Saturday, May 18th
We started our morning at 9:30 A.M. with a presentation by Dr. Samir Patel on the environment in Bhutan. Dr. Patel began by discussing how a smaller population played a key role in the environmental health of the country. The key philosophy was “the lower the population, the less consumption, means less pollution.” This philosophy is beginning to fade as the population in Bhutan is beginning to grow, as well as an increase in developmental activities. Bhutan, however, has a government that prides itself with reference to the country's environmental policies. The country is constitutionally required to keep at least sixty percent of the country forested.
Water is a key resource in Bhutan and hydropower is a major domestic and export product. The country's climatic and geographic conditions make this possible. The monsoons replenish the resource very efficiently as most of the water is stored in the glaciers and then gradually released down the mountains. Like all countries the main source of water pollution is due to industrial effluence. The water quality of rivers tends to deplete as it travels through the towns of Bhutan, but studies show the rivers in Bhutan cleanse naturally. However, this natural cleansing process may not continue if Bhutan's development policies are not managed well.
The air quality in Bhutan today is not a problem but data shows there are about sixty thousand vehicles and the number increases by ten thousand annually. The growth in Bhutan in the past five years has been very rapid, but because the country's only energy source is hydropower there are no emissions. The geography of Bhutan makes hydro power possible because from north to south the countries elevation changes rapidly from about five thousand meters to one hundred meters above sea level.
The rapid change in geography also makes for great biodiversity in Bhutan. Bhutan is not a very large country but contains over seven thousand species of plants and animals. Plants and animals of Bhutan are protected. The environmental policies in Bhutan is part of everyday life. In many countries everyday citizens may not abide by environmental laws; that's not how the Bhutanese behave, they hold the environment close to their hearts.