YK Poudel

In a remarkable move to combat the issue of roadside waste, the dzongkhag administration of Punakha has implemented a waste management strategy involving the installation of CCTV cameras. This initiative has resulted in a significant reduction in littering along the Punakha—Thimphu national highway in the past three months.

Ten CCTV cameras have been strategically placed between Zomlingthang and Lampelri, allowing the dzongkhag authorities to monitor and identify individuals who dispose of waste from their vehicles. Those found guilty of littering are being fined in accordance with the Waste Prevention and Management Regulations of Bhutan. The penalty for littering in any public place is set at Nu 250. Offenders who dump waste in the environment will be fined Nu 3,000.

Public transport driver, Indra Bahadur, expressed his support for this impactful waste management initiative, stating that commuters are now deterred from discarding waste from their vehicles. He shared his experience of informing passengers about the monitoring of waste disposal along the journey, leading to a significant decrease in littering as passengers now utilise the dustbins inside the vehicle.

Sonam Dema, a frequent user of public transport, stressed the importance of implementing similar measures throughout all towns in Bhutan, emphasising the need for effective strategies to address the escalating waste pollution crisis. Such initiatives play a crucial role in instigating behavioral change among the public, she said.

Kinley Gyeltshen, officiating environment officer, highlighted that the initiative is a significant step toward achieving a waste-free dzongkhag. The exact locations of the CCTV cameras have not been disclosed to the public to maintain their effectiveness. These cameras operate round the clock with the support of solar power and are closely monitored.

He further emphasised the importance of fostering a sense of responsibility and behavioural change among individuals. He encouraged people to proactively manage waste without relying solely on the policies and actions of dzongkhags and gewogs, stressing on the need for collective effort to protect the environment.

The initiative was launched in March and focuses on addressing the issue of waste along the highway. In addition to the highway, the CCTV cameras have been installed in parks and picnic spots to ensure a clean and safe environment for all.