Sonam Tshering

Sonam is a Senior Lecturer at Jigme Singye Wangchuck (JSW). He has been designing and teaching contract and procedural laws and researches on Bhutanese laws. He holds a LLM from George Washington Law School (USA) and an LLB from NLC (India). He heads the Faculty Recruitment and Selection Committee of the Law School at JSW. Prior to becoming an academician, he served as a Parliamentary Committee Secretary in the Parliament of Bhutan. He also worked as a legal officer, legal advisor and media spokesperson of Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority for over six years. He has published numerous short papers on law and currently writes a weekly legal column on current legal issues in Bhutan for the national newspaper Kuensel. He also has interest in environmental laws, green and smart contracts.

Designation: Jigme Singye Wangchuck
Institution: Jigme Singye Wangchuck
Paper: Customary Beliefs in Interdependence and Happiness Policies - A Creation of Best Environmental Laws in the World
Abstract: Bhutan is one of the nations to remain not just carbon neutral but carbon negative despite being located between two of the world's most polluted countries, India and China. While the Constitution of Bhutan mandates at least 60% of the country to be under forest coverage at all times, currently it stands at more than 72% of which 50% is under protected area. This makes Bhutan one of the only surviving nations without pollution, natural resources still untapped, undisturbed and well protected in the entire South Asian Region. Such a success may not be merely attributed to Bhutan's stringent legislations on protection and conservation of environment as most of these legislations are not even two decades old yet the conservation and protection existed for centuries. Thus, such success may have been largely influenced by the fundamental Buddhist beliefs of interdependence among humans, animals and nature which is ingrained in the minds of Bhutanese people. Inherently, Bhutanese believe that the nature itself including rivers, mountains, stones, trees are owned not by humans but owned by their own gods and spirits and there is a strong interdependence of human beings, animals and the nature and therefore, if we destroy one, the other gets affected equally. Further, Bhutan's unique developmental guiding principle of the Gross National Happiness (GNH) must have had a large influence not only on the enactment of current laws but also on the protection and conservation of environment in Bhutan for centuries. Therefore, this paper attempts to explain how the unique principle of GNH and the un-codified aged old Buddhist tradition as customary laws which may have influenced the modern legislation and policies making Bhutan an exemplary nation in the field of protection and conservation of environment and nature for centuries. This paper is expected to evaluate to what extent the modern environmental laws are influenced by these customary laws and principle of GNH which has helped Bhutan a success in maintaining its environment unlike any other countries in the region.