Bhutan, declared the most eco-friendly country on Earth, has lessons for the rest of the world.
A rare gem in the world, the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan manages to maintain a pristine environment amidst environment degradation in many other parts of the world. Could it be because of its priority on the collective happiness of its people measured by Gross National Happiness which emphasises on economic self-reliance, environmental conservation, cultural preservation, and good governance?
It’s the only country in the world that has this concept while the rest of the world chases after economic prosperity often at the expense of the environment. As a result of this unique policy, Bhutan has negative carbon emissions, which makes it one of the greenest countries on Earth.
The isolated landlocked country emits about 1.5 million tons of carbon annually, while its forests absorb over 6 million tonnes, according to reports. More than half of Bhutan’s land (over 5 million acres) is protected as national parks and everyone who lives in Bhutan is obliged under the constitution to help protect the environment. This includes providing a “low-impact, high-value approach” to tourism.
Nestled among the Himalayan mountain ranges, Bhutan offers an incredible array of eco activities due to its virgin forests that house unique flora and fauna. From rare mammals roaming natural sanctuaries, secluded monasteries tucked among rocky cliffs to spectacular mountain sceneries, Bhutan has it all for the ecotourists.
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Over 670 different species of birds, many endangered, have been recorded here while Royal Manas National Park, bordering India’s Manas Tiger Reserve is one of the most biologically diverse protected areas in the world. The Bengal Tiger, Asian Elephant, Gangetic Dolphin, and the extremely rare Golden Langur all call this park home, not to mention 200 species of birds and 900 types of plants. Also observed amongst the hills and mountains are between 800 and 900 butterfly species.
To welcome its first Royal newborn, the country planted 108,000 saplings – a feat that ought to be emulated in the rest of the world.
FACTORS THAT MAINTAIN BHUTAN’S TOP ECO-FRIENDLY STATUS
1. LOW POPULATION
Low population means low carbon footprints and less atmospheric pollution. Bhutan’s population that hovers near 8,00,000 automatically works in favour of making the country eco-friendly.
2. THE CULTURE/RELIGION
Bhutanese by and large are followers of Buddhism, the religion which considers “A Tree as the provider that nourishes all living forms”. The initiator of this green movement, Tenzin Lekphell inspired people of Bhutan to respect trees which symbolise for them health, beauty, longevity, and compassion. 3. PRO-GREEN CONSTITUTION
The constitution mandates that about60% of the land surface should be kept covered by forest;
Every Bhutanese is treated as a trustee of the country’s natural resources and environment;
Environment protection is considered as the fundamental duty of every citizen ofBhutan;
They should strive towards the protection of the country’s biodiversity and abstain from all sorts of environment-degrading activities through noise and physical pollution;
They should always adopt the best environment-friendly practices; and
The nation’s achievement is judged by measuring Gross National Happiness (GNH) and not GDP.
4. FUTURE GREEN TARGETS
Bhutan is aiming for zero net greenhouse gas emission by 2020 and plans to go 100% organic. By 2030, it aims to be a zero-waste country. National Organic Program
Launched in 2011, this program is running successfully through the following initiatives:
Training farmers free of cost in best organic farming practices by which farmers can increase their earnings.
Providing financial assistance for organic farming.
5. ZERO-DEPENDENCY ON IMPORTED FOOD PRODUCTS
Through organic farming and making full use of hydropower, Bhutan is aiming to be self-reliant in food production. This would also help them in achieving their zero-waste target. Bhutan’s farmers are using everything from plant remains to cow dung or chicken poop for farming thus reducing their dependency on environment-damaging fertilizers and pesticides. 6. NATIONAL EV STRATEGY
Bhutan is yet to be powered by 100% renewable energy. In a partnership deal with Nissan, the government aims to run electric vehicles (EV) to reduce its dependency on fossil fuels and further lessen carbon- emissions. 7. HIGH VISA/DAILY FEES
Bhutan sets minimum selling prices for packages and this must be paid in US dollars prior to arrival in Bhutan. All tourists must pay US$250 per person per day (US$200 a day from December to February and June to August), with a US$40/30 surcharge per person for those in a group of one/two. This covers accommodation, transport in Bhutan, a guide, food and entry fees. Not only does this earn a good income for the government and its citizens, it also controls the number of tourist arrivals as well as their activities.