Branding Bhutanese people to be among the most eco-literate people in the developing world, Lyonchen Jigmi Y. Thinley said Bhutan has today become a leading example of harmonious living between man and nature.
“This is not because we have good laws and strategies but because we have one of the most diverse ecologies in the world as a result of our collective stewardship of our inheritance,” said Lyonchen. He was delivering the state of the nation report to the parliament Thursday.
One of the main initiatives and achievements in the past year was declaring Bhutan to be carbon neutral for all times to come. During the world climate change summit in Copenhagen (COP 15) Bhutan pledged to remain carbon neutral and serve as a net carbon sink.
“We did so not because it would make Bhutan famous or it would attract further development assistance but because it is the right thing to do and in the hope that others who were haggling over how much reduction they should impose on each other would be inspired into going a little further to make this world a safer place,” said Lyonchen.
Lyonchen added that it was because more than any other country Bhutan’s fragile Himalayan mountain kingdom was vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
The prime minister also expressed his hope for a major breakthrough in terms of global agreement on mitigation and adaption measures.
Additional steps taken by the government in strictly monitoring the pollution levels in the industrial areas has significantly improved the environmental performance of industries. “One might have noticed that the sky over our valleys last winter was much clearer than in the previous year,” said Lyonchen.
To keep an eye on the air quality, the Lyonchen said the media will be given daily air quality report (SPM) and a monthly report on the average gaseous pollutants across the country. This is done to raise public consciousness and participation so that the air quality becomes a matter of public concern and ownership.
To mitigate the threat of glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF), the works to lower the water level of the Thorthomi glacial lake by five meters is also on the right track. The main and two subsidiary lakes have been lowered by more than 80 centimeters.
However, the Lyonchen said the achievement could have been more had it not been for the affects of cyclone Aila. “With the experience gained, we are hopeful of achieving a much higher reduction this year and to that extent mitigate the risks of a major disaster in the valleys of the Punatsangchu,” said Lyonchen.
Lyonchen also added that a fully automatic flood warning system in the valley is being installed to become operational by June next year.
With Bhutan recognized to be in an earthquake prone zone, a comprehensive earthquake hazard mapping is being initiated along with a strategy to build capacity and expertise to monitor and make rapid response to earthquakes.
A wide range of activities were undertaken to mitigate fire hazards using volunteers and the army personnel. Likewise, several initiatives have been taken to prevent landslides through tree planting for slope stabilization.
Ensuring that the economic development policy promotes growth and development of a green and sustainable economy, Lyonchen said that green technology, products, and practices will be given attractive incentives.
“In this regard, a very good beginning has been made by the pledge of all the school heads to make their schools green, free of non-biodegradable waste,” added the prime minister.
Apart from incentivizing green economy, green buildings are being encouraged to make cities greener.
An architect’s association has also been sensitized. According to the prime minister, a special meeting has been planned for an extensive discussion with the members aimed at promoting full partnership with the government in ensuring a high standard guide to monitor the construction of all future buildings that must incorporate sustainable features including seismic resilience.
For a start, the Office of the Attorney General and the IT Park will be constructed as model green buildings.
However, the government was not happy with the water supply and waste treatment systems in the capital as well as in other urban areas. While efforts are being made to overcome problems in other parts of the country the water supply problem in Thimphu is being addressed with the budget already allocated for it.
On waste management and sewage treatment, the government will take a fresh look at the most efficient and eco-friendly technology to tackle the issue. However Lyonchen said the funds for the project has to be explored.
The prime minister also reminded that the government has not given up on its dream to make Thimphu a bicycle and pedestrian city despite the initial setback. “Our determination comes from the knowledge that many residents of our capital, young and old are enthusiastically supportive,” said Lyonchen.