Climate Change and the Government Conundrum in Bhutan

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The international literature often portrays Bhutan as an environmental role model but the country also faces significant challenges related to climate change. The formation of supra-glacial lakes due to the accelerated retreat of glaciers with increasing temperatures creates severe problems for livelihoods and policymakers. The rise of potential disasters already give rise to threats to lives and development. The reliance on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, hydropower and forestry raises questions about resilience, adaptation, social and coherent policy responses.

Understanding the social and political dimensions of the impacts of glacial retreat on Bhutan’s changing water regime, especially the river basins and the groundwater, requires a careful reading and close study of the issues involved. This paper critically examines the implications of how the Bhutanese government has coped with the multi-dimensional impact of climate change, and it traces the success of national adaption plans, the National Environment Strategy, “The Middle Path”. It asks whether these measures are enough to cope with the challenges involved. Incomplete implementation and donor dependency may challenge the country’s ability to sustainably manage forests and environment, agriculture, and the reliance on hydropower as a strategic policy to create wealth for redistribution. Moving towards higher temperatures exposes that local and poor communities will be the first to experience the impact of climate change. Thus, the paper explores the problems involved facing governance, implementation, and action for mitigating the impacts of climate changes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationClimate Change and Risk in South and Southeast Asia : Sociopolitical Perspectives
Editors Devendraraj Madhanagopal, Salim Momtaz
Number of pages17
Place of PublicationAbingdon
Publication date3 Jan 2023
ISBN (Print)978-1-032-10670-0
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jan 2023
SeriesRoutledge Studies in Hazards, Disaster Risks and Climate Change


  • Bhutan
  • Climate policy
  • Gross National Happiness
  • Hydropower
  • Mitigation strategies


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