The Hon. Mr. Ngedup (Prime Minister of Bhutan; Chairperson of the SAF Bhutan Chapter) said that the establishment of the SAARC Forestry Centre in Bhutan had been decided by the SAARC Ministerial Meeting on Environment held in Thimphu, Bhutan, in June 2004, and approved by the SAARC Council of Ministers at its 25th session in Islamabad, Pakistan, in July 2004. The 13th SAARC Summit recently held in Dhaka, Bangladesh, had emphasized the need for the SAARC Forestry Centre to have a coordinating role for the exchange of information, expertise, training, and the formulation of regional forestry projects.
Bhutan had been selected because it had a good track record in the field of the environment, and around 72% of the country was forested. Its natural parks, biological corridors and rich flora and fauna made it one of the ten bio-diversity hotspots in the world.
The SAARC Forestry Centre, which would have training, education and research components, would naturally comply with the SAF requirement that its centres of excellence be concerned with all the SAARC countries. The necessary land had been identified, but the infrastructure had to be built from scratch. A detailed written proposal would be submitted to the South Asia Foundation.
The Bhutanese authorities had a formal mandate from SAARC to establish the Forestry Centre, and thus needed to know soon whether the South Asia Foundation was willing to provide the necessary financial resources. If that were not possible, they would need to look elsewhere for funding, with the help of the SAARC Secretary-General. The initial costs were estimated to be in the region of $1.5 million.
At the SAF Governing Council special meeting in New Delhi, December 2006, Hon. Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup made the following points:
Regarding the integration of the Madanjeet Singh Centre with the SAARC Institute of Forestry, Hon. Sangay Ngedup stated that he expected to meet with the Secretary General of SAARC and the Bhutanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the end of 2006.
He would discuss with them how the SAF could function within the framework of the SAARC Institute of Forestry and how the SAF could fund this Institute of Excellence.
He suggested that as it would take some time for the Institute to become fully operational, students from SAARC countries to whom SAF Group Scholarships are allocated in Bhutan, may in the meanwhile study at the Indian Institute of Forestry, Dheradun.
Once the SAARC/SAF Institute of Forestry has been built, it would then be able to hold international workshops under the SAARC umbrella. This special relationship will be documented in the SAF MoU with the SAARC Institute of Forestry.