Did you ever think of why environment conservation is a stepping stone for gross national happiness? Gross National Happiness is not a new philosophy to Bhutanese. Starting form young age, the moral ethics of all is groomed well to meet every aspect of gross national happiness. A child in class pp knows how to be happy with the little luxury he/she has. A farmer in village knows how to utilize scare resources efficiently to derive happiness to the family. Likewise, each and every people from different walks of life know how to be happy with their own income. But, how environment conservation is the driving force behind the happiness?
Bhutan, a tiny Himalayan kingdom sandwiched between two gigantic countries India to south and China to north is a part of Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot of the eastern Himalaya. The only country in the word, which constitutionally guides to maintain 60% of countries land under forest coverage, has more than 5603 vascular plants, 721 species of birds and more than 200 mammals. Furthermore, 71% of the total 38394sq.km of the country is covered by forest alone excluding 10.81% of shrubs (Department of Forest and Park Services, 2017). To further enrich its environment, Bhutan submitted a Paris agreement to remain carbon neutral (COP21) which not only touched the heart of millions but also echoed its news to every nook and corner. Environment Conservation, one of the four pillars of Gross National Happiness is pivotal place in country’s development policies and strategies.
Environment is the home to animals; Bhutan is home to 72 of the worlds threatened species (Allison. .n.d). Protecting the habitat of those and other wildlife maintain the food chain. If the food chain is disturb our happiness is also disturb. For example: I live in one of the remote place of Dagana specifically at Nichula geog. The locality is now challenged with human wildlife conflict pressure mostly form elephant. The reason is; with modernization the habitat of wildlife is disturb at the border. All trees are cut down to barren disturbing the ecosystem, the animal is compelled to move towards the settlement area and depredrate the crops. And finally, the saga of sleepless nights and tasteless food has descended upon the people guarding the crops in night.
Bhutan as we know has four major river systems (Drangme Chuu, Sunkosh, Wang Chhu, and Torsa Chhu) which are fed by glaciers in the northern Bhutan. But, with increasing population of modern era, climate has changed melting the glaciers. Hydro power is the backbone of country’s economy after tourism. If all the major river system is disturbed then we cannot derive the happiness we are dreaming of. A happiness which spiritually and emotionally makes people able and well rounded in the society. Saving a tree from cutting can well mitigate the issues in future. To a local illiterate, it may not sound logical but trees act a carbon sink by fixing carbon during photosynthesis and storing as biomass. And carbon dioxide is number one contributor to global warming. Beside those, trees are the habitat of wildlife, source of water and also influence air temperature. Saving a tree can not only derive personal happiness but also balance the ecosystem.
I was asked by local people at Punakha in 2015 when I was making community forest fire management group. The people said ‘our water has dried up compared to earlier times, what could be the reason’, before answering I asked them what is the frequency of forest fire compared to earlier times. They replied it is higher. I told them save forest from fire, fire disturb the ecosystem, the moisture content, fuel and habitat at end. Protecting forest could reap you fruit where your children could cherish. If you pass the trend, the water will dry. Likewise, in many places people are found illegally cutting trees just to quench their own thirst. You can have well shining sofa of teak and walnut, well showcase of champ and cypresses but time has ripe for you to think if you are making the right choice. Without all those luxury can’t you be able to live happily? Trees have benefits starting form root to the tip. The benefits which ultimately derive happiness for all. The clean water you drink is a fruit of saving tree, the beautiful creatures you enjoy is the result of maintaining habitat and the income we generate from electricity is the synergy of our commitment to environment conservation.
Bhutan could have been one of the developed countries if all our resources like trees and mineral are exploited but we won’t be able to cherish the happiness we rejoice today. How farsighted is our great monarchs. Placing environment conservation in pivotal place, Bhutan is now one of the developing countries which take into consideration the happiness of people. Not many in other countries, the happiness of whole is cared rather competition are on rise to boost their own economy that’s why there are larger gaps between poor and rich. Bhutan proudly says of our environment while others focus on economy making the only country to have the larger forest coverage.
Environment is our largest and important assets and protecting of it is our responsibility. Happiness is our ultimate dream and environment is the cornerstones for happiness. You can’t be happy with million dollars if you don’t have clean water to drink, fresh air to breathe, stable land to stay and aesthetic beauty to enjoy. But, with service comes responsibility. As clearly mentioned in article five of constitution of Bhutan “Every Bhutanese is a trustee of kingdom’s natural resources and benefit for the benefit of the present and future generations and it is the fundamental duty of every citizen to contribute to the protection of natural environment and conservation of the rich biodiversity…” If all could reflect and follow the acts, policies, rules and regulation, we would ultimately reap the synergy of general happiness.
Bhutan is known as the champions of environment conservation. The very fact arose when our country won unprecedented environmental recognitions. The king and people were awarded United Nation Environment Protection champions of the Earth in 2004 followed by John Paul Getty Conservation Leadership Award in 2006 by our farsighted great 4th for his outstanding leadership in global conservation. Likewise many awards like Kyoto Hall of fame were the pride of Bhutanese to outside world. However, the forestry sector in Bhutan is also challenged with demand of timber, forest fire, and human wildlife conflict and wildlife crime. The population is on rise which ultimately pressure on environment for demand of fuel, timber and other forest produces. When the pressure increases human wildlife conflict multiple creating chaos in the society. Moreover, illegal wildlife crimes like smuggling of animal parts and products and timbers are increasing which not only disturb the ecosystem but also break the food chain.
Therefore, as the responsible citizen of the country we must join hand to protect environment for general happiness. The forestry sector and national environment commission alone cannot bring impact if people do not join their helping hands. Conserving environment enrich biodiversity which is our pride for outside world. Saving a tree provide fresh water to drink, clean air to breath and above all it sequester carbon the ultimate cause of global warming. Prevent forest fires and stop from smuggling of forestry produce. If the ecosystem is balance, everything will go accordingly with nature which ultimately maintains the food chain. Finally, we reap the synergy of our commitment the Gross National Happiness. Do you now agree Environment conservation is Gross National Happiness?