Waste is an issue in Bhutan because of deeply-seated culture. And, when we talk about culture, we are talking about the culture of wastefulness, both at household and government levels.

Bhutan’s population is small. Considered in the right perspective, more than half of the country’s population lives outside of the growing towns and cities. Why is waste becoming a growing issue still?

Waste is an issue of serious concern because a large number of our people are uneducated. Waste also deserves sober treatment because more than laws, rules, and regulations, we need practical solutions.

This has not been forthcoming.

But Bhutan is now changing dramatically; the country is shaping a new image for itself. Education is one and tourism or selling ourselves to the world beyond is another. Both require a revolutionary shift.

The question is: are we ready?

We are. We have always been. It is the system that has all along been a burden on itself.  How could we not, for example, stop people from smearing walls with lime just because Bhutanese have a penchant for doma?

If smearing lime on the wall is made a crime, shopkeepers and building owners will be more careful to not let such antics run riot. Same for paper and plastic waste! Every individual will be mindful of what they pick and discard.

So, naturally, we come to the system of fines and penalties. We are taking it unreasonably lightly. Getting at and reading the source is easy. Where the waste is, he or she is responsible. But so much can only be determined by the kind of penalty or fines we impose. Therefore, the heavier the fines, the better.

The good news is that the recently formed Waste Management Committee has started a door-to-door awareness campaign on waste segregation between Dechencholing and Ngabirongchhu in South Thimphu yesterday.

This is a new beginning. Henceforth, mindless disposal of waste should be considered a serious crime. For that, we need laws with real teeth and implementers who are fearless and dedicated to effecting real change.

For one, we can not go on contradicting ourselves and portraying a false image of ourselves. We are a fiercely environment-conscious country. Waste cannot be an issue.