Gross National Happiness and CDM — in the Himalayas

Vendor in Thimpu, Bhutan. The country emphasises happiness and sustainable development over blind economic growth

Will the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan and its development philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH), which emphasises happiness and sustainable development over blind economic growth, offer some insights to solving the global climate crisis?

An LDC (least developed country), Bhutan is under threat of  floods caused by the outburst of glacial lakes as a result of Himalayan glacier melt. It is ignored among the COP bigwigs. But a side event organised by Bhutan at COP-15 drew in a big crowd, many happily squatting on the floor.

About a quarter of Bhutan’s seven million people are poor, and half of them do not have access to a clean source of power. The country relies on hydro power and would be happy if it qualified for clean development mechanism (CDM) projects in which a country can earn credit for investing in clean technology.

Bhutan has an enormous — 30,000 Mega Watts — potential for hydropower.  A pilot CDM project in Chendebji, Trongsa, invested in by an electric utility group E7, is on. And at COP-15, Bhutan aims to include two more projects under the CDM mechanism.

Bhutan’s national adaptation programme of action (NAPA) focuses on lowering its Thorthomi glacial lake, which is precariously held in place with some glacial debris that separates it from another lake, Rapstreng, some 80 metres below. Bhutan is manually scooping out water from Thorthomi to prevent a collapse that would wreak havoc all around.

Yet amidst these threats, Bhutan retains its core value of happiness. A lesson for all addicts to mad money?

Dipika Chetri, South Asia contributor, SciDev.Net

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