Fostering the Forest Economy

The Constitution of Bhutan is the official document that serves to protect the country’s natural resources.

By Muhammad Omar Iftikhar | April 2023

Bhutan is emerging on the world map as a trendsetter by becoming the first carbon-negative country. This is a commendable step keeping in mind the growing amount of pollution emitted by developing and developing countries. The government of Bhutan is determined not to cause carbon emissions despite its objective of achieving urbanization. The increasing population of one of smallest Southern Asia countries, locked between India and Tibet, is a matter of concern. Bhutan does not want urban housing to reduce the country’s forest cover that has been the epitome of its beauty and existence. Nearly seventy percent of Bhutan’s land is covered by forests. For centuries, forests are viewed as the country’s cultural heritage. Bhutanese government is determined to protect them at any cost. This led Bhutan to initiate and pursue the climate-smart forest economy. It refers to an economy that is designed to enhance the benefits of the forest with actions taken to preserve them. The focus of the Bhutanese government, therefore, is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by building resilient forest ecosystems.

The King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and the democratically elected government of Bhutan are evaluating various options on how to develop a regenerative construction economy. The government of Bhutan is collaborating with Bauhaus Earth, a non-profit organization that is facilitating the development of resource-efficient and regenerative buildings using bio-based materials.

Alan Organschi, director of Innovation Labs at Bauhaus Earth, commented that “We’re working with everyone involved along the supply chain in Bhutan. With our Bhutanese leaders, we will work with the people living in the forest and draw on their local knowledge to leave the strongest trees with the best DNA and harvest the smaller diameter trees for turning into engineered wood for construction.” He further added that “We are also working with Bhutanese educators, workforce training programmes and civil society organizations to re-skill and share knowledge among professionals, policymakers, builders and the general public. Through these efforts, we hope that Bhutanese society can better understand and thus support the values of a regenerative construction economy.”

As per reports, Bhutan will build three climate-smart pilot projects. These will serve as testing avenues to ascertain sustainability and durability. This will be done by using sustainable timber construction solutions. Organschi said, “This will be a mixed-use commercial building up to six storeys high that demonstrates the capacity to develop an alternative to the high-emission producing, reinforced concrete designs that are typically used to supply the urban demand for buildings in Bhutan.”

In the second project, an old-constructed hotel will be upgraded through sustainable environmental techniques. An affordable housing scheme will comprise the third project. Bhutan’s vision has been unparalleled when it comes to becoming a carbon-negative country. Bhutan actively began pursuing its environmental policy on a priority basis in 2009. Its efforts to become a carbon-negative country have only increased exponentially since then. These policies include avenues to create a carbon-neutral environment. The Constitution of Bhutan was also amended to make way for forested areas to take 60% or more of the total land in the country. Moreover, free hydroelectric power was generated by utilizing the various rivers of Bhutan.

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