Bhutan (/buːˈtɑːn/ (listen); Dzongkha: འབྲུག་ཡུལ་, romanized: Druk Yul, [ʈuk̚˩.yː˩], Nepali: भूटान) officially known as the Kingdom of Bhutan (Dzongkha: འབྲུག་རྒྱལ་ཁབ་, romanized: Druk Gyal Khap), is a landlocked country in the Eastern Himalayas. It is bordered by China to the north and India to the south east & west. Nepal and Bangladesh are located in proximity to Bhutan but do not share a land border. The country has a population of over 754,000 and a territory of 38,394 square kilometers (14,824 sq mi) which ranks 133rd in terms of land area, and 160th in population. Bhutan is a constitutional monarchy with Vajrayana Buddhism as the state religion.
Bhutan’s political system has recently changed from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. King Jigme Singye Wangchuck transferred most of his administrative powers to the Council of Cabinet Ministers and allowed for impeachment of the King by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly.
In 1999, the government lifted a ban on television and internet, making Bhutan one of the last countries to introduce television. In his speech, the King said that television was a critical step to the modernization of Bhutan as well as a major contributor to the country’s gross national happiness, but warned that the “misuse” of this new technology could erode traditional Bhutanese values.
A new constitution was presented in early 2005. In December 2005, Wangchuck announced that he would abdicate the throne in his son’s favour in 2008. On 14 December 2006, he announced that he would be abdicating immediately. This was followed by the first national parliamentary elections in December 2007 and March 2008.
On 6 November 2008, 28-year-old Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was crowned king.
Bhutan has deposits of numerous minerals. Commercial production includes coal, dolomite, gypsum, and limestone. The country has proven reserves of beryl, copper, graphite, lead, mica, pyrite, tin, tungsten, and zinc. However, the country’s mineral deposits remain untapped, as it prefers to conserve the environment, rather than to exploit and destroy it for money.
Denmark is among the largest contributors of development aid to Bhutan.
Bhutan signed the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity on 11 June 1992, and became a party to the convention on 25 August 1995. It has subsequently produced a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, with two revisions, the most recent of which was received by the convention on 4 February 2010.
Bhutan has a rich primate life, with rare species such as the golden langur. A variant Assamese macaque has also been recorded, which is regarded by some authorities as a new species, Macaca munzala.
The Bengal tiger, clouded leopard, hispid hare and the sloth bear live in the tropical lowland and hardwood forests in the south. In the temperate zone, grey langur, tiger, goral and serow are found in mixed conifer, broadleaf and pine forests. Fruit-bearing trees and bamboo provide habitat for the Himalayan black bear, red panda, squirrel, sambar, wild pig and barking deer. The alpine habitats of the great Himalayan range in the north are home to the snow leopard, blue sheep, marmot, Tibetan wolf, antelope, Himalayan musk deer and the takin, Bhutan’s national animal. The endangered wild water buffalo occurs in southern Bhutan, although in small numbers.
More than 770 species of bird have been recorded in Bhutan. The globally endangered white-winged duck has been added recently in 2006 to Bhutan’s bird list.
More than 5,400 species of plants are found in Bhutan, including Pedicularis cacuminidenta. Fungi form a key part of Bhutanese ecosystems, with mycorrhizal species providing forest trees with mineral nutrients necessary for growth, and with wood decay and litter decomposing species playing an important role in natural recycling.
Main article: List of protected areas of Bhutan
The Eastern Himalayas have been identified as a global biodiversity hotspot and counted among the 234 globally outstanding ecoregions of the world in a comprehensive analysis of global biodiversity undertaken by WWF between 1995 and 1997.
According to the Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature, Bhutan is viewed as a model for proactive conservation initiatives. The Kingdom has received international acclaim for its commitment to the maintenance of its biodiversity. This is reflected in the decision to maintain at least sixty percent of the land area under forest cover, to designate more than 40% of its territory as national parks, reserves and other protected areas, and most recently to identify a further nine percent of land area as biodiversity corridors linking the protected areas. All of Bhutan’s protected land is connected to one another through a vast network of biological corridors, allowing animals to migrate freely throughout the country. Environmental conservation has been placed at the core of the nation’s development strategy, the middle path. It is not treated as a sector but rather as a set of concerns that must be mainstreamed in Bhutan’s overall approach to development planning and to be buttressed by the force of law.
The country’s constitution mentions environment standards in multiple sections.
Although Bhutan’s natural heritage is still largely intact, the government has said that it cannot be taken for granted and that conservation of the natural environment must be considered one of the challenges that will need to be addressed in the years ahead. Nearly 56.3% of all Bhutanese are involved with agriculture, forestry or conservation. The government aims to promote conservation as part of its plan to target Gross National Happiness. It currently has net negative greenhouse gas emissions because the small amount of pollution it creates is absorbed by the forests that cover most of the country. While the entire country collectively produces 2,200,000 metric tons (2,200,000 long tons; 2,400,000 short tons) of carbon dioxide a year, the immense forest covering 72% of the country acts as a carbon sink, absorbing more than four million tons of carbon dioxide every year. Bhutan had a 2018 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 8.85/10, ranking it 16th globally out of 172 countries.
Bhutan has a number of progressive environmental policies that have caused the head of the UNFCCC to call it an “inspiration and role model for the world on how economies and different countries can address climate change while at the same time improving the life of the citizen.” For example, electric cars have been pushed in the country and as of 2014 make up a tenth of all cars. Because the country gets most of its energy from hydroelectric power, it does not emit significant greenhouse gases for energy production.
Pressures on the natural environment, fueled by a complex array of forces, are already evident. They include: population pressures, agricultural modernization, poaching, hydro-power development, mineral extraction, industrialization, urbanization, sewage and waste disposal, tourism, competition for available land, road construction and the provision of other physical infrastructure associated with social and economic development.
In practice, the overlap of these extensive protected lands with populated areas has led to mutual habitat encroachment. Protected wildlife has entered agricultural areas, trampling crops and killing livestock. In response, Bhutan has implemented an insurance scheme, begun constructing solar powered alarm fences, watch towers, and search lights, and has provided fodder and salt licks outside human settlement areas to encourage animals to stay away.
The huge market value of the Ophiocordyceps sinensis fungus crop collected from the wild has also resulted in unsustainable exploitation which is proving very difficult to regulate.
Bhutan has enforced a plastic ban rule from 1 April 2019, where plastic bags were replaced by alternative bags made of jute and other biodegradable material.
Read more here: Bhutan – Wikipedia