Chu’s Power in Bhutan

Chu is the word for water in Dzongkha, it can be used to refer to a tear drop on your face or to the giant glacial rivers flowing down Bhutan’s mountainous peaks. It has an immense power both spiritually and now physically.

Water and prayer in Bhutan. 

There has always been a connection between water and religion in Bhutan. The ancient Bon  religion was animistic and its belief system was constructed of spirits and demons that inhabited and controlled different natural areas. The fast flowing glacial rivers were home to many spirits and the people respected their power. Despite a sweeping conversion to Buddhism centuries led by Guru Rinpoche, water is still remembered and revered for its spiritual power. what the Bhutanese believe was the second coming of the Buddha.

Water Turned Prayer WheelWater is used to carry the prayers written on this prayer wheel pictured on the right. The countryside is riddled with prayer flags that add a colorful homage to some of the other elements. Here is short video clip of vertical prayer flags allowing the wind to carry those prayers to their intended destination.

I find it remarkable that an ancient prayer wheel, a natural powered device for religious devotion, can be applied on a giant scale to produce energy for the entirety of its nation and its neighbors. Bhutan has recently been developing Hydropower Plants to benefit from nature and provide energy and electricity to its citizens.


Water as a power source for Bhutan. 

Hydropower is an incredible power source for the world, and I was pleased to make the comparison between US-based hydropower projects like the Hoover Dam.  Hydropower is clean, cheap, reliable energy and that is produced in an environmentally sound way. Really a no brainer if you have the flow of water needed.

Here is a short animation on how Hydropower works.


My diagram of how it all works …

72% of the hydropower that Bhutan produces gets exported to India.

Which is a great addition to the economy, but for me raises some doubts over security with their larger and stronger client.

If you are interested click here to read more about Hydro Power in the United States 

IMG_1600The THINK Global School students and I wer able to get a tour of the Chhukha Hydropower Plant on the Wangchu River. The entire tour I couldn’t get over the fact that it was the most James Bond-like adventure I’ve had in my life. I was surrounded by everything an evil-doers secret mountainside death machine could consist of. Funny thing is, DrukGreen (the company who arranged a meeting with us and set up the tour of their plant) is one of the most amazingly righteous companies I have ever had the pleasure of learning about.

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 1.13.41 PM

As an American I am so cynical of business and malpractice and I seem to look for flaws. I am inspired by DrukGreen as a Bhutanese business that practices the ideals of GNH. DrukGreen is a perfect example of the pillar of Gross National Happiness regarding sustainable economics and development. They are a company committed to social and environmental safeguards and they aim to bring electricity to every household in Bhutan by the end of 2013.

Each hydropower plant that they build the make sure to:

  • Build or repair Dzongs (temples)
  • Restore spiritual natural places
  • Build schools for local workers and rural children in which the Bhutanese government will provide teachers
  • Build medical facilities that can treat the local communities and the families of the employees.

DrukGreen has 1700 workers now, and they hope by 2020 to have 5000 Bhutanese employees working toward their goal of generating clean, cheap and reliable energy to their nation and those nearby. I wish them all the success in the world.

It seems that the power of chu (water) from the Bon religion to modern hydropower has not wilted or faded in the Land of the Thunder Dragon.

Thanks for reading.
Discussion is always welcome.

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