For many participants, who attended the daylong conference on biodemocracy and resilience in Thimphu yesterday, biodemocracy was a new term.

Most of the 111 participants were new faces, comprising mostly of teachers.

It was the chief guest, Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel, who defined biodemocracy as a balance between political and ecological democracy.

He said the conference would deepen democracy, as it would discuss about harmonious coexistence. “We have been talking about human democracy but through this conference, we would learn about how to live in harmony with ecology.”

According to the Speaker, Article 5 of the Constitution emphasises on the protection of the natural environment, conservation of the rich biodiversity and prevention of all forms of ecological degradation including noise, visual and physical pollution through the adoption and support of environment friendly practices and policies. “The conference is expected to play a vital role in translating the laws and provisions in place for ecological conservation.”

Executive director for the centre for local governance and research (CLG), Tharchen, said biodemocracy is about the responsibility of all politically fulfilling citizens to respect the environment.

Nitasha Kaul (PhD) from the University of Westminster, London, who is co-organising the conference with CLG said that as a small high altitude country rich in natural resources but surrounded by fast urbanising, often environmentally unsustainable resource hungry and populous neighbours, Bhutan needs to find its best balance between a fragile natural ecosystem and a democratising GNH welfare state that functions in the digital era.

“Like any other country in the contemporary world, it is a tough challenge to find the right balance between economic and livelihood opportunities and a socioeconomic trajectory that combines sustainable organisation of space and resources in order to build resilient cities, communities and ecosystems,” she said.

She said that in the first decade of democracy– which itself was the result of a unique and beautiful transition led by an enlightened monarchy – Bhutanese thinkers and policymakers, as well as politicians, students, and other engaged citizens think of finding the best balance between creating employment, rural livelihood generation, fostering private sector growth, while maintaining biological and social ecosystem sustainability.

“This is what I see as biodemocracy as being a conceptual realisation that allows us to think of the political and the ecological as not separate or opposed but a part of the same narrative of what it means to have a GNH country that the world looks up to,” Nitasha Kaul said.

The chief executive officer of Thimphu Tech Park, Dr Tshering Cigay, presented a paper on conservation in the age of fourth industrial revolution and spoke on the conservation challenges because of changes in technology but emphasised on technological tools conservationists could use to conserve the environment.

Tashi Dema