Chimi Dema | Gangtey

The Phobjikha valley popular for its natural beauty and hosting the black-necked cranes in winter, has a growing solid waste management problem.

About three kilometers above the Phobjikha valley, empty cans, instant noodle wrappers, chocolate covers and PET bottles can be found everywhere amidst the pristine forest.

At the community’s landfill, stray cattle and birds scavenge on waste all day. About two to three tractor loads of dry and wet waste were dumped at the landfill in a month.

Gangtey and Phobji communities also lack proper coordination for the management of waste, residents said.

“With booming of hotel industry in the locality and increased surge in population in recent times, there has been corresponding rise in production of waste in the locality,” Gangtey Gup Gyeltshen said. 

“The waste generated from the rural households is not much,” gup Gyeltshen said. “Littering by an increasing number of visitors is also a major problem.”

On the last day of every month, the community conducts a mass cleaning. Hoteliers and other residents clean on every 9th day of the month.

“Monthly, about six metric tonnes of waste are collected from the mass cleaning,” said Tapaiteng Uesa village tshogpa in Gangtey, Tshering Gyeltshen.

However, without a designated garbage truck, transporting waste to the landfill is a major challenge in the locality.

“There were times where locals had to burn the collected trash to prevent feral dogs and cattle from foraging,” tshogpa Tshering Gyeltshen said.

Residents claimed that the tractor which was provided by Gangtey-Phobji environment management committee as a part of solid waste management project was dysfunctional for some years now.

Meanwhile, one of the hoteliers, Tshering Wangchuk, said that for garbage produced from the resorts and hotels, individual owners take responsibility to transport them to the landfill.

Without budget allocated for waste transportation, gup Gyeltshen said that currently, the gewog administration adjusts costs from money collected as entry fee during the annual black-necked crane festival.

The community is collecting Nu 500 each from every tourist who come for the festival. Certain amount is also collected from vendors at the festival to manage waste.

Gup Gyeltshen said that the business communities in the locality also contribute between Nu 1000 to 5000 annually for waste transportation.

Meanwhile, Kuensel learnt that the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) as conservation and development partner of Phobjikha valley had initiated a community-based solid waste management project in the valley sometime in 2011.

RSPN also provided Nu 100,000 as seed money for the management of the project. The waste was supposed to be collected periodically and transported to the landfill.

However, locals claimed that the initiative discontinued after a while.