When it comes to our drainage systems, we may be finally catching up to the Indus valley civilization. Some may dismiss the preceding statement as journalistic hyperbole but the ancient city’s drainage system was an elaborate one.

More than three thousand years ago, the inhabitants of the Indus valley built a covered drain network that ran under their streets. Drops to accumulate solid waste were built at regular intervals as were manholes to clean out these dropped areas and for inspection. Residents were discouraged from dumping garbage into the drains and every house had a soak-pit which collected sediment and other rubbish allowing only water to flow into the drainage system.

Like the Harrapans, the ancient people of the Indus, we are covering our drains today. Looking to kill two birds with one stone, the concrete slabs even double as footpaths.

But yet, our drains are being clogged by garbage and emitting foul smells.

The problem has most recently surfaced in Gelephu with the public and thromde blaming each other.

When will we stop these blame games?

Problems like these would be easier solved by acknowledging weaknesses, identifying problems and working together towards a solution.

While improvements are being made, many of us continue to discard our rubbish where ever we please as long as it does not fall within our walls. The drains serve as a perfect conduit to take our problems away.

Thimphu thromde has started fining building owners during inspections but for such a move to be truly effective, the litterers need to be targeted. We need a sustained awareness programme, preferably using TV and radio, to educate. Once educated, litterers need to be caught redhanded and fined. Repeated offenders perhaps required to provide community service by either cleaning areas and being involved in the awareness programme.

The drainage system can be improved. If a town or city grows, the drainage system must keep up. The growth in population is not the problem. It is the lack of forward thinking by the planners and lack of implementing temporary mitigation measures or back up systems. If a drainage system cannot keep up, development cannot be blamed. If waste can find its way into a drainage system and cannot be cleaned easily, it must be a design flaw. What else could it be?

Every problem must have a solution.

Granted, budget and manpower are usually two obstacles regularly impeding our way forward.

That is why getting people to stop littering is the cheaper alternative that can be immediately pursued. Leg work and door-to-door campaigns could be the answer to unclogging our drains, at least for now.