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Alumni

Bhutan's balancing act

January 7, 2009

Called the Land of the Thunder Dragon, or Druk Yul to its inhabitants, Bhutan is a small country in South Asia. This Shangri-La-like country achieved prominence in James Hilton's 1933 novel Lost Horizon.

Called the Land of the Thunder Dragon, or Druk Yul to its inhabitants, Bhutan is a small country in South Asia. This Shangri-La-like country achieved prominence in James Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon.

Environment

Approximately 635,000 people live in this land-locked, Himalayan country situated between India and China. Bhutan’s economy is based on agriculture, forestry, hydroelectric power, and tourism. The country’s diverse geography ranges from glaciated mountain peaks of 23,000 feet in the north, a watershed formed by the Black Mountains, central highlands, alluvial low-land river valleys, and dense, deciduous forests.

Bhutan’s biomass is as varied as its geography, with 165 mammal species, more than 675 bird species, 600 orchid species, and more than 300 medicinal plants. Currently, 72 percent of Bhutan’s land mass remains under forest cover (with a guaranteed 60 percent to remain under forest cover per the forest policy of 1969 and the Bhutan constitution), and a quarter of the land is protected.

Move to Fort Collins

In 1990, Karma Nyedrup, ’94, moved from the small town of Khaling in eastern Bhutan to Fort Collins to study natural resources management on a World Wildlife Fund scholarship. “The rewarding thing about CSU was all the other international students to interact with,” says Nyedrup. Fort Collins’ proximity to the Rocky Mountains also helped Nyedrup cope with being away from the Himalayas. He spent four years studying at CSU, but also took time to travel around the United States.

Nyedrup’s most challenging experience was the difference in culture, sense of humor, and food. “Bhutanese like spicy food. The food I ate in Colorado was bland, so it was difficult to adjust,” he says. “When I ate in the cafeteria, it wasn’t easy to choose food because I didn’t know the name of the food or how it tasted.”

Following graduation, Nyedrup headed back to Bhutan and eventually pursued master’s degrees in resource management and environmental planning philosophy from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Development

Today, Nyedrup is deputy director of the National Environment Commission in Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital, which has a population of 50,000. He heads the division that issues or rejects environmental clearance for the country’s development activities, such as road construction, hydropower plant and mine development, and transmission line erection.

His experiences with other cultures and languages are serving him well. He speaks seven languages regularly: Hindi, Urdu, Nepali, Dzongkha (the official language of Bhutan), Tibetan, Sharchokpa (a dialect from east Bhutan), and English.


Contact: Beth Etter
E-mail: Elizabeth.Etter@colostate.edu
Phone: (970) 491-6533