Promoting Community Managed Ecotourism in Jigme Dorji National Park, Gasa
Promoting Community Managed Ecotourism in Jigme Dorji National Park, Gasa
The project objective is to contribute towards the resolution of conflicts between conservation and development through the promotion of ecotourism as an alternative sustainable livelihood. The project seeks to enhance people's participation in park management.The project will further develop existing physical infrastructure, build capacity within the local population and establish well-functioning institutional arrangements linking local initiatives to government, park management and the private tourism sector. The project seeks to develop Gasa Hot Springs, a national heritage site and popular local and tourist destination into a community managed ecotourism enterprise.

The proposed project is made up of two phases. Phase One seeks to establish the initial foundations, creating awareness, starting the process of institutional development and capacity building and undertaking some infrastructural improvement, to be implemented over a period of one year. Phase One seeks funding of US $ 50,000 from GEF/SGP. The stakeholder contribution include community contribution in the form of labour and local materials and technical assistance and backstopping from the Dzongkhag.

The phase Two aims to build on the achievements of phase One, further developing facilities and capacities both the Hot Spring area for the tourist and built capacity of the Gasa Ecotourism Association (GEA).

The GEA is a community based organization focusing on the promotion of community managed ecotourism activities within the Gasa Dzongkhag which falls under the Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP). Gasa dzongkhag is one of the most distant and least developed districts in Bhutan. It falls entirely within the JDNP boundaries. Hindered by the inaccessibility and the environmental importance of the area, the district is at risk of becoming marginalized within the mainstream of national development process. Therefore, GEA was formed to make the initiative towards sustainable environmental development. One potential sustainable livelihood identified as highly appropriate within JDNP was ecotourism, balancing the short-term needs of the business with the longer term issues of environmental and cultural conservation and social responsibility.

It is anticipated that GEA would gradually enhance its capacities and capabilities to form an independent self-sufficient community institution dedicated towards the promotion of community managed ecotourism within Gasa Dzongkhag.

The objectives of the project are as in the following sub-headings:
1. Infrastructure: to improve the income generating possibilities of the Gasa Hot Spring complex through the enhancement of the existing facilities and to develop the necessary infrastructure to improve local carrying capacity and facilitate sustainability.

2. Capacity Building:
To empower local community members through the development of their capacities and capabilities in the field of ecotourism and related activities and to encourage direct community involvement in the conservation and development of their region through the strengthening of the local institutions which promote participation and empowerment.

3. Integrated:
To promote ecotourism within Gasa Hot Springs and surrounding areas;
To resolve the potential conflict between conservation and development through the promotion of ecotourism as an alternative livelihood.
To generate alternative income for local communities, thereby improving the income generating possibilities for the region and reducing unsustainable pressures and the trend towards rural-urban migration.
To stimulate the local and regional economy through the anticipated knock-on effects from the establishment of a local tourism industry.

Project's positive results:
The public facilities (ponds, public toilets, tree plantations, camping ground) for the Hot Spring Pilgrims and tourists has been improved.

The limitations of the project are several:
1. There was no functional linkage or interaction with the full size GEF project "Integrated Management of JDNP". Collaboration was limited to Dzongkhag Administration only.

2. Lack of tangible benefits to the local community.

3. The membership of the Gasa Ecotourism Association (GEA) was too broad with members involved from far-flung places like Lunana and Laya. As a result, full and active participation of the members was lacking.

4. Superfluous involvement of Dzongkhag Administration resulting in lack of community ownership and control.

5. The concept of developing the hot springs into a community-based ecotourism enterprise was a bit farfetched given that the facilities have been run by the Dzongkhag Administration for many years and that the land tenure was with the government.

With the above project result, phase Two of the project could not be feasible with a weak Community Based Organization i.e. the Gasa Ecotourism Association (GEA).
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Project Snapshot

Gasa Ecotourism Association
Area Of Work:
Grant Amount:
US$ 50,000.00
Co-Financing Cash:
Co-Financing in-Kind:
US$ 9,435.00
Project Number:
Satisfactorily Completed
Project Characteristics and Results
Gender Focus
Both women and men are encouraged to participate in the project activities.
Capacity - Building Component
Given the relatively underdeveloped nature of Gasa district ( even the district headquarter has no access to road) and the infant stage of the Gasa Ecotourism Association, the project has built in strong capacity building component whereby the expected outputs of the project can be achieved. The capacity building activities include: Planning workshop; project management training; technical backstoping by District Administration; Project visit to another successful community-managed ecotourism destination. Study tour to neighbouring
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Community Contribution and Dzongkhag Contribution.

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