NEC estimates Nu 3.7bn for nationwide waste management program

The National Environment Commission (NEC) requires Nu 3.7bn for waste landfills, dropping center, vehicle, three-colored waste bins, and construction of waste management infrastructure in the country.

The government needs to top up extra budget for the waste management program for which NEC has mobilized Nu 248mn, which is allocated for waste and stray dog management flagship program to productive activities.

The Chief Environment Officer of NEC, Thinley Dorji, said that the government has assured to top up for the waste management flagship program. “Around Nu 700mn has been estimated for Thimphu Dzongkhag alone for construction of waste management infrastructure,” he said, adding that around Nu 150-200mn was estimated to be needed for the rest of the Dzongkhags.

“We have planned to do it phase-wise to strengthen waste management system in the country. Thimphu Dzongkhag is kept in phase I and we are working on it. Almost 30% of the work has been completed.”

He added notwithstanding the strong legislation and strategy governing waste prevention and management, waste management triggered by population growth, rapid urbanization, and rural-urban migration, remains an issue of national concern.

“Improper disposal practices and lack of appropriate infrastructure and technologies hinder our country from turning wastes into resources,” he said.

According to the National Waste Inventory Survey (NWIS) 2019, Bhutan generates 172.16 Metric Tonnes (MT) of solid waste per day. Of this, the share of household waste stands the highest at 47.34% followed by commercial units at 39.09%.

In terms of household waste, the average household waste generated is 0.7 kg per day in urban areas compared to 0.4 kg per day in rural areas. Forty-six of the total waste comprises food waste.

Of the total households in the country, more than 60% lack access to waste collection services in the country. However, more than 75% of the urban households have access to waste collection services against 15% of the rural households. In urban areas, 88.5% of the households segregate their waste compared to 78.4% in rural areas.

In most of the urban centers, the municipal waste collection system, to a large extent, has been established by the local authorities in collaboration with private waste management entities. Thinley Dorji said that the local government and the private entities provide waste services ranging from three days to five days a week. “In addition, waste segregation has been initiated but the level of segregation varies widely,” he said.

He added that the perception survey reveals that the frequency of waste collection services, location of collection point and timing of collection are the major hurdles towards effective collection and management of waste.

He shared that currently, waste treatment, recovery and recycling are minimal. As a result, the landfills in the country are overflowing. “While a fraction of valuable dry waste is collected and sold to the recyclers, composting is negligible and there are no systems in place for managing household hazardous waste.”

“There is no established system for waste management in the rural areas. While some of the wastes are managed by the Dzongkhag, especially in peri-urban areas, most wastes are left unattended and dumped in open fields or burned,” he said, adding that the local governments are overwhelmed with the growing waste problem.

However, against this backdrop, Thinley Dorji said, there is a need to institute holistic waste management practices across the country to address the growing waste related problems.

Meanwhile, the flagship program intends to provide an end-to-end intervention for waste management in Bhutan through multi-pronged approaches. The overall goal is to achieve Zero Waste Bhutan whereby the current trend of disposing over 80% to the landfill is reversed to less than 20% by the year 2030 based on the principles of circular economy.

This can be achieved through the propagation of 100% source segregation and provision of adequate downstream facilities for source segregation, adequate number of waste collection facilities and drop-off centers at convenient locations, efficient collection, storage and transportation systems, functional material recovery facilities and final disposal facilities such as sanitary landfills and incineration plants.

These facilities will be complemented by education and awareness on the consequences of unmanaged waste to both human health and the environment; policy interventions, particularly on the establishment of a sustainable financial mechanism to realize a self-sustaining model for effective and efficient management of all streams of waste; and private sector involvement in provision of waste management services.

Kinley Yonten from Thimphu