Compost plant in Serbithang closed

Thimphu thromde’s compost plant for biodegradable waste in Serbithang is closed following complaints from the resident in the area.

The thromde’s environment officer, Phub Tshering, said that thromde had to stop the garbage trucks from dumping the city’s wet waste in the compost plant after the thromde received complaints that the area is filled with a pungent smell.

The thromde also received a letter from the National Environment Commission (NEC) to improve or shift the compost plant after receiving complaints from the residents.

The thromde now dumps the city’s wet waste in the Memelakha landfill. “It has been more than a year now since we started dumping the wet waste there,” the environment officer said.

A resident, Ugyen Lhamo, said the stench from the compost was strong that they could smell it inside their house even when they closed the windows and the door. “The smell gets unbearable during sunny days,” she said. “Flies infest our houses even when we keep our houses clean.”

Another resident, Dorji Nidup, 50, who lives above the plant said that he complained thrice to the thromde and requested the officials to do something about the pungent smell. “The thrompon considered our request and stopped dumping waste a year ago,” he said. “But we had to wait for the waste inside the compost plant to decompose.”

Phub Tshering said the thromde tried to control the stench by covering the wet waste and upgrading the compost plant but since the quantity of the waste going to the compost plant increased drastically, they had to shut it down.

The NEC, economic affairs ministry and the agriculture ministry built the compost plant in Serbithang in 2008 at a cost of about Nu 8M (million).

In 2010, the plant was installed with filtering machines, air blowers and other equipment with support from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

The plant had six chambers, where waste goes through a decaying process that when the waste reaches the last chamber, it is considered decayed.

The decayed waste is then dried and filtered from foreign substances like plastics and the powdered waste, which has become manure, is packed in a 12-kg bag for sale.  It takes about five months for the organic waste to fully decompose.

The environment officer said the compost plant was used on a pilot basis with wet waste collected from the Centenary Farmers Market, Chubachu, Changbangdu and the ministers enclave until 2014.

He said there was no settlement around then.

After the thromde outsourced the collection and disposal of city waste to Greener Way in 2015, all wet waste collected from the city was disposed at the compost plant.

“The amount of wet waste dumped at the compost plant increased by three folds and the compost plant couldn’t handle it,” Phub Tshering said. “The plant had a capacity to decompose 25 metric tonnes of wet waste in a month while the plant receives at least eight metric tonnes of wet waste every day.”

The increase in disposable of organic waste at the plant is attributed to the outsourcing of waste collection to a private firm and segregation of waste at source.

The environment officer said the garbage truck with a capacity of a tonne makes about four to five trips a week to the plant, which is about 20 to 30 tonnes of wet waste a month.

The caretaker of the compost plant, Birdhan Rai, 36, said the plant receives at least nine tonnes of wet waste every day excluding Sundays after the thromde outsourced the collection and disposal of waste.

“All chambers used to be filled with the waste that we had to keep additional waste outside the chambers,” he said.

Dechen Tshomo

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