be implemented according to the timeline presented as annexure –1,
attached to this proposal document. The detailed budget for the proposed activity is
attached as annexure-2.
I. STAKEHOLDERS INVOLVED IN THE PROJECT
Apart from the PCAP committee members and the general local community. The other
stakeholders include the District Administration, Department of Tourism, Association of
Bhutan Tour Operators (ABTO), Nature Conservation Division, National Environment
Commission, Ministry of Home Affairs, and International Crane Foundation. Maximum
Coordination will be emphasized in order to complement different stakeholders strength
into the project.
J. PLAN TO ENSURE COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION
There is no doubt that the black-necked cranes need to be protected and habitat conserved
owing to their rare and endangered status. However, it cannot be physically guarded by
the conservation agencies and is ultimately in the hands of the local people. Therefore, it
is crucial that the community be involved in promoting and conserving the cranes. The
communities of Phobjikha have been involved right from the planning stage. It is also felt
here that by providing the local people with incentives and opportunities such as study
tours and trainings would attract as well as encourage greater participation from their
side. In the long run RSPN will also facilitate the local communities to develop new
initiatives that will promote their economy without compromising conservation
objectives. The activities that are being proposed here were identified by the local
communities and other stakeholders during the Eco-tourism Workshop held in December
1999. Local peoples participation will further be enhanced through:
The process for the detail implementation of the project will be routed through the
existing local committee.
Series of meetings and workshops,
Improved flow of Information dissemination on the project activities will be
discussed with the local people and established. This may stimulate the
communities to participate in biodiversity conservation and Eco-tourism activities
in the long run.
Skill development of local communities for initiation of small scale based
enterprises and trainings.
Participation in development and execution of series of products and services
such as nature trail, campsite development, as potters, guides etc.
The PCAP committee formed will initially manage the various aspects of the
project in collaboration with RSPN and with full handling over the
responsibilities to the committee in time. Such joint decision-making will ensure
the sense of ownership necessary for the success of the project.
Local authorities and stakeholders will be consulted for advice at all stages of the
project and will be kept fully informed of the progress.
K. RISK TO SUCCESSFUL IMPLEMENTATION
Although RSPN has enjoyed good collaboration and co-operation from the RGOB and
other environmental agencies, risk associated with its status, as NGO cannot be avoided.
The RSPN as an NGO has no regulatory or policy powers. The following are the risk
factors that could result in the project not producing its intended result.
The RGOB‟s changing policies at the National, District or at the Village level.
Natural Calamities, especially landslides, floods, soil erosions leading to
roadblocks that could result in delaying the deliveries in time.
Lack of communication facilities could delay the process of implementation
Economic and development objective might overcome conservation objectives.
That the uptake in interest in the valley by the tourist does not meet expectations.
Drop in the number of tourist
Lack of Capacity for efficient management, monitoring and evaluation.
Lack of community participation due to lack of benefits with may ultimately lead
to lack of coordination between RSPN and local Community.
L. MONITORING AND EVALUATION
Besides the Monitoring and Evaluation activities indicated in the UNESCO‟s project
document, Monitoring of the performance of the project at local level will be done
through two main channels. A field officer based at Phobjikha will be responsible for
coordinating the Activities within the center and the valley and will therefore be in the
best position to monitor progress. The field officer will then report to the Project
Coordinator and the PCAP committee monthly. The management committee who will
meet on a quarterly basis will also do monitoring. Any necessary corrective action will be
taken at that time. The project coordinator will visit the project site monthly in order to
ensure smooth operation and timely implementation of the activities and also to evaluate
the performance. External personal will be invited to evaluate the project in order to
M. PERFORMANCE INDICATORS
The outputs from each activity, together with related process and impact indicators are
Activity F1 Re-assessment of Eco-tourism Management Plan
Output Eco-tourism Plan in line with the new community based
Process Indicator Meetings and workshops with stakeholders planned; agenda set.
Impact Indicator Stakeholders Participation, Management framework finalized,
developed, in place and followed.
Activity F2 Capacity Development
Output Grantees skill developed in planning and management, local
capacity and income enhanced through enterprise based and
skill development trainings. Local peoples participation
strengthened in Project activities.
Process Indicator Training attended, study tour organized.
Impact Indicator Efficient project management, RSPN‟s capacity developed to
formulate, implement, manage, monitor and evaluate similar
projects. Better cooperation and coordination among
stakeholders. Community encouraged to take on new
responsibilities. Communities participates in planning and
decision making (implementation, management, monitoring and
evaluation), tourism encouraged, economic benefit
Activity F3 Operation of Crane Observation and Education Center
Output Operational facilities equipments and educational package exist.
Process Indicator Caretaker identified, equipments purchased and installed, and
educational package printed.
Impact Indicator Crane center open through out the year and function as hub of
ecotourism activity in the valley. Local visitors and tourism
encouraged, data‟s and information on Phobjikha, cranes and
visitors compiled and made available, greater awareness created
among local people, students and visitors on cranes and their
Activity F4 Development and Repair of Nature Trails
Output Nature trails repaired and exist with detail information
brochures, maps and signposts.
Process Indicator Communities involved in repair and preparation of information
and route maps,
Impact Indicator Tourism encouraged, economic benefits. Better commuting
facilities created, participation by local people.
Activity F5 Development of Tour package
Output Natural and cultural tour package exist
Process Indicator Meetings and workshop planned with Core Stakeholders,
agenda set, and tour package developed and printed.
Impact Indicator Tourism encouraged, economic benefits, special interest
product identified for promotion.
Activity F6 Development of Accommodation facilities; Campsite
Output Campsite exists
Process Indicator Planning and design done, site identified and approved,
materials obtained, constructed with involvement of local
Impact Indicator Tourism encouraged, economic benefits
Activity F7 Continue to Organize Annual Black Necked Crane Festival
Output Crane festival organized annually and held
Process Indicator Festival promoted, tour companies notified, festival program
developed, local peoples participation sought.
Impact Indicator Tourism encouraged, economic benefits, greater awareness
Activity F8 Inventorisation of Local Cultural and Heritage Sites
Output Inventory exists, restoration activity identified and carried out
Process Indicator Meetings planned with local people and monks, survey carried
Impact Indicator Cultural and heritage sites restored and promoted. Tourism
encouraged, economic benefits.