Bhutan’s stumbling block to being the greenest nation on the planet
Bhutan is well on its way to becoming the greenest nation on the planet. Photojournalist Michael Buckley explores in the Ecologist the reasons why the country’s ecosystems and dazzling biodiversity remain intact – and highlights the one thing that threatens this admirable integrity…
Radical times – climate-changing times – require radical solutions. In his book, Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, biologist Edward Wilson set forth his radical plan and argued: “The only solution to the “Sixth Extinction” is to increase the area of inviolable natural reserves to half the surface of the Earth or greater.”
Wilson’s solution sounds like an impossible order, but the nation of Bhutan has already achieved that goal. Bhutan claims to have just over 50 percent of its land area assigned as national parks and wildlife sanctuaries – all connected by biological corridors. And Bhutan keeps adding protected areas, with several new wetland reserves declared recently at Phobjikha and Khotokha. This vast green coverage is possible due to a combination of factors: minimal exploitation of natural resources, royal family patronage of parks, and a very small population in Bhutan – officially totaling 768,577 people in 2016.
0ver 70% of the country is cloaked in forest, tropical, temporal and alpine, depending on the altitude with 5,000 known species of plants including 47 rododendrons and 47 orchids and over 675 species of birds .
The highest mountain Gangkar Punsum has never been climbed. The reason is that all mountains higher than 6,000 m are banned for climbing, because the local population regards them as sacred. Having witnessed what happens on Everest (Nepal) the Bhutanese decided they do not want the same on their mountains. The spiritual beliefs of the Bhutanese people promote enormous respect for the environment.
The mountainous landscape makes modern industrial farming impossible. This is a country of small farmers determined to keep the big multinationals – and GM crops – out. Bhutan is the first fully organic nation in the world. Also no MacDonalds, no Starbucks or KFC there. The country has also banned the import of chemical fertilisers.
One great risk to the environment in the country is the building of mega dams in the rivers to produce electricity for export to India. Bhutan plans to exponentially increase its export of hydro-power to India by construction of more megadam projects targeting to 10 GW by 2020. And it this which is a huge spanner in the works if Bhutan wants to keep its ecosystems intact.
From: The Ecologist – Michael Buckley
March 1, 2017