Location: Southern Asia, between China and India
Geographic coordinates: 27 30 N, 90 30 E
Map references: Asia
total: 47,000 sq km
land: 47,000 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area - comparative: about half the size of Indiana
total: 1,075 km
border countries: China 470 km, India 605 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
Terrain: mostly mountainous with some fertile valleys and
lowest point: Drangme Chhu 97 m
highest point: Kula Kangri 7,553 m
Natural resources: timber, hydropower, gypsum, calcium carbide
arable land: 2%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 6%
forests and woodland: 66%
other: 26% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 340 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: violent storms coming down from the Himalayas
are the source of the country's name which translates as Land of
the Thunder Dragon; frequent landslides during the rainy season
Environment - current issues: soil erosion; limited access
to potable water
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Nuclear Test Ban
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography - note: landlocked; strategic location between
China and India; controls several key Himalayan mountain passes
Bhutan is a landlocked country. It
is about 47,000 kilometres - roughly the size of Switzerland. It
is located between Tibet in the north, Indian states of West Bengal
and Assam in the south, and Arunachal Pradesh in the east.
Bhutan has three major land
regions. The Great Himalayan region in the north rises more than
4300 m (14,000 ft) along the Tibetan border. This area is uninhabited
except for a few scattered settlements in the high valleys. The
Great Himalayas radiate southward into central Bhutan, creating
the Middle Himalayan zone.
The Middle Himalayas enclose
fertile valleys that have moderate rainfall and a temperate climate;
they are well populated and cultivated. South of the Middle Himalayan
valleys and foothills lies a large plain called the Duars. The northern
part of the Duars, including the foothills, is home to deer, lion,
leopards and the rare golden monkey as well as much tropical vegetation
including many species of wild orchids.
The southern section of the
Duars was once covered with dense savanna and bamboo jungle, but
has been largely cleared for rice cultivation. Bhutan is a land
of soaring snowcapped peaks, alpine meadows and densely forested
hills and ravines abounding in exotic flora and fauna.
From May to August, hills are
covered with an awesome variety of flowers decorated with waterfalls
and streams gushing in wild abandon.
Varies with altitude.
Days are normally warm. Nights can be quite chilly. Dry spring starts
in early March and lasts until mid-April. Summer weather commences
in mid-April with occasional showers and continues through the premonsoon
rains of late June.
The summer monsoon lasts
from late June through late September with heavy rains from the
southwest. The monsoon weather, blocked from its northward progress
by the Himalayas, brings heavy rains, high humidity, flash floods
and landslides, and numerous misty, overcast days.
Autumn, from late September
or early October to late November, follows the rainy season. From
late November until March, winter sets in, temperature is below
Bhutan is a small, developing independent country in south-central
Asia. It lies in the eastern Himalaya between India and Tibet.
Bhutan is a rugged, mountainous
country with great extremes of climate. Thick forests grow on the
rain-drenched southern slopes of the mountains.
It is extremely hot in the low foothill regions and extremely cold
in the Great Himalaya. Only in the mid-Himalaya regions is the climate
Under British influence a monarchy was set up in 1907; three years
later a treaty was signed whereby the country became a British protectorate.
Independence was attained in 1949, with India subsequently guiding
foreign relations and supplying aid.
Location and Size: Landlocked between China and
India; total land area 46,500 square kilometers.
Topography: Rugged, mountainous, snowcapped or
glaciercovered terrain in north, part of Himalayas; high mountains
in center, southern spurs of Himalayas; foothills and subtropical
plains in south. Highest point Kulha Gangri (7,554 meters). Numerous,
rapidly flowing rivers largely unnavigable, but provide water for
irrigation and hydroelectric-power generation.
Climate: Varies with altitude. Year-round snow
in north, heavy monsoon rains in west, drier but temperate central
and eastern areas, humid and subtropical in south.
Data as of September 1991
Landlocked Bhutan is situated in the eastern Himalayas and is mostly
mountainous and heavily forested. It is bordered for 470 kilometers
by Tibet (China's Xizang Autonomous Region) to the north and northwest
and for 605 kilometers by India's states of Sikkim to the west,
West Bengal to the southwest, Assam to the south and southeast,
and Arunachal Pradesh (formerly the North-East Frontier Agency)
to the east. Sikkim, an eighty-eight-kilometer-wide territory, divides
Bhutan from Nepal, while West Bengal separates Bhutan from Bangladesh
by only sixty kilometers. At its longest east-west dimension, Bhutan
stretches around 300 kilometers; it measures 170 kilometers at its
maximum north-south dimension, forming a total of 46,500 square
kilometers, an area one-third the size of Nepal. In the mid-1980s,
about 70 percent of Bhutan was covered with forests; 10 percent
was covered with year-round snow and glaciers; nearly 6 percent
was permanently cultivated or used for human habitation; another
3 percent was used for shifting cultivation (tsheri), a
practice banned by the government; and 5 percent was used as meadows
and pastures. The rest of the land was either barren rocky areas
Early British visitors to Bhutan reported "dark and steep glens,
and the high tops of mountains lost in the clouds, constitut[ing]
altogether a scene of extraordinary magnificence and sublimity."
One of the most rugged mountain terrains in the world, it has elevations
ranging from 160 meters to more than 7,000 meters above sea level,
in some cases within distances of less than 100 kilometers of each
other. Bhutan's highest peak, at 7,554 meters above sea level, is
north-central Kulha Gangri, close to the border with China; the
second highest peak, Chomo Lhari, overlooking the Chumbi Valley
in the west, is 7,314 meters above sea level; nineteen other peaks
exceed 7,000 meters .
In the north, the snowcapped Great Himalayan Range reaches heights
of over 7,500 meters above sea level and extends along the Bhutan-China
border. The northern region consists of an arc of glaciated mountain
peaks with an arctic climate at the highest elevations. Watered
by snow-fed rivers, alpine valleys in this region provide pasturage
for livestock tended by a sparse population of migratory shepherds.
The Inner Himalayas are southward spurs of the Great Himayalan
Range. The Black Mountains, in central Bhutan, form a watershed
between two major river systems, the Mo Chhu and the Drangme Chhu
(chhu means river). Peaks in the Black Mountains range
between 1,500 meters and 2,700 meters above sea level, and the fast-flowing
rivers have carved out spectacular gorges in the lower mountain
areas. The woodlands of the central region provide most of Bhutan's
valuable forest production. Eastern Bhutan is divided by another
southward spur, the Donga Range. Western Bhutan has fertile, cultivated
valleys and terraced river basins.
In the south, the Southern Hills, or Siwalik Hills, the foothills
of the Himalayas, are covered with dense deciduous forest, alluvial
lowland river valleys, and mountains that reach to around 1,500
meters above sea level. The foothills descend into the subtropical
Duars Plain. Most of the Duars Plain proper is located in India,
and ten to fifteen kilometers penetrate inside Bhutan. The Bhutan
Duars has two parts. The northern Duars, which abuts the Himalayan
foothills, has rugged, slopping terrain and dry porous soil with
dense vegetation and abundant wildlife. The southern Duars has moderately
fertile soil, heavy savanna grass, dense mixed jungle, and freshwater
springs. Taken as a whole, the Duars provides the greatest amount
of fertile flatlands in Bhutan. Rice and other crops are grown on
the plains and mountainsides up to 1,200 meters. Bhutan's most important
commercial centers-- Phuntsholing, Geylegphug, and Samdrup Jongkhar--are
located in the Duars, reflecting the meaning of the name, which
is derived from the Hindi dwar and means gateway. Rhinoceros,
tigers, leopards, elephants, and other wildlife inhabit the region.
Data as of September 1991
Bhutan's climate is as varied as its altitudes and, like most of
Asia, is affected by monsoons. Western Bhutan is particularly affected
by monsoons that bring between 60 and 90 percent of the region's
rainfall. The climate is humid and subtropical in the southern plains
and foothills, temperate in the inner Himalayan valleys of the southern
and central regions, and cold in the north, with year-round snow
on the main Himalayan summits.
Temperatures vary according to elevation. Temperatures in Thimphu,
located at 2,200 meters above sea level in west-central Bhutan,
range from approximately 15° C to 26° C during the monsoon
season of June through September but drop to between about -4°
C and 16° C in January . Most of the central portion of the
country experiences a cool, temperate climate yearround . In the
south, a hot, humid climate helps maintain a fairly even temperature
range of between 15° C and 30° C year-round, although temperatures
sometimes reach 40° C in the valleys during the summer.
Annual precipitation ranges widely in various parts of the country.
In the severe climate of the north, there is only about forty millimeters
of annual precipitation--primarily snow. In the temperate central
regions, a yearly average of around 1,000 millimeters is more common,
and 7,800 millimeters per year has been registered at some locations
in the humid, subtropical south, ensuring the thick tropical forest,
or savanna. Thimphu experiences dry winter months (December through
February) and almost no precipitation until March, when rainfall
averages 20 millimeters a month and increases steadily thereafter
to a high of 220 millimeters in August for a total annual rainfall
of nearly 650 millimeters.
Bhutan's generally dry spring starts in early March and lasts until
mid-April. Summer weather commences in mid-April with occasional
showers and continues through the premonsoon rains of late June.
The summer monsoon lasts from late June through late September with
heavy rains from the southwest. The monsoon weather, blocked from
its northward progress by the Himalayas, brings heavy rains, high
humidity, flash floods and landslides, and numerous misty, overcast
days. Autumn, from late September or early October to late November,
follows the rainy season. It is characterized by bright, sunny days
and some early snowfalls at higher elevations. From late November
until March, winter sets in, with frost throughout much of the country
and snowfall common above elevations of 3,000 meters. The winter
northeast monsoon brings gale-force winds down through high mountain
passes, giving Bhutan its name-- Drukyul, which in the Dzongkha
language mean Land of the Thunder Dragon.
Data as of September 1991
Bhutan has four major river systems: the Drangme Chhu; the Puna
Tsang Chhu, also called the Sankosh; the Wang Chhu; and the Amo
Chhu. Each flows swiftly out of the Himalayas, southerly through
the Duars to join the Brahmaputra River in India, and thence through
Bangladesh where the Brahmaputra (or Jamuna in Bangladesh) joins
the mighty Ganges (or Padma in Bangladesh) to flow into the Bay
of Bengal. The largest river system, the Drangme Chhu, flows southwesterly
from India's state of Arunachal Pradesh and has three major branches:
the Drangme Chhu, Mangde Chhu, and Bumthang Chhu. These branches
form the Drangme Chhu basin, which spreads over most of eastern
Bhutan and drains the Tongsa and Bumthang valleys. In the Duars,
where eight tributaries join it, the Drangme Chhu is called the
Manas Chhu. The 320-kilometer-long Puna Tsang Chhu rises in northwestern
Bhutan as the Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu, which are fed by the snows from
the Great Himalayan Range. They flow southerly to Punakha, where
they join to form the Puna Tsang Chhu, which flows southerly into
India's state of West Bengal. The tributaries of the 370-kilometer-long
Wang Chhu rise in Tibet. The Wang Chhu itself flows southeasterly
through west-central Bhutan, drains the Ha, Paro, and Thimphu valleys,
and continues into the Duars, where it enters West Bengal as the
Raigye Chhu. The smallest river system, the Torsa Chhu, known as
the Amo Chhu in its northern reaches, also flows out of Tibet into
the Chumbi Valley and swiftly through western Bhutan before broadening
near Phuntsholing and then flowing into India.
Data as of September 1991
Glaciers in northern Bhutan, which cover about 10 percent of the
total surface area, are an important renewable source of water for
Bhutan's rivers. Fed by fresh snow each winter and slow melting
in the summer, the glaciers bring millions of liters of fresh water
to Bhutan and downriver areas each year. Glacial melt added to monsoon-swollen
rivers, however, also contributes to flooding and potential disaster.
Data as of September 1991