On my flight from Delhi to Thimphu I was looking down at the rugged panoramic view of sheer majestic beauty. The gigantic wall of the Himalayas painted with summits and glaciers drive you to meditate. It leaves one dumbstruck with a thought that nature can be so attractive yet fearful at the same time. It is one of the incredible sites on earth that makes one humble and contemplative. As we pass the peaks of Annapurna and Everest the plane slowly descends into the Paro valley in Bhutan.
As we descend, am astonished by the appearance of the houses around the valley, so I ask a Bhutanese sitting next to me. "Why are the house-tops painted in red?". "Those are not painted roofs, those are the famous red chillies of Bhutan - Dalla - spread over the roofs and being sun dried - natural drying!" the Bhutanese replies. I could see the houses scattered on the slopes of the hills all drying chillies in the sun. I remembered that natural drying keeps vitamins and flavours intact. Entering Bhutan is like entering the Kingdom of Nature. I experience Bhutan as a country that is in complete harmony with nature.
Take, for example, the houses in Bhutan; a traditional construction includes a flat roof topped with a slight sloping roof. A roof on the roof! Just below the top roof is the gap that is open from the sides. Bhutanese store the bundles of hay and other agricultural material there! It allows air to cross-circulate and also provides insulation. Bhutanese houses do not require any air conditioning and they require very low artificial heating.
The major export earning for Bhutan - contrary to popular belief- is not tourism, nor the sale of timber or wild life. It is the sale of renewable energy. Bhutan produces almost all of its electricity from hydropower plants and exports more than 80 % of it. The most important contributor to the development of Bhutan is the earning from the export of electricity from renewable energy. It is the only nation in the world whose development is based on renewable energy.
How appropriate that Bhutanese measure their development and well being in terms of "GNH" - Gross National Happiness and not in terms of modern economic index of GNP - Gross National Product.
The OzonAction Programme decided to carry out regional celebrations throughout the year 2007 in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone layer. I was there for that occasion. 24 countries from Asia Pacific were represented. Phasing out ODS is not a national priority, for Bhutan. "By implementing the Montreal Protocol, we are in fact putting into practice Bhutan's constitution which promotes intergenerational equity!" said Dasho Nado Rinchhen, Minister of Environment. He explained, "Indeed, the Ozone layer is a natural resource and should be used in a sustainable way." Truly, the Montreal Protocol's objective itself is based on intergenerational equity. For protection of environment, para 4 of Article 5 of the draft constitution allows the Parliament to "… enact environmental legislation and implement environmental standards and instruments based on the precautionary principle, polluter pay principle, maintenance of intergenerational equity", to ensure sustainable use of natural resources and reaffirm the sovereign rights of the State over its own biological resources. The world community is attempting to hand over the ozone layer in the same condition as it was inherited it from the previous generation. Probably, the Montreal Protocol is the only international treaty that has practical provisions of intergenerational equity.
On the way back to the airport, I see Buddhist monuments called 'Chortens' or 'stupas'. Each chorten has 5 steps representing earth, water, fire, air and ether. Wow, Bhutan, a true Kingdom of Nature. Naturally!