The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Bhutan today agreed to manage a protected "green corridor" through the Himalayan kingdom - where forest and mountain ecosystems will be preserved and the endangered Bengal tiger will be protected.
The initiative is one of the first projects in a new partnership between the UNDP and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) designed to combat poverty and environmental degradation. The agencies will combine their global networks to help the world's poorest countries tackle pressing environmental problems, such as deforestation, desertification, climate change, and the spread of toxic chemicals.
"Conserving biodiversity and improving people's livelihoods are inextricably linked and neither can succeed without the other," said UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown. "The opportunity to work with WWF in places such as Bhutan and Nepal is an exciting prospect that will help us achieve the Millennium Development Goal of cutting extreme poverty in half by 2015."
The management of forest "corridors" in Bhutan will ensure the long-term conservation of the country's diverse ecosystems - home to the Bengal tiger and other species threatened by overgrazing, poaching, illegal trading, deforestation and destructive agricultural practices, UNDP said. It will also provide ecologically friendly development opportunities for Bhutanese people through alternative energy sources, improved health services and cottage industries such as cheese making, honey production and non-timber forest products.
The UNDP and WWF are cooperating on a wide range of other projects, including a $13 million biodiversity conservation initiative in Nepal's Western Terai, which aims at linking protected areas with green forest corridors and empowering local communities in managing the forests.
Another initiative with the governments of Mongolia, Russia, and Kazakhstan aims to promote conservation and sustainable use of biological resources in the Altai Sayan Ecoregion - an area of pristine mountains and forest ecosystems surrounded by steppes in the north and east, and by deserts and semi-deserts in the south and west.