Yangyel Lhaden

Experts say that the level of pollution is directly proportional to urbanisation and population density.

In urban Bhutan, especially, waste and pollution are a growing problem.

The National Environmental Standards (NES) 2020 is come. How is it different from NES 2010?

NES are designed by National Environment Commission Secretariat (NECS) to maintain pollutants at the quantitative limits to the permissible amount.

The NES 2020 has incorporated some of the best international practices, among others—limits set by USA, India, the European Union, and the World Health Organisation.

The components of the NES 2020 include ambient water quality, industrial effluent discharge standards, standards for sewage effluents, ambient air quality standards, industrial emission standards, workplace emission standards, vehicle emission standards, and noise level limits.

Choki Wangmo, Dy. Chief Environment Officer, said that there was no timeline or duration for revision of Environmental Standards. The standards, she said, was reviewed periodically and revised as and when necessary as per section 30(f) and 42(a) of the National Environmental Protection Act of Bhutan 2007.

For example, seven new parameters have been proposed in ambient water quality criteria – anionic detergents, sodium, TDS, calcium hardness, magnesium hardness, barium, and chemical oxygen demand to the existing parameters.

The noise level limits, however, has not crossed the NES 2010 parameter.

The new standards proposed are aluminum smelting unit standard, waste incineration standard, vehicle noise level limit, and waste incinerator ash disposal/utilisation standard.

With the movement restriction during Covid-19, air quality monitoring stations in Thimphu, Phuentsholing, Gedu, and Chukha have recorded a drop in particulate matter between January and March.

Likewise, the water quality assessment conducted by the National Environment Commission (NEC) indicates that the country’s water resources are healthy—at the macro level.

Chief of Water Resources Coordination Division with NEC said that there was a growing concern about the deterioration of river and streams due to increased run-off from pollution.

He said that reckless dumping of solid and liquid waste was happening because of growing urban populations. Most of the effluents from auto services, he said, were not treated and went directly to the streams.

“Though we have come up with discharge standards, the implementation will require robust discussion with respective authorities, particularly for grey/storm water which is directly discharged into nearby water bodies,” he said.

And he added, to address the grey/storm water, NEC is looking into introducing nature-based solutions.