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Over the last 45 years, a small, little-known country in the distant Himalayas quietly and unassumingly became a conservation treasure. This is the incredible story of Bhutan’s commitment to conservation that few people are aware of. Blessed with a lineage of enlightened monarchs, Bhutan has consistently balanced national economic growth with cultural preservation, environmental sustainability, and social development.
Bhutan's commitment to sustainability is manifest through its unique development philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH), which looks beyond gross domestic product (GDP) growth to measure progress, and in so doing values environmental sustainability as an integral component of development.
Given its uniquely strong commitment to environmental and ecological integrity, Bhutan has integrated its environmental ethos into its Constitution. It is the only country whose Constitution mandates that a minimum of sixty percent of Bhutan’s total land shall be maintained under forest cover … forever.
The result: one of the world’s smallest countries now has one of the world’s biggest commitments to conservation. But Bhutan is also experiencing increased poaching and the country’s current enforcement capacity is unable to effectively tackle it. And because of Bhutan’s geographical location, Illegal wildlife trade will become a serious concern for wildlife conservation in the coming years.
Low economic diversification is causing high youth unemployment. Human wildlife conflict is on the rise and currently Bhutan faces several challenges to have adequate interventions to help rural residents mitigate it in a responsible and conservation friendly way. And just as Bhutan needs critical funding to address all of these emerging threats, foreign aid is declining because Bhutan will soon be graduating to a middle income country.
Recently, the Government of Bhutan and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has initiated an innovative project called Bhutan for Life that will prove to be the strategic and long-term solution to ensure that Bhutan remains economically and environmentally sustainable forever.