Cleaning up using incentives or penalties?

Paro, like many other dzongkhags, is still grappling with a garbage problem.

Despite waste management measures being introduced over the years, garbage can still be found overflowing out of dumpsites, strewn across open spaces, clogging drains or floating in the Pachhu.

While equal attention must be given to all dzongkhags when it comes to waste management, Paro, as the entry and exit point for many visitors to Bhutan may merit a little extra attention.

In 2012, a monthly clean up campaign was in place, additional dumpsters had been purchased, a waste-management committee formed, and there was even a plan to begin penalising litterers the following year.

Four years later, the situation has improved marginally.

The dzongkhag’s landfill is almost filled to capacity, well ahead of the expected time, and an unacceptable amount of garbage is still found outside the landfill.

Open burning of waste, a practise that has been outlawed in developed countries, continues to occur.

The usual reasons are being attributed: public mindset, lack of awareness, and lack of resources.

It mustn’t take years to find a solution.

Enforced cleaning campaigns are not the solution to eliminating the waste management problem.

Change has to come from the waste generators themselves.

The question is do we change our waste disposal habits through penalties or incentives.

In Pemagatshel, a gewog after being rewarded for their success in providing 100 percent toilet coverage, was so encouraged that they now aim to become the cleanest gewog in the dzongkhag.

Their mission began in February and today not a single PET bottle or piece of trash can be found left alongside their paths and roads.

While the gewog’s residents conduct a monthly cleaning, they also keep an eye out on each other, and impose fines when their neighbours violate their community code.

That is could be the answer; an initiative that comes from the community itself. A common sense of ownership and mission driven by incentives and regulated by penalties. If such a drive can emerge from our homes, neighbourhoods, and communities, the job is mostly done.

The government’s role would be to aid the community in achieving their goals. This is done by providing knowledge on how waste can be best managed like segregation and recycling. Which in turn will help our landfills last longer.

Ensuring enough dumpsters are in place and that they are emptied regularly is another service that needs to be provided.

At the end of the month, perhaps, declaring and rewarding the cleanest gewog and publicising the dirtiest gewog or town, might be a possibility worth exploring.

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