|Conservation||About 66 per cent (1993) of Bhutan is covered in forests and woodlands, and many diverse species of plants and animals inhabit the country. Population growth is increasing the demand for fuelwood and causing pressure on the 2 per cent (1993) of land that can be used for farming or pasture. Soil erosion is a serious problem in Bhutan, as is poor access to potable water and sanitation. Nevertheless, preservation of the environment is part of the country’s tradition and government policy, and 21 per cent (1992) of the land is protected. There is apparently no specific publication on the fishes of Bhutan. There are a few scattered references in publications on Indian fishes. Threatened Species There is no information on threatened species of fishes in Bhutan. However, Bhutan's natural resources are becoming increasingly threatened. While less pronounced than in other parts of the Himalaya, there is substantial evidence that uplands in Bhutan are being degraded at accelerating rates (Denholm, 1990, Thinley, 1989). The main conservation problem is the conversion of forests to other forms of land use as a result of human settlement, high domestic consumption of fuelwood and timber, shifting cultivation, overgrazing and encroachment, all of which reflect the rising human population (Blower, 1985, Jackson, 1981, Mahat, 1985, Sargent, 1985). Forests are grazed by excessive numbers of domestic livestock and are burnt, while the wildlife is declining due to habitat destruction, grazing competition with domestic livestock and, in some southern areas, organised poaching (Blower, 1985). The southernmost forest belt has been almost completely cleared for human settlement (Mahat, 1985). People are concentrated in the fertile valleys and, in the south-western foothills, at densities approaching an upper limit given present production methods, which are unlikely to change in the near future (Jackson, 1981).|
|Geography and Climate||
Bhutan is a landlocked country, a small kingdom in the Eastern Himalaya similar in size to Switzerland, but with a much higher altitudinal range (200 m to over 7,500 m) and only one-fifth of the population density. There has been almost no industrial development in the country: about 95% of the population is
primarily dependent on agriculture and animal husbandry. The Himalayan Chain runs along the northern border and the interior of the country is made up of a series of six major north-south-aligned mountain ranges. The largest of these, the Black Mountains, rise to nearly 5,000 m and form a substantial physical barrier between eastern and western Bhutan. Four of the seven river valleys merge to form the Manas and all of them flow southwards across the plains of West Bengal and Assam into the Brahmaputra. The enormous altitudinal range and varied climatic conditions are reflected in the country's great ecological diversity, ranging from tropical moist
deciduous forest along the southern foothills, through extensive broad-leaved and coniferous forests across the middle of the country, to alpine scrub and meadows up to the permanent snowline to the north.
Bhutan's most valuable natural resources are its forests and major river systems. Most of the original forest remains. In 1978 it was estimated that 53% of Bhutan was forested, of which 19% was broad-leaved evergreen forest and 34% deciduous and coniferous. The remaining land cover comprised snow/water/scree (19%) and pasture/scrub/arable (28%). There was extensive
commercial exploitation of forest resources up until 1979, when logging operatives were nationalised and severe restrictions imposed on the export of timber in the interests of sound forestry management and ecological stability (World Bank, 1984, 1986).
Climate varies from subtropical on the Duars to temperate in the mountain valleys, with increasingly severe weather at higher elevations. Average annual precipitation is generally heavy, ranging from about 1,520 millimetres in the mountain valleys to more than 5,080 millimetres in the Duars.
Ref. World Bank, 1984
The conservation importance of the major rivers (Torsa/Ammo Chu, Paidak/Wong Chu, Sankosh/Mo Chu and Manas) is reviewed by Scott (1989). Rivers are generally rocky and fast-flowing, with marshes restricted to flat valley bottoms in the inner valleys. Most marshes have been drained for agricultural purposes but some of those remaining are of international
importance for black-necked crane.
Ref. Scott, D.A., 1989