Choki Wangmo 

Without household waste collection, many residents in Dagapela town resort to open pit burning which according to the Waste Prevention and Regulation, is an offence.

The throm that houses more than 3,000 people is struggling to manage waste. The old town, which is yet to shift to the new town area, is littered, dusty, and dilapidated. Loads of collected waste in sacks are seen piled outside the shops in town.

A town resident said that the waste is a major challenge in the town as there is no proper dumping area monitored by local authorities.

“Without proper monitoring, people dump all kinds of waste in one place and burn it in the open area,” he said.

The condition worsens during monsoon season.

Used sanitary pads and diapers are two major problems as residents can neither burn nor dispose it to a safe place.

“If we store this waste, they attract various kinds of germs and insects. If we pack and keep it outside, the dogs make a mess of it,” a resident said.

Sonam Dorji Subba runs a small mustard oil expelling factory in the area. He collects the waste from the factory and takes it back home to burn. His family has dug up a pit.  “It is harmful and polluting our place,” he said, adding that there were not many options for the residents but to burn the wasteland generated.

“Burning the waste near the factory might cause fire,” the youth entrepreneur said.

Residents say that in 2021, the dzongkhag administration once provided a waste pickup truck with a nominal fee from the households but was discontinued after a few months.

“The place looks ugly. We hope we get such amenities once the new town is developed,” Dagapela town representative Gangaram said.

Today, town residents organise a cleaning campaign once every month. Volunteers dump the waste in a landfill in lower Tsendagang.

People say that wet waste is not an issue as they either dispose of it in the fields or feed it to animals.

They say that identifying designated areas for waste collection would help address the issue. “Scrap dealers could be encouraged to collect waste,” a resident said.

Offices and agencies in the town manage their own waste.

The municipality’s development regulatory officer, Ugyen Dorji, said that the dzongkhag administration arranged to collect Dagapela town’s waste on Fridays after collecting the waste from Dagana town on Thursdays and charged each household a fee of Nu 10-15 but the residents did not pay the charges.

He said that the fees collected in a month could have helped pay for the dumper truck fuel and maintenance charges but the service had to be discontinued after two months as the dzongkhag did not get the payment from residents.

He said that the municipality asked for the support of the gewog administration to remind residents about the payment of Nu 12,000 that is pending to this day.

Everyone in the town paid equal waste collection fees.

The municipal office in collaboration with Tsendagang gewog administration identified a landfill that is currently in disuse due to inaccessible roads.

In the next financial year, there are plans to identify a proper landfill area under the waste flagship programme and extend waste collection services to Dagapela and Lhamoidzingkha.

The town produces 20-25 tonnes of waste in a month. 

Dagapela is two hours away from Dagana dzongkhag headquarters.