There is still widespread indiscriminate dumping of wastes in open spaces, roadsides, rivers, and in storm water drains, despite advocacy by several agencies. To address this issue, some youth have established a group known as ‘Team Change’ to address the issue of waste in the rural communities of Samtse district.
Team Change is a volunteer youth group based in Sang-nga-choling Gewog, under Samtse district. Seven youth volunteers formed the team by installing waste bins within the community,
The team leader, Kinzang Dorji said that about 63% of the total population live in rural communities, and basically, where there are more people, more waste is generated. “To address this particular issue, we, formed a waste management group to collect waste in the rural community,” Kinzang said.
He added that besides wastes, the group also focus on bringing about a change in the mindset of people, which can improve people’s perceptions concerning waste management in rural areas. The ‘Team Change’ waste management group goes door to door to collect waste in the community. As of now, they are collecting waste from nine gewogs under Samtse district.
Additionally, they also advocate and educate the people regarding waste management. Kinzang said, “People do not care where they throw their waste and will usually litter everywhere, and so we collect the waste from illegal dumpsites within the Samtse district area.”
The waste materials after collection are segregated and sold to other sellers, and the non-useable wastes taken to landfills.
The team has installed 750 waste bins within the community and along the Samtse Tendruk Highway, and they have also collected and segregated 15 tons of wastes.
The team has also adopted 5 rivers and streams and represented Team Samtse during Tendrel for Environment to address human-induced climate change.
The team was approved by Samtse Dzongkhag Administration for waste management in nine gewogs and 29 points of entry (POE) surveillance outposts along the Indo-Bhutan border during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The team was registered as a volunteer youth group and member of the Young Bhutan Network (YBN) under the Department of Youth and Sport and Ministry of Education and Skill Development and recognized and supported by communities under Samtse Dzongkhag.
However, Kinzang said that the lack of an office and space for waste management activities and their dependency on volunteers and youth to collaborate with local leaders and the community are the main challenges that they face.
Since the team is volunteer-based, Kinzang said, “Possibilities of losing volunteer members over the long run is also one problem.”
Moreover, he said that the poor mentality of people in rural communities regarding waste management is one of the problems that they are facing.
Currently, there are seven permanent members and around 60 volunteers from different schools. The team also focuses on all seventeen sustainable development goals so they can make the earth a more beautiful and clean place to live.
To help strengthen sustainable waste management in community, the founders are collecting fund if needed and initiating waste management programme.
The group members said they also organized other programs such as darts (Khuru) or other singing and dancing competitions to bring communities together, and moreover, Kinzang said that to create more awareness in their communities on how to take better care of the environment, they are organizing different events in their community.
As of now, they collect waste only in the Samtse districts, but they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Green Road, which is based in Thimphu.
“We have always believed in the big things, so we will be collaborating with more districts in the future,” Kinzang said.
Kinzang said that it is encouraging to see the project bringing the youth together to work with them and share skills and lessons on how to further improve and ensure more innovation in their wastes in the village.
The rural-based waste management was started on July 15, 2019, with the aim to create awareness about the waste in the rural part of Bhutan and enhance livelihood by turning trash into cash.
Nidup Lhamo from Thimphu