Gewogs grapple with garbage

The lack of a management plan leaves Chumey overwhelmed by its litter 

Waste: Every time the house’s waste disposal pit gets filled, Tshering Dolkar from Uruk village in Chumey, Bumthang sets the waste on fire against dzongkhag health office’s instruction to refrain from such practices.

“Most villagers burn the garbage to get rid of it,” Tshering Dolkar said.

She said even during the village cleaning campaigns, waste, like plastics, rags and old shoes, is burnt along the village stream.

According to Chumey mangmi, Kezang, lack of garbage truck to transport it to the dzongkhag landfill in Kekila has pushed residents to burn the household waste at home.

The villagers fear that burning clothes and plastic materials causes too much smoke and leaves behind chunks of toxic chemicals. “We get flu from burning the waste,” Tshering Dolkar said.

Wangdicholing general hospital’s Dr Chador Tenzin said burning waste like plastics and fabrics, which causes air pollution, is hazardous to health.  Respiratory diseases, like chronic bronchitis and asthma, are some short-term health implications of backyard waste burning.

“Burning of waste can also cause long-term health implications, like genetic effects and cancers, depending on the content of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals,” Dr Chador Tenzin said.

Mangmi Kezang said that waste, unlike in the past, was a mounting problem today even in villages despite every household maintaining a waste disposal pit.

“Save for clean rooms inside the houses, garbage is everywhere,” he said, adding that, while people mended damaged clothes and shoes before, today they just dump it even if it has a small defect.

Lack of proper waste management and absence of dumpyard in the gewog is also leading to more pollution in the rivers and streams.

“Most people might be dumping their waste into the river, because the river banks are still littered with plastics, pet bottles, rags and shoes,” Kezang said.

Chumey gup, Tandin Phurba said garbage is increasingly become a serious issue in villages located on the highways.

Over eight DCM truckloads of waste were collected during the campaign between Gyetsa and Nangar in 2014.

“Even then, the waste couldn’t be collected completely,” Tandin Phurba, said.

Gewogs said now is the time to plan on waste management.  However, they currently don’t have budget or technical capacity to deal with the waste problem.

“For instance, Tang gewog’s proposal of Nu 0.1m for hygiene and sanitation, which was allocated for different programmes, including waste management, was slashed last year,” an official from Tang said.

The official said because of lack of such technical capacities, waste segregation, recycle and re-use also remain unknown in the villages.

Tang mangmi, Ugyen Lhendup, said the municipality must also deploy a garbage truck to gewogs on routine.

“It’s important to institute at least one recycle unit in the dzongkhag to encourage people to sell recyclable and reusable wastes,” Ugyen Lhendup said.

Municipality architect, Tshering Dhendup, cited lack of budget as one of the main reasons on why the garbage truck could not be deployed to collect waste from the gewogs.

“Also, the dzongkhag’s only garbage truck is too busy to be deployed to villages, when it can barely meet the need of the municipal area,” Tshering Dhendup said.

The dzongkhag however is planning to propose for an additional garbage truck should the waste survey, which is underway in gewogs, indicate a need for one, he said.

“Until then, gewogs are suggested to maintain a landfill to deal with its mounting waste problems,” Tsheirng Dhendup said.

By Tempa Wangdi, Gyetsa

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