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One of the beginnings

While the present government has committed to back the plan, there are conservationists, who feel that the road construction would disrupt the core tiger habitat. Conservation experts opine that this construction would disturb the ecosystem

Seriously, we might witness a scuffle of sorts over the controversial 67-kilometer Shingkhar Gorgan secondary highway as it’s once again headed to become an issue of controversy between the present government and conservationists.

While the present government has committed to back the plan, there are conservationists, who feel that the road construction would disrupt the core tiger habitat. Conservation experts opine that this construction would disturb the ecosystem.

The reasons to have the road seem genuine - how it would help to alleviate poverty in remote Lhuentse, making lives for people from the eight gewogs of Lhuentse more betterbut the above case is also a reminder and an example of what we will be confronting as we pursue economic development, which will often come at the cost of our environment. This is obviously not the first hurdle and it’s not going to be the last.

We saw us in a similar quagmire while going ahead with the construction of Punatshangchhu hydropower project even if it were to disrupt the habitat of the endangered white bellied heron. It was reasoned that economic benefits to the people and country far outweighs small environmental concerns.

The obvious dilemma is how we go forth. Times are changing. We are bound to encounter many such problems as we tread towards the future. We live in a world where economic growth and military power call the shot of the day - it’s either tanks and weapons, or dollars in one’s reserve.

In such a scenario pursuing economic growth becomes more or equally important. It is inevitable, lest we want to be behind and secluded.

This particular case is also an eye opener. In our pursuit of economic development, we can’t deny the enormous pressure we would be gripped with. This is definitely going to happen. It’s happening now.

Further aggravating the situation is the pressure on natural resources given that we are an agrarian society. However, conversely we just have a handful of arable land. Agricultural areas in the country are shrinking. It has shrunk from 7.85% in 1995 to 2.93% in 2010. The encroachment over natural land for food is obvious as well. It is a matter of necessity than choice. Urban areas have doubled in the last 15 years increasing from 0.08% to 0.16%.

Another challenge would be in our pursuit of poverty alleviation in rural pockets. The impact on the environment would be more exacerbated as we bring them up because most of the people who make into the list are from some remotest places that are cut off from the rest of the country. Our demand for roads, schools, health clinics, and water supplies will only make our conservation effort more arduous.

So this dilemma is just one of the beginnings.

Lobzang Dorji

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