Waste issue mounts in the capital

A lack of civic sense and uncontrolled waste disposal along roadsides, riverbanks, and landfills has become a huge problem with garbage piles touching peaks.

Thimphu’s only landfill in Memelakha collects around 40.3 Metric Tons (MT) of waste daily and the dry waste segregation site in Babesa collects around 20-25 MT of waste daily.

According to the National Environment Commission’s(NEC) report ‘Bhutan State of Environment, 2016,’ with rapid socio-economic development, increasing population and urbanization, the country is seeing an increase in the amount of solid waste generated.

More problematically, the composition of waste is shifting from biodegradable to non-biodegradable waste.

Karma Yonten, Founder of Greener Way, a private waste management firm, said that compared to other countries, waste in Bhutan is not a huge problem. “However, it is now a growing concern as the waste produced in recent years has doubled.”

Meanwhile, the residents have been complaining about the garbage collection timing in the capital. They said that irregular timing of garbage collection trucks exacerbates dumping of wastes in town.

ChenchoDorji, a resident from Olakha, said that it has been a long while since the garbage trucks turned irregular. “People have no option but to dump the waste outside.”

Another resident said that the garbage trucks’ irregular timings are creating major inconveniences including eye sore, hygiene issues and environmental degradation.

Karma Yonten said that Thimphu city has been expanding over the years and at the same time the number of garbage collector trucks has been decreasing. “The Thromde has provided 13 garbage trucks to Greener Way of which nine are off including two garbage collector trucks owned by Greener Way.”

He said that increasing waste generation in the country has caused garbage trucks to be erratic. Currently, only six garbage trucks with Greener Way are functioning out of the total 16.

Further, he said that the trucks have to collect waste from their designated areas and then they collect waste from other areas causing some of the places to be neglected.

Karma Yonten said that the trucks are too old and it is pointless to repair these trucks as they break down.

He said that without enough resources it is difficult to improve the timing and collection garbage on time. “To address this issue, we need 18 garbage trucks and at least 20-25 trucks to back up the 18 trucks in case these trucks break down.”

However, Thimphu Thromde’s Chief Environment Officer, Yeshi Wangdi, said that the Thromde has proposed for 25 additional waste collection trucks to solve one of the main problems faced in managing waste. “If we have around 20-25 new trucks, then our problem will be solved.”

He said that the main reason that people are disposing of waste without care is because garbage trucks do not arrive on time.

For more efficient waste collection, Thimphu Thromde is divided into south (from Changzamtog to Serbithang), north (from Kawajangsa to Dechencholing) and central region, which includes places such as Changangkha, Motithang, Norzin Lam and Yangchenphu areas.

The Thromde has been working on reducing the dumping of waste and littering in the city by maintaining the garbage trucks coverage as per schedule, collecting waste after office hours and ensuring joint monitoring efforts.

Thromde officials and service providers go for inspection at least once a week. Such monitoring is expected to solve the issues at source.

Along with the monitoring, awareness is also created on the fines, penalties and segregation of waste.

According to the Waste Prevention and Management Regulation 2012, the fines range from Nu 100 for acts such as littering, urinating or defecating and smearing lime and spitting doma in public areas to Nu 20,000 for dumping and releasing waste into prohibited areas and dumping of industrial waste without permit from the relevant authority.

Another major problem in the capital is that the sewer system is connected directly into the river.

 In 2017, the global Waterkeeper Alliance launched a water quality monitoring program and found that key rivers in Bhutan contained significant levels of E.Coli bacteria.

In addition, in places like Thimphu and Phuentsholing where there is large concentration of automobile workshops, the discharge of waste oil and other effluents is a significant source of water pollution.

Jigme Wangchen from Thimphu