Gross National Happiness includes protected areas.
Bhutan has taken a highly proactive approach to maintaining the integrity of its ecosystems and biodiversity by developing a large protected areas system interconnected via biological corridors.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s Nature Conservation Division reports that in 2009 Bhutan had 10 protected areas totaling 16,396.43 km2 representing 42.71% of the country’s surface area, combined with 3,307.14 km2 in biological corridors linking the protected areas and representing 8.61% of the country’s surface area. Thus, Bhutan currently has 51.32% of its area under protection, as announced by the Director of the Department of Forest in November 2009.
The protected areas and corridors are managed via a landscape conservation strategy called the Bhutan Biological Conservation Complex or “B2C2”. In the forward of the strategy, Secretary Sangay thinly states: “Key characteristics of the programme include: focus on biodiversity conservation in protected areas; biological corridors and conservation areas; commitment to positive human-nature interactions; promotion of public environmental education; encourage partnerships in conservation programmes to address a wider range of issues; and optimizing the use of limited resources.” (download the full strategy, 2.5MB)
In addition Bhutan has a number of small Conservation Areas (some of which are privately managed) totaling less than 1% of its surface area. These are not officially part of Bhutan’s protected areas network, but nonetheless play an important role in species and biodiversity conservation efforts in the country. Finally, Bhutan has also committed to maintaining 60% of its forest cover at all times and has engaged in extensive reforestation projects.
Bhutan’s Biodiversity Action Plan states that Bhutan considers conservation to be one of its Four Pillars of “Gross National Happiness”, a unifying philosophy of management and planning in Bhutan that is “based on the premise that true development of human society takes place when material, spiritual and emotional well-being occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other”. As one of the four pillars, conservation of the environment means “ensuring development pursuits are within the limits of environmental sustainability and are carried out without impairing the biological productivity and diversity of the natural environment.”