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Bhutan is a culturally rich and unique country. The Bhutanese culture is largely influenced by or derived from its Buddhist heritage.

Bhutan’s tangible cultural heritage is richly manifest in its dress, religious festivals, music, religious monuments, and customs and traditions. Religious monuments like dzongs, temples, and monasteries are home to vibrant ancient Bhutanese culture. The religious festivals called tshechu and the way of life in these religious centres are a testimony to the Bhutanese culture deeply rooted in Buddhist heritage.

Besides, these monuments showcase the Bhutanese culture in the form of unique architecture and traditional painting. A visit to Trongsa Dzong or Punakha Dzong (considered among architectural masterpieces) will give one an insight into Bhutan’s unique culture. As you move around the country, it may interest you to observe 13 traditional arts and crafts being practised or displayed by men and women wearing unique attires.

At the intangible level, the Bhutanese culture is defined by the people’s way of life, community spirit, respect for nature, and karma-fearing nature. A Bhutanese believes that he or she lives in a societal environment populated by humans as well as non-human members sharing the physical space and natural resources. This belief, moulded by Buddhism, has shaped a sense of interdependence, community spirit, and respect for one another and for nature.

Today, Bhutan’s biggest soft power and unique selling point is its culture. The state recognises this and endeavours to preserve and promote the country’s cultural heritage. Culture is one of the four pillars of Gross National Happiness, Bhutan’s development philosophy. The state preserves culture even as it is allowed to evolve in a Bhutanese way.

Economy

With economic growth rate at 5.9 percent and projected to grow at 6.4 percent, Bhutan is among the fastest growing economies in the South Asian region. With GDP of 1.781 billion USD (World Bank 2013), Bhutan is among the world’s least developed economies. The country’s economy is largely based on agriculture and forestry which provide a livelihood for some 60 percent of the population.

With the total hydropower generation potential of 30,000 megawatts, Bhutan’s biggest generator of income is hydropower made possible by its many glacier-fed, swift-flowing rivers. Only about 6 percent of this capacity has been exploited so far. Bhutan exports up to 75 percent of its hydroelectricity to India which accounts for about 40 percent of the country’s revenues and constitute about 25 percent of its GDP.
Bhutan’s tourism industry is the second biggest revenue generator. It brings in much-needed hard currency. However, with its “High Value, Low Impact” tourism policy, the country keeps the industry sustainable by keeping the daily tariff high and numbers low. Like all other policies, Bhutan tourism policy treads the fine GNH line, striking a fine balance between income generation and preservation of Bhutan’s cultural and spiritual values.
India, Bhutan’s closest friend and neighbour, is the country’s biggest trading partner and development partner. India finances a bulk of Bhutan’s hydropower project construction and five-year development plans. With its economy largely dependent on India, Bhutan’s currency Ngultrum is pegged at par with India’s Rupee.

Environment
Bhutan is perhaps best known for its environment. Thanks to wise conservation policies of successive kings, Bhutan is today the epitome of environmental conservation. A total of 70.5 percent of the country’s land area is under forest cover and some 50 percent of Bhutan’s forests fall under protected areas, including parks and sanctuaries. And because of its vibrant forest cover, the country is among the world’s biodiversity hotspots. For all its size, the country has some of the rarest animals.
Bhutan’s conservation policy is continued to be sustained by a number of legislations and regulations put in place. The Constitution of the country requires that the country maintain at least 60 percent of its land area under forest cover at all time. Which means that the country is bound to remain green forever.
Environment conservation is one of the four pillars of Gross National Happiness. The environment is recognised as one of the four components that create conditions for happiness. This means that the environment is one of the key considerations in the screening of all policies, programmes, and projects. Any policy, programme, or project that is likely to harm the environment is less likely to be approved.  

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