Now that we have opened up to the rest of the world, the alacrity with which change is coming is amazing. It is, also, deeply worrying.

Our urban and rural landscapes have gone through dramatic changes. Over the decades, our values systems have evolved, threatening the very survival of our identity. We may have succeeded in preserving the façades of the society, but losing the soul that defines us as Bhutanese could be painful. Maybe it is time we asked ourselves some deeply searching questions.

Our farmers are increasingly leaving their village homes and coming to urban centres. One of the leading causes driving our farmers from their fields is increasing human-wildlife conflicts. Even as we try to address the issue with measures like electric fencing, farmers continue to lose their crops to wild animals, making it difficult for them to eke out a living.

The challenges that we now confront will only grow if appropriate interventions are not sought. The sooner we do this, the better.

Already highlanders of Merak in Trashigang are asking the livestock department for urgent interventions. Maybe for the young people in the far-off communities urban lifestyle with dazzling array of modern amenities is irresistible. In many highland communities, yak- and sheep-rearing culture has visibly declined. This means soon our highlanders will have lost their traditional textile-making skills, making their lives in the highlands even more difficult.

The long-term consequences that we could face from all these developments are serious. Highlanders are our sentinels in the north. It is important that they remain there, which means we must take development to their doorsteps. Agriculture and health facilities are important. Good schools with enough teachers may hold our highlanders back. If highlanders are of the view that providing them with fine-breed animals will encourage them to stay behind, maybe it is time we heard them and saw how all these could be done. How quickly do so will matter.