International Treaties

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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Bhutan

    Bhutan’s constitution contains provisions for the protection of the environment, including a requirement that the government should maintain at least 60 per cent of the land mass under forest cover for all time.

    Article 5 of the Constitution states that: “Every Bhutanese is a trustee of the Kingdom's natural resources and environment for the benefit of the present and future generations and it is the fundamental duty of every citizen to contribute to the protection of the natural environment, conservation of the rich biodiversity of Bhutan and prevention of all forms of ecological degradation including noise, visual and physical pollution through the adoption and support of environment friendly practices and policies”

    The Constitution also writes that The Royal Government shall:

  • Protect, conserve and improve the pristine environment and safeguard the biodiversity of the country
  • Prevent pollution and ecological degradation
  • Secure ecologically balanced sustainable development while promoting justifiable economic and social development
  • Ensure a safe and healthy environment
  • Enact environmental legislation to ensure sustainable use of natural resources and maintain intergenerational equity and reaffirm the sovereign rights of the State over its own biological resources
  • Declare any part of the country to be a National Park, Wildlife Reserve, Nature Reserve, Protected Forest, Biosphere Reserve, Critical Watershed and such other categories meriting protection

Featured Legislation

1974: The Fishing Rules were brought into force. This Regulation regulates fishing in Bhutan. Fishing without a license in any stream, lake, pond or river is strictly forbidden. A fishing license shall be issued by the Head of the Department of Forestry, Divisional Forest Officers, or other persons empowered to do so by the Government. Article 4 specified periods during which fishing shall be prohibited. Use of fishing methods specified in article 5 is strictly prohibited. License holders shall not catch more than eight fishes per day (art. 6). Remaining provisions prescribed offenses and penalties and specified fishing license fees.

1995: The Mines and Minerals Management Act was passed, encouraging detailed geological mapping of the country before companies engage in mining and quarrying activities.

1995: The Forest and Nature Conservation Act was signed with the aim of protecting forests, wildlife, and related natural resources of Bhutan for the benefit of present and future generations.

2000: The Pesticides Act was introduced, regulating the safe use and handling of pesticides to prevent public health and environmental hazards.

2000: The Seeds Act was created, regulating the import and export of agriculture seeds to prevent introduction of plants and disease and to promote the seed industry.

2000: The Livestock Act was approved, governing livestock breeding, health, and production aimed at enhancing productivity and preventing diseases.

2000: The Environment Assessment Act was instituted, highlighting procedures for the assessment and reduction of potential effects of strategic plans, policies, and projects on the environment.

2001: The Livestock Act was implemented. The Act provides for the breeding of imported or local livestock (including poultry and fish, horses, goats, sheep and pigs); the artificial insemination and embryo transfer procedures and the related facilities (both public and private); the quarantine measures in case of pest or diseases applicable to the whole or a part of the country, the setting of a Frontier Zone and the notification of diseases with related restrictions. Moreover, a Certification Agency shall be instituted to grant certificates attesting that livestock and derived products are in conformity to this Act and can be processed, sold and traded. The Act rules also on animal slaughtering, slaughterhouses, meat sellers and hygiene procedures. Licenses may be issued for the importation, production and distribution of veterinary drugs that must be tested for safety, efficacy and toxicity. Disposal of carcasses of diseased animals is provided for as vaccination of animals in cases of infections.

2003: The Biodiversity Act was passed with the intention of protecting natural ecosystems from degradation and fragmentation as a consequence of environmentally intrusive human activities and their impacts.

2007: The Water Policy was instituted. The Water Vision for Bhutan states that water is the most important natural, economic and life-sustaining resource and we must ensure that it is available in abundance to meet the increasing demands. Present and future generations will have assured access to adequate, safe and affordable water to maintain and enhance the quality of their lives and the integrity of natural ecosystems. Nature, water and human life are interdependent and inseparable and must coexist in harmony and balance. To achieve this vision, water must be used and managed sustainably, efficiently and equitably while recognizing and preserving the environmental, social, cultural and economic value and uses of water. All water users, planners and decision-makers shall be adequately informed, educated and encouraged to value and protect water in all its forms and uses. Realizing this vision requires the involvement of all people in Bhutan working in a continuous partnership within an enabling policy, legal and institutional framework. 5.3 Water for Food Production: Sustainable agriculture development is an important component of socioeconomic development. It is the source of livelihood for 69% of the population. Adequate water allocation to this sector is indispensable for achieving overall national food security. Therefore, water allocation to the sector must be compatible with this national objective. A certain provision of water for consumption by domestic animals has to be made.

2007: The National Environment Protection Act created a legal framework for environmental protection and management of hazardous substances, environmental pollutants, and waste.

2009: The Waste Prevention and Management Act was issued to reduce the generation of waste; promote segregation, reuse, and recycling; and dispose of waste in an environmentally sound manner.

2011: The Water Act was approved, ensuring that water resources are protected, conserved, and/or managed in an economically efficient, socially equitable, and environmentally sustainable manner.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • According to the Department of Forest and Park Services of Bhutan, approximately 1,423 offenses related to forest and wildlife species have been reported in 2018 alone. The illegal wildlife trade in the country has accelerated, pushing some endangered species to the brink of extinction. The Javanese rhino, for example, has led to the proliferation of wild prey which introduces new competitive levels of stress and risk in ecosystems. Bhutan’s proximity to China, Nepal, and India renders the country vulnerable to poachers. Body parts of wildlife species have been discovered by officials at airports; some of the most highly sought after species include the Himalayan black bear, musk deer, common leopard, elephants, tiger, pheasants, hornets/wasps, Asiatic golden cat, clouded leopard, red sanders and pangolins.
  • Mining in Bhutan has become a lucrative industry over the last decade, but improper planning and negligence among companies have resulted in ecological degradation and deterioration of habitats, with accelerated losses in biodiversity and medicinal plants. The proposal of massive mining operations threatens approximately 3,800 hectares of land. Over the course of seven years (2010-2017) 45.94 million metric tons of minerals were extracted – some of which included coal, dolomite, lime, stone, gypsum, quartzite, stone, talc, iron, and ore. Continued extraction of said minerals will exert increasing pressure on Bhutanese biomes in the future

References and Further Reading


Republic of Armenia Ministry of Environment: