It was not laundry left to dry on the fence at Kawajangsa yesterday. Hung on the fence were wastes that volunteers collected from the Chubachhu stream.

The discarded cloths, old shoes, rubber, plastics and cable wires, about 300 kilograms collected from the stream on March 10, were on display to let people know about how they are spoiling the environment. It was the exhibit of the waste exhibition, the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) in collaboration with National Environment Commission Secretariat (NECS) organised to commemorate the World Water Day yesterday in Thimphu.

The exhibition was also held to mark the 2nd anniversary of adopting the stream as well as to create awareness on the health of the stream ecosystem and the growing waste problem in the country, RSPN official said.

The chief of communications and membership division, RSPN, Tashi Phuntsho said Chubachhu stream was adopted on March 22, 2017 by NECS in partnership with Bhutan Red Cross Society and in collaboration with the Thimphu Thromde, RSPN and Clean Bhutan along with the agencies and communities living within the buffer of the stream after recognizing the increasing pollution in the stream compounded by poor waste management.

Today, different organizations share responsibilities for adopting certain stretch of the stream carrying out regular monitoring and follow-up cleanings.

In about 500 meters stretch of Chubachhu Stream starting from Royal University of Bhutan until the Bhutan Telecom boundary wall, RSPN in collaboration with the volunteers from different agencies and communities conducted 18 cleaning campaigns in two years, collected a total of 7,500 kilograms of waste, about a truckload, involving 890 volunteers from the 17 institutions.

However, despite the efforts, the unchanged dynamics of waste collected from the stream in each of the cleaning campaign day, suggests that the residents and communities in the vicinity of the stream continue to use the stream as repository for dumping wastes, according to RSPN officials.

This further indicates that the cleaning campaign has created little or no effect on communities’ behaviour and their understanding on civic responsibilities towards stream and waste management, said Tashi Phuntsho.

According to the Executive Director, RSPN, Dr Kinley Tenzin, sewerage and toilet outlets into the stream, open defecation and dumping of waste along the stream were common sights at several locations, contaminating the stream.

To substantiate the contamination, a thermo tolerant test was conducted, which revealed that the stream is now 300 times contaminated with high coliform bacteria compared to the data from the last decade and it is unacceptable for handling and human consumption. “Since the water ultimately flows down and discharges into the Wangchhu, it is contaminating the main river as well,” said Dr Kinley Tenzin.

The ED suggested punishing or apprehending people for dumping waste into the stream since advocacy and educational programs failed to change the mindset of the residents and communities.

According to a RSPN report, plastics constituted the highest component of the waste in all the cleaning campaigns conducted, followed by rubber, glass, clothes, wood, metal, and papers. All waste types collected are segregated and taken by thromde to recycle and dispose of.

At the exhibition, Bhutan Toilet Organization, Clean Bhutan, recycling start-ups and Jigme Losel Primary School also participated in the open event to showcase their products.

Chimi Dema