Negotiating gross national happiness as community economy : a case study of the Thimphu River.
Thesis DisciplineWater Resource Management
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Water Resource Management
In recent years, the ecological health of the Thimphu River in Bhutan has been deteriorating. This leads to questions about the values that are ingrained in the Government’s development philosophy, known as gross national happiness. This study presents how the physical status of the Thimphu River and people’s behaviours around the river are influenced by modern, materialistic approaches, which challenge traditional, spiritual and cultural values. The objective is to understand local communities’ connections with the river, which foster perceptions of its worth, and thus frame behaviours towards the river. I used semi-structured interviews and group discussions with adults and students to gather data. I also performed a participatory rapid appraisal with local nuns, and I made direct field observations. I found that the Thimphu River has been exploited by local residents and communities living near it, resulting in its degradation. A disconnect from traditional spiritual and cultural values is evident in the waterways’ degraded state. Herein, I explore a new management approach, which could lead to sustainable river use. I explore new approaches to river management fostered by reconnecting to traditional, spiritual values, which are the core foundations of gross national happiness. I suggest re-negotiating Bhutan’s gross national happiness as a community economy, with particular reference to the ethics of taking care of a common resource belonging to all and fostering ethical behaviours through the ethical concern of encountering others.