It’s a tale of a small kingdom, where its people lived in close harmony with nature, dense forests that selfishly guarded it for centuries from invasions – humans and associated cultures.   

Animals that resided in the woods were manifestations of deities that watch over inhabitants of the land. Mountains were where they resided.

Under the reign of a wise King such amicable relationship was possible so far.

Policies were made to protect the country’s forests and the rich biodiversity it helped nurture, while also not compromising on the measured progression of the country and its people towards modernisation.   

Just how long will this tale go on be told like so? Wondered the envious around the world. When Bhutanese begin to compare themselves with people of other nations they would certainly demand for the amenities and advances missing big time in their own society.

Bhutan’s population continues to grow, more than 60 percent of its population is under 34 years, more students are graduating each year, meaning more educated population than the previous generation of people, now seeking bigger, better opportunities.

Times are changing and pressures are on the rise. Unemployment is an issue more pressing than ever before.

Just how long will the nation’s strong conservation policies hold in the unfolding context of a young and ambitious population that must prosper?   

In rural Bhutan, farmers are losing their sources of livelihood – livestock and farm produce – to wildlife. Animals, once seen as protecting deities are a growing menace today. Forests that once harboured great myths are rooms for expansion and sources of income. Landholdings are shrinking and more Bhutanese villagers want the amenities its developed urban centres enjoy.      

How will the country protect and sustain for perpetuity its five million-acre network of parks and wildlife corridors?

Bhutan For Life, the country has decided, will be the way to carry forward its conservation legacy.

It basically is a mechanism that spells perks for people, in living the way do, in harmony with their natural surroundings and others that share the habitats.

For the time being, until such a time there is clearer mechanism in place, support to people residing in protected areas, 51 percent of the country’s total land, through job creation and income generating opportunities will be one of the ways. Eco-tourism is a focus. Besides providing measures such as electric fencing for rural farmers to guard crops, compensation will be provided for every livestock lost to wildlife predation.

Potential sources of funding within the country have been considered through tax on vehicles, besides revenues from tourism and hydropower. But that is not enough for sustaining the country’s remarkable park systems for perpetuity, to protect and maintain which, a figure worked out ranges between USD 35M to USD 45M, which needs to be sourced from a variety of external donors. It will involve an innovative financial scheme that aims at providing a sustained flow of money for at least 15 years until the Bhutanese can take over the cost without foreign assistance.

The country’s patron for environment and conservation, Her Majesty the Queen of Bhutan, Jetsun Pema Wangchuck launched the project earlier this month.