Carbon Negative Bhutan Strives To Maintain Its Status As The ‘Shangri-La’ With A Pristine Environment

Email

The mountainous state absorbs three times more carbon dioxide than it emits, thanks mainly to the lush forests covering 72 per cent of its land.

Yak in the pristine highlands of Bhutan. (Source: Ryderwalker)

 

By AFP

The gentle whirring of the wind turbine speaks volumes of Bhutan's record as the world's only carbon negative country, but major challenges stand in the way of the Himalayan kingdom's decision to follow a green path over rampant economic expansion.

The mountainous state, holding only its third election on Oct 18, absorbs three times more carbon dioxide (CO2) than it emits, thanks mainly to the lush forests covering 72 per cent of its land.

Famed as the "last Shangri-La" for using happiness as a measure of success, Switzerland-sized Bhutan has been careful to keep its environment pristine, often by sacrificing profits.

The nation of 800,000 has restricted tourist numbers with a daily fee of US$250 (S$345) per visitor in high season, helping keep at bay the kind of boom that has ravaged other scenic hotspots.

In May, Bhutan opted out of an India-backed regional road connectivity project mainly over concerns that trucks coming in from other countries will pollute its air.

 

Source: DrukAsia

 

The Constitution stipulates that at least 60 percent of Bhutan must be covered in forest, putting a brake on farming and a potentially lucrative timber industry.

"There was a great temptation to dig into our forest wealth but we thought of the longer term," said Mr Dasho Paljor Dorji from Bhutan's National Environment Commission.

Achievements under the 11th five-year-plan

Under its 11th five-year-plan, Bhutan aims to reduce "substantially" its forest fuel imports by 2020. It has just 100 electric cars so far but wants to increase numbers and plans to introduce a nationwide network of charging stations. In 2016, it installed its first wind turbines.

A walk through spick and span Thimpu - Asia's only capital city with no traffic lights - gives a glimpse of Bhutan's green commitment.

A rare sight in South Asia, heavy road-cleaning vehicles sweep the streets in slow circular motions, while trucks collect organic waste from households.

Just two hours away in Punakha district, earthmovers and bulldozers are chugging away at a hydropower project. It is one of 10 dams the country aims to build as part of its plan to remain carbon neutral. All existing and future hydropower projects are financed by its friend and biggest partner India.

Hydropower was also Bhutan's largest export in 2016, accounting for 32.4 per cent of the country's total exports and eight per cent of its gross domestic product, according to the Asian Development Bank. All of the energy currently goes to India but there are plans to export to Bangladesh as well.

 

Source: DrukAsia

 

But concerns have been growing over the impact of dams on biodiversity, especially as Bhutan shifts from low-impact "run-of-the-river" dams, which do not require large reservoirs, to larger-scale barriers that do.

And being able to afford to stay on a green path depends on Bhutan receiving outside funding, something in doubt since President Donald Trump announced last year that the United States would withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Under that accord, wealthy nations agreed to establish an annual US$100 billion fund to help developing nations adapt to a heating planet.

Climate change inevitably affects Bhutan

Bhutan is keenly feeling the ravages of climate change, from melting glaciers and changing crop patterns to the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.

Temperatures have started touching 30 deg C, alarming locals unused to heat and humidity.

 

Source: DrukAsia

 

"Even the snowfall pattern has changed. Earlier, it would snow for a few days, now it doesn't even last a day," Ms Tenzin Wangmo, Bhutan's chief environment officer, told AFP.

Ms Wangmo said the warmer climes meant paddy fields dot places like Bumthang that never grew rice in the past.

"Climate change is not in our control. We haven't done anything but we are paying a heavy price," she said.

Furthermore, new drainage systems required to prevent flooding downstream require the deployment of workers in remote areas high in the mountains, Ms Wangmo explained.

"A lot of money and manpower is needed for such measures. But where is the funding and capacity-building?"

A Green Climate Fund delegation that visited Bhutan in August said it would help the country's progress on a low-emission and climate-resilient path.

"I think Bhutan's contribution to the global community through keeping its carbon sinks intact, its nature as pristine as possible is a great one," said Mr Dorji.

"Our cause is worth supporting. We should be rewarded equally, if not more."

 

This article first appeared in AFP and has been edited for the Daily Bhutan.

 

 

 


Related Posts

Bhutan Sustainable Tourism Society Launched To Foster Partnership...

Karma Tshering said that the intention was to bring all the diverse groups together to shape the future of tourism.

Sep 28, 2018 16:41

Bhutanese Architect Bags US$10,000 UN Environment Sustainability...

Deependra Pourel’s wish is to contribute his knowledge and experience to support Bhutan’s vision for a more efficiently...

May 10, 2018 13:58

Wetlands For a Sustainable Urban Future

Bhutan currently has 3 sites designated as wetlands of international importance (Ramsar Sites), with a surface area of...

Feb 04, 2018 06:43

Youth Consulted on Sustainable Development

Titled ‘Young Bhutan Network: The Spirit of Youth’, the guideline is expected to streamline the operation of networks...

Dec 16, 2017 14:55

Study Finds Homestays And Eco-tourism Helped Preserve Bhutan’s...

The evaluation found that 98 percent of the homestays used exclusive traditional products like local food products and...

Aug 25, 2018 16:17

Tree Hugger Photo Competition Organised In Bhutan To Celebrate...

The categories are as follows: the Best Tree Hugger, Smallest Tree Hugger, Largest Tree Hugger, Oldest Tree Hugger,...

Aug 30, 2018 12:32

Latest

News

Conference On Biodemocracy - Balancing Political And Ecological Democracy Held In Bhutan

The conference helped to deepen democracy through discussions on harmonious coexistence.

Jul 20, 2019 19:38

Government Of Bhutan Injects Nu 1 Billion To Kick-start Organic Flagship Programme

To export a product as an organic, it will be certified only after proper laboratory tests have been conducted.

Jul 12, 2019 21:48

Features

Suhas Gopinath - World’s Youngest CEO Gave An Inspiring Talk On Innovation & Technology In Bhutan

“Technology is a means of survival in the competitive modern world with modern problems,” said Suhas Gopinath.

Jul 22, 2019 23:58

Inspired By His Majesty The King, The Reading Retreat Aims To Inculcate Reading Habits Among Bhutan’s Youth

The upcoming reading retreat, which is scheduled from July 21 – 27, is expected to attract 268 students from schools across Bhutan.

Jul 16, 2019 23:58

Sports

Bhutan’s Dragon Boys Starts FIFA World Cup Qualifiers With A 1-0 Win Over Guam

Midfielder, Tshering Dorji’s 35th minute strike was enough to make Bhutan win the first leg of the first round of the 2022 World Cup and...

Jun 08, 2019 22:18

Meet Choki Om – First Woman From Bhutan To Become A FIFA Referee

Originally from the district of Wangdue, Choki has already been a referee for over a decade.

May 16, 2019 20:58

Business

Celebrating Bhutan's Entrepreneurs: Kuenga Dendup & Pema C. Gyaltshen Of Kingdom Essenses

This story is part of an exclusive feature by Yeewong Magazine in Dec 2018 on celebrating entrepreneurship in Bhutan.

Jul 21, 2019 20:48

Bhutan Economic Forum for Innovative Transformation Conference Held To Boost Cottage & Small Industries

The Bhutan Economic Forum for Innovative Transformation Conference was held from 16-18 July in Thimphu.

Jul 18, 2019 22:32

Travel

Bhutan Has Great Potential To Be A Top Eco-Tourism Spot: Albert Teo

Despite Bhutan being home to a wide array of flora and fauna, it is still not a top ecotourism destination.

Jul 19, 2019 23:58

Ride Up Bhutan’s Legendary Tiger’s Nest Monastery And Enjoy The Scenic Trail On Horseback

Pony services to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery is expected to be more organised come next month.

Jul 17, 2019 21:28

Lifestyle

French Designer Christian Louboutin Releases Bhutan-inspired Shoe Collection

Bhutan’s rich craftsmanship inspired the designer’s latest collection.

Jul 06, 2019 08:53

An Exciting Line-Up Of Speakers To Be Featured In Bhutan’s Mountain Echoes Festival 2019

Themed ‘Many Lives, Many Stories’ - the festival, according to the press release, will mark its 10th anniversary with modern Bhutanese...

Jun 25, 2019 21:28

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!