What goes up when the rain comes down?
In the capital city, it is not an umbrella. It is, rather, sewage water sprouting from the manholes, trash overflowing on roads and footpaths and debris washed onto roads. Monsoon in Bhutan is at its peak. What it does, besides making farmers happy, is expose the inefficiency of urban planning or the deficiencies in implementing rules and regulations.
A brief downpour and everybody witnesses how inefficient or overwhelmed our capital city’s basic infrastructures are. Not many complain. A few take pictures or shoot a short video clip to share on social media, out of frustration. When the rain stops, everybody returns to normal, until the next incident and the next before the rains stop exposing our inefficiencies or deficiencies.
What the monsoon does is also cut short the water supply. We complain and are quickly forgotten when the water tanker arrives or the source is restored. In other words, we are not looking for a permanent solution. We are only tending to the symptoms and forgetting the cause of the problem.
For decades, even before the advent of smart phones or social media, the monsoon had been a good reminder of the capital city’s problems. We have not attended to it. Decentralisation of powers and authority to an elected Thromde was expected to solve it, for once and all. It has not. It is a perennial problem. Not to generalise, but the average capital city’s resident can bear the inconveniences- the stench and the clogging. However, it is a problem. A nation’s capital city cannot have sewage lines overflowing on the city’s main thoroughfare. It is a shame. Yet, it happens every monsoon or whenever there is a brief downpour.
The irony is that we know the reasons why our drains are clogged and when it will overflow on the roads or footpaths. Careless or uncivil ways of dumping waste are the reason behind it. Even the most sophisticated drainage system will get blocked or overflow if we do not watch what goes down the drain. Pet bottles, thousands of it, materials that do not degrade or take a long time to do so like sanitary pads, diapers and packaging materials like plastics and tetra packs find their way into the drains. It (drains, large and small) are the perfect place to discard our waste.
Many are aware of it but still cannot kick the habit. Perhaps, this is because the waste collection is not as frequent or efficient as expected or the capital’s residents still lack civic sense. If we have both, the problem is nipped in the bud.
We have a new Thrompon. There are expectations of change. One change that the city’s residents expect is efficient urban infrastructure – from waste management to solving drinking water shortage and aesthetics of the capital city, which many compare to be up among the best in the region, if not the world.
The new Thrompon was elected on the promise of bringing change. One change that is desperately needed is managing Thromde’s infrastructure. Strict measures on waste disposal, for instance, would be the strategy of managing waste. The first monsoon should have opened the eyes of Thrompon and his team, at least in waste management vis a vis the city’s basic infrastructure.