Conservation is at the heart of our development policy, be it environmental or cultural. But this day we are talking about culture.

This week in Thimphu, management plans for three identified cultural landscapes were presented. Plans for six cultural landscapes: Buli, Ramtoe, Ura, Nabji, Gangtey, and Rinchengang were discussed.

At the core of the idea is to assess the values of the sites that are identified as possible cultural landscape. Herein comes the trouble, because the entire landscape of Bhutan is a unique cultural landscape. How do we value each village or community, for example?

Being too rigid with the way things come could be antithetical to development. What gives us the right to hold some communities behind while we march on with the glitz and glamour of modernity? No amount of incentives will be enough to let some people or communities not choose how they want to live their lives.

What our communities need today are basic health and social services. A few weeks ago, the meeting of highlanders in the capital pointed out that education and health services must be improved in the highlands for socioeconomic reasons.

Equality and equity comes to the picture. Is it fair that we compartmentalise some communities for their uniqueness and not allow change come to them? Change will come with time. The building styles we had a decade ago are no more. In 10 year’s time, the way we dress and the way we build our homes will have changed by much.

But what our communities will require perpetually are services that matter to them. If we can make services like health, education, and communications available to the farthest hamlet of this nation, much of the problems that we are grappling with will find their own solutions. Rural-urban migration wouldn’t be there. Youth unemployment wouldn’t be so severe an issue.

That’s conservation because our unique cultures will take care of themselves. It is when social and economic services do not reach our distant communities that we run the risk of losing our distinct cultures.

Culture and heritage preservation has got so much to do with development.