Yeshey Lhadon

The waste collection routine in Thimphu municipality (thromde) has changed since the city went under lockdown. However, most of the residents in Thimphu were unaware of the new schedule and timing to dump their waste. Most of them were still following the old garbage collection schedule.

The silent street of Babesa along BCSEA office road was thrown into commotion on the fourth day of lockdown. The residents were seen out on the street, gathering with garbage bags while De-Suups on duty tried to manage the crowd.

Bishal Rai and his housemate rushed out with their garbage bags as soon as they heard the distinctive garbage truck sound. He said that he saw the garbage truck on the upper lap from the attic of his apartment.

The garbage truck usually collects wet waste on Fridays from the Babesa area. Residents have been waiting for the waste truck since 10 am on the day. 

Gopal Lagun, a senior resident said, “I need to guard my garbage. Otherwise, the scavenging dogs will make a mess out of it.”

He didn’t want to miss the garbage truck, so he chose to miss his lunch.

Residents said that each building should have a secure place to throw the tenant’s garbage to discourage people from leaving them in open spaces. “People can dispose of their waste safely if the city corporation can provide the community with waste segregation bins or trolleys,” a resident said.

The garbage truck came at 6pm when the Thimphu Thromde learnt that people were still waiting and some left their waste on the roadside.

Thimphu Thromde’s Chief Environment Officer, Sonam Desel, said: “Waste management begins at home. I am requesting the public to segregate their waste.”

She said that the residents should dump the waste properly into the dump trucks and not spill them on the roads.

Sonam Desel said that it’s unsafe for the people to wait outside if the garbage vehicle hasn’t arrived. “I would advise residents to stay in and let out only one member from each household to throw their wastes.”

People should wear their mask, maintain physical distance and rush home as soon as they dispose of their waste and wash their hands, she said.

Sonam Desel said that Thimphu Thromde doesn’t have enough garbage trucks because one garbage truck is kept solely for the purpose of collecting waste from quarantine facilities which can’t be used for municipal waste collection.

Thimphu Thromde identified three waste collection service providers during the lockdown. Clean City for north Thimphu, Greener Way for core Thimphu and Bhutan Green Servicers for South Thimphu. The service providers have started implementing a new schedule on Wednesday.

The Chief Environment Officer said that the garbage collectors and handlers are being trained on the standard operating procedure for waste management during Covid-19 pandemic. She said this could have led to some initial disturbances in collection.

Thirty six waste handlers and collectors are living away from their families in a highly restrictive hotel in Bebena, Thimphu. They are provided personal protective equipment like cover-alls, N-95 respirators, surgical masks, goggles and face shields, inner gloves (non-sterile medical gloves), outer gloves (Utility gloves), plastic aprons and gumboots.

“Health and safety of both our crew and the public is the highest priority,” said Sonam Desel.

“The waste collectors have been trying to reach every nook and corner skipping meals, working overtime, living away from their families and risking exposure to Covid-19.”

She said: “I hope the public will understand how difficult it’s for our service providers too.”

Residents are asked to follow the new schedule for waste collection given on Thimphu Thromde’s website.

“You can call the respective service providers instead of waiting all day for the garbage truck,” said Sonam Desel.