Bhutan - DrukDIF - Dynamic Information Framework

Bhutan is a mountainous country on the eastern fringe of the Himalayas. It is bounded on the north by the Tibetan Autonomous Region of the Peoples' Republic of China and on the south by the Indian states of Assam, West Bengal and Sikkim. The elevation ranges from 100 masl at the foothills to more than 7500 masl at the border with China. The topography is rugged and characterized by swift flowing rivers. The climate of Bhutan is dominated by the monsoon, which sweeps in from the Bay of Bengal during June, is intense during July and August, and finally peters out during September. The period from November to January is normally dry. During April and May pre-monsoon showers occur often with substantial rainfall along the southern border with India. The major rivers of the country flow north to south, with their sources in the alpine zone and flowing right down to the tropical zone on the border with India. The rivers of Bhutan generally have steep gradients and narrow steep-sided valleys, which occasionally open up to give small areas of flat land for cultivation. Bhutan has abundant water resources, but this resource will face new, complex and pervasive challenges caused by population growth, socio-economic development, and climate change. There is a strong need for anticipating, preventing and managing conflicts between competing uses and users of water resources, in accordance with the pursuit of Gross National Happiness.

The Sustainable Land Management Project (SLMP) is a GEF-funded project executed by Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) of the Royal Government of Bhutan. It aims at realizing global and national environmental benefits from introducing cross ­sectoral land management planning and implementation in selected pilot sites and at bringing lessons learnt up to policy level for amendments of both planning procedures and regulatory framework. Local community resource-based planning within an ecosystem approach constitutes the foundation for the project. SLMP is proactively addressing the issue of land and natural resource management to minimize and reverse land degradation. Questions SLMP and sister agencies are asking include,

  • What would be the impacts of changes in agriculture (including irrigation) and forestry practices on local and regional water balances? E.g., will forest harvests lead to an increase in stream flow and potential erosion?
  • How would changes in land use practices, with varying climate, affect water supply and water quality?
  • If some indication of climate over a growing season was provided, could crop selection (and fire management) be improved?
  • Can floods or droughts be predicated, or at least anticipated, one or two months into the future, as an early-warning system?  
  • How would developments of infrastructure affect downstream flow, water quality, and hydro power?

To address these questions, SLMP is in the process of:

(1) Establishing reliable and robust baselines for the biodiversity, land cover, land use, and hydrology components relevant to SLMP goals and objectives, and

(2)  Assembling the relevant component datasets in a Dynamic Information Framework (DrukDIF) to:

  • Provide a secure repository of this valuable, georeferenced data for Bhutan
  • Facilitate updating and augmenting of the datasets as appropriate, and
  • Support the development and operation of distributed, hydrological models that are sensitive to climate and land cover and land use changes from field to watershed to water basin scales.

The RSRG is leading the development of DrukDIF,