An Analysis of Forestry Policy, Acts and Rules of Bhutan to Mainstream Climate Change Adaptation
Bhutan is a small, mountainous country on the southern slopes of the eastern Himalayas. It has only about 738,000 inhabitants,1 but it is home to an astounding array of biodiversity. In fact, the country is in one of the world’s ten biodiversity “hotspots” (Myers 1988), situated at the convergence of the Paleartic and Indo-Malayan regions and containing tropical/subtropical, temperate and alpine species. The flora includes 579 species of wild orchids alone, at least 30 bamboo species, and more than 300 medicinal plants; the fauna includes 678 recorded species of birds and close to 200 species of mammals – among them the rare Royal Bengal Tiger.
Bhutan’s biodiversity is due, to a great extent, to its geography and rugged topography, with elevations ranging from less than 150 meters to more than 7,500 meters above sea level. At least as important is that Bhutan has protected large areas of pristine natural forest; around 72% of the land is under forest cover (Gilmour et al. 2009).
For Bhutan’s people, the forests provide food, timber, ἀbres and medicines; a wide range of ecosystem services (e.g. water regulation and puriἀcation, pollination, soil formation, nutrient recycling and climate regulation); and recreational, aesthetic, and spiritual beneἀts. From a global perspective, Bhutan’s forests are also valuable carbon sinks, absorbing an estimated 6.3 million tonnes of carbon per year – more than four times the country’s emissions in 2000 (Kingdom of Bhutan 2011).
Bhutan’s forests are also critical to its agriculture sector, which employs about 60% of the labour force and contributed nearly 17% of Bhutan’s GDP in 2010 (National Statistics Bureau 2007), even though just under 3% of Bhutan’s land is available for farming (Kingdom of Bhutan 2011). The forests are particularly important to Bhutan’s poor, most of whom live in rural areas. While only 1.7% of Bhutan’s urban residents lived in poverty as of 2007, and 0.2% in extreme poverty in rural areas, the rates were 30.9% and 8% respectively (National Statistics Bureau 2007).