A population explosion due to the hydropower project necessitates two new landfill sites

Garbage: The Trongsa dzongkhag administration is working on opening two new landfills in Drakteng and Langthel to address the growing waste problem in the dzongkhag.

Following a sudden surge in population after the opening of the Mangdechu hydropower project (MHPA), the dzongkhag’s only landfill, which was constructed in 2003 at Chunjupang, filled up five years in advance.

Despite reaching its full capacity, the landfill is still in use.  Once the new landfills are open for use, the existing one, with all the non-biodegradable waste, will be buried.

However, poor waste management at project areas, and its mounting pressure is exasperating the villagers.

Due to lack of proper disposal pits, all kinds of waste are strewn indiscriminately at the MHPA labour camps, Drakteng gup, Gaylay Chhophel, said.

Villagers in Langthel and Changrey in Drakteng claim that they have also lost around eight Jersey cows after feeding on food waste from the labourer camps.  In some villages, like Samcholing, villagers complained of slurry sewer from labour camp toilets flowing down to their homes.

“The project tries to resolve the problem only when the gewog officials visit the affected sites, but the problem continues to persist,” Gaylay Chhophel said.

Villagers of Changrey also complain of the place reeking of sewage. “In summer, the sewage spills over on the road and flows into the irrigation channel,” a farmer, Samdhala, said.

Langthel gup, Lham Dorji, also said that most of the sewage from the labour camps drains into the Mangdechu, and residents suggest that the dzongkhag must increase the frequency of waste collection in lower Trongsa.

“Coming once or twice a month to collect waste is barely enough,” a shopkeeper Tshitim Zangmo, said. “So most of the time, people throw the waste off the cliff or into the streams.”

Local leaders and villagers also called for consistent monitoring of waste in the project area, and urged the dzongkhag administration to expedite the work on opening the new landfills.

“While the project people might leave once the constructions are over, it will be the villagers who have to bear the brunt,” Gaylay Chhophel said, adding the project must clean up its own mess, instead of trying to ignore the waste problem created by its employees.

MHPA’s officiating chief environment officer, Yonten Gyeltshen, said the project did its part sensing the mounting waste problem.

“The project has already given fund to the dzongkhag for the construction of two new landfills, besides contributing two compactors for waste collection,” Yonten Gyeltshen said.  To address the overflow of sewer, he said, the project has also funded the procurement of cesspool.

Trongsa dzongda, Tshewang Rinzin, however, said that, while waste collection has improved with contribution of compactors, increasing the frequency of collection in lower Trongsa was a problem.

“Budget constraints for fuel has hindered in increasing the frequency of waste collection,” Tshewang Rinzin said.

By Tempa Wangdi, Trongsa