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Can Bhutan save itself from the Clutches of Climate Change?

Bhutan Climate Change: The threat of climate change is getting more real as the days pass. It is not a new observation that there are certain countries, particular places and communities which are directly facing the threat.

BhutanAmong the countries in the Himalayan abode- Bhutan is seriously at the changing climate and its consequences. It is the only carbon negative country in the world that is, the carbon sinks are more than its carbon emissions. Bhutan has placed the environment over industries in its policies and even has this principle to be constitutionally mandated.

Located in the Eastern Himalayas, Bhutan contains about 2674 glacial lakes. These lakes are highly revered and are supposed to inhabit spirits. Therefore, making them a living entity in Bhutanese culture. Mountains, glaciers, lakes are all considered sacred in Bhutan marking the respect Bhutananese people give to the environment. However, these lakes pose a risk to Bhutan due to effects of climate change.Bhutan

Due to greenhouse effect, temperatures are rising across the world causing glaciers to melt. When these glaciers melt, the meltwater rushes downstream to be collected in these lakes.

Not only melting, but extreme rainfalls in Himalayan region cause floods. Warmer summers and shorter winters have further affected the rate of glacier replenishment. Therefore, the probability of glacial lake outburst is very high.

Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) takes place due to the collapse of a lake when it is filled with water more than its capacity to hold. This causes lake to collapse and flood the areas downstream. 17 lakes are at a high probability to witness an outburst.

In 1994, Luggye Lake burst in Bhutan caused much devastation. Since then, early warning systems have been improved with greater monitoring of rising temperatures and its impacts. Several resilience measures have also been incorporated like simulation drills in risk-prone areas. Measures like lowering the level of lake have also been tried.

 Bhutan Lakes like Thorthormi lake are highly volatile to rising temperatures. Currently, Bhutan has two of the biggest hydrothermal plants namely – Punatsangchu – I (1200 MW) and Punatsangchu -II (1020 MW) made on Thorthormi lake. In case of any breach not only the project infrastructure will be damaged but the fertile valleys downstream will be washed away.

These fertile lands provide livelihood to about 70% of the population which practice subsistence agriculture. In case of a GLOF forests will be wiped out, posing a threat to bio-diversity. Many religious buildings such as Punakha Dzong will be washed away.

Bhutan’s only source of major revenue is derived from hydropower projects. Since, the country does not engage in logging of forests, the only source of producing clean energy is by tapping flowing water. Bhutan exports this power to India and earns revenue.

Therefore, Bhutan is building more climate-resilient infrastructure for Sankosh dam however, it is at the environment’s cost.

Therefore, Bhutan presents the apt example that even if a country puts in all efforts to save the environment and not contribute towards climate change, it is not free from the consequences of the climate change that is brought about at the global level. Therefore, each country must put in their efforts.

Bhutan Climate Change: The threat of climate change is getting more real as the days pass. It is not a new observation that there are certain countries, particular places and communities which are directly facing the threat.

Topic :- Can Bhutan save itself from the Clutches of  Climate Change?

Author:-Suramya Sharma 

Category:- Environment (Climate Change)

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