Parked Constitution?

On 12 December the prime minister inaugurated the Wangchuck Centennial Park. This is good news and bad news.

The good news is that Wangchuck Centennial Park, our country’s second largest, covering 3736 sq km across four dzongkhags, connects the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Park in the west with Bomdeling Wildlife Sanctuary in the east. The entire northern belt of our country is now protected, allowing for even better management of our rich biodiversity. The park will also protect our water systems, essential for hydropower, and provide ecotourism opportunities for our farmers.

The bad news is that the park is illegal. According to our Constitution, only Parliament has the authority to declare parts of the country as protected areas. And Parliament has not discussed the establishment of the park or enacted legislation proclaiming the area as a park. The government’s recent announcement, therefore, violates Article 5 Section 5 of our Constitution which reads: “Parliament may, by law, 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.”

The government either does not understand our Constitution or is disregarding it. I’m not sure which is worse.

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photo from www.moa.gov.bt