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Springshed management as a nature-based solution for water security and climate adaptation in Bhutan




Paro, Bhutan

Date & Time

18 September 2023 to 22 September 2023

Organisers: Department of Water, Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, Bhutan; ICIMOD and IUCN Bangkok


About the training

The five-day training is intended to strengthen the technical capacity of Gups/Thrizen (local administrators at the Gewog level) and technical staff of relevant government departments in implementing springshed management projects in Bhutan to co-design and co-implement the six-step protocol for spring revival and springshed management. The six-step protocol will be improvised by embedding the design criteria for nature-based solutions (IUCN criteria) and GESI responsiveness.

This event is supported by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO)-funded Himalayan Resilience Enabling Action Programme (HI-REAP) under the Climate Action for a Resilient Asia (CARA) programme.



The training comprises both interactive classroom sessions and hands-on field sessions. Specific objectives include:

  • Foster awareness and shared understanding of the six-step protocol for reviving springs through theoretical and practical exercises and community-based success stories
  • Build awareness on the potential of spring revival as NbS and how embedding NbS design criteria can strengthen springshed management outcomes
  • Field-based learning at one pilot site where springshed management is being implemented
  • Provide support to Gups to develop tentative plans for springshed management in their respective Gewogs


Expected outputs

  • Clarity, awareness, and shared understanding of GESI responsive springshed management as a nature-based solution to address the growing issue of spring depletion and consequent water insecurity across Bhutan
  • Identification of existing enablers and barriers at the local Gewog level for ground level implementation of springshed management
  • Plans by Gewogs outlining the way forward and resources needed to implement springshed management in their respective Gups
  • Suggestions on institutional and intersectoral coordination



Springs are the social, economic, cultural, and ecological pillars of sustainable mountain development in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH). They are vital sources of freshwater, particularly in mountain regions and play an important role in sustaining ecosystems and livelihoods. Springs are a part of the groundwater system, and there is an urgent need to advance a deeper understanding of the science of hydrogeology that governs the occurrence and movement of water in underground aquifers in the mountains. These critical hydrological systems are vulnerable to climate change impacts, land degradation, and haphazard infrastructure development. The degradation and drying of springs means increased water insecurity and decreased adaptive capacity and resilience of rural and urban communities and the biodiversity that they depend on for their lives and livelihoods.

Spring revival and springshed management are therefore vital to ensure present and future water security in the HKH. Springshed management is a holistic approach to addressing water insecurity which emphasises the preservation of upstream forests and wetlands, and sustainable land-use practices to protect spring sources and enhance water retention. This approach, while promoting water security, fosters ecosystem restoration, and climate adaptation, including inclusive governance and wider community and stakeholder engagement.

In Bhutan, ICIMOD, in collaboration with the Watershed Management Division (now the Department of Water), initiated inclusive springshed management in Lholing in 2019. In a recent stakeholder consultation, we built consensus regarding the crucial challenge presented by water insecurity across all gewogs. The critical importance of scaling springshed management was also acknowledged. It was evident that there is shared understanding on springshed management, as a concept and potential NbS, among key government agencies, private sector, and local leaders. At the consultation, speakers highlighted the need to strengthen technical capacity of local leaders (Gups) to effectively scale springshed management. This hands-on-training is designed to meet that need of strengthening the capability of local leaders to design, implement, and scale springshed management.