Environmental officers from 20 dzongkhags and four thromdes raised about 35 issues and challenges related to water Act, waste Act, and environmental assessment Act and regulations at the four-day annual environmental officers’ conference in Thimphu.

Environment officers and the officials from National Environment Commission Secretariat (NECS) made recommendations on the issues.

Concerns on medical waste dumped directly at the landfills were among the several issues raised with waste management in the country. NEC will further discuss with stakeholders such as health ministry and come up with a solution by end of July this year.

While discussing confusion about penalty collection for late renewal of environment clearance (EC), recommendations were made to impose fines 10 times more than the original fee with Nu 5,000 every month.

NECS’s deputy chief legal officer, Kunzang, said that a practice by department of industry was also recommended. “NECS will study the two options and communicate the decision to the competent authorities by end of July.”

It was also discussed that, henceforth, environmental officers would impose Nu 500 with 20 percent of the initial processing fee as renewal fee for uniform fee collection. The application fee and processing fee could be collected together.

Kunzang said that although main activity that does not require an EC, ancillary activities would require a separate EC if the activity is not exempted.

Municipal authorities issuing EC within dzongkhag area was also discussed.

“The municipal offices are not competent authority and henceforth they shouldn’t be issuing EC,” Kunzang said.

To improve the services from the environmental officers, tracking system will be piloted in NECS, which will be replicated in other dzongkhags if it proves successful.

Kunzang said that some dzongkhag environmental officers raised the issue of being impacted by the super structure. “Some officers were in general category when they got into service in grade 8. Now when joining the technical category, they raised concerns of lacking benefits and options.”

It was recommended that the environmental officers submit a written letter to NECS, which will be taken up with Royal Civil Service Commission.

It was also discussed that NECS would explore resources to conduct assessment on carrying capacity of mines and industries.

For issues related to the water Act, NECS would come with clear definition of ground water, activities within the buffer zone to go through environmental assessment processes, and to have gewog resolutions for disputes coming to the dzongkhags.

The conference ended yesterday.

Phurpa Lhamo