Nu 200,000 from the gewog budget to start it’s own zero waste management system

Environment: Realising the importance of waste management, Pemathang gewog has allocated Nu 200,000 to start it’s own zero waste management system.

Pemathang is the first gewog in Samdrupjongkhar to come up with such an initiative through the gewog’s budget instead of waiting for other organisations to fund such waste management programmes.

In less than a year, the initiative has proven successful wherein almost all the villagers are now concerned about waste in the gewog. Waste in the gewog has also decreased drastically, according to the villagers. PET bottles are neatly stacked to be recycled and reused.

Villagers said that as they are now aware of the importance of waste management, dumping and burning of waste has also minimised unlike in the past. Villagers also said that they are working hard to keep the initiative alive and not let the budget go to waste because not only structural development is important but also waste management.

The success of the programme is attributed to the technical support from Samdrupjongkhar Initiative (SJI), a CSO, founded by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche that also focuses on waste management.

SJI provided technical support like creating awareness programmes on zero waste principles and practices besides training people on zero waste craft techniques using PET bottles and plastic wraps, shoe repairing and tailoring, among others.

SJI zero waste coordinator Cheku said such initiatives would serve as a model for other gewogs and that SJI would continue to intensify and document the model.

Gewog administrative officer (GAO) Yangchen Dolkar said that public awareness on waste management was important, which is why they had proposed for Nu 200,000 this financial year.

Yangchen Dolkar said almost 130 people were trained on the zero waste craft, basic accounting and the budget was also utilised to buy two sewing machines to make bags, pencil bags and baskets using plastic wraps.

“We had proposed for the budget so that waste issues could be solved before it becomes uncontrollable,” she said. An additional Nu 300,000 has been proposed for the next financial year for a new project. “It was overwhelming to see many villagers making use of PET bottles and they don’t dump waste openly now.”

Meanwhile, a 14 member women farmers’ group including mangmi Tashi Zangmo have come forward to form “Pemathang zero waste tshogpa” that would now take forward the initiative in the gewog. Henceforth, the group will take up waste management programmes to address the issue and lead the programmes organised in the gewog.

Tashi Zangmo said when the gewog administration could allocate the budget they felt it was their responsibility to take up the initiative and make use of what they learnt.

“The women were also interested as it serves as a source of income for them instead of staying at home idle,” she said. “Whenever we go to collect PET bottles in the gewog, it is hard to find one, which shows that villagers are taking care of the bottles.”

To sustain the group, she said they would use plastic wraps to weave bags and use the sewing machines as finding PET bottles have become difficult. Group members have earned about Nu 3,000 while the gewog has provided them the seed money of Nu 10,000 to open a bank account. The products are sold in the gewog but they have plans to diversify and expand the market in future.

The group has also been provided a material recovery facility house where non-degradable materials would be disposed and the group can later segregate and collect the waste materials to recycle.

“If we don’t find PET bottles or plastic wastes means the initiative has been effective and we are happy,” Tashi Zangmo said. “We’re working hard and finding alternatives by using other plastic bottles because we’re trying to address the waste issue as much as possible.”

Meanwhile, the monasteries have also agreed not to accept plastic packaged tshog or offerings.

Yangchen C Rinzin | Samdrupjongkhar