Bhutan. A virus spread by a fly knocked out large parts of the orange crop in 2009. Oranges are one of Bhutan’s most important export goods. One reason for the spread of the virus was, according to researchers, a lack of pest control on many plantations. Most fruit crops are owned by landowners who live abroad and many crops are abandoned. To remedy the problem, in April the government appointed a survey team to check the orange groves and the right to fine farmers who did not follow the pest control rules. The Ministry of Agriculture also proposed that abandoned plantations should be handed over to landless farmers. The authorities also developed a plan to train growers and transplant oranges in virus-affected areas.
In September, the government urged residents not to cut down young trees every year to make new rods for prayer flags. According to countryaah, for Buddhists, prayer flags are important to help the dead find the right path in their next life; the more flags the better. According to the monks, new rods must be used every time. Figures from the government show that about 165 trees a day are felled for use as bars for prayer flags. It can be compared to the approximately 550 trees that are harvested each day for other purposes. The authorities warned that most of Bhutan’s forest will disappear within 20 years if this development continues. They see the felling as a threat to the beauty of the small country and said it undermines the government’s quest for “gross national happiness” (BNL). The focus on high GDP instead of high gross domestic product (GDP) is to live in harmony with nature. Environmental care is a top priority in Bhutan, and according to the constitution, at least 60 percent of the country’s area must be covered by forest. To address the problem, the authorities have limited the number of rods in the capital Thimphu and will try to get residents to use bamboo for rods for the flags instead.
Another threat to the gross national accident is the number of suicides, which increased in early 2009, which the authorities expressed concern about.
At least eleven people were killed and thousands became homeless when an earthquake occurred on September 21. The earthquake measured 6.1 on the Richter scale and had its epicenter near Bhutan’s border with India. At the beginning of October, Bhutan, like Nepal, was hit by torrents and subsequent landslides.