Photos of Bhutan

Introduction

Background

Following Britain’s victory in the 1865 Duar War, Britain and Bhutan signed the Treaty of Sinchulu, under which Bhutan would receive an annual subsidy in exchange for ceding land to British India. Ugyen WANGCHUCK - who had served as the de facto ruler of an increasingly unified Bhutan and had improved relations with the British toward the end of the 19th century - was named king in 1907. Three years later, a treaty was signed whereby the British agreed not to interfere in Bhutanese internal affairs, and Bhutan allowed Britain to direct its foreign affairs. Bhutan negotiated a similar arrangement with independent India in 1949. The Indo-Bhutanese Treaty of Friendship returned to Bhutan a small piece of the territory annexed by the British, formalized the annual subsidies the country received, and defined India's responsibilities in defense and foreign relations. Under a succession of modernizing monarchs beginning in the 1950s, Bhutan joined the UN in 1971 and slowly continued its engagement beyond its borders.

In 2005, King Jigme Singye WANGCHUCK unveiled the draft of Bhutan's first constitution - which introduced major democratic reforms - and held a national referendum for its approval. The King abdicated the throne in 2006 in favor of his son, Jigme Khesar Namgyel WANGCHUCK. In 2007, India and Bhutan renegotiated their treaty, eliminating the clause that stated that Bhutan would be "guided by" India in conducting its foreign policy, although Thimphu continues to coordinate closely with New Delhi. In 2008, Bhutan held its first parliamentary election in accordance with the constitution. Bhutan experienced a peaceful turnover of power following a parliamentary election in 2013, which resulted in the defeat of the incumbent party. In 2018, the incumbent party again lost the parliamentary election. Of the more than 100,000 ethnic Nepali - predominantly Lhotshampa - refugees who fled or were forced out of Bhutan in the 1990s, about 6,500 remain displaced in Nepal.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Southern Asia, between China and India

Geographic coordinates

27 30 N, 90 30 E

Area

total: 38,394 sq km

land: 38,394 sq km

water: 0 sq km

country comparison to the world: 136

Area - comparative

slightly larger than Maryland; about one-half the size of Indiana

Land boundaries

total: 1,136 km

border countries (2): China 477 km, India 659 km

Coastline

0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims

none (landlocked)

Climate

varies; tropical in southern plains; cool winters and hot summers in central valleys; severe winters and cool summers in Himalayas

Terrain

mostly mountainous with some fertile valleys and savanna

Elevation

highest point: Gangkar Puensum 7,570 m

lowest point: Drangeme Chhu 97 m

mean elevation: 2,220 m

Natural resources

timber, hydropower, gypsum, calcium carbonate

Land use

agricultural land: 13.6% (2018 est.)

arable land: 2.6% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.3% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 10.7% (2018 est.)

forest: 85.5% (2018 est.)

other: 0.9% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

320 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources

78 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Natural hazards

violent storms from the Himalayas are the source of the country's Bhutanese name, which translates as Land of the Thunder Dragon; frequent landslides during the rainy season

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea

Geography - note

landlocked; strategic location between China and India; controls several key Himalayan mountain passes

People and Society

Nationality

noun: Bhutanese (singular and plural)

adjective: Bhutanese

Ethnic groups

Ngalop (also known as Bhote) 50%, ethnic Nepali 35% (predominantly Lhotshampas), indigenous or migrant tribes 15%

Languages

Sharchopkha 28%, Dzongkha (official) 24%, Lhotshamkha 22%, other 26% (includes foreign languages) (2005 est.)

Religions

Lamaistic Buddhist 75.3%, Indian- and Nepali-influenced Hinduism 22.1%, other 2.6% (2005 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 24.52% (male 98,113/female 93,740)

15-24 years: 17.77% (male 70,768/female 68,211)

25-54 years: 44.72% (male 184,500/female 165,374)

55-64 years: 6.39% (male 26,714/female 23,280)

65 years and over: 6.6% (male 26,797/female 24,821) (2020 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 45.1

youth dependency ratio: 36.1

elderly dependency ratio: 9

potential support ratio: 11.1 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 29.1 years

male: 29.6 years

female: 28.6 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 136

Birth rate

16.17 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 105

Death rate

6.28 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 145

Net migration rate

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 80

Urbanization

urban population: 43% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 2.52% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

203,000 THIMPHU (capital) (2018)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.12 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 1.15 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 1.08 male(s)/female

total population: 1.08 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Maternal mortality rate

183 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 51

Infant mortality rate

total: 35.99 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 38.49 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 33.37 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 45

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 71.5 years

male: 70.1 years

female: 72.98 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 165

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 99.3% of population

rural: 100% of population

total: 99.7% of population

unimproved: urban: 0.7% of population

rural: 0% of population

total: 0.3% of population (2017 est.)

Physicians density

0.42 physicians/1,000 population (2018)

Hospital bed density

1.7 beds/1,000 population (2012)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 87.5% of population

rural: 72.1% of population

total: 78.3% of population

unimproved: urban: 12.5% of population

rural: 27.9% of population

total: 21.7% of population (2017 est.)

Literacy

definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 66.6%

male: 75%

female: 57.1% (2017)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 13 years

male: 13 years

female: 14 years (2018)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 10.7%

male: 8.2%

female: 12.7% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 119

Environment

Environment - current issues

soil erosion; limited access to potable water; wildlife conservation; industrial pollution; waste disposal

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 35.32 micrograms per cubic meter (2016 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 1.26 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 1.11 megatons (2020 est.)

Total water withdrawal

municipal: 17 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

industrial: 3 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

agricultural: 318 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

Total renewable water resources

78 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Climate

varies; tropical in southern plains; cool winters and hot summers in central valleys; severe winters and cool summers in Himalayas

Land use

agricultural land: 13.6% (2018 est.)

arable land: 2.6% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.3% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 10.7% (2018 est.)

forest: 85.5% (2018 est.)

other: 0.9% (2018 est.)

Revenue from coal

coal revenues: 0% of GDP (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 68

Urbanization

urban population: 43% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 2.52% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 111,314 tons (2007 est.)

municipal solid waste recycled annually: 957 tons (2016 est.)

percent of municipal solid waste recycled: 0.9% (2016 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Kingdom of Bhutan

conventional short form: Bhutan

local long form: Druk Gyalkhap

local short form: Druk Yul

etymology: named after the Bhotia, the ethnic Tibetans who migrated from Tibet to Bhutan; "Bod" is the Tibetan name for their land; the Bhutanese name "Druk Yul" means "Land of the Thunder Dragon"

Government type

constitutional monarchy

Capital

name: Thimphu

geographic coordinates: 27 28 N, 89 38 E

time difference: UTC+6 (11 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: the origins of the name are unclear; the traditional explanation, dating to the 14th century, is that "thim" means "dissolve" and "phu" denotes "high ground" to express the meaning of "dissolving high ground," in reference to a local deity that dissolved before a traveler's eyes, becoming a part of the rock on which the present city stands

Administrative divisions

20 districts (dzongkhag, singular and plural); Bumthang, Chhukha, Dagana, Gasa, Haa, Lhuentse, Mongar, Paro, Pemagatshel, Punakha, Samdrup Jongkhar, Samtse, Sarpang, Thimphu, Trashigang, Trashi Yangtse, Trongsa, Tsirang, Wangdue Phodrang, Zhemgang

Independence

17 December 1907 (became a unified kingdom under its first hereditary king); 8 August 1949 (Treaty of Friendship with India maintains Bhutanese independence)

National holiday

National Day (Ugyen WANGCHUCK became first hereditary king), 17 December (1907)

Constitution

history: previous governing documents were various royal decrees; first constitution drafted November 2001 to March 2005, ratified 18 July 2008

amendments: proposed as a motion by simple majority vote in a joint session of Parliament; passage requires at least a three-fourths majority vote in a joint session of the next Parliament and assent by the king

Legal system

civil law based on Buddhist religious law

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: the father must be a citizen of Bhutan

dual citizenship recognized: no

residency requirement for naturalization: 10 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: King Jigme Khesar Namgyel WANGCHUCK (since 14 December 2006); note - King Jigme Singye WANGCHUCK abdicated the throne on 14 December 2006 to his son

head of government: Prime Minister Lotay TSHERING (since 7 November 2018)

cabinet: Council of Ministers or Lhengye Zhungtshog members nominated by the monarch in consultation with the prime minister and approved by the National Assembly; members serve 5-year terms

elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary but can be removed by a two-thirds vote of Parliament; leader of the majority party in Parliament is nominated as the prime minister, appointed by the monarch

Legislative branch

description: bicameral Parliament or Chi Tshog consists of:
non-partisan National Council or Gyelyong Tshogde (25 seats; 20 members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote and 5 members appointed by the king; members serve 5-year terms)
National Assembly or Tshogdu (47 seats; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies in a two-round majoritarian voting system; members serve 5-year terms)

elections:
National Council election last held on 20 April 2018 (next to be held in 2023)
National Assembly - first round held on 15 September 2018 and second round held on 18 October 2018 (next to be held in 2023)

election results:
National Council - seats by party - independent 20 (all candidates ran as independents); composition - men 23, women 2, percent of women 8%
National Assembly - first round - percent of vote by party - DNT 31.9%, DPT 30.9%, PDP 27.4%, BKP 9.8%; second round - percent of vote by party -  NA; seats by party - DNT 30, DPT 17; composition - men 40, women 7, percent of women 14.9%; note - total Parliament percent of women 12.5%

Judicial branch

highest courts: Supreme Court (consists of the chief justice and 4 associate justices); note - the Supreme Court has sole jurisdiction in constitutional matters

judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court chief justice appointed by the monarch upon the advice of the National Judicial Commission, a 4-member body to include the Legislative Committee of the National Assembly, the attorney general, the Chief Justice of Bhutan and the senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; other judges (drangpons) appointed by the monarch from among the High Court judges selected by the National Judicial Commission; chief justice serves a 5-year term or until reaching age 65 years, whichever is earlier; the 4 other judges serve 10-year terms or until age 65, whichever is earlier

subordinate courts: High Court (first appellate court); District or Dzongkhag Courts; sub-district or Dungkhag Courts

Political parties and leaders

Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party or BKP
Bhutan Peace and Prosperity Party (Druk Phuensum Tshogpa) or DPT [Pema GYAMTSHO] (Druk Chirwang Tshogpa or DCT merged with DPT in March 2018)
People's Democratic Party or PDP [Tshering TOBGAY]
United Party of Bhutan (Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa) or DNT [Lotay TSHERING]

International organization participation

ADB, BIMSTEC, CP, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IMF, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITSO, ITU, MIGA, NAM, OPCW, SAARC, SACEP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNTSO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer)

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: none; the Permanent Mission to the UN for Bhutan has consular jurisdiction in the US; the permanent representative to the UN is Doma TSHERING (since 13 September 2017); address: 343 East 43rd Street, New York, NY 10017; telephone [1] (212) 682-2268; FAX [1] (212) 661-0551

consulate(s) general: New York

Diplomatic representation from the US

embassy: none; frequent informal contact is maintained via the US embassy in New Delhi (India) and Bhutan's Permanent Mission to the UN

Flag description

divided diagonally from the lower hoist-side corner; the upper triangle is yellow and the lower triangle is orange; centered along the dividing line is a large black and white dragon facing away from the hoist side; the dragon, called the Druk (Thunder Dragon), is the emblem of the nation; its white color stands for purity and the jewels in its claws symbolize wealth; the background colors represent spiritual and secular powers within Bhutan: the orange is associated with Buddhism, while the yellow denotes the ruling dynasty

National symbol(s)

thunder dragon known as Druk Gyalpo; national colors: orange, yellow

National anthem

name: "Druk tsendhen" (The Thunder Dragon Kingdom)

lyrics/music: Gyaldun Dasho Thinley DORJI/Aku TONGMI

note: adopted 1953

Economy

Economic overview

Bhutan's small economy is based largely on hydropower, agriculture, and forestry, which provide the main livelihood for more than half the population. Because rugged mountains dominate the terrain and make the building of roads and other infrastructure difficult and expensive, industrial production is primarily of the cottage industry type. The economy is closely aligned with India's through strong trade and monetary links and is dependent on India for financial assistance and migrant laborers for development projects, especially for road construction. Bhutan signed a pact in December 2014 to expand duty-free trade with Bangladesh.

Multilateral development organizations administer most educational, social, and environment programs, and take into account the government's desire to protect the country's environment and cultural traditions. For example, the government is cautious in its expansion of the tourist sector, restricing visits to environmentally conscientious tourists. Complicated controls and uncertain policies in areas such as industrial licensing, trade, labor, and finance continue to hamper foreign investment.

Bhutan’s largest export - hydropower to India - could spur sustainable growth in the coming years if Bhutan resolves chronic delays in construction. Bhutan’s hydropower exports comprise 40% of total exports and 25% of the government’s total revenue. Bhutan currently taps only 6.5% of its 24,000-megawatt hydropower potential and is behind schedule in building 12 new hydropower dams with a combined capacity of 10,000 megawatts by 2020 in accordance with a deal signed in 2008 with India. The high volume of imported materials to build hydropower plants has expanded Bhutan's trade and current account deficits. Bhutan also signed a memorandum of understanding with Bangladesh and India in July 2017 to jointly construct a new hydropower plant for exporting electricity to Bangladesh.

Real GDP growth rate

7.4% (2017 est.)

7.3% (2016 est.)

6.2% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 13

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$9.029 billion (2019 est.)

$8.561 billion (2018 est.)

$8.307 billion (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 167

GDP (official exchange rate)

$2.405 billion (2017 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$11,832 (2019 est.)

$11,348 (2018 est.)

$11,142 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 134

Gross national saving

19.2% of GDP (2019 est.)

21.7% of GDP (2018 est.)

27.9% of GDP (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 113

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 16.2% (2017 est.)

industry: 41.8% (2017 est.)

services: 42% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 58% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 16.8% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 47.2% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 0% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 26% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -48% (2017 est.)

Ease of Doing Business Index scores

Overall score: 66 (2020)

Starting a Business score: 86.4 (2020)

Trading score: 94.2 (2020)

Enforcement score: 70 (2020)

Agricultural products

milk, rice, maize, potatoes, roots/tubers, oranges, areca nuts, chillies/peppers, spices, ginger

Industries

cement, wood products, processed fruits, alcoholic beverages, calcium carbide, tourism

Labor force

397,900 (2017 est.)

note: major shortage of skilled labor

country comparison to the world: 159

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 58%

industry: 20%

services: 22% (2015 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 2.8%

highest 10%: 30.6% (2012)

Budget

revenues: 655.3 million (2017 est.)

expenditures: 737.4 million (2017 est.)

note: the Government of India finances nearly one-quarter of Bhutan's budget expenditures

Public debt

106.3% of GDP (2017 est.)

114.2% of GDP (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 12

Fiscal year

1 July - 30 June

Current account balance

-$547 million (2017 est.)

-$621 million (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 123

Exports

$554.6 million (2017 est.)

$495.3 million (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 173

Exports - partners

India 94% (2019)

Exports - commodities

iron alloys, dolomite, refined iron, cement, silicon carbides (2019)

Imports

$1.025 billion (2017 est.)

$1.03 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 186

Imports - partners

India 85%, Thailand 5% (2019)

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, iron products, delivery trucks, cars, wood charcoal (2019)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$1.206 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$1.127 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 129

Debt - external

$2.671 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$2.355 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 147

Exchange rates

ngultrum (BTN) per US dollar -

64.97 (2017 est.)

67.2 (2016 est.)

67.2 (2015 est.)

64.15 (2014 est.)

61.03 (2013 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2020)

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 21,581

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 2.57 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 174

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 729,239

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 86.79 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 166

Telecommunication systems

general assessment:

Bhutan’s telecom market is dominated by the mobile sector for voice and data connections due to poor fixed-line infrastructure and topographic issues; investment is focused on mobile infrastructure and an emergency telecom network for natural disasters; extended LTE to 60% of all mobile Internet users; regulator developing 5G plan; international communication through landline and microwave relay; nascent satellite service; importer of broadcast equipment from India (2021)

(2020)

domestic: 3 to 100 fixed-line, 96 to 100 mobile cellular; domestic service inadequate, notably in rural areas (2019)

international: country code - 975; international telephone and telegraph service via landline and microwave relay through India; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat

note: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced downturn, particularly in mobile device production; many network operators delayed upgrades to infrastructure; progress towards 5G implementation was postponed or slowed in some countries; consumer spending on telecom services and devices was affected by large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home became evident, and received some support from governments

Broadcast media

state-owned TV station established in 1999; cable TV service offers dozens of Indian and other international channels; first radio station, privately launched in 1973, is now state-owned; 5 private radio stations are currently broadcasting (2012)

Internet users

total: 368,714

percent of population: 48.11% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 160

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 8,774

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 1.04 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 173

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 2 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 6

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 275,849 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 690,000 mt-km (2018)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 2 (2017)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2017)

914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2017)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 1 (2012)

914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2012)

Roadways

total: 12,205 km (2017)

urban: 437 km (2017)

country comparison to the world: 132

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Royal Bhutan Army (includes Royal Bodyguard, an air wing); National Militia; Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs: Royal Bhutan Police (2020)

note - the Royal Bhutan Army is a lightly armed infantry force focused on border protection and internal security; India is responsible for military training, arms supplies, and the air defense of Bhutan

Military and security service personnel strengths

the Royal Bhutan Army has an estimated 8,000 personnel (2020)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

India has provided most of the Royal Bhutan Army's equipment (2020)

Military service age and obligation

18 years of age for voluntary military service; no conscription; militia training is compulsory for males aged 20-25, over a 3-year period (2019)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

lacking any treaty describing the boundary, Bhutan and China continue negotiations to establish a common boundary alignment to resolve territorial disputes arising from substantial cartographic discrepancies, the most contentious of which lie in Bhutan's west along China’s Chumbi salient

Trafficking in persons

current situation: human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Bhutan and Bhutanese abroad; some traffickers posing as recruiters use the lure of well-paying jobs overseas to exploit Bhutanese citizens for forced labor; some Bhutanese working in hospitality, retail, and service industries in the Gulf states and India, Thailand, and the UK reported trafficking indicators, including illegal recruitment fees, wage deductions, restricted movement, passport retention, and non-payment of wages; Bhutanese women and girls working as domestics, caregivers, and entertainers are subject to sex and labor trafficking domestically; Bhutanese and Indian women may be forced to work in hotels, massage parlors, and nightclubs, while male Indian workers face unauthorized deductions and non-payment of wages in the construction and hydropower sectors

tier rating:

Tier 2 Watch List — Bhutan does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so; among its accomplishments, Bhutan convicted one trafficker, appealed the dismissal of trafficking charges in a second case, finalized and disseminated standard operating procedures for victim identification and referral, and initiated an investigation into reports of labor exploitation; the government also continued to work with an international organization on anti-trafficking training and public awareness events; however, Bhutanese courts continued to dismiss and refile on lesser charges human trafficking cases due to inconsistencies between Bhutanese law and the international definition of trafficking; additionally, authorities did not identify any trafficking victims during the reporting period and did not provide protective services to Bhutanese victims of forced labor abroad (2020)