Improving Peling wetland and agricultural lands through integrated community-based conservation approaches in Dechhenling.
Improving Peling wetland and agricultural lands through integrated community-based conservation approaches in Dechhenling.
Project Summary
The proposed project will be located in Dechheling Gewog, Pema Gatshel Dzongkhag covering 3 Chiwogs of Gonpawoong, Shinchongri and Kholomri extending to an area of 127 hectares. It is characterised by low-lying hills and cluster of houses spread across the slopes and hill tops. Dechheling enjoys warm sub-tropical climate with the maximum temperature recorded at 25.9°C in August and a minimum of 7.6°C in January. The rainfall is very high with the total annual mean rain of 3,916.6 mm and the highest rainfall is recorded in the month of July (816.7 mm). Natural vegetation is dominated by evergreen broad-leaved types and deciduous broad-leaved trees and shrubs are found in the wetland. Peling Tso, marsh lake, located in the valley bottom ( 950 masl) is the source for Peling Chhu, which is the only perennial stream in that area. Although, the stream is not used for human consumption, more than 200 households make use of it for washing and feeding domestic animals as it flows downstream to join Kurung-Manas river system. In earlier times, the communities had collected drinking water from the natural springs at the valley bottom and carried uphill to the villages. In the early 1980s, government assisted in bringing piped water from one of the springs located at faraway western slope. However, being a small spring source, water was not enough for all residents living on the eastern slope. In 2017, electric motor was installed at the bigger spring site to pump water uphill for the benefits of the communities living on the eastern slope. Drinking water is a big problem and many households still face water shortages during dry periods. Agriculture is the mainstay for livelihoods and farming practice is subsistence and basics in nature. Tseri cultivation was popular and practiced widely as early as late 1980s. Presently, a dry land farming system, cultivating traditional crops such as maize, millet soya-beans, and buckwheat with orange trees is a dominant farming practice. In general, farming practice is still traditional and farms on the steeper slopes are exposed to water and soil erosion.

1.1.2 Problem statement
(1)Shrinking wetland and drying streams and springs

Straddling on the low-lying hills, the proposed project area has no large connecting watersheds, PelingTsho and springs rely entirely on rainfall received within a small watershed boundary to recharge themselves. Although rainfall is high, rain water run-off is rapid and retention capacity of fragmented wetlands, farmlands and forests is low. Shrinking of Peling Tso and drying of Peling Chhu and springs are reported increasing every year. The reasons are attributed mainly to human pressures exerted on wetlands, forests and farms to eke out living from these natural resources. Siltation of lakes, soil erosion, Tseri cultivation ( past), wetland conversion to agriculture, and unsustainable farming, are the reasons stated for drying up of lake and springs. In the light of the climate change, with dry spells and erratic rainfall, the degradation processes are expected to escalate further, bringing serious environmental problems and water shortage. It is a known fact that environmental degradation and poverty is related and inter-dependent and the consequence is that the wellbeing and survival of the communities living in the project area is at stake. From the biodiversity viewpoint, Peling Tso represents one of the surviving typical low-hill wetland ecosystems and its drying up is a threat to disappearance of some endemic flora ( e.g.Salix tetrasperma, Altingia exelca ) and fauna (e.g. local fish and striped pigmy tree frog ,Chriomanttis vitttus).

(2) Degrading agriculture lands and food insecurity

Nationally, Pema Gatshel was recognized as one of the remotest and poorest Dzongkhags in eastern Bhutan and food insecurity is the main problem faced by farmers. In the 10th Five Year Plan (FYP), RGoB had identified and placed a number of poor villages of Pema Gatsel Dzongkhag under Rural Economic Advance Program ( REAP) to bring about accelerated development. One such village is Laishingri , close to proposed project villages that operated under REAP category of development program. Likewise, farmers in the proposed project area are poor and practice a small-scale integrated farming of growing crops, raising animals and collection of wood and fodder from the wetland and forests. As farming is largely subsistence, food scarcity is a problem and the shortage is compensated by buying rice from money one gets from selling oranges. Land husbandry practices are still traditional and primitive, making the farms and forest lands prone to landslides and soil erosion during monsoons. These problems have resulted to low crop yield and declining citrus production which is the main cash crop of this area. Introduction of sustainable land Management (SLM) techniques such as terracing, hedge row plantation, soil fertility management and erosion control are seen as potential technologies to address land degradation, soil impoverishment and low crop and citrus yield. Also, the conventional subsistence farming need change to bring tangible benefits to farmers and increase connection to economic benefits through proper choice and adoption of innovations and economic enterprises in agriculture farming.

(3) Disappearing traditional social network ( e.g. self-organizing and self-help groups)

With the development and modernization, the traditional system of social institutions (e.g, Self-help groups ) and community-based associations to manage forest, pasture and water resources are fast-disappearing across the country. In the past, the proposed project villages had unique system of working in group with Tseri cultivation. It gave platform for farmers to come in group, help one group to other and work in turn to slash and burn vegetation, grow and harvest crops. Strategically, it provided opportunities to pool labour force and work in group to finish tasks on time as the old agriculture farming was very labor-intensive task. Current farmers in the study area have become individualistic and now they face labour shortage that led to acres of dryland farms leaving out fallow, and become over-grown with trees and shrubs. Farm labour problem is becoming more prominent as farmers plan to go commercial growing of crops and there is need to bring up the old spirit of working together in the light of this changing trend. The proposed project area has a lot of potential to go commercial growing of vegetables, mushrooms , fruit trees and dairy farming. Many promising prospects exists in the area for group farming -congenial sub-tropical climate, comparatively large land holding per household and existing farm roads connecting to Nganglam ( 17 Km ) and Assam border ( 30 km). Dechheling Gewog is also connected to Nganglam-Gyaposhing and Nganglam-Pema Gatshel road networks.

(4) Changing agriculture extension and community participation

RGoB has an established efficient and wide spread agriculture extension services across rural areas that extends down to Gewog and village level, bringing services at farmers’ door steps. However, as RGoB plans to intensify agriculture and commercialize farming, farmers’ participation to such new processes is reported lukewarm. This is because most farmers have become used to receiving free service packages and active community engagement to reciprocate by working harder for better result is not forth coming. This situation is true even for farmers in the proposed area where farmers wait for extension workers to come and do everything -from free services to technical backups. Active participation from farmers and taking genuine interests to learn and build capacities on the emerging farming techniques has become hard to come by. This project will promote community engagement through participatory action and incentive-based agriculture interventions such as income generating activities and subsidizing farm planting materials and tools.

(5) Capacity building

Agriculture farming is a back-breaking job. Appropriate techniques and tools are constantly being updated and adapted to reduce work drudgery and improve efficiency ratio of the work output. Adoption of new technologies takes long time-introduction, testing , training, technical back-ups and adoption by farmers. Farmers project are new some of the technology and activities propose to be introduce by the project. The project will enhance farmers’ capacity and skills in wetland, farm land and water conservation management, group farming and commercial production of vegetables, citrus and mushroom.

(6) Advocacy, awareness and environmental education

The emerging concept of landscape approach to integrated conservation and development and community engagement to conservation through incentivized initiatives are relatively new. The project will attempt to operationalize it at field (village) level and document the success stories for replication. Therefore, awareness creation, advocacy and training of general public, local communities and students on project activities i.e new conservation and agriculture technology application, community participation and wetland conservation are essential.

1.1.3 Rationale and justification
Recognizing that the problems are complex and inter-related demanding integrated-based solution, the project aims to take an integrated approach to conserving the project area landscape ( forest, wetland and farmland) by considering rain water harvesting and community’s livelihoods as integral part of environmental conservation action including in-situ protection of Peling Tso wetland ecosystem. The communities living within the landscape are farmers depending on subsistence farming. For these communities enhancing their farming and assurance of basic necessities like food and water and other natural resources that they depend on is of prime importance. This project by establishing rain water conservation and harvesting innovation will help in protecting land and water for sustained agriculture farming. Also, rain water conservation and SLM application is expected to enhance recharge of Peling Tso and natural springs providing sustained ecosystem services (e.g. water, food) for the communities’ wellbeing. Special focus will be given on sustainable water use and land conservation in agriculture and household level, and diversification of crop and horticultural production and intensification of livestock production. Promotion of intensified community-based horticultural activities and livestock will result to enhancing household income while leveraging community support in Peling Tso protection and environmental conservation.

Biodiversity and water conservation work in and around the lake will facilitate rainwater retention at watershed level and recharging Peling Tso, Peling Chhu and natural springs. The activities include construction of eco-friendly bio-check-dams; maintaining forest plantation strips around the lake to regulate rain water inflow into the lake during monsoon; and cleaning and dredging of debris, ,silt and mud slushes at the periphery of the lake to improve rain water storage and retention capacity. Peling Tso Conservation Group (PCG) will be formed that will prepare a simple guideline to take community actions for wetland ecosystem protection including establishment of walking trail and protection facilities to facilitate protection measures.

The project will establish the sustainable land management (SLM) activities on steeper slopes, for the purpose of conserving soil and water to improve yield of traditional dryland -crops such as maize, soya-beans, millets and citrus. “Zabo” system, rain water storing technique will be introduced. “Zabo’, which means ‘impounding water’, is an ingenious method of catching rainwater running off the mountains practiced in Mizoram and Nagaland. It has evolved centuries ago as self-organizing system to take care of take care of water, forest and farm management. This ” Zabo” technology can prove to be an appropriate and promising technology for Dechheling and other villages in the Dzongkhag. It will be tried on-farm as a demonstration to make use of “plentiful “ rain water for growing winter crop, vegetable and citrus. Worldwide, rain water harvesting is one of the most effective methods of water management and water conservation. But in the proposed project area, rainwater is rarely used in organized way for drinking, gardening, and irrigation purposes. The project will establish rainwater harvesting system, using locally available materials, from individual household’s roofs to store water which will be used citrus orchards, kitchen garden and other domestic purposes.
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Project Snapshot

Royal Society for Protection of Nature
Area Of Work:
International Waters
Grant Amount:
US$ 38,500.00
Co-Financing Cash:
Co-Financing in-Kind:
US$ 14,138.00
Project Number:
Currently under execution

Grantee Contact

Dr. Kinley Tenzin
Phone: 975 2 322 056/+97517662496


Kawajangsa, Lhadro Lam (street), PO 325, Thimphu City, RSPN Building
Thimphu , West , -



SGP Country office contact

Mr. Tenzin Wangchuk
Mr. Tshering Phuntsho
009752322424 (ext:330)


UN House, Peling Lam (Street), Kawajangsa, Thimphu, P.O. Box No. 162
Thimphu, Bhutan, 11001