ES mitigation workshop for protected areas network system and beyond
WWF - Bhutan’s conservation initiatives are expanded across the whole country. There are several ongoing projects carried out in most part of the country, including remote corners and urbanized towns. In all the projects, partners and projects teams work in close consultation with the people and communities in the grassroots.
In line with its environmental and social safeguard polices that are environmentally and socially inclusive to create positive impacts, WWF Bhutan conducted 3 days workshop from 22-24 November 2022 in Thimphu. The workshop was attended by participants from project partners that included Department of Forests and Park Services, National Land Commission and Tarayana Foundation.
It allowed participants to map, discuss risk and draw mitigation action plans for the projects. It also discussed the ways to deepen the approach of inclusive conservation in all projects implemented by WWF-Bhutan. Further, it enabled deep diving into gender-based violence, habitat fragmentation, community engagement, human-wildlife conflict mitigation and explored ways to deepen engagement with local governments.
ES mitigation enables pursuit of conservation through meaningful, effective, and informed stakeholder engagement with communities, and most importantly, help ensure the protection of human rights and avoid any potential negative impacts both on environment as well as to the community due to project activities being implemented.
In his opening remarks, the Country Director, WWF Bhutan stated that nomenclature and acronym of ESS may be new to some of the participants, but safeguards per se isn’t new. He went on to inform that existing system or practices of seeking community consent, obtaining no objection certificates, and clearances from the respective agencies prior to any projects are nothing but safeguards being implemented.
During the workshop, the participants were introduced to ten WWF ES safeguards standards that included four procedural and six substantive standards. These set of ten standards mandates WWF and its partners to identify potential environmental and social risk and benefits, ensure stakeholder engagement while implementing projects, create platforms for the affected parties to raise grievances to seek appropriate compensation, review the risk on health and safety of communities, and preserve cultural resources, among others.
Gracing the closing session of the workshop, the Director, DoFPS highlighted importance of safeguards and mitigation planning to avoid any negative impact due to project interventions. He also acknowledged that safeguards have become one of the mandatory requisites for all projects.
While the ES safeguards practices are not new to the department, it still is an emerging subject that many of his colleagues in the department need to build capacity on and implement with full heart and soul, but not for the sake of fulfilling the project or donor requirement. That, he said will bring forth positive impact
The Director also reminded the need to be mindful while spending the resources and stated that the department remains committed to support and collaborate with WWF Bhutan.