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An industrial area without a waste disposal site

In the absence of a landfill, industries have been taking their wastes to the Samdrup Jongkhar Thromde landfill

In what can be called improper planning, lack of coordination, or gross negligence of stakeholders involved, the Motanga Industrial Area in Samdrup Jongkhar lacks a waste disposal site, while massive industries like Cryogenic Gases, Burma Chemicals, Ferro Silicon industries, and Azizta Pharmaceutical amongst others, began operating months back.

In the absence of a landfill, the industries have been taking their wastes to the Samdrup Jongkhar Thromde landfill.

Apart from causing inconveniences to those at the site, experts say industrial and other wastes cannot be mixed and that it would increase toxicity in the area, apart from contaminating water. The final brunt is always borne by people living in and around the area.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), between five and 10% of all pharmaceutical waste produced at manufacturing sites are considered “hazardous waste,” though the EPA classifications depend on each medication’s chemical properties.

“There are no industries that do not produce wastes, some of which are very hazardous and need to be separated from other wastes or even incinerated,” a private employee, who is an expert in wastes said.

He added that if the Motanga industrial area does not have a proper waste disposal site, it is a major concern.

“We really do not know what is going wrong. One of the first things that planners of the industrial site ought to have done is identifying and then establishing a proper waste disposal site,” he said.

The same was underlined by an employee working in one of the industries, who did not want to be named, saying that waste generated by the chemical and mineral-based industries in Motanga will be hazardous if not properly disposed.

While the Dzongkhag Environmental officer of Samdrup Jongkhar said there is one landfill that is being constructed for industrial waste purposes, the questions asked by the people are the same.

“Why did those who establish the site not think of it before? I do not know if construction is underway or not, but I know very well that the industrial site does not have such a site as of now,” a private employee working close to the area said.

Additionally, employees of industries based in Motanga are also unaware of it and say that they have no idea about a landfill being constructed.

Business Bhutan learned that as of now, Azizta Pharmaceuticals produces only combustible waste like microbiology waste paper, which is not that harmful.

However, after a few months, when the company begins full-scale production, medical waste which are hazardous will be produced, which will require a separate disposal site.

Meanwhile, Samdrup Jongkhar Thrompon Thinley Namgyal said, “We don’t allow industrial waste to be disposed at the Thromde landfill. Moreover, we do send our collection vehicle to Motanga.”

He also added that they cannot have the same disposal site for Motanga and Thromde together as the type of waste generated is different.

This contradicts what employees of the industrial area said. “If not in the Thromde Landfill, where does the wastes go,” an employee of a company there said.

He further added that while the Dzongkhag says that a site is being constructed, it is weird that they are not aware of it.

“The problem could perhaps be because of ownership of the site. Perhaps Thromde and Dzongkhag think that the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) should take the lead,” the Manager of a construction company based there said adding if it is the case, it is another classical example of poor coordination.

Despite several attempts, Business Bhutan could not contact the Minister of Economic Affairs and Engineer or Manager of the MoEA, who is in charge of the Motanga Industrial Estate.

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu