Conservation geographies are muddled in Bhutan. On one hand, there are rigorous green plans and on the other, we are displacing people off their home turf to be settled elsewhere; the story of our very original Lhops or Doyas, aborigines residing along the belt of AmoChhu compromised with the upcoming AmoChhu project. Once again modern development and conservation clash as adversaries.
For Bhutan, whose one integral pillar is conservation of culture and tradition, the project raises questions of straying away from ethics, ridiculing it to mere rhetoric in our quest for unbridled progression at the expense of a community. The integrity of science is tested yet again as social change is inevitable once the project takes off.
So how do we balance the need for development with the consequences of community disruption and environmental degradation? True to the words of Rousseau, “Everything in the world is a tangled yarn: we taste nothing in its purity: we do not remain two moments in the same state. Our affections as well as our bodies are in a state of perpetual motion.”
How many mammoth projects do we really need to call ourselves industrialized or developed? Or should we resign to bear witness to Bhutan’s progress and displacement of Lhops as necessitated by Bhutan’s quest for growth and not worry about the community on the verge of extinction?
Lhops or Doyas possibly remain the smallest and last aborigines untouched by modern world and this representation is repeatedly expressed in stories of them. These sturdy people are an enigma to people even in the country. Stories of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel’s visit prove their existence to be as old as the foundation of Bhutan. And for the first time, Lhops’s evolution story is tied to science and development and brought to the forefront in Bhutan’s development process.
Technological development is a brilliant way of creating wealth and raising our per capita income and finding it in the hands of the poor, even greater. But in challenged systems, wealth is usually concentrated in the hands of the few and the prosperity myth once promised seemed to concentrate on few, further widening inequalities of income. This is the irony.
In this swiftly shifting political democracy, the interplay of factors should mold two success stories: one, the Lhops in the event of this do not undergo traumatic diaspora experiences but better their lives, two, the cost of risk-return and cost-benefit analysis are done and transformations in the economic landscape are benefitting all equally.
Maybe Bhutan is put up to a new challenge and task. Instead on resting on the ideology of Gross National Happiness, Bhutan should focus in balancing development with conservation and the successful interplay of the two to be a lesson to the world.