Event: Bhutan observed International Mountain Day themed “Mountain Cultures: celebrating diversity and strengthening identity” at the Clock Tower Square in Thimphu yesterday.

The day is observed this year to highlight the variety and richness of mountain cultures, promote the vast array of mountain identities and ensure that indigenous rights are recognised and traditional ways endure. The occasion is also used to raise awareness on Climate Change especially among the youth through dance and art.

“The exhibition gives a platform for different agencies to come together, share ideas and collaborate in order to improve their services and goods, which will ultimately help in improving lives of the people,” Bhutan Media and Communications Institute (BMCI) director Pushpa Chhetri said. BMCI is the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development’s (ICIMOD) local knowledge partner and organiser of the event.

The event was dedicated to His Majesty The King’s 10 years of Golden Reign.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) in 2005 refers to culture and local knowledge as “cultural services,” the nonmaterial benefits that humans obtain through recreation, spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, and aesthetic experience.

Cultural services provide mountain communities with a rich store of information and experience from which to devise solutions to their various social and environmental challenges.

The MEA warns that the value and presence of cultural benefits has been diminished in the past century, degraded by years of neglect as “modern” ideas took precedence.

ICIMOD director general David Molden said that in the process, the sacredness of landscapes and significance of traditional means were lost in the rapid social and economic change that characterised the 20th century.

“These challenges cascaded in effect as mountain communities experienced social upheaval such as migration and environmental degradation that threatened their very existence,” he said.

He said that Bhutan’s decision to establish a Gross National Happiness index that measured not money or possessions as the mark of fulfilment, but personal perception and sense of identity.

“This landmark development is a strong reminder that culture and other nonmaterial elements of life must occupy a central role in any social intervention. Thus, we are heartened by the development community’s renewed focus on psychological health as a component of prosperity,” he said.

Farmers from Barshong, Tsirang who benefited from the Himalica project also exhibited farm products.  Bhutan Institute of Martial Arts, Druk Dream Team (Youth group), Tarayana, VAST, Handicrafts Association, National Institute of Traditional Medicine, Lungtenzampa School, Green Road, SABAH Bhutan, and Sushi Candles and Craft took part in the day-long exhibition.

Tshering Palden