Nearly 5.4M doma pouches sold or bought in a month

Ugyen Penjor 

The plastic pouch to hold doma khamto (ready-made doma) is small, 13.5cm X 10cm to be precise. Yet, it is a big problem for our waste management efforts. It is all over the places – in the drains, bushes, on the roadsides and footpaths, and at the landfill.

It sells more than hot momos. Each month, the number of pouches containing doma sold and bought is about the size of the population. Most land up as trash. Thromde cleaners hate it because it is small and difficult to pick, and gets everywhere.

An attempt was made to ban it. Officially, the ban is still on. Imposing penalties was relaxed because there were no alternatives. But going by the sheer number of small plastic pouches circulating in the environment, it has to be banned.

doma seller in a good location in the capital city buys about kilogram of the plastic pouch every two to three months. There are about 1,500 pouches in a kilogram. Behind the Farmers’ Market in Thimphu, a wholesale dealer said he sells about three bags of plastic in a week. Each bag weighs about 30 kilograms, which is 45,000 pouches in a week.

There are about 30 wholesale dealers in Thimphu, according to a dealer at the Centenary Farmers Market (CFM). If each of them sells at least a bag of plastic every week, it is about 5.4 million plastic pouches sold or bought in a month. Not all reach the landfills.

Records with the regional trade office in Thimphu show that there are 2,323 valid micro traders in Thimphu as of now. Most of these businesses sell doma.

A kg of doma plastic has 1,500 pouches

A thromde cleaner said that plastic waste constitutes the major rubbish found in drains leading to clogging. “They only take care of the plastic when there is doma inside. If the plastic is taken care of, there will be less trash around.”

Bhutan first banned plastic bags in 1999. After the ban failed, the erstwhile National Environment Commission reinforced the ban in 2019. They announced that business owners found selling or using plastic pouches to wrap doma would be fined Nu 500 for the initial offence and Nu 1,000 for the second offence. The third time violation was to result in cancellation of their licence.

Not many were fined!

However, selling doma plastic pouches is still banned, according to officials from the Waste Management Division, Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources. “But the penalty was relaxed due to alternative issues. Plastic ban is so complicated that after the plastic ban was announced, many individuals came up with applications of startup businesses to replace plastic use by jute bags, “he said.

“People should be aware that jute bags also have an impact on the environment. We had to slow down on imposing fines until cheaper and feasible alternatives were made available,” said the official.