Monday, July 18, 2016

Devastation of Bhutan’s Most Famous Trek Route: A View from Outside

Early this morning starting at 1:03 AM through 2.03 AM, a reader of my blog - Brent Olson - posted the following three comments on my blog, on the devastation of Bhutan’s most famous trek route.

1:03 AM: 
If the Australian Govt. paid for the rural electrification of this region, the cost of rerouting the lines to preserve one of Bhutan's key tourism destinations should have been included in the budget. Optionally, if tour operators around the world were told of this disastrous decision, they could have launched a campaign to raise funds to pay for the rerouting! Why weren't these options considered?

1:19 AM: 
Having been involved in promoting tourism to Bhutan for the past 30 years and having done this trek route several times myself, this is heartbreaking news. After my sadness passed, I became angry that such a disastrous decision was allowed to proceed! While rural electrification is a lofty and admirable goal, there has to be a cost and benefit analysis done. How many Bhutanese are going to benefit from these lines? What is the implication to the environment, to this popular trek route and to the tourism industry that employs so many Bhutanese? While it is true that only a small number of travelers (out of the thousands that visit Bhutan each year) actually do this trek, these types of actions damage the overall impression of travelers to the country. Bhutan is heavily promoted as an environmentally sensitive and extremely forward thinking country. Actions such as this make people wonder if those descriptions are actually true. Putting electric poles and lines along this pristine trek route would be the equivalent of putting a four lane freeway through Yosemite Valley and to what benefit, the electrification of a few households and villages? Wouldn't that money have been better spent developing solar, wind and mini hydro power for these regions, especially given their value to Bhutan and the world? Rather than just complain about this bad decision, I think it needs to be stopped and funds need to be raised to reroute or bury the lines. I would be happy to help instigate a fund raising campaign focused on that goal if it isn't already too late......

2:03 AM
Those responsible for these horrible decisions should be held accountable. Of course, it now sounds like it is too late to make any difference for the Jhomolhari area..... 

Mr. Brent Olson is obviously as pained as I am at the recklessness with which Bhutan’s most famous trek route has been destroyed. He goes so far as to commit to raise funds, to reroute the transmission lines - if the government will consider it.

Perhaps even the Government of Austria could help - after all it was their funding that caused the devastation. They ought to take ownership for not ensuring that their money is used for something that is useful and beneficial for Bhutan and its people. Their funding would certainly help a few dozen households in the Jumolhari area - but in the process the country has been deprived of hundreds of millions of dollars in tourism revenue, for decades to come.

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