Bhutan experiences with the NAPA process

A small developing nation located in the fragile eastern Himalayan ecosystem, Bhutan's key sectors affected by the adverse effects of climate change include infrastructure, agriculture, forestry, water resources, energy and health. Seventy-nine per cent of Bhutan's population, who are subsistence farmers, will be directly affected by temperature changes and unpredictable monsoon patterns, and the infrastructure will suffer increased damage from landslides and flashfloods. As Bhutan's economy is highly dependent on hydropower resources (which constitute over 12 per cent of the country's GDP), the potential impacts on this sector are equally alarming. The most significant impact, however, is the rapid melting of glaciers, which will not only affect the base flow of the rivers but will also dramatically increase the risk of GLOFs. 

Timelines of the NAPA preparation process in Bhutan


Funding for the preparation of the NAPA approved by the GEF October 2003
GEF agency approval date January 2004
NAPA preparation start June 2004
Submission of the NAPA to the UNFCCC  May 2006

NAPA projects under implementation

Bhutan's NAPA outlined nine priority activities which are almost all location-specific. Due to the urgent need to address potential GLOFs, a project aimed at reducing these risks was given priority, and it was the first to be submitted for implementation under the LDCF. Three priority activities were selected as the project components:
1. Artificially lowering the water level in Thorthormi Lake;
2. Increasing the capacity for disaster risk management in affected valleys;
3. Installing a technical early warning system for GLOFs.


Project title: Reducing climate-change induced risks and vulnerabilities from glacial lake outbursts in the Punhakha-Wangdi and Chamkhar Valleys
Implementing agency  UNDP
Number of NAPA priority activities addressed 3/9
Cost in USD million (LDCF component/total cost)  3.445/6.931
First submission of the concept note (PIF) under the LDCF August 2007
GEF CEO endorsement of the project  March 2008


Preparation and implementation strategy:
Though awareness on climate change was relatively low at the beginning of the NAPA preparation process, Bhutan counted on good stakeholder participation throughout the process and also positive working relations among the different stakeholders, including the GEF agency (UNDP). A taskforce composed of members from different development sectors was put together to assess the country's vulnerabilities to climate change and key adaptation strategies to address them.

In addition to the taskforce meetings, Bhutan's NAPA team also held several meetings with donors and the GEF agency to discuss and help define the adaptation priorities and key vulnerability aspects to be addressed in the country. The existence of a clearly urgent risk posed by climate change in the country - the GLOFs - made it easier to define the first project to be submitted under the LDCF and to allocate the funds once they were made available.



   Institutional arrangements in the country: The NAPA was conceived within the framework of the Royal Government of Bhutan's sustainable development Five-Year Plan (FYP). Bhutan's National Environment Commission (NEC) is responsible for guiding and coordinating the executing/implementing sector agencies (ministries) and will, from time to time, monitor the 'climate change adaptation' components within the projects to ensure that key NAPA objectives are not being ignored.

Experience with project implementation: Challenges included the need for outside assistance to develop the reasoning for the additional cost of adaptation for the project, and delays caused by a change of templates for submitting projects by the GEF. Further, given the urgent nature of the problem to be addressed, it was considered that the overall time it took from the initial development of the project concept to the first disbursement for actual implementation (three years) was longer than necessary.

However, a good working relationship with the agency has facilitated progress, and the fact that the Government is familiar with UNDP's country framework ensured that expectations were correctly managed between each partner in the implementation of the first project. Regular interaction between the national team and the GEF at UNFCCC sessions allowed the country to keep informed of progress in the consideration of its projects. The implementation of the project is now at an advanced stage. Due to difficult access to the site, the workers at the Thorthormi lake have to manually excavate a channel to lower the lake level. Some of the hired workers employed during the brief working season in the summer are women from the local community (see photo page 34).


Project highlights: GLOFs are very specific to mountainous areas (the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region alone has nearly 8,800 glacial lakes, 203 of which were identified as potentially dangerous) and, therefore, this project has good potential for replication both within the country and in other countries in the region facing the same problem. Pakistan, for instance, is using Bhutan's experience for the development of similar projects under the AF.  In Bhutan, 24 other glacial lakes were identified as being at high risk of GLOFs.

Revision and update: Since some sectors involved felt that they did not engage effectively in the NAPA process during the preparation phase, due to a low level of awareness and knowledge, they welcomed the idea of revising and updating the NAPA as a positive step to ensure that urgent and immediate adaptation needs from their respective areas would be adequately reflected in the NAPA. Bhutan's NAPA specifies that it will be periodically reviewed after actual implementation of the first priority projects within the context of the Government's FYP cycle.







Bhutan's experience shows that when the potential impacts of climate change are clear and the expected outcomes of a project are tangible, the rationale for the project is easy to articulate. Bhutan's project is also a good example of the replication of a project approach to similar conditions and impacts within a region.