However, concerned authorities say regular inspections and awareness raising is being carried out

Waste: Almost four years after taxis and city buses were given free disposable bags to prevent littering by passengers and commuters, no taxi carries one today.

The Royal Society for Protection of Nature, National Environment Commission (NEC), Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA), Thimphu thromde, traffic police and the taxi association initiated the programme to reduce littering in the city in July 2012.

RSTA’s officiating director general, Karma Pemba, said that many taxi drivers misplaced the bags or the bags are reported as stolen. However, he added that the authority and traffic police brief cabbies and passengers on proper waste management on the roads through awareness programmes and ad hoc inspections.

Besides notifications on waste management that includes keeping a trash bag in vehicles at all times and on avoiding throwing trash out from a vehicle, the authority and traffic police conducts periodic inspections along highways and raise awareness on following RSTA and traffic rules, he said.

Karma Pemba said that commercial buses have trash bins instead of trash bags that are monitored regularly by the respective base offices of RSTA before departure of the buses.

Taxi tshogpa Dorji Wangchuk said it has been a while since he received any notification from authorities concerned regarding the use of the bags in taxis. “It has been many years since the bag was provided to commercial vehicles and many of them have either lost or misplaced the bags.” He said. “It is also not clear from where to get replacement bags in cases where the bags are stolen or misplaced.”

Moreover, most of the taxi drivers plying on the road currently are new and they may not be aware of the initiative, he added.

A taxi driver for more than seven years, Karma Dorji, 45, said that having a trash bag in the cab did prevent passengers from throwing the trash outside and inside the vehicle.

However, he said that passengers dumped all their waste in the bags. The trash has to be disposed frequently and he has to go looking for a dumping place or take the trash home with him.

“Some passengers misused the bag by disposing baby diapers and sanitary napkins in it,” Karma Dorji. “The bag hangs behind the driver’s seat and it is hard to monitor what is being disposed in the bag.”

“I had the bag in my taxi for about a month after which it was stolen,” Karma Dorji said.

Another taxi driver, Pemba, said that passengers tore his bag and it could not be used so he stopped carrying it.

An official with the traffic division said that travellers have a tendency to throw trash out of car windows especially snack packages and bottles. “We would like all vehicles to have a trash bag to avoid passengers littering,” the official said.

The official added that the traffic division has talked with NEC’s director and asked if the commission could once again provide free trash bags to cabbies. “The director said that he would look into the matter and see if the commission could provide the bags again.”

The traffic official pointed out that despite awareness programmes in the media on traffic rules and briefing road users on having a clean traffic system in the country, the response was not very good.

However, he said that the traffic division and RSTA would continue to remind people and create awareness on the traffic rules including waste management on road.

Dechen Tshomo