Bhutan Believe, the country’s new national brand, won two prestigious awards recently.  The awards celebrate, according to the government,  the very best in advertising, digital media, graphic design and more. 

For Bhutan, the celebration should be in believing in ourselves. Believing in our small efforts, even if it is uncomfortable or inconvenient for some, in repositioning ourselves in the 21st century AI-dominated world. Believing in preserving what we have even as we try to transform and keep up with the world. 

Believe, we can! 

As we celebrated the World Environment, two days to be precise, we recorded an increase in the population of the critically endangered white-bellied heron. There are now 27 herons, an increase of four in a year. The bird is rare and so threatened that there are only 200 such birds in the world.  54 percent of that is in Bhutan. This is the reward for believing in the conservation of our environment.

The heron needs a large habitat. It roosts near rivers often coming into conflict with our development plans. Thanks to the wisdom and the leadership of our successive monarchs. The habitats are protected by law even if it results in huge economic losses.  There are 14 habitats and those engaged in activities in their habitats are made to compensate for or restore them. Punatsangchhu, probably the most disturbed river basin, has the highest number of endangered herons. We even have three active breeding pairs. 

Bhutan and Bhutanese also planted thousands of trees over the last few days to commemorate Social Forestry Day, the birth anniversary of our beloved Gyaltsuen – the patron of our environment, and the Coronation Anniversary of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo who championed the protection and preservation of our environment and made it a national priority long before environmental issues were recognised as global priorities.

There is a campaign to plant one million fruit trees by 2026. We believe we made a good head start. And we believe we can achieve it. While many nations are losing their forest cover from deforestation or greed for money, our forest coverage is intact if not increasing. The old photographs of places in Bhutan are evidence. Village elders say there is more greenery now than in the past. 

In the recent past, we had documented evidence of another endangered species, the Bengal Tiger, finding a safe sanctuary in the jungles and the high mountains of Bhutan. Many, especially farmers, believe our preservation efforts are biased towards the wild. This arises from the strict conservation laws. Animals cannot speak, therefore, we have laws and regulations to represent them. 

It causes inconveniences or loss to crops, properties and lives. Yet we believed in continuing and fulfilling the visions of our wise leadership, past and present.  Our belief in peaceful co-existence with nature makes us believe that we can maintain our ecosystems while also embracing development. 

It is said that the best conservation policy is our belief that every tree, stone, gorge, hill, cliff, lake, pond– anything that is natural-has a spirit and cannot be destroyed.