BHUTAN FOR LIFE – A HOLISTIC SAVIOR OF MOTHER NATURE

Bhutan – a country hidden for centuries by the formidable Himalayan range, located in the
eastern Himalayas stand to be a part of the 10 global biological hotspots. Small in size but
biggest in her commitment to conservation of the Natural Environment guided by a holistic
approach to development by the farsighted and dynamic Monarchs. The inescapable
interconnectedness of human happiness, well-being of all life forms and the recognition of the
interdependent nature of reality is what the Development Paradigm (DP) is based explicitly on.
The constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan mandates 60% of the land to be under forest cover at
all times while the current coverage is 70.46% with the highest proportion of forest cover in
Asia. Bhutan is a country rich in its count of flora and fauna with over 770 species of birds and
5,400 species of plants throughout the country. More than any country in Asia, Bhutan has 51%
of its land under protection which includes 5 national parks, 4 wildlife sanctuaries, 1 strict nature
reserve and 7 biological corridors. The protected areas constitute 5 million acres of land – rich in
natural habitat and ecosystem.


Bhutan produces around 1.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and sequesters more than 6 million
tonnes every year. The country commits to be carbon neutral at all times while its current status
is negative. Bhutan’s environment act as a net carbon sink while also benefitting the region as it
is situated in the third pole region which provides water for one-fifth of the world’s population.
Moreover, Bhutan exports the clean energy harvested from its fast-flowing rivers to her
neighboring country thereby reducing the dependence on non-renewable energy sources. Due to
the country’s leadership, political will and several other social factors, the commitment to
conservation of nature remains very powerful to this day.


Bhutan is now at the juncture where the youth unemployment is rising due to low economic
diversification with 10.7% unemployment rate. 45% of the population are 24 years and younger
wherein the trend of rural urban migration has grown a lot over the years. With more people
migrating and residing in the urban settlements, conservation stewards in rural areas are
becoming less and lesser. Climate change is now playing its role where the impacts are severe
than anywhere else in the world. The glaciers are melting at an alarming rate where the risk of
Glacial Lake Outburst Flow (GLOF) is very high. Moreover, there has been an increase in
rainstorms which causes damaging floods and landslides creating a big havoc in the underlying
settlements. With growing demand for wildlife parts in the global black market and the
temptation to grow rich overnight, poaching and illegal wildlife trade has been a very serious
issue in the wildlife conservation effort of the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB). Bhutan’s
forthcoming graduation from the list of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) to Middle
Developed Countries (MDC) is another complication in the conservation effort due to reduced
external funders and international donors.


Howsoever, no problem lies without a solution while the holistic solution to such problems in
Bhutan is none other than the Bhutan for Life (BFL) Initiative wherein conservation as well as

development from conserved lands are taken into account. With words of wisdom from His
Majesty the King, “The problems facing the world today—they challenge all of us equally. And
the solutions to these challenges must come from a real sense of concern and care for others, for
all sentient beings and, for future generations. We must care about what happens to this earth”,
the Bhutan for Life is an initiative under the royal charter of His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar
Namgyal Wangchuck. The Bhutan for Life is a great history in the making with the guiding
philosophy of Gross National Happiness being taken into account. The protection of the Mother
Nature and empowering the rural communities through social development from eco-tourism,
payment of ecosystem services and several other environment related approaches are the main
priority of the organization. With the need for economic development balanced with
environmental protection, opportunities in cities balanced with incentives in rural villages and a
balance between tradition and modern amenities, Bhutan for Life is the blocks for such gaps.
The Bhutan for Life organization is but a very different and special organization for firstly it
being a gift from the throne to the whole of humanity and several other reasons. Secondly, it is
the first of its kind in the region with only three other projects as such in the world. It on the
other hand focuses and specializes in innovation and sustainability with a bottom – up and an
open approach in its management, execution and implementation. It is the leadership and
political acceptability in Bhutan with the constitution demanding at least 60% forest coverage, an
ecotourism for social development that is taking its role at the national level and the spiritual
ethos and ethics people attach to the natural environment which is making it feasible for the
organization and project to be implemented.


Bhutan for Life is an effort of the Royal Government in collaboration with the World Wildlife
Fund (WWF) and several other partners. The project aims on improving the communities located
in the protected areas as well as enhance the environmental condition of the country. The
organization also focuses on sustained flow of funds in 51% of the country’s total land that is
under protection which includes the 5 national parks, 4 wildlife sanctuaries, 1 strict nature
reserve and 7 biological corridors with the mechanism of ‘Project Finance for Permanence
(PFP)’. The BFL is a 14-year project wherein they will finance the protected areas and
biological corridors, starting high and declining to zero in the given years. After the 14-year
project, Bhutan will be fully responsible to fund all of its protected areas on its own with several
potential sources of internal funding approaches like the green tax, payment for ecosystem
services and revenue from eco-tourism in the protected areas.


The conservation plan of the project includes 4 goals, 80+ activities and 16 milestones. The four
goals include protecting, saving and monitoring wildlife and biodiversity, diversification of eco-
tourism activities and products in other areas of the country, supporting people in the protected
areas through job creation and income generating opportunities, and strengthening the
enforcement and management of the protected areas. This in a way help Bhutan to further
strengthen her effort in conserving the natural environment and also her commitment in
remaining carbon neutral at all times to come. In short, it is an enabling factor that allows Bhutan

to develop sustainably in accordance to the pillars and guiding philosophy of Gross National
Happiness and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.


Bhutan for Life is but a milestone in the history of conservation in Bhutan. It is a holistic
approach in conservation for Bhutan now strives to protect its natural environment but also
develop its economy. The project works in a way it empowers the people residing in the
protected areas through several other engagement in economic activities but also conserve the
environment to protect the ecosystem and watershed conditions. It on one hand takes into
account of the social aspect through economic development and on the other hand makes sure
the environment is maintained at its best. It can finally be concluded that Bhutan for Life is a
sustainable project that contributes a lot to the development of the country in a sustainable
manner inclusive of all the social, economic and environmental aspects. It is but a legacy and a
history in the making which will be cherished by the future generations at all times to come.

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