Bhutan Must Protect its Green Health

Environmental degradation, deforestation, and "deteriorating quality of life" are terms increasingly used to describe the conditions in which the people of the Himalayan foothills live. A refreshing exception, it seems, is the small mountainous dragon kingdom, Bhutan. On seeing the pristine mountain streams and uninterrupted tracts of hemlock, spruce, fir, and juniper forests, one is likely to forget the "gloom and doom" prognosis of the Himalaya.

A closer look, however, reveals that Bhutan's resources are being subjected to pressures not entirely dissimilar to those in neighbouring Himalayan countries. Most vulnerable presently are its forest resources. Although almost one half of Bhutan's land area is under forest cover, forests are gradually declining in area and quality, due to 1) uncontrolled grazing by cattle, yak, and sheep, 2) fires occurring both intentionally and accidentally, 3) land cleared for shifting cultivation, and 4) high consumption for both commercial and domestic uses.

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Himal Southasian