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Bhutan - Enviornment

Bhutan Environment

Landlocked Bhutan is roughly the size of Switzerland. It is bounded on the north and northwest by Tibet, with India nudging its remaining borders. Virtually the entire country is mountainous, peaking at the 7554m (24,777ft) Kulha Gangri on the Tibetan border. North to south it features three geographic regions; the high Himalaya of the north, the hills and valleys of the centre, and the foothills and plains of the south. Its great rivers helped sculpt its geography and their enormous potential for hydropower has helped shape the economy.

Thanks to centuries of isolationism, its small population and topographical extremes, Bhutan's ecosystem is virtually intact, and boasts the most varied habitats and a rich array of animal and plant species. Under Bhutanese law, 60% of the kingdom will remain forested for all time. There is currently a remarkable 72% forest cover and an astonishing array of plants; more than 5500 species, including over 300 medicinal strains. There are 165 species of mammals, including many rare and endangered animals such as the golden langur, snow leopard and red panda. So far, 770 species of birds have been recorded, including the rare and endangered black-necked crane.

Just over a quarter of the kingdom is in protected areas, all of which encompass inhabited regions. A progressive integrated conservation and development program reconciles the needs of the community with environmental protection, the foundation of Bhutan's entire economic ethos. National parks sustain important ecosystems and have not been developed as tourist attractions. In many cases you won't even be aware that you are entering or leaving a protected area.

Bhutan's climate varies widely from the tropical southern border areas to the perpetually snow-covered peaks of the high Himalaya, just 150km (93mi) north as the crow flies. At the same latitude as Miami and Cairo, its climate depends largely on elevation. It bears the brunt of the monsoon, receiving more rainfall than other Himalayan regions, sometimes up to 5.5m (18ft) a year.

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