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Bhutan

Driving Directions Bhutan

BHUTAN surrounded by India to the south and China to the north. It rises from foothills overlooking the Brahmaputra river to the southern slopes of the Himalayas. The Himalayas, which rise to over 7,500 meters or 24,608 feet in Bhutan, make up most of the country. Bhutan can be divided into three topographical regions: the high Himalayas; the middle Himalayas, where the mountains are lower and are dissected by fertile valleys occupied by rivers which are main tributaries of India's Brahmaputra river; and the foothills and plains of a region called the Duars, the southern part of which is used for agriculture.

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The climate is hot and wet on the plains, but temperatures drop progressively with alti­tude, resulting in glaciers and permanent snow cover in the north. There are no railways, but roads join many parts of the country. Bhutan has been isolated historically for centuries, only opening its doors to the outside world in the 1970s and its small population continues to follow a traditional way of life which is kind to the environment.

As a result, the country has a wealth of habitats and flora and fauna, many of which endangered. At least 5,000 species of plants identified, many of them valuable in traditional and Western medicine along with 165 species of mammals and 675 species of birds. Rare wildlife includes tigers, snow leopards, red pandas, golden langur monkeys, and black-necked cranes. Some 95 percent of the workforce are farmers growing wheat, rice, potatoes, and corn. Fruit such as plums, pears, apples and also cardamom is grown for export. Yaks reared on the high pasture land provide milk, cheese, and meat. As there is little demand for new farmland, vast areas of the country remain forested, and the laws of the land ensure that 60 percent of the natural woodland must remain forever.

Bhutan’s mineral resources include coal, limestone, gypsum, and dolomite. Industries are all small-scale activities and are strictly controlled to minimize negative effects on the environment. They include mining, manufacture of wood products, food processing, cement, production of hydroelectric power for home use and export to India and craft goods. Tourism is the country’s main source of foreign income but the number of visitors is strictly limited as too great an influx is regarded as a threat to Bhutan's culture and environment.

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