The valley known for serenity is dealing with a mounting waste problem

The beautiful Paro valley is overwhelmed by an ugly problem. Waste is mounting and management is missing.

Piles of garbage are found all around – from the dzong area to uncultivated fields and roadsides, the landfill and waste dumps are quickly filling up. The landfill at Pangbisa receives about 20 tonnes of waste every day. The so-called airport view point, which sees hundreds of people even without the aircraft flying or landing,  is in a mess with waste carelessly strewn around.

The dzongkhag is rapidly getting urbanised adding to the waste problem. Dzongkhag and gewog officials attribute irresponsible dumping to the waste problem.

Residents, however, said there is no waste management strategy even if the town is expanding and population increasing. They expect the municipality to resolve the waste issues.

A village chipoen (messenger), Chencho said waste has become an issue without strict regulation and monitoring.  He said that half of the population do not have access to municipal garbage vehicles. “The waste along roads and fields are from the villages.”

Another reason, he said, was due to the wrong timing for garbage collection.

Paro thromde thuemi (representative), Deki, said that four municipal garbage trucks have to cater to the whole Paro. She said that if a truck breaks down, it takes days to repair, as the budget has to route through dzongkhag.

She said that people expected the municipality to function like thromdes, which was not possible considering the lack of human resources and financial independence.

The municipal office is currently consulting with residents to outsource cleaning and waste collection of the town area.

Deki said it is difficult to carry out mass cleaning because of the pandemic.

There are seven garbage trucks with the municipal office. Two broke down and one catered to quarantine centres.

The remaining four have to collect waste from town thrice a week and other areas  starting from Drugyal dzong to Shaba school including places along the way to Tadzong every once a week.

An official with the municipality said that the trucks had to collect waste from the dumper box starting from Chuzom to dzongkhag parking. “It is difficult to cover all these places with limited vehicles.”

He said the municipality was overwhelmed with the collection forget about monitoring illegal dumping. “People cannot even wait for the garbage vehicle leaving piles of waste along roads which are scattered by dogs.”

Visitors to the airport viewpoint, many say, leave back trash after enjoying the view of the airport. The place has also become a gathering point at night for adventure seekers who do not care about the waste they leave behind.


Will a thromde status solve the problem?

Meanwhile, some residents recommended converting Paro town to thromde considering challenges in providing services to the growing population.

Deki said that amenities such as roads, drainage, proper sewage system and waste management are expected if Paro becomes a thromde.

She said that people were not willing to convert Paro to thromde in the past. “But people are now aware of its advantages.”

Officiating Paro dzongdag, Kinley Gyeltshen, who is the dzongrab, said the dzongkhag carries out rigorous cleaning in and around the dzongkhag.

He said that it was difficult to monitor at an individual level. “Every individual should be responsible for their waste, but they are not.”

He said that the dump yard at dzongkhag’s parking was for dratshang and dzongkhag offices, but people from the nearby areas dump their waste at night.

Sources said that the amount of waste at the landfill increased by two folds with the disruption in the scrap business. “Recyclable wastes go to the landfill,” a resident said.

The other issue in the dzongkhag is managing waste drop-off centres.

Waste drop-off centre at Lamgong and town were closed, as it became unmanageable. People still throw waste around these centres illegally.

A resident, Chencho, said it is time the dzongkhag directs local government officials to impose a strict penalty.

He said gewogs could only create awareness without legal backup. “If dzongkhag impose fines, I will monitor waste in my chiwog. Without strict rules, even if the defaulter is caught, we cannot do anything.”

Amidst mounting waste issues, Paro dzongkhag issued a notification asking gewogs and schools for a mass cleaning campaign on Saturday.

The campaign will take place in smaller groups as per the health protocol.

By Phub Dem | Paro

Edited by Tashi Dema