Page last updated at 10:15 GMT, Wednesday, 26 May 2010 11:15 UK

Bhutan to build Gross National Happiness centre

Bhutan PM Prime Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y Thinley at the proposed site
The prime minister inspected the possible site at the weekend

The government of Bhutan says it is pursuing plans to build a Gross National Happiness (GNH) centre in the forests of the Himalayan kingdom.

It has found a possible 45-acre site for the centre in pine forests near the town of Chamkhar.

GNH aims to measure quality of life in more holistic terms than gross national product (GNP), striking a balance between the spiritual and material.

The term was coined in 1972 by Bhutan's former King Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

It is now at the heart of government policy.

Spate of suicides

"Although at a conceptual stage, it is a plan that would become home for the promotion and practice of happiness, by establishing a facility where people from all walks of life can come and stay to imbibe the sense of happiness," Prime Minister Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y Thinley told the country's main newspaper, Kuensel.

"This can be a place where people can pursue happiness personally, and all kinds of people from all walks of life will be welcome.

"The GNH centre is not a confirmed project, but an idea at a discussion stage that needs more brainstorming," the prime minister said.

The newspaper says that the proposed site is a 20-minute drive along a dirt road from Chamkhar.

In 2009 the authorities said that a greater emphasis on GNH was more important than ever following a recent spate of suicides.

Psychiatrists said that the deaths were because of the impact of old age, unemployment and depression.

However excessive alcohol consumption, money worries and mental illness were also blamed, prompting the secretary of the Gross National Happiness Commission to call for a better balance between the spiritual and the material.

"Whatever choices we make from now on - whether it's to do with urbanisation or globalisation or the type of economy we develop - we will make sure it is in harmony with our tradition, our culture and the environment," Karma Tsheetem said at the time.

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