Chencho Dema | Punakha

The landfill at Laptshakha in Omtekha Chiwog of Lingmukha Gewog in Punakha, situated approximately four kilometres from Khuruthang town, is in dire need of electrification and adequate fencing.

The absence of suitable barriers has led to wandering cattle being drawn to the site, frequently observed rummaging through the trash, posing a serious hazard to both the animals and the environment.

Nestled amidst a forest below the road point leading to Lingmukha Gewog, the dumpsite has become a breeding ground for tragedy. Disturbingly, more than 20 cows are believed to have perished after consuming hazardous waste from the landfill, according to Kinley Dorji, tshogpa of Omtekha Chiwog.

“We have determined with certainty that the animals met their demise due to feeding on waste at the landfill. The cows suffer to their deaths after returning to the settlement with distended stomachs. Upon examination, we discovered large needles, steel fragments, and strips of synthetic plastic polymer polypropylene, commonly used to package Indian rice,” Kinley Dorji said.

The tshogpa also shared concerns about the perils faced by the villagers due to the wild canines bringing rotting, foul-smelling meat and occasionally old rags from the landfill to their villages, raising fears of a potential disease outbreak.

Recalling a tragic incident from a few years ago, Kinley Dorji recounted how approximately 11 cows had lost their lives at the landfill.

The sight of cattle grazing on the refuse from dawn to dusk has become a distressing daily occurrence, facilitated by the unrestricted access to the waste disposal site. While barbed wire fences had been erected around the waste site in the past, they mysteriously vanished, leaving the area exposed. Currently, a dilapidated and scattered green net is the only semblance of a barrier, and the gate is left unlocked and wide open.

In response to the urgent need for action, the thromde office has committed to fencing the area and installing chain-link wire to prevent further animal-encroachment, according to municipal engineer, Kencho Dorji.

“We plan to complete the fencing pole by the end of this month. The office is also working on securing funds to electrify the space and provide water. Once these amenities are in place, individuals from Eco-Waste have pledged to guard the location. However, our immediate priority is to prevent stray animals and dogs from entering the premises,” Kencho Dorji said.

Highlighting the pressing matter during the Dzongkhag Tshogdu meeting last month, Lingmukha Gup Sonam Tobgay called upon the relevant authorities to improve the landfill and ensure the area is safeguarded with barbed wire to prevent animals from gaining access.

“We have persistently raised this issue, but the authorities have repeatedly claimed that progress is being made when, in reality, very little has been done,” Gup Sonam Tobgay said.

Budgetary constraints were cited as the primary reason for the lack of improvement at the landfill during the DT session.

For now, residents of Punakha continue to utilise the landfill, spanning approximately five acres of land, as a disposal site. Urgent intervention is needed to address the environmental and health risks associated with the uncontrolled access to the landfill, making electrification and enhanced fencing imperative to safeguard both the animal and human populations of the region.