Geography of Bhutan

Bhutan is one of Asia’s smallest nations, nearly lost between the extensive borders of the two great nations of China and India. Only 46,500 square kilometers in size, the kingdom straddles the 27 th parallel north latitude, and stretches from 88°45′ to 92°10′ east longitude a mere 150 km in its longest dimension. Sikkim and West Bengal lie on Bhutan ‘s western border, Tibet to the north and northwest, Arunachal Pradesh to the east, and Bengal Duars and Assam to the south.

Bhutan is a land of jungle-clad hills, impressive river gorges and high mountains. No section of the country is without diversity. The southern strip, paralleling to the border with West Bengal and Assam is a jumble of forested hills dissected by rushing watercourses with wide banks. The ridges of the southern hills generally align north-south, building up to higher peaks and ridges in the north of the country.

Between these mountains, many with summits exceeding 4000 m, lie broad flood plain valleys, which contain Bhutan‘s largest towns and much of the country’s population. Most of the population is concentrated around the sites of traditional fortress monasteries known as Dzongs. Many of these are situated along major river courses, and inhabit the mid-mountain zone in the centre of the country. From west to east the most important are in: Ha, Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue Phodrang, Trongsa, Shongkar and Trashigang.

For centuries Bhutan’s isolated location and self-reliant national character kept the Kingdom outside the path of economic development in South Asia . Although this seclusion prevented Bhutan from fully benefiting from many of the medical, technical, and scientific advances of the day, it also shielded the country from many of the detrimental side effects of poorly planned or haphazard development. As a result, while most of the Himalayan region has seen its natural resource base severely compromised through deforestation, soil degradation, erosion and pollution, Bhutan’s national patrimony of extensive and varied forests, limited yet fertile and productive farmland, and pristine water and air remains largely intact.

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