White Gold: Discovering Bhutan's natural treasure

ABC News' Bob Woodruff travels to Bhutan, a carbon-negative nation battling climate change along its rapid flowing rivers.
31:56 | 04/19/18

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Transcript for White Gold: Discovering Bhutan's natural treasure
Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. On our approach it's on emerges through the. It's snow capped Himalayas pierced the sky above. It's our plane weaves its way through the lush green valleys for a landing. Yeah. Gentlemen. We have no I don't cut funding for us and it helps. Keep everybody Ford's results. Nestled at the top of the world between China and India. Todd is the last Himalayan Buddhist kingdom to kingdom of the thunder dragon. It's a remote country by geography and a secluded nation by choice a intent on preserving its own identity. You might know it as the country that measures its development buy happiness the world's habeas Asian nation. In the early 1970s. Their beloved king and in time declared that gross national happiness is more important in gross national product. He made it clear that time we'll only development and paste that need their citizens. Their own thing. Their own time. Smoking and limits amassed two hours. First road was only caved in 1961. The year I was born. And in 1999. There were the last nation. The world to embrace told the and they are still managing without a single traffic late in the entire country. It's a nation at a crossroads. Gracing its past. Deciding his future. While fiercely defending its heritage. But that's not why I'm here. It's good times relationship with what they call white school. Water. This landlocked nation's relationship with water has made the Bhutanese to being one of the most environmentally progressive nations in the world and it's reflected in their. Passionately. Six I think it's you have been acting as he did do its job that's global warming and it's really. Definitely a man needs including those with. Thomson first class he lost yeah you want to in. He just just can't count my sentence. Yeah. Was. Does he not just an I don't know how many. It's sandwiched between the world's worst. Third worst carbon and letters. Boot needs are forced to live in a very real precipice of climate change. This man desperate times prime minister. Prime minister it's a spot where maybe CNN charts. Jennings on a wrong prime minister of thinking. And night to address generalists. Yet ratified the Paris agreement and real well on the wing. When filling up pages. 72%. Of our country is under Boris government. And more than half our country is protected. As national parks wildlife sanctuaries. And the agent. What this means is that the other was only eat it all when you. In fact. We aren't often negative and. The timing is a carbon sink. It of sorts three times more carbon than an immense but even that hardly offsets the emissions of its neighbors. They can only try to lead by example. That's a landlocked mountainous country we especially on their mood. Today effects of climate change and that's why we are particularly alarmed at unchecked environmental degradation. The root cause of climate change. Those same peaks and welcomed us and brain they're beautiful country are also like the sword hanging over their heads. But time has part of what is called a third poll better known as the Tibetan plateau the roof of the world. It's the source of no less than ten river systems across Asia and a fresh water source for one point three billion people. And like the other two poles to the north and south the ice is melting. A 2012 American geo physical union study showed that if the average temperature in boots on continues to rise just one degree Celsius. A quarter of the town's glaciers would eventually melt away. Today the melting glaciers are already feeling 2600. Glacial lakes to the brand TS in the water so water higher. No more floods. At me where it flash floods landslides people being washed away in 1994. But glacier lake. First unleashing a sudden torrent downstream. It became one of the worst natural disasters which on has ever seen and the boot knees are afraid it will happen again. We already experienced flash floods he issued legal residence in yeah and Iraq to let that happen the effects of weak. Can be particularly devastating. Ripple country. But we will not give. We were take action. Today direct 25 glacial lakes and danger of bursting. One of the most dangerous glacial lakes is still torn which lies adjacent to the one that burst in 1994. The glacier feeding the lake has been receiving at a rate of 250. Feet every year. It's just armies natural barrier bursts and you'll almost instantly unleash. Fourteen trillion gallons of water into the river valleys below. A tsunami from the sky. And in his path down the mail river the old food knee seat of power will not go. And its historic fortress. It's kind of reasons no meaning. 23 year old Hasan come on grew up next to the room. Won't replace them or us I don't even more integrated. And father Austin film. Do you chief who. Don't either. Who you. Real. Maybe dad. Orders and in being produced in this post world war and it was Steve. These. And competing peaceful and so every morning. It's used so you can he painted this. The song love the water reviewed and as a young boys at the river than. Through it will be closely and it will have our own food you know he's seen on C news you know one of them. Or. Waters and yet. Schools doing maintenance pool. And the that man who wrote the book was a my father Louis few who has dreams and whose dreams to kill him. He was. Please include those. These digital news. These seats you below that victim. Olerud many prisoners and got serves staying here weren't. Emitted through. And that that we dress from conclude here. What is needed now that your family fall in love with the river growing nor do some bigger than their anger. While most food knees respect their fast flowing rivers many keep their distance fearing they will be swept away. My proofing security. When there's a window and attitudes. Make them think in the two. Makes his son's career choice even more surprising. He is a river guide its future is linked with the water at all possible and we're. United. Nor do we know there's good good looking he's kind of love. Soledad vacant big verdict on the role of the bank of what this this. Is after the shortly after the 1994. Yeses. How wide was this back then compared to now. Knowledge is much more what Goebel of the size of do it twice as wide as it was before days. Because that 1994 news. We think global warming is a man made it isn't very shortly fitted door looming. You're not a doubt her and I shall never in doubt heard if you live amongst that they're through. It's Allison. Also. Like these. And we didn't. Facing a change in the water because the the glaciers are melting faster admitted that it what I intended. The you can be. That's way. Of them. You can see. And that this these it's much DCU. It couldn't have more than that we would make gonna hire American people and increased it to change the way you if you read the holy period there have been. The recruitment. Because when we go more from that. If you future fronted effect of did you lose all reporting. And they're being brought by the trees are getting water to this and to look into the river. Have made them a civil war dangers you know. You know this river more than anybody else can grow you grew up right here on you know more definitive new vehicles if you hear him. Then the you'll be held a wraps this river from the rest of your life just have to change the way that you do it and you reflect more before. But more like a my mother. Which beats me. Continues I wonder why. Blog you. Also travelling in time is the water reliance US based advocate for clean water and free flowing rivers. They are in the country to recruit local to protect the rivers. It's in these communities this game didn't make it. Says there's no responsibility. The river guy either at their best candidates. We're here to help the local people the local people know what's Ron they are experiencing the problems. Aunts and they're trying their best to speak up. We have people on the front lines honey taste that had done no harm to this wells get their suffering now. Parent contest well. The glacial waters from the took tore me and the into the mighty fast flowing coat to the mill river. That churning Whitewater is batons white gold. The only way to fuel its power is to ride it. With the professionally it. Lots for you. Anybody here would don't want to keep people from the US and some locals fuels. They fear the rapids well it's and you know you the people back closest. The water keepers introduced us to can make Georgia the river guide and activist they're trying to recruit. Arnold's popularity and glacier come off. Coalition run its six days to come down. Yeah here they know if he had any time and they see the destruction. Happening. To the grips of its kind. Hands Ken lay and others like him at their concerns about. A. This is why it's valuable. The Sudanese government wants the harness this power. With a network of hydroelectric plants in. And. It was all right so let's Atlantic a lot rougher. That we subways and glaciers. Getting warmer and melting passers good for your business. But. Go power plants like goes. Well if they'd. We leave us. Yeah. Making your. Job that he really. At that the knock a fortress the mill river merges with the female river. To form the mighty hornets on through our two dams are being built. Here another boot needs water keeper is less equivocal about his opposition. For signs boss told. Pick pick up about death. Kobe takes its downstream to one of the country's major hydropower projects called prone assumption one. To see the impact the construction for ourselves. A sea change. This in large part is how would Tom is planning to stay carbon. Build enough dams harness their melting glaciers and mitigate the country's climate. The government has just always good to hydrant. At the expense of their mighty rivers. But time is very supportive of the building of these dams. And is survived so they can create electricity the man export out. Two other countries largely India. For money is with the biggest income this country. This is where they're now building they what will be the permanent damage. Essentially blocked off the water and a temporary dam up there to block the river. Eventually it's gonna flow down here. Go to the wall and then into it turbines. But they get older energy. India yeah. It's seems like most of the workers here. What do you do what is he didn't go dust we have wedding that alluded to but otherwise no. No other this W. You are best way to get save beauty. I knew it this way. They got construction of a lot of. You want. Any damage that'll. Did the old you did did he should be some low. Big city that. The units if you put it government but. He should be all there isn't something we should be get three. But about this river is good news Putin signaled it depends on and legislate utilize it no you. Your opposition to it isn't because it destroys the beauty of the country the natural beauty. What's honors it doesn't create pollution kills thirty what does the I'm look what what didn't easy yes. Connecticut is. Don't know the value it is going to look. If you if you thought about it and what percentage of the people in this country are against the dams. As opposed to. For the stamps I think that it percent of the people that moved through both of them. The negative impact of the bulls didn't beg you didn't get it and being. Since then and descend at the age of eighteen it is so you do senate got a brainwashed. Yeah all exhibited at stake you only did all the time we'll hunt with many of had a positive opinion novel good it is we'll. Once he had the dams you'll dvd network news it's a Little League and prime minister is very much in favor he likes the idea. In addition regenerate and export clean renewable energy. And invest in green industrial. Maybe he sees it as C. He saw that with the in the future. But again that's what I've been using for their. Results. We think we've been. Stop this from happening I don't think these kids from happening I think we can deviate then it's okay. The whole thing is to be sitting and then do one point addicted to attendance look at the impact. Eddie long ago would get done he jumped in the book of seasonal. And I didn't win that we haven't had just previously wanted to see them. This project is just one of five projects under construction right now. For at least another ten and various stages of development. And 2016. Hydropower represented nearly 37%. Of batons exports. An 8% of its GDP. The Asian Development Bank forecasts that were tons growth will hit 8% this year. Buoyed by this construction in hydropower exports. They become the fastest growing economy in South Asia. And here on the corner. The Bhutanese government claims they have only 105%. Of their hydropower potential. Things weren't comes. Turns beautiful free flow again Yankee. This is what it used to look like yes the latest. Once against her look good. The question. Are they building to manage to put. Certainly is some opposition to these dams. But it is very minimal. I think Toby is certainly a minority in the in the sense that he's one of the few that's fighting this. Are you are you for or against the dams being put yeah I am. I'm quote. Again he has been most of the Brookings people here. Who do it because personal that I proposed it again prominent role misleading couldn't going to. Hold the blue Garnett each and every Honolulu Villa coach. We must. I've done. My enough all other things. The tables say that they did not have this time. Hydropower they would not have enough money to support an independent country without too much polluting factories and development. This is and most mines it is our hope that this will make this country independently and cool and clean and green. Now many say listen your run and out of time got to do what. That is today. Look at this place. If the temperatures continue to rise in the glaciers disappear. So to with the water source the East River guides. Farmers. In the hydropower plants. This water turns out. Can eventually run dry. Back in the rapidly growing capital of simple. And home. And bullet it is him. And. And the outside world further and approaches. Instruction. The stress of development can clearly be seen. A generation of boot needs are trying to push the conversation forward. But their environment is essential. To the US we pull out of the at a Paris agreement. Yes it would dust. But then I think and it's sticking with that whatever was disgusted me it's is blockade that whether couldn't. What do the people looked on generally think about the United States pulling out of the Paris agreement yes that happened. The divisional home button and then he did end up through debt Hamachi has been fitted us. This shocks me so calm like they're considering that could who runs an Ngo called clean futon he's he's turned himself into a cartoon. In the month from its use and easy to bring awareness through rolling waste and pollution problem and time. Out of sages of the mind. So what we can lead industry it washes off in a rather than never said and he never CNN news out of your mind but. Yeah. I would do this mess in the minds of finished Michael should answer but that is you. It is up and now people make. Looking at each. He's. Because you approach. A superstar. Its offense. And others like Chicago. Radio actor Tom broadcasting service spreads the mess on the shelves. Activity mr. herself that he gets ridiculous to listen to eat one three and 96 months of the year and that following. The recent incident of their attack. It is really don't know what's reliable source of mice and information on them to justice Evelyn who really yours that's why it. What about we protest from him. Let it be true in combat team. The study from yes it sounds to the programs and listen from each and waiting in the wings. The first class home grown environment to lawyers at the country's first loss there. And the beauty because it because it in this world if he. Senator supposedly didn't Christian this last. Nation every nation in other countries and is often times. The ponies have seen the world change outside. I have seen it firsthand from their polluted neighbors. And how that change threatens the very roof over their heads and even the white school that sustains their country. Now it's up to them. How that seemed change comes to their home. Most of my adult life. I wanted to come to be time. We hear is. Most of the people we talked to. Even those who have lived and regularly traveled abroad. Expressed their long. Ordinance and seek. Time is not. But rather a country that is fighting for its future. Is still. And. And. Sales are I'm. By then. I know you wanna see yourself reading. Tang. There you are concern. Was that I think the. It's a person who saw you save on tape home. I think that the. Yes sir I. That's right cameras bring peace. This is this really on the ship may have. And eighty human. It's giving up. Then. There's me fades into. Go interview your mom. Because she amount that the. Do you get a job doesn't Cameron maybe soon. I've they job. Pick your part of a funny. I don't see what's your pick Cameron.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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