Saturday, July 30, 2011

Does Bhutan need another golf course?

In my humble view, it does not. That's why I signed a petition that was recently initiated by Dr Karma Phuntsho against a plan of constructing a new golf course near Ura village in Shingkhar valley, Bhutan. 

What does a Hungarian have to do with Ura village and development projects in Bhutan? Well, I think, a lot. This is a globalized world where the environmental impact of one golf course in a country can shape the climate in another. Hence I'm as much concerned about Bhutan's future as a chilip (foreigner) could be. I visited Ura this year and met with local people, ate their food, enjoyed their hospitality and walked around with them enjoying the pristine nature. I also stayed in a local hotel and visited local temples spending money, consequently supporting the local economy. If there was a golf course in this place, I would think twice to come back. 

Ura village without a golf course
Globally, there are issues about golf courses and they don't strike me as lucrative and forward-looking investments. Especially not in Bhutan which has an entirely different proposition to visitors and a very limited pool of potential local golfers. 

But let's hear two golf experts on this:

"Bhutan is known all over the world as a country that keeps its traditions high, it is a unique destination for those who want to experience the culture and wonders of nature and of sustainable way of life in its authentic form: why build a new golf course in this paradise? Bumthang's plains and pastures should stay as they are, pesticides and chemicals are a necessity on a golf course and will affect the soil and environment of the whole valley."
Kristel Josel, manager of the Union Golf Club Schloss Ernegg, Austria and partner of Bhutanese tour agents.

"I love golf but having lived in Thimphu and played golf regularly on the local course do not think that another course would be of any benefit to the country and people of Bhutan."  Steve Hogan

Should you agree with Kristel, Dr Karma, me and more than 300 others, feel free to join the petition clicking HERE

Long live football, the real democratic sport that connects people :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bhutan spreads happiness to the United Nations

Graffiti in Thimphu
Recently, Bhutan has put the politics of happiness on the UN's agenda with the support of 66 countries such as the UK. The UN General Assembly has adopted a non-binding resolution that aims to make happiness a "development indicator". Bhutan's ambassador Lhatu Wangchuk said the next step was to help UN members better understand the concept. He also said that UN diplomats should sleep more and spend more time with their families to be happier. Read the article HERE.

In Bhutan Gross National Happiness (GNH) is a national development framework with key progress indicators different to those related of Gross National Product (GNP). Based on Buddhist values, the GNH indicators include nine dimensions:

1. Psychological Well-being
2. Time Use
3. Community Vitality
4. Culture
5. Health
6. Education
7. Environmental Diversity
8. Living Standard
9. Governance

On paper, this is an excellent approach to development that aims to overcome the weaknesses of our global material-centered, or 'stuff-based', economic and social system. However, as I saw it in Bhutan, practicing GNH is not without challenges. Rapidly changing Bhutanese society is currently facing new issues such as stress, diabetes, crime, drug abuse, consumerism and pollution, just to mention a few. The BIG QUESTION for me is how GNH, political leadership, and lessons from abroad will help society cope with these issues. 

I believe simply copying what others have done in the past would not help and Bhutan needs to come up with new solutions that work at least for this small country, if not for all of us.  I think Bhutan needs a quick, small, but inevitable dose of globalization and consumerism now in order to develop longterm resistance to them for the future and then re-create its own culture, value system and happiness.