How Bhutan Managed To Maintain 72% Of Its Land Under Forest Cover


This widely acclaimed feat was made possible, kudos to the far-sighted vision of a handful of people in the past.

(Source: Tourism Council of Bhutan)


By Younten Tshedup Kuensel

Dubbed as a champion of the environment, Bhutan is probably one of the few countries in the world that prefers building forests to concrete cities.

While trying to be on par with global developmental activities, the country also known as the ‘Last Shangri-La’, has successfully maintained about 72 percent of its total area under forest cover.

This widely acclaimed feat was made possible, kudos to the far-sighted vision of a handful of people in the past.

How it all began?

During a presentation at the third BLISS Talk Series in Thimphu on October 18, Former Minister, Om Pradhan, recollected how it all began for this tiny Himalayan Kingdom.

The Forest Act of Bhutan 1969 played a significant role in helping the country achieve its carbon negative status. Bhutan has done a lot to safeguard its environment, biodiversity and ecological heritage.

“We are all proud of it, but we must also realise that all these have happened because of the certain actions taken in the past,” he said.


Source: WWF


The Former Minister said that in the late 1960s through the 70s and 80s, the consciousness and the realisation of how the environment was being affected by human activities did not really surface.

Bhutan was however, a step ahead in the game. In 1969, the 1st Five Year Plan (FYP) had just concluded and works to implement the 2nd Plan was underway.

The main focus of the 2nd Plan was to make Bhutan accessible to the outside world with the construction of roads from the southern borderlands into the central areas.

With construction works in full swing, Om Pradhan realised that deforestation was inevitable and for various economic reasons, forest exploitation was also increasing.

According to him, new developments, earlier laws, rules and regulations were inadequate to address the emerging issues. On top of that, limited manpower and expertise also added to the growing challenges.


Map: Research Gate


By then, the land use rules and regulations in the country had also become outdated. While there were different categories under which land were used by the people, there was no clear understanding as to who actually owned the land, he explained.

Maintaining the traditional rights of the people

Given the urgency of the situation, the then Paro Penlop, His Royal Highness Prince Namgyal Wangchuck, clarified during a national assembly session that as far as the minerals under the soil of Bhutan is concerned, the ownership is with the state. Tsamdro and Sokshing, His Royal Highness said belonged to government.

“This was made clear but the traditional rights of the people were maintained,” the Former Minister said.

“People could still use the land, extract trees for construction and firewood. None of the traditional rights of the people were deprived.”

Om Pradhan said that following the blessings from His Majesties The Third and Fourth Kings, HRH Prince Namgyal Wangchuck spearhead the programme and took over vast unoccupied areas and converted them into forest reserves.

“That is why we have about 72 percent of the total land under forest cover today,” he said.

“Had it not been for these steps, Bhutan could have also lost several forested areas.”

Given its small size, Om Pradhan said that Bhutan’s impact on the overall environment of the world might be small, however, the example it has set remains far-reaching for the global community.


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



Related Posts

Advocating For A More Balanced Approach Towards Sustainable...

According to the World Bank’s latest report, forestry constitutes an important but under-utilised economic sector in...

Jul 26, 2019 21:18

‘Bhutan For Life’ Aims To Safeguard Its Protected Areas And...

The ‘Protected Areas’ in Bhutan comprises of four national parks, four wildlife sanctuaries and one nature reserve.

Dec 14, 2018 11:07

Bhutan’s Commitment To Maintain Its Carbon Negative Status And...

The land where Bhutan is located has an exceptional concentration of endemic species.

Jul 15, 2019 23:38

Pristine Bhutan Strives To Maintain A Carbon Neutral Development...

Bhutan is also a biodiversity hotspot with over 6000 species of flora and approximately 1900 species of fauna.

Jan 25, 2019 17:38

Active Steps Recommended At Conference For Bhutan To Maintain Its...

The study suggests the enhancement of carbon absorption by forest management as a key to maintaining a carbon neutral...

May 20, 2019 23:58

Haven For Flora And Fauna, Bhutan Is Host To More Than 11,000...

The biodiversity statistics of Bhutan 2017 is the first publication presenting accurate and up to date status of the...

May 25, 2019 15:58



Employment opportunities amid crisis - Tour guides opts farming

A tour guide could earn a minimum of Nu 30,000 per month during the peak tourist season in Bhutan. The income made was sufficient to support...

May 19, 2020 19:53

Covid-19 response must address gender-based violence, other rights of women and girls

“The social and economic stress that Covid-19 pandemic brings upon households places women and girls in vulnerable positions, burdening them...

May 12, 2020 16:46


Story of Final Year College Student Who Joined college after reopening of eduction institution amid outbreak of COVID 19

Sonam Dorji a final year student shares this thought on his first day of college amid pandemic.

Jul 04, 2020 14:03

Significant pilgrimage sites of Guru Rinpochoe in Bhutan

Discover sacred pilgrim sites of Guru Rinpochoe in Bhutan and the reasons why every buddhist must travel to these most venerated places of...

Jul 01, 2020 11:28


Karma – Female Archer From Bhutan Qualified For Tokyo 2020 Olympic Quota

Karma has been specialising in Olympics-style archery since 2009.

Nov 30, 2019 13:18

Bhutan’s Pelden Wangchuk Wins 10th Edition Of Tour 0f Dragon Mountain Bike Race

This year, the race also saw the highest number of female participants compared to past years.

Sep 10, 2019 01:08


Once the booming Handicraft Shops in Paro Dying- Paro Today

Paro town looks so different in its history as tourist destination in Bhutan.

Jun 24, 2020 16:58

Celebrating Bhutan’s Entrepreneurs: Namkhar Gyaltshen Of Transcend Artisan

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

Mar 06, 2020 11:48


Trailing Dodeydra Monastery through the scenic route from Northern Part of Thimphu

Did You Know The holy spring water near the monastery is supposed to aid those whose hearing is impaired.

Jul 13, 2020 22:57

Reasons why one should visit Druk Wangditse Lhakhang

The temple is reconstructed to its glory and is dedicated to his majesty the king of Bhutan.

Jul 08, 2020 14:43


Food on Wheels- First of its kind in Bhutan

The World's Largest Fast Food Restaurant Chains doesn't exist in Bhutan.

Mar 04, 2020 09:39

Amazing Stories from the Eastern Part of Bhutan

You can't say you have visited the eastern part of Bhutan unless you have experienced the following bizarre things.

Mar 02, 2020 19:02

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!

Download Daily Bhutan Mobile App

Connecting with us just got easier!