Bhutan a nation of around 800,000 populace that has long being considered as the last Shangri-La, is paying a price to keep its environment pristine.
By choosing to not follow the pattern of other scenic hotspots that has been ravaged by the tourism boom, Bhutan has managed to keep its serenity intact. But this has come at a cost of loosing out on large scale economic growth.
The Himalayan state has levied a fee of USD 250 per visitor in peak tourism season, and had also turned down a proposal from India to include itself in a project that will enhance regional road connectivity.
Bhutan while opting out of the project had expressed its apprehension that trucks from other countries will pollute its air.
Presently, according to reports, Bhutan consumes three times more carbon dioxide than it emits. And this can be primarily attributed to its lush forest carpet covering nearly 72 per cent of the total area of the state.
Furthermore, Bhutan’s constitution restricts expansion of non-forest land. The state has made it mandatory to maintain 60 per cent of forest land at any given point, making it the only zero carbon emitting nation in the world. Which means that the nation is restricting its growth in irrigation and also loosing out on revenue through sale of its timbre.
Dasho Paljor Dorji from Bhutan’s National Environment, was recently quoted by a news agency, where he said, “There was a great temptation to dig into our forest wealth but we thought of the longer term.”
To understand the commitment of the people of the place towards green environment, one needs to take a walk through its capital city Thimpu, the only Asian city without any traffic lights.
Currently Bhutan has around 100 electric cars and plans to increase the number in large scale. The nation recently got its first air turbine also.
Bhutan also generates its own hydro power and even exports it. In fact its sale of hydropower in 2016, accounted for nearly 8 per cent of its total GDP and around 33 per cent of its total export. Indian being its main buyer.
However, in order to stay afloat financially, Bhutan is largely dependent on foreign aid, which at the moment, looks to be covered in dark clouds with Donald Trump’s announcement of US withdrawing from the 2015 Paris climate accord.
According to the accord developed countries were needed to contribute around USD 100 billion to aid nations that are developing, in order to help them cope with climate change.
Bhutan is currently copping with the ravages of climate change. It is now at the receiving end of the adverse climate change scenario with increase in mosquito-borne diseases, melting glaciers and soaring temperatures, which has touched almost 30 degree Celsius. The local populace have never been exposed to such high heat and humidity conditions.
Commenting to the nation’s prevailing condition where it needs more man power, improved drainage system amongst other aids, Dorji while expressing the need for continued financial aid, said , “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.”
He also opined, “Our cause is worth supporting and we should be rewarded equally, if not more…”
In the mean time a Green Climate Fund has assured Bhutan that it will help the country in its mission of maintaining low emission and together will walk the path of climate-resilience.