KNOWING BHUTAN

Called Druk-Yul by its inhabitants ‘The Land of the Thunder Dragon’ is known to the outside world as Bhutan. A small Himalayan country as big as Switzerland much less populated, quite as mesmerizing, far more enchanting, a lot more charming and just as mystifying too. This mountainous country is hemmed in by the Himalayan states of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh on its western and eastern borders. Bhutan lies sandwiched between the roof of the world (the great Tibetan plateau) on the north and the vast plains of Assam and West Bengal towards the south. More than 65% of the total surface area of Bhutan is under forest cover. Sub-tropical deciduous type in the south, ever green coniferous forest in the central valleys and alpine type in the north. Today Bhutan is identified and listed as one of the top ten eco-logical hotspots on earth.

The extensive forests of Bhutan are home to an astonishing variety of flora and fauna. Some that are native to the region, some clearly distinct others simply exotic and quite a lot that are unique and found only in Bhutan. Here nature is at its best pristine and spontaneous, wild and vivid, manifested in some of its most magnificent attributes. Lofty mountain ranges with towering spires of snow capped peaks soaring skywards. An undulating landscape of mountainous terrain draped in thick forest teeming with an incredible variety of plant and animal life is interspersed by verdant valleys, placid lakes, lush meadows and tranquil retreats, offering an ideal backdrop for self contemplation and introspection of the bonds we share with nature.

Far reaching effects of such close communion with nature is mirrored even in the economic policy of Bhutan, which accords utmost priority to preserve the natural environment. The only turn-key industrial development projects undertaken on a large scale by the government of Bhutan are hydro electric projects based on renewable natural resources. Industries that may harm the environment or deplete other forest resources like timber and minerals are not readily encouraged. Some of the mightiest rivers fed by the high Himalayan glaciers flow down to the plains through Bhutan. Presently the awesome force lurking in the torrential waters of these fast flowing rivers is being harnessed to generate electricity. Bhutan is fast emerging as a major producer and exporter of hydro power owing to it rivers. The rivers of Bhutan seething with myriad forms of aquatic life also hold a vast potential for the generation of hydro power. Some of the biggest mega hydro electric projects in south Asia are currently being commissioned in the rivers of Bhutan.