The tiny Himalayan country Bhutan has been the leading example of global environmental conservation. While other parts of the world are busy promoting the gross domestic product, Bhutan has environmental paradigm in the core of developmental activities. Environmental conservation is the building block of nation; it’s enshrined in constitution, developmental act and policies and most importantly in the constitution of Bhutan. It is one of the pillars of Bhutan’s holistic developmental paradigm, Gross National Happiness. Therefore, Bhutan is one unique country in the world which has become the dream of many to visit in lifetime. The reason below will take you why Bhutan is environmentally unique in the world. Of course there are many but those are the few which I feel is important source of our pride.
1. The Legacy of Visionary Monarchs
Unprecedented in the history of the world, Bhutan has monarch who takes environment conservation epitome importance in the process of development. The visionary monarchs from the first king till the great fifth have taken environment conservation closely with their hearts. When other parts of the world call “forest”, Bhutanese have the pride to say it as “jungle”. The virgin, healthy and bio-diverse jungle is the legacy of the great kings. I feel it is the most important reason that has made Bhutan known to outside world. Bhutan, according to the histories has strived to survive between gigantic nations. Even though there were many economic downfall, under the benevolent benediction of great kings Bhutan did not exploit its natural resources. Bhutan could have become like Singapore, USA and UK in ten to twenty years if our natural resources were exported. But, our farsighted kings thought it was never a win-win measure. Today, after hundred years of protection Bhutan enjoys the fruit of conservation, fresh air, clean water and favorable weather where other parts of world face the harshness of climate change. The king and people were awarded United Nation Environment Protection champions of the Earth in 2004 followed by John Paul Getty Conservation Leadership Award in 2006 to our farsighted great 4th for his outstanding leadership in global conservation. Likewise many awards like Kyoto Hall of fame were the pride of Bhutanese to outside world which happened because of our legendary Wangchuk Dynasty.
2. Protected Areas and Biological Corridors
With more than half of country covered with protected and conservation areas, Bhutan is one of the leading example in global conservation. The country has ten protected areas with five national parks, four wildlife sanctuaries and a strict nature reserve. The beauty of Bhutan’s protected areas is, it is connected through network of seven biological corridors giving a pathway for wildlife to move freely. While other parts of world cover with sky wrappers, buildings, satellites and artificial beauties, Bhutan has half of its area with natural beauties. Trees are the watch towers and wildlife as the guardian of forest. Those conservation areas host home to thousands of wildlife while other parts world erect thousands of buildings encroaching wild habitat.
3. A Carbon Negative Country
Bhutan is the only carbon negative country in the world. I would consider only Bhutan because none of the countries in world, except Bhutan has pledge to remain carbon neutral during COP 21. The tiny Himalayan kingdom with 71 % tree coverage is the carbon sink of the world. The trees or the forest of country absorbed 6 million tons of carbon every year where as the country produces only 1.5 million tons of carbon per year. Even then the country doesn’t stay idle boasting of its rich forest; it keeps on doing unique things to conserve and remain carbon neutral. The country’s constitution commits to keep 60% of its land under forest cover and many amazing works like planting 49,672 trees in an hour by 100 men lead to new world record. These facts have not only made Bhutan unique but also the champion of global environment conservation.
4. Home to 25 White Bellied Heron
The conservation of critically endangered bird is in the heart of conservationist throughout the world. With global population around 60, the species is in the verge of extinction if not taken appropriate measure. According to second international workshop on White bellied heron conducted by Royal Society for Conservation of Nature (RSPN), Bhutan has highest number of white bellied heron. There were record of 28 species in 2015 but has now reduced to 25 in 2019. Bhutan according to kuensel report in 2015 has 47 % of White bellied heron in the world. However, time has come for every individual to collaboratively work toward conservation because we are losing one individual every year since 2015.
5. Environment Conservation in Gross National Happiness (GNH)
Ever since Bhutan chooses GNH as developmental paradigm, environment conservation has been one of the cornerstones or the important pillar taking its conscience in any developmental activities. It takes pivotal place in every move of the development and reaches to the heart national priority thinking and decision making process. Being it one of the pillars of GNH, Bhutan has been able to take conservation much step ahead than other parts of the world. We are carbon negative because our guiding principal is GNH; we are carbon sink because our mother law “Constitution” guides everyone to be dutiful in maintaining 60% of land under forest cover. All those don’t happen in other worlds where greed dominates the need and where GDP dominates the happiness. Bhutan is by far the unique and happiest country in the world.
6. Environment as Home to Buddhist Religion
The importance of forest and trees are accentuated in religious histories. Even the great Buddha got enlightened mediating in forest or under Bodi tree. The importance of forest and trees starts from time immemorial. Likewise, Bhutan’s forest is filled with sacred places where the great spiritual leaders profoundly got wisdom. In every forest of Bhutan, there is a sacred beauty. It is either filled with “Ney” or considered home for deity. Social fencing has played important role in conservation as most of the Bhutanese consider it as sin and don’t unnecessarily cut. Mountains and caves in Bhutan are hermitages for hermits in Bhutan. The beauty is that most places of Bhutan are blessed by spiritual leader “Guru Rinpoche”, where trees, stones, river, mountains and caves are attached with spiritual significances. Few of such places are Taktsang in Paro, Aja in Monggar, Mebartso and Kuje in Bumthang. Those are the places which has become world wonder out of natural beauties. Therefore, environment to me is the important reason for making Bhutan unique to outside world.