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Politics

Swarming visitors are a boon and a bane for an Asian Shangri-La

Bhutan's astute tourism policies are tested as the world discovers paradise

A clean river flowing past the Paro Dzong monastery is an example of how Bhutan has taken conservation seriously. (Photo by Sujeev Shakya)

I enjoy my travels to Bhutan. The country's capital, Thimphu, reminds me of my school days in Kalimpong, a town in West Bengal that has since fallen victim to development. But am I also starting to see the same thing in Thimphu? Its streets are now becoming crowded, with many cars bearing Indian license plates as tourists flock to the mountainous kingdom to beat the summer heat.

Bhutan, which opened to tourism in the mid-1990s, last year saw over 209,570 foreign tourists. About 70% came from neighboring countries, mainly India, with which Bhutan shares an open border. A much smaller number came from Bangladesh.

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