Buddhist Bhutan warns felling trees a threat to happiness

THIMPHU, Bhutan Fri Sep 11, 2009 1:45pm IST

Monks play volleyball at Rabdey Dratsang in the southeastern district of Samdrup Jongkhar in Bhutan September 3, 2009. REUTERS/Singye Wangchuk

Monks play volleyball at Rabdey Dratsang in the southeastern district of Samdrup Jongkhar in Bhutan September 3, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Singye Wangchuk

Related Topics

THIMPHU, Bhutan (Reuters) - Bhutan has warned its citizens over cutting down thousands of young trees every year to make prayer flags, a threat to the tiny kingdom's lush scenery and the government's duty to bring "Gross National Happiness".

Himalayan Buddhists put up prayer flags for good luck or to help the dead find the right path to their next life. The more flag poles put up for the departed the better, and Buddhist monks say fresh poles must be used each time.

Having failed to convince its citizens to switch from wood to steel for prayer flags, the government of the Himalayas' last Buddhist kingdom is growing bamboo, which it hopes will be an attractive alternative.

"The pressure on forest is from all sides -- from flagposts to hydropower. We are discussing this every day," Agriculture Secretary Sherub Gyaltshen, said.

Bhutan's constitution, which emphasises the importance of Gross National Happiness over Gross Domestic Product, stipulates the country must have at least 60 percent forest cover.

Himalayan Buddhists believe winds will carry positive vibrations of tantric symbols written on the prayer flags in yellow, green, red, white and blue to represent the five elements, and 108 prayer flags are put up when someone dies.

"If you re-use an old flagpole, you aren't putting in effort, which means the merit earned is compromised," explained Lopon Gyem Tshering, a monk who teaches at a religious school.

Bhutan felled around 60,000 trees between June 2007 and June 2008 just for flag poles, according to official data, and per capita consumption is rising in the country of around 700,000.

FILED UNDER:

REUTERS EXCLUSIVE

Reuters Showcase

Indian Healthcare

Indian Healthcare

Exclusive - Payment delays dent India's flagship health, AIDS programmes  Full Article 

India-Pakistan Ties

India-Pakistan Ties

Indian, Pakistani foreign secretaries to meet in Islamabad.  Full Article 

Jaitley Speaks

Jaitley Speaks

India needs sustained GDP growth of 9-10 percent - Jaitley.  Full Article 

Obama Interview

Obama Interview

Exclusive - Nemtsov killing sign of worsening climate in Russia: Obama.  Full Article 

Environment Concerns

Environment Concerns

Deforestation could shift monsoons, leaving India high and dry.  Full Article 

Forbes Rich List

Forbes Rich List

Bill Gates tops Forbes rich list, Michael Jordan joins.  Full Article 

New Tour

New Tour

Pop icon Madonna announces dates for 'Rebel Heart' tour.  Full Article 

Lathmar Holi

In Pics: Lathmar Holi

Images of "Lathmar Holi" at Nandgaon in Uttar Pradesh.  Full Coverage 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage