More than a garbage problem

If there is one problem that won’t go away easily, it is garbage. It is a big problem because it is not the garbage itself, but our attitude towards it.

Every now and then we hear and see people organizing cleaning campaign. They collect tonnes of rubbish. The amount collected seems not to be decreasing. This is because the message of the campaigns is not seeping into our minds. Any amount of campaign will not be able to clear the streets, rivers, now even forests of the mess we created. The idea is to let people know that garbage is a problem and that we are responsible for it.

It is not that we have not come up with initiatives. The thromde prides in privatizing garbage collection. It has improved. But that is one sided. If we are not taking the garbage to the trucks that dedicatedly come to us, the rubbish will have to be thrown away. The convenient place then becomes empty places- behind walls, in the nooks and corners, roadsides, drains and gullies.

Some campaigns and initiatives like the one Clean Bhutan is organizing are targeting to change the mindset. That is a good strategy. More important than getting rid of the rubbish is imbibing a culture of taking responsibility of the waste we produce. Not having this is the biggest bottleneck today.

The problem is aggravating as the city expands. Walk through the extended Thimphu city for 10 minutes and we will see the extent of the problem. It is no exaggeration to say that we could easily collect 10 sacks of waste from hundred metres in some areas. In fact, it is a shame for the capital’s residents to live with the amount of waste we discard everyday, everywhere.

The thromde cannot be after each of the residents or the landlords. No amount of monitoring can be effective if values are not cultivated. From experience, it is clear that the carrot rule is not working.

It is high time we take the stick rule. The thromde is cash strapped. Development activities are hampered because there is no revenue. Recurrent expenditure is huge, residents are ready to complain of poor services and the elected mayor is under pressure.

Then there are thousands of unemployed youth ready to do any job that could keep them occupied and earn some money. Perhaps it is time we deploy troops of inspectors to stop and penalize people who can’t kick the habit of damaging our environment. One solution could be making tenants and landlords responsible for certain area around the property and penalizing them when not kept clean.

Meanwhile, the thromde or even the government should recognize the people who are making a living out of selling recyclable waste. They may be scavenging the waste mound, but they are helping solve at least a small portion of the problem. A small financial incentive could draw more people to clean the city and earn a better living. They shouldn’t be looked down as mere waste collectors.

2 replies
  1. MIGNIEN
    MIGNIEN says:

    A long time ago I wonder why the gvt do not ask the World Bank to help the country to build incinerators near the big producers garbage places . It becomes a serious problem ; and the risk is that tourists could see garbadges all over the country ; “keep Bhutan clean” campaign is now a fall . And in summer it is a problem for health population .

    Is any donator to help to solve that necessity

    jcmignien@orange.fr

  2. irfan
    irfan says:

    More than just garbage, this has become garbage of a problem as well as challenge. Any garbage needs to be disposed of unless planned and developed for recycling purposes. So there may be a situation here that we approach this problem from the end of the cycles. Our disposal methods, the management of the dumping grounds and the processes in place for recycling demand priority. But even that’s well understood by almost all of us as we look at these garbage spread all around our cities and even rural areas now.

    If garbage can be planned for recycling, it can also be planned keeping reusable needs. But the biggest challenge with garbage is with the supply end. That’s where even highly professional methods like some operational research fails to deal with the garbage challenge. With uninterrupted supply in place, garbage not picked or collected for disposal is garbage in hand for the wastebasket installed. We may flood our cities with dustbins and still, the garbage needs to be picked and disposed. Otherwise, the entire situation looks more like the case with 170 odd bus stops and only 30 city buses plying in Thimphu. For an efficient and effective management of today’s garbage; certain garbage has to be disposed at its source. Every household or community or commercial establishments must have access to such affordable garbage disposal systems.

    If waste itself is a commodity to be disposed of or recycled, it needs to be treated like a decentralised inventory. From the dustbins installed at our homes to public wastebasket to the garbage collecting trucks to dumping or recycling grounds; we are looking at a distribution network which demands efficiency in its operation and maintenance. Garbage lost in handling is always a liability for the city and its management. It may not necessarily be converted to assets by agonising prolonging the distribution chain or cycles. We all need to be watchful about the waste we create and still, it remains the garbage of a problem. Solutions always arrive at the end of the chains, but it needs to be highly cost effective in dealing with garbage treatments.

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