Bhutan, also known as Druk Yul – Land of Thunder Dragon, has built sustainability in its national culture. Billed as the happiest country in the world, what is the secret behind being the only carbon-negative country in the world? A fireside chat with Lhato Jamba a senior academic and social leader from the Bhutan – the Buddhist country located on Himalaya’s Eastern edge. Bhutan could hold answers to dealing with climate change for the rest of the world.

Marginalia: Bhutan is the only carbon negative country in the world. What factors have contributed in keeping the environment intact in Bhutan, while rest of the world is struggling with climate change crisis?

Lhato Jamba: The single most important factor contributing to Bhutan being the only carbon negative country is the wise decisions and visionary leadership provided by our successive monarchs. Our monarchs have always been promoting interconnectedness and mutual fulfilment with the nature and rest of the existence. Through Their Majesties wise decisions and guidance, the people of Bhutan saw that we are connected to nature and the entire existence.  Our relationship is that of reciprocity which is based on the centuries old concept of tha-dam-tse and Lay-Jum-dre.  Our basic aspiration is to live in mutual fulfilment and harmony with the nature. Our monarchs have always pursued Consciousness development of the Bhutanese and nature, along with the material development, to promote happiness and wellbeing of the Bhutanese people.

Marginalia: How is caring for the environment embedded in the culture of Bhutan? How does a common man in Bhutan contribute to environmental sustainability?

Lhato Jamba: The environmental management and care is deeply embedded in the Bhutanese culture, belief system, faith and superstitions. The Bhutanese belief that every mountains, rivers, lakes, swamps, trees and rocks are possessed with unseen souls and spirits who must be respected, feared and worshipped, which otherwise would bring about sickness and misfortunes. This deep sense of reverence and fear have largely contributed to keeping the natural environment intact in Bhutan.

Marginalia: Many people feel that in its attempt to keep the environment intact Bhutan has lacked behind it terms of its industrial development. Do you agree with the same?

Lhato Jamba: Today, if we pause and introspect deeply into our state of being, it is very clear to us that our state of happiness and wellbeing depend not on its industrial development but largely on the right understanding and the quality of relationship with other human being and nature. The happiness lies in the relationship that is mutually fulfilling and not in a linear exploitative relationship. Therefore, it is in the persuasion and promotion of right understanding and mutually fulfilling relationship with nature that promotes happiness and wellbeing of the people and not solely on the state of industrial development. This deep understanding about the source of happiness and wellbeing has generated Preservation and Promotion of Culture and Environmental conservation as two of the four pillars of GNH, a development philosophy that seeks to balance material development with spiritual and mental development. We may not be industrially well-developed country but we are one of the happiest countries in the world. That speaks for itself where the development priority should lie and why every country must re-think development.

Marginalia: How is Bhutan planning to balance development and environmental sustainability in the future?

Lhato Jamba: Our constitution requires us to maintain 60% of the total area of the country to remain under forest cover at all times to come. This is ensured through country’s forest reserve system and national parks established all over the country. This ensures environmental sustainability. Bhutan will pursue its developmental activities through environmentally friendly areas such as producing clean energy, high end tourism and introduction of information technology based services.

Marginalia: Most nations in the world are struggling with climate change and environmental sustainability is a huge challenge. What is Bhutan’s message to the world to deal with this crisis?

Lhato Jamba: The Bhutan is itself a message to the world at large. Every country grappling with environmental crisis today must re-think development and seek to balance material pursuit with development of emotional and spiritual wellbeing. We must understand that end objective of all our developmental activities is to achieve happiness and wellbeing for the people and our current pursuit of accumulation of material wealth will not take us to the right destination.

Lhato Jamba
Lhato Jamba

About Prof. Lhato Jamba

Prof. Lhato Jamba was born on April 4, 1963 in Themnangbi, Mongar, Bhutan. Mr. Lhato Jamba completed his B.Com from Sherubtse College, Bhutan in 1986. He did Master of Commerce from Delhi University and obtained Master of Philosophy Degree, M.Phil from Maharshi Dayanand University in the year 1989. He was Lecturer, Head of the Department of Commerce and Vice Principal at Sherubtse College, Kanglung, Bhutan for 18 years (1990-2008). He held the role of Director General, when he launched Gedu College of Business Studies, Gedu, Bhutan in the record time of 6 months. Currently, He is a President of Gyalpozhing College of Information Technology (GCIT), Mongar, Bhutan. Lhato Jamba is one of the pioneers in setting up new Colleges in Bhutan. He served Gedu College as its Director General during the year 2008- 2017.