Workshop owners say nobody visited the plant in the last three years

Pollution: Five years ago, an effluent treatment plant was installed at the Olakha automobile workshop to treat waste that was otherwise flowing into the Olarongchu (river) flowing below.

Secured inside a wire mesh, no one knew for sure if the plant was still functional. The two bitumen drum, that were supposed to have scooped oil, are empty.

Automobile workshop owners said in the past, thromde officials used to visit the area to work on the plant. However, it has been more than three years since they last visited.

The plant has to be manually cleaned on a weekly basis and the Hume pipe has to be flushed to clear the silt once a year.

“With no one bothered about the plant, we are left wondering if the automobile workshops are now producing less pollutants,” an owner of an automobile workshop said. “Perhaps oil and detergent are now environment friendly judging by the concerns of authorities,” he sarcastically said referring to the importance given to the treatment plant.

Designed by Thimphu thromde engineers, the treatment plant was supposed to be used for separating oil and water coming from the workshop before releasing the treated water into the Olarongchu, a tributary of the Wangchu.

The effluence that drains from the workshop is connected to the treatment plant, where the oil that floats on water due to its lighter density is scooped out and collected in the bitumen drums.

National Environment Commission (NEC) officials said that a separate budget for operations and maintenance was allocated to the Thimphu thromde when the plant was installed in September 2010.

NEC officials said that the water quality parameter conducted last year at Olarongchu was within the standard but the pH was slightly higher.

An official said that NEC only provides guidelines to the thromde, which has to be implemented by them.

Thimphu thromde officials, however, said that their technicians visit the site regularly.

The officials said that the plant is blocked frequently by mud and sand, as the plant is small. Officials also said that the pollution of water in Olarongchu has decreased compared to the past. However, without a proper study done, there is no data available on water quality or the level of pollution at Olarongchu.

According to NEC officials, used oil and grease are the major source of water pollution. The commission is planning to conduct a study in April this year with support of foreign expertise.

Meanwhile, Thimphu thromde is yet to procure two more effluent treatment plants at the workshop area although it has been long planned.

The thromde approached the Gross National Happiness Commission for budget. However, officials were told that as the workshop area falls in the industrial area, the plants would have to be procured jointly.

Thromde officials are yet to approach the automobile workshop owners.

 Tashi Tobgay