Discovering the remarkable achievements of Bhutan
By Dr Srimal Fernando, South Asia Correspondent
Flying into Bhutan, situated in the eastern Himalayas, is a fantastic experience. The country is a naturalist wonderland, where the stunning environment is a sensual escape into paradise.
The Kingdom of Bhutan is a land locked state located at the eastern end of the Himalayas. It is bordered to the south, east and west by India and to the north by China. The Bhutanese call their country the Land of Thunder. One can see many profiles of nature. The country is also home to
some of the most fascinating peaks, forests, forking rivers and cascading waterfalls, verdant vegetation, gurgling streams and heritage sites.
The country, with a seven hundred thousand population, has a unique and vibrant culture. Reflecting the long history of the region, Bhutan's cultural heritage dates back to more than two millenniums and has been the home to majestic dynasties. Nearly all Bhutanese speak Dzongkha as their mother tongue and it is also the official language.
The last decade saw the country's transition to democracy. His Majesty the King Jigme Singye Wangchuck introduced significant political reforms in recent years. Honorable Lyonchen Jigrne Thinley is the present Prime Minister and Honorable Dockchog Gothrib Tshering Tobgay is the
Opposition leaders of the country.
Media was privatized in 2006. Presently there are six news papers, two dailies and four weeklies. With the introduction of television in 1999 the Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBSC) operates as the main television service in the country. The country has come a long way in the telecommunication sector after the introduction of internet in the year 2000 and the mobile phones three years later.
The country captured the interest of the entire world in recent months. The Royal wedding of His Majesty The King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Royal Bride Ashi Jetsun Pema held on the auspicious day of 13th October, 2011 at the Changlimithang Stadium in Thimpu was a matter of celebration and pride for the people of Bhutan.
The concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) with 72 indicators has its origin in Bhutan.
Over the last two decades health and education levels have improved dramatically. The primary, secondary and tertiary education plays a significant part in the overall literacy rate of the country. The Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) was established in 2003.
Agriculture in the country is the largest sector accounting for 45 percent of Gross National Production (GNP). Over 70% of the total population depends on agriculture in its various forms for economic activity and living. One significant contributor to the development of the country's
economy is Forestry. It is about 15 percent of the GNP. A large part of foreign currency earnings also comes from export of Hydro power to India and from tourism.
The first significant arrival of foreigners took place only in 1974 for the Coronation of His Majesty the King. The opening of Paro International Airport at an elevation of 7,300 ft was an important landmark in Bhutan’s aviation industry. In 1991 Bhutan privatized its tourism industry and started Bhutan Tourism Cooperation Limited (BTCL). Happiness is the new slogan adopted by the Tourism Council of the country. In the year 2010, tourists numbering 40,873 visited this small Himalayan Kingdom. In recent years thousands of domestic and international travelers are using the national flag carrier Druk Air or the Royal Bhutan Airlines. Due to increased tourist arrivals to the country the national flag carrier has increased its flight frequency. The national flag carrier is connected to Thai Airways international worldwide network.
Bhutan hosted the 16th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in 2010. The financial umbrella of the SAARC known as SAARC Development Fund (SDF) Secretariat is based in Thimpu.
Thimphu, the capital city, is dotted with a number of buildings in its hill slopes. The City is situated at an altitude of 7,000 ft above sea level. This bustling affluent town with glitzy shopping malls, boutiques and colorful markets houses the intellectual elite as well as the seat of the government. One can notice a marvelous change in vegetation as one goes from the capital city of Thimphu to Phuentsholing, the commercial hub by road or on a mountain train journey. The change in vegetation is a striking splendid interaction between climate and vegetation.
The country and the people have the perfect attributes and credentials as a warm and generous host. The people of Bhutan play a leading role in the engine of prosperity of their county and has been fueled by pragmatism, hard work and a flood of individual enterprise.