Phobjikha Wetland

Phobjikha is a U-shaped glacial valley situated at the mean altitude of 3,000 m in Wangdue Phoorang district in Bhutan. The coordinates range from 90°05'5" to  90°17'30"N and from 27°22'16" to 27°31'27"E. Nakay Chhu (black river) and Chhu Karp (white river) meet at Chakze and drain the valley. The Phobjikha valley occupies an area of about 162 sq.km – the entire area of Gangtey and Phobjikha and parts of Bjene and Athang geogs. It lies about 146 miles northwest of Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan, and is connected by a road that traverses Lowala Pass. From Thimpu to the valley, it is about a 4–5 hour drive.

Some characteristic features:  

  • Phobjikha is a high-altitude wetland, being located above 3,000 m.
  • It is the wintering ground (late October to early March) for the black-necked crane (Grus nigricollis), a globally threatened species. These cranes return to their breeding place in the Tibetan-Qinghai plateau for the summer. According to the information displayed at the Black-Necked Crane Information Centre at Phobjhika, the number of cranes visiting the Phobjikha Valley reached about 304 in January 2011. As per the RSPN website, the total crane count at 4 January 2011 was 368
  • It is a biological corridor between Jigme Dorji National Park and Jigme Singwey Wangchuk National Park in Bhutan. It is also one of Bhutan’s six conservation areas, and a potential candidate for Ramsar site designation.
  • The area is well known for potato cultivation. The valley produces some 80% of Bhutan’s total potato production, and over 85% of the population is engaged in potato cultivation.
  • The valley is culturally significant in housing the oldest monastery in Bhutan – the Gangtey Goempa, built in the 16th century. 
The Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN) is the organization responsible for undertaking all management and conservation activities in the valley. RSPN has been engaged there for the past 23 years.  RSPN has also established a Black-Necked Crane Information Centre in Phobjikha to monitor the crane in the valley. 

According to the RSPN studies, Phobjikha has 498 households scattered in 49 settlements. Potato cultivation, timber, fuelwood, tourism, and non-timber forest products (NTFPs) are some of the major livelihood activities in the valley.