Why it matters?
Little had Bhutan and its people known about the vagaries of global warming before 1994 despite having had treaded cautiously on the path of development since the 1960s after having had opened its doors to the outside world.
But the Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) in 1994, triggered by the outburst of the Lugge Tsho which wrecked havocs downstream in Punakha, is still a vivid reminder that Bhutan is as vulnerable as any other countries in the world to the impacts of climate change.
People, prior to the unfortunate incident, were in oblivion, oblivious of the reason behind such incident, and the understanding of the scenario. They apparently assumed that the disaster as a mere event where they simply had no control over it, while some believed that the catastrophe was a mere result of the clash or battle of the gods.
The incident was, indubitably, an eye opener for Bhutan, an eye opener for that age and for that time. It was perhaps the dawn of realization that we are vulnerable as well and living on mercy of nature.
The signs are becoming more apparent today. Monsoon patterns are changing and becoming more erratic. The rainfalls that usually bestowed lives to rural farms have started coming late, become more erratic and unpredictable. Additionally, extreme events are observed more frequently – unseasonal rains and drought, windstorms, flash floods and more natural disasters, and once snow-capped mountains have presently huge swathes of exposed rocks now as glaciers and are apparently retreating rapidly. And we are also living in a precarious predicament, never knowing when the 24 potentially dangerous lakes out of the total 2,674 might wreak havocs for the country.
While we may proclaim of having done more than any other country in the world and our mammoth contribution to the environment, the laurels such as champion of the earth and carbon neutral country shouldn’t make us complacent.
We are today living in changing times. Changing times bring along new challenges too, particularly for the environment. Natural resources are exploited as rooms are created for new development and existing ones grow to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population. And there is a deluge of people moving to cities and urban towns in search of the perceived and real comforts of modernity. And, as in many Asian countries, the impacts of climate change are on the rise. We may even be coerced to lose everything we have worked so hard to protect if we are indifferent to the challenges before us.
Despite the challenges, the fact is that environment conservation is inevitable for Bhutan. Conservation of the environment is just not for the sake of the environment, but for the sake of Bhutan’s own people and their future. It’s how we survive!