Punakha, The Former Capital City
The road winds a from Simtokha Dzong into pine forest and through small villages for 20 kms and then opens miraculously on to the Northern Ridges of the mountains. The view over the Himalayan panoply at Dorchula Pass at 10,500 ft is one the most spectacular in all Bhutan. Punakha lies about 2 hours drive from Dorchula...
Paro, The Only Airstrip
All visitors are required to enter the Kingdom at Paro by the national airline, Druk-Air. It may be more convenient for some visitors to leave the kingdom via the southern outlets of Samdrup Jongkhar or Phuentsholing in the west. Twenty-five years ago all visitors would have had to walk five days across the mountains to reach...
Thimphu, The Capital City
Thimpu, perhaps the most unusual capital city in the world, Capital city in the world, is a bustling town on the banks of its own river and set gloriously in the hills of its own valley. A regal town, Thimpu is home to the revered Bhutanese Royal family and to several Foreign mission and development projects. On the bank...
Environment of Bhutan
Environment Conservation - The Bhutanese Way :
Nestled amidst the folds of the Himalayan range is Bhutan, a small Buddhist Kingdom. The country on the southern slops of eastern Himalayas, bordering the Tibetan autonomous region of China in the North and the Indian states of Sikkim in the West, Assam in the South and Arunachal Pradesh in the East.
Bhutan displays a reach heritage and vibrant culture. The people are of mongoloid origin, with distinct and unique traditional and cultural custom. The clothes, religion, culture, traditions, festival and its pristine environment mingle to provide a unique cultural setting in the Himalayas and the and last bastion of the Mahayana form of Buddhist civilization.
Development came to Bhutan in the early 1960s when the Kingdom opened its doors to the world in the first time in its history. Until then Bhutan was a country shrouded in mystery untainted by any foreign influence.
Today much of the country’s culture, traditions and environment are still thriving. Bhutan has been sustained by its vision of being a self-reliant country where its rich legacy of culture and traditions are intact and people live in harmony with nature and the environment. Above all, the people are happy and contented.
Bhutan can be divided into three climatic zones: sub tropical, mid mountain and alpine. The sub tropical zone starches to altitude of about 1800 meters above sea level. This zone receives heavy rainfall and has dense broad-leafed forests. The mid montane zone covers areas from 1800-3500 meters. This region receives moderate rainfall and has dense conifer forest. The alpine zone extends beyond 4000 meters and has mainly tundra vegetation. This region mostly covered in snow clad peaks and has very low population density with only nomadic groups residing.
In 1988 Bhutan was identified by Norman Myers as one of the ten-biodiversity hotspot in the world. It has also been identified as the center of 221 global endemic bird areas. Bhutan’s eco system harbours some of the most exotic, endemic species of the eastern Himalayas. It has an estimated 770 species of birds and over 50 species of Rhododendron. The mountains brim with other exotic species like blue poppy and different medicinal herbs. Animals like takins, snow leopards, golden langur, tigers and elephants roam its forests.
Bhutan signed the convention of Biological Diversity and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Rio-De Jeneiro in 1992. hese conventions were ratified in 1995 at the 73rd session of the national assembly. The Royal Government of Bhutan has also made a national commitment to uphold its obligations to future generations by charting a path of development called the Middle Path. This is development, which upholds both environmental and cultural preservation as an integral part of the development process. Development will not be material development alone but will incorporate cultural and spiritual enhancement.
Commitment to Preservation of Biodiversity :
• A trust fund has been set up for environmental conservation.
• Formulated adequate laws to protect wildlife, biodiversity and the people
• Ruled at the 73rd session of the National Assembly, 1995, that the country must maintain not less than 60 per cent of its area under forest cover. Bhutan currently has 72.5 per cent of the country under forest cover.
• Set aside 26 per cent of the kingdom as protected area. There are nine national parks and wildlife sanctuaries that harbour some of the rarest and most significant animals in the world like the rhinoceros, tiger, the snow leopard, takin, blue sheep and the golden langur. For many of these animals protecting them in national parks represents the last hope for survival.
• Controlled farming and agricultural activities in areas close to forest and wildlife sanctuaries.
• Drawing up management plans for protected areas and for forest management.
• Conducting biodiversity inventories and socio-economic studies to establish a comprehensive natural resource database in the kingdom.
Institutions Involved Directly in Environmental Conservation :
The National Environment Commission (NEC) - This is high-level policymaking body that oversees all cross-sectoral activities related to the environment in the country. It has a high level committee including the Minister of home Affairs, the minister Trade and Industry the Deputy Minister of the National Environment commission, the secretary of agriculture, and the joint secretary of forest as members.
Nature Conservations Section in the Forest Services Division - This organization is responsible for conservation activities all over th4e country. It has drawn up management plans for forest and is also in the process of formulating a Biodiversity Auction Plan
Sustainable Development Secretariat - This is section with in the Ministry of planning. It was formed after Bhutan entered the sustainable development Partnership based on reciprocity and equity with the Netherlands, Benin and Costa Rica. Under this treaty signed in March 1994, the government of the Netherlands provides US$ 3 million per annum for projects in culture, biodiversity, renewable natural resources and energy.
Sustainable Lifestyle :
With a relatively small population of 600,000, people in Bhutan enjoy a sustainable lifestyle, which they inherited from their forefathers. Buddhism, prevalent in the country since the 7th century, respects all forms of life and considers them sacred. The natural elements of the earth: wind, water, rocks, trees, lakes an d mountains are seen as the abode of gods and goddesses and spirits and demons. They are believed to punish, with death and disease, those who disturb and pollute their domain.
For centuries, Bhutanese have treasured the natural environment and have looked upon it as the source of all life. This traditional reverence for nature has delivered Bhutan into the 20th century with an environment still richly intact. Bhutan wishes to continue living in harmony with nature and to pass on this rich heritage to its future generations.
In recent years, however, increasing populations, change in consumer patterns and rapid urbanizations have begun to put great pressure on the environment. This could potentially be great threat to conservation and sustainable development. For example, the unabated population growth, if unchecked, would negate all development efforts and seriously impair the country’s potential for achieving its goal of sustainable development and improving the quality of life of all Bhutanese people.
Fortunately for Bhutan, maintaining a balanced natural ecosystem remains the central theme of its development process. Bhutan’s development policies disregard sacrificing its natural resource base for short-term economic gains and are consistent with the central tenets of sustainable development, environment conservations and cultural values. Bhutan believes that a healthy environment is essential for material and spiritual happiness. In the words of his majesty the king of Bhutan: ‘Gross National Happiness is more important than gross National Product.’
Preserving All Forms of Life :
In the Buddhist perspective, culture, traditions, religion and beliefs and the environment are dynamic Phenomena that are interwoven tightly in the web of all life. The inter-relatedness off all living things is revealed in the strongly embedded Buddhists philosophy, value, and local belief that have contributed to a healthy and intact environment.
While world leaders today, both temporal and spiritual, struggle to address problems related to the breakdown of this interrelation of life such as severe deforestation, mass degradation, pollution and poverty, Bhutan is making sincere efforts to check the emergence of these problems. Representing one of the best and last chances for the conservation of biological diversity in the eastern Himalayas, Bhutan is committed to protecting and preserving this last area of rich biodiversity for all generations to come.
Culture and traditions in Bhutan play very important roles in preserving the status of the pristine environment. Bhutan’s unique cultural and traditional values, highly valued in them by all the populations, are also essential embodiments of the nation’s identity. For a small country located between the two most populated countries of the world and with no military might or economic strength, the preservation and promotion of its distinct cultural identity is seen as an independent and sovereign kingdom. It was this identity that has protected and sustained Bhutan and also provided the foundation for its major policies.
While seeking to develop the kingdom in order to improve the living standard of the people, his majesty the King has made determined efforts to promote its rich spiritual and cultural heritage so that values and customs, which have given strength and resilience to Bhutan through the ages, are not eroded in the process of modernization. As Buddhist philosophers say, ”culture lies not in the mind and compassion towards all sentient beings.