Thimchhu or the Thimphu river, the calm and scenic beauty of the capital city is not healthy as it should be. The river, we can say, if not dead, is dying.

A study  in 2017, seven years ago, found an exceeding number of E-coli bacteria in the water originating from the sole source –human faeces. A quick inquiry found over 70 houses with toilets directly connected to the streams of Thimchhu.

Proper management of sewer led to improvement. The assessment of the same water in 2018 and 2019 showed the presence of E-coli bacteria within the limit.  However, environment expert say, it is time to assess the health of Thimchhu, given the lapse in time, the increase in households of the growing Thimphu city, and other visible and invisible factors that could be disturbing the amount of nutrients in its water.

Although unconfirmed, it is said, less than 50 percent of the houses in Thimphu are connected to the sewer system. It can only be assumed how the remaining is managing the waste.

Human faeces, household waste, and grey water – or waste water coming from the kitchen, bathroom, roofs etc., – contributed to excess nutrients in the water bodies resulting in formation of algae, increasing the density of the water, and choking off its oxygen supply. It spelt poor health for the river and streams with devastating consequences for the river  and its ecosystem. A dead river cannot support any form of life.

Water sources drying up also increases the nutrients levels, adversely affecting the health of the river.  But today, another human habit is attributed to choking the river system and even oceans. Plastic waste has emerged as the most serious environmental concern.  Its ability to withstand years without degrading despite being exposed to elements continues to leave an unfailing impression everywhere – mountains, rivers, seas and oceans.

There is no scientific study to determine the extent of plastic waste in the country. It is guessed  that about 30 percent of the waste generated is plastic waste. Despite small attempts at recycling, a majority of the plastic waste ends up at the landfills. An unaccounted amount of it also ends up in the streams, rivers, and water bodies.

The need for authoritative data and information on the health of the water bodies in the country, and the impact plastic waste was having on it, have become urgent. However, it is a relief to see that, at least in Thimphu, an attempt is being made to retrieve plastic waste from the 14 streams that feed the Thimchhu. A simultaneous focus is also on changing the ‘waste’ attitude of the residents to ensure that plastic waste does not end up in the rivers.

There is an initiative to save the river. It is upon the capital’s residents, from Tango to Torsa to ensure that Thimchhu is clean – a contribution to saving our rivers.