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Land and People

Great mountain ranges, rising in the N to Kula Kangri (24,784 ft/7,554 m), Bhutan's tallest peak, run north and south, dividing the country into forested valleys with some pastureland. The perpetually snow-covered Great Himalayas are uninhabited, except for some Buddhist monks in scattered monasteries. Bhutan is drained by several rivers rising in the Himalayas and flowing into India. Thunderstorms and torrential rains are common; rainfall averages from 200 to 250 in. (508-635 cm) on the southern plains. The valleys, especially the Paro, are intensively cultivated.

Bhutan's people are mostly Bhotias, who call themselves Drukpas (dragon people). They are ethnically related to the Tibetans and practice a form of Buddhism closely related to the Lamaism (see ) of Tibet; many Bhutanese live in monasteries. Dzongka, the official language, is also basically Tibetan. In S Bhutan there is a sizable minority of Nepalese (about a third of the population), who practice Hinduism and speak various Nepalese dialects. Large numbers of ethnic Nepalese have been expelled to Nepal since the late 1980s, and the government has pressured the Nepalese to adopt Bhutanese dress, customs, religion, and language. In addition, some 15% of Bhutan's people are from indigenous or migrant tribal groups.


The chief occupations, which employ more than 90% of the workforce, are small-scale subsistence farming (producing rice, corn, root crops, citrus fruit, barley, wheat, and potatoes) and the raising of yaks, cattle, sheep, pigs, and tanguns, a sturdy breed of pony valued in mountain transportation. Cement; metal, wood, and leather working; alcoholic beverages; calcium carbide; textiles; and handicrafts are also important. Fuels, grain, machinery, and vehicles are the major imports; cardamom, gypsum, timber, handicrafts, cement, and fruit are the primary exports. Hydroelectric power is a most important resource, with some electricity being exported to India. Tourism is a significant though restricted activity, and it is the country's largest source of foreign exchange. Bhutan's economy is closely tied to that of India,both through trade and monetary links.


Bhutan's hereditary monarch, the Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King), is assisted by two advisory councils. In 1953 a national assemby (Tshogdu) was created; 35 of its 150 members are appointed by the king, 10 monastic representatives are selected by the ecclesiastical bodies, and the rest are elected by the people; all serve 3-year terms. The national assembly is empowered to select and remove the king and to veto his legislation. The assembly must also give the king a periodic vote of confidence. Political parties are banned; the Bhutan Congress party, led by Nepalese, operates from India. Bhutan is divided into 18 administrative districts.

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