Environmental Impacts of Tourism in Bhutan

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  • Topic: Tourism, Bhutan, Districts of Bhutan
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Environmental Impacts of Tourism in Bhutan
The concept of tourism development in Bhutan took place in post 1974 period during the reign of late majesty, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk in national assembly. However, tourism business begun its operation with 274 tourist in 1974 at the time of coronation of fourth king, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk and since then tourism business started growing in Bhutan. Tourism is now recognized as having considerable potential as a tool for development and as a contributor to national revenue. In other words, the Royal Government of Bhutan now recognizes that its tourism industry is second only to hydropower in terms of its potential to generate foreign exchange and provide for national sustainable development. With tourism development, it is undeniable to say that there are environment impacts which will be discussed in the following paragraphs. Assessment and evaluation of the environment impacts of tourism in Bhutan The three main impact areas of tourism in Bhutan are;

i.Depletion of Natural Resources
ii.Air and noise pollution
iii.Physical impacts

Depletion of Natural Resources
Tourism development in Bhutan puts pressure on natural resources when it increases consumption in areas where the resources are already scarce:

Water resources
The tourism industry and in particular hotels and resorts generally overuse water resources. In major cities like Paro and Thimphu, many tourist hotels and star hotels for tourists are built and some are under construction and others are yet to be constructed for tourism development. Hotel Taj Tashi at Thimphu, Uma resort in Paro and other tourist hotels like Hotel River View in Thimphu are really overusing the water as compared to other industries. The impact is such that the people residing in those places are experiencing water shortages. Thimphu residents say that they don’t water in time and that they have to minimize water consumption.

Pollution
Tourism can cause the same forms of pollution as any other industry: air emissions, noise, solid waste and littering, releases of sewage, oil and chemicals, even architectural/visual pollution.

Air pollution and noise
As in any other country, tourism in Bhutan involves travelling, normally by motor car, busses and aero plane. So, the contribution of each to air and noise pollution is declarable. Many tour operators in Bhutan like Etho Meto Tours and Treks, Gangri Tours and Treks have latest model Japanese Toyota Cars, Land Cruisers, Haice Buses, Mini-buses and Coaster Buses being offered to tourists depending upon the group size.

Sewage
Especially with reference to Thimphu city, construction of tourists’ hotels, recreation and other facilities have lead to increased sewage pollution. People staying nearby Babesa in Thimphu where the sewage tank (reservoir) is located are complaining of the unpleasant smell or the sewage pollution.

Physical impacts
Physical impacts such as degradation of ecosystems are caused not only by tourism-related land and construction, but by continuing tourist activities.

Construction activities and infrastructural development
In every district in Bhutan, there are tourists’ hotels being built and while constructing such hotels and resorts, the trees have to be cut from the forests causing damage to the environment. In addition, construction of Paro airport in early 1980s and the ongoing construction of one airport in Gelephu under Sarpang district, Yongphu airport in Trashigang lead to the land degradation and loss of wildlife habitats and deterioration of scenery. Another example that can cited is with reference to ongoing construction of road to Merak and Sakteng in Trashigang for making accessible to the village in making that area as tourist destination are causing damage to the environment like spoiling the beautiful landscape.

Tourism and vegetation
Vegetation is one of the major attractions of many destination areas in the world as well...
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