Waste is a problem in our society. In the bigger towns like Thimphu and Phuentsholing, the pressure of population growth is making collection and dumping of waste a colossal challenge. In the years ahead, if we do not from now on have measures in the train, the problem will mount to the extent that managing them will be impossible.
But being unable to manage our own waste is shameful. Dumping them carelessly by the roadsides and in the drains has given us enough problems. Besides health risks that this habit brings, the issue is one of how unpleasing it is to our own eyes.
Thimphu produces more than 50 metric tonnes of waste every day. The only landfill we have – in Memelakha – has long lived its age. Its carrying capacity was filled a long time ago. Quite disturbingly, though, we continue to dump our waste there still. Seepage from the landfill has come down to the road some metres below posing health risks to humans and animals. Further down, contamination could affect aquatic lives in the river and extend the hazard on the human users.
Overwhelmed by the challenge that is growing by the day the thromde divided sectors and outsourced waste collection to private companies. Bringing in private sector participation was a wise move. Doing so brought significant changes in the way waste is collected. But much remains to be done. Timing may have improved, but segregation is still a challenge. Dump trucks take the segregated waste separately but dumping happens at the same landfill. Authorities concerned have been silent about this assuming probably that the public are unaware of the fact. The silence could be also due to the unquestioning nature of our people.
But silence such as this one is utterly wrong. It is criminal, even.
Waste collectors should give segregation the top priority and the segregated waste must go where they ought to. Doing so will ease pressure on the landfill and allow the growth of recycling sector in the country which in turn could generate lucrative employment opportunities. In the interim, we must push ourselves to extending the landfill sites to accommodate the amount of waste that the town produces by the day. The bigness of the extension and from which side of the landfill the extension will be made, we are yet to see. The talk has been in the air for sometime now.
To deal with the problem of waste, we need more action than airy plans and talks.