Climate change in Bhutan is manifesting itself in the formation of dangerous glacial lakes and the increased occurrence of landslides, floods, pests, and diseases, among others. As serious consequences of climate change are felt in Bhutan, climate science is becoming part of the curriculum in the institutes of higher learning.
One such renowned institute, Sherubtse Degree College in eastern Bhutan, has created the Centre for Climate Change and Spatial Information (CCCSI). The International Centre for Integrated Mountain development (ICIMOD), in collaboration with CCCSI, organized a Youth Forum titled ‘Empowering Youth for Climate Change Research in Bhutan’ to bring the topic of climate change research to the attention of students throughout Bhutan.
The forum, held from 1 to 5 October 2013, brought together students from different colleges in the country. Students attended lectures on the environmental impacts of climate change and learned to use earth observation information and geospatial tools for increased awareness and understanding of climate change. Coming from diverse backgrounds like medicine, geography, environmental science, and business administration, students learned from each other’s experiences and engaged in a climate change debate hosted by the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN).
The event kicked off with opening remarks from the Dean and Officiating Director of Sherubtse College, Dr Sonam Wangmo, who said the forum has been held at the right place, right time, and for the right participants. She said climate change is of great concern, especially for the fragile ecosystems of the Himalayan region.
“This forum will go a long way in developing research capacities for the youths of the Royal University of Bhutan,” said Dr Sonam Wangmo. “It also serves to raise awareness in the students about the effect of climate change and expose them to the use of geospatial techniques for climate-related research.”
The CCCSI coordinator, Dr Pankaj Thapa of Sherubtse College’s Department of Geography & Planning, said engaging youth in climate-related activities is crucial today.
“It is believed the youths of this generation will bear the major brunt of climate change, and I am convinced the participants of this forum will play a vital role in researching, creating awareness, finding solutions, influencing policy, and in planning and decision making processes to mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts,” he said.
A woman participant, Pema Choden of Royal Institute of Health Sciences in Thimphu, said climate change is a challenging topic, and in “educative and informative events like this we can plan for future solutions”.
Another participant, a Bachelor (Honours) student of Economics and Environment of Sherubtse College, Pema Dorji, said the forum was inspiring, informative, and encouraging. “With this knowledge we can make a big difference in combating climate change,” she said.