The Bhutan Water Vision of 2008 states that, “Water is the most important natural, economic, life sustaining resource and we must ensure that it is available in abundance to meet the increasing demands. Present and future generations will have assured access to adequate, safe and affordable water to enhance and maintain the quality of their lives and the integrity of natural ecosystems”. Connecting to the pillars of GNH, this statement demonstrates the inter-connectedness of water and its impacts on the social, economic, and environment.
Water is the life source of all ecosystems, without it the flora and fauna could not survive. In Bhutan, the vital watersheds are “regulated and sustained through its rich forest cover that protects the fragile slopes while facilitating ground water recharge” (Water: Securing Bhutan’s Future, Asia Development Bank, 2006). The dedication to maintain at least 60% forest cover throughout the country not only achieves a carbon negative initiative, but enhances the supply of water and the integrity of the ecosystems and watersheds.
The water that feeds the natural ecosystems also sustains the growth of crops. Without water, agriculture, which provides livelihood to 60% of Bhutan’s population would perish.The monsoon rains fill the rivers and irrigation canals with water that grows nutrient rich crops and provides economic development for rural communities. On the national level, one of Bhutan’s biggest economic incomes is harnessing the energy from one of its five major river systems through hydropower. Bhutan has a potential to generate 30,000 MW of hydroelectricity, of which only 1,616 MW is currently being generated, providing electricity to the people of Bhutan and contributing to the national revenue by exporting the energy generated to India. (Water: Securing Bhutan’s Future, Asia Development Bank, 2006).
Social and Culture
The watersheds and ecosystems not only support the country with economic development but provide a precious resource that brings well-being and a sense of spirituality to the people. Holidays, rituals and daily offerings involving water act as important social connections for Bhutanese. Water, as a pure substance cleanses and washes, purifying our bodies of negativity.Whether used to wash a newborn baby during Lhabtsang Thruesey (a cleansing ritual), offered in one of the seven offering bowls on the altar, or used to wash away our sins every year during the Blessed Rainy Day, water plays an important role in the culture of Bhutan.
The future of Bhutan and the world hangs on the hinges of our ability to protect and conserve our water resources. Water is the primary resource that will dictate our success in the coming years. Without it, our social, economic, and environment paradigms will crumble, leaving behind fragile ecosystems, stagnate economies and a disconnected culture. Now, more than ever, it is important for Bhutan to maintain its integrity in bringing the GNH pillars to life.