Do you know there is a country which promises to maintain 60 percent of its land covered by forest for all times? Do you know this country is smaller than US by 210 times but the number of bird species are almost equal?
This country is none other than Bhutan. Today, 72% of my country is covered with forest. Despite being a very small country with 38394 km2 , there is a remarkable abundance of flora and fauna and is one of the top global biodiversity hotspots.
How do we do it?
Article 5:3, the Constitution of Kingdom of Bhutan says “The Government shall ensure that, in order to conserve the country’s natural resources and to prevent degradation of the ecosystem, a minimum of sixty percent of Bhutan’s total land shall be maintained under forest cover for all time.”
This year, we celebrated the birth of our baby prince in a very significant way. Thousands of people together planted 108,000 tree saplings to celebrate the joyous occasion. These trees are still being nurtured by the people just the way our prince is being nurtured.
Last year, Bhutanese people made a statement of their love for nature by setting the Guinness World Records title for Most Trees planted in one hour in the country’s capital Thimphu. I think this is amazing how a team of hundred volunteers got their hands in the ground to plant a total of 49,672 trees in just one hour. Almost everyone in the team was youth. So this record shows that Bhutan’s young generation wants a green environment to live in the future.
Bhutan is known for its long tradition of environmental preservation. Bhutan is one of the two carbon-neutral countries in the world. Do you want to know more? Bhutan is the only country in the world which is carbon-negative. It sucks up three times the carbon dioxide emissions that our 786,649 population produces.
Since 1985, the date June 2nd has been celebrated as the National Forestry Day in our country to offer our heartfelt gratitude to our visionary monarch as our fourth king Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck was officially crowned on 2nd June, 1974.
Everyone Bhutanese who grew up in Bhutan will have beautiful memories of National Forestry Day celebrated in schools. As a school kid, I used to be very excited for this. We would gather in school and our teachers would give us around five saplings each to plant. For us it used to be a short trek trip to the forest. Few minutes from my school was a small mountain valley. We would all go there cheerfully to start the day. The Government of Bhutan sends drinks and food to all the schools for being a part of this day. Now when I think of it, it really is a beautiful way to celebrate the national event. Out of five saplings, I am sure atleast one must have survived. So throughout my school years, I have planted more than 50 saplings and more than five are now beautiful young trees.
Bhutan has made a further move to designate more than a quarter of its territory as national parks, reserves and protected areas. Now, the government has promised to identify a further 9% of land areas as biodiversity corridors linking the protected areas.
Currently, the Flora and Fauna of Bhutan records 4523 species of plants and more than 5000 species are expected to occur. More than 94% of the plants are native species. Close to 200 species of mammals are known to occur in the country, including 27 globally threatened species. The recorded number of bird species is 680, out of which 21 are globally threatened.
Talking of birds, a rare beautiful bird species comes to my mind. Black necked crane. According to WWF, this species is a symbol of peace and they are also known as Buddha birds. These cranes are winter visitors to the Phobjikha valley of Bhutan.
The conservation measures for these cranes are very interesting. According to Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN), approximately 400 cranes visit the valley every year from Tibetan Plateau, where they breed in summer. This valley uses solar energy instead of the normal power cable lines we have in Bhutan because the collisions of these cranes with the lines cause mortality to them. Sometimes the whole valley has power shutdown during winters. The farmers here use wooden and stone fencing instead of the barbed wire fencing to reduce the harms to the birds. During my visit to this valley, I came across few kids returning to their homes from school. They were whispering to each other. But they were actually talking. I was so amazed to see the little kids understand that they were going to scare away the black necked cranes if they shout and play.
Bhutan doesn’t have all the money to fund biodiversity conservation. Also we don’t claim to be a country without any problem. But you will see biodiversity conservation everywhere here. We love biodiversity and we respect it. We often hear the big steps taken for the conservation by the big nations. But in Bhutan, small steps practiced by every individual makes the biodiversity conservation a visible reality.
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