But the dzongkhag is standing firm and will not consider a relocation

Trash: Although a new dumpsite has aided Pemagatshel town to combat waste problems, it has become an eyesore for Chungkar villagers in Zobel gewog.

Chungkar villagers also allege that dzongkhag officials constructed the site despite their opposition.

Located in Chungkhar, about eight kilometres from Pemagatshel, villagers claimed that despite complaining several times, officials went ahead and constructed the dumpsite.

Two years later, villagers are still complaining but now about the smell and smoke pollution generated as a result of open burning of garbage at the site.

The dumpsite is about a 10-minute walk from the village of around 30 households.

Farmer Sangay Phuntsho, 60, said that villagers opposed the dumpsite because it is below the village’s Jephu Tshen Nye (holy site) where villagers worship their deity.

Villagers often offer prayers and visit Jephu Tshen whenever they fall sick to seek their deity’s blessings.

He said that as the dumpsite includes various wastes collected from the town and hospitals, it is not appropriately located.

“We requested several times and also informed that the area is demarcated as a community forest and villagers including Pemagatshel residents pick mushrooms and ferns from that area,” he said. “We tried every way to stop them, even told we would identify another area but they paid no heed to the request.”

He added that about two months ago, they had even submitted a letter to the dzongkhag about the open burning of garbage but are yet to get any response.

Villagers hope that the dump site is relocated and that open burning of garbage is discontinued until the site is located.

“The smoke is so suffocating and it gives an unpleasant smell to even walk in that area to fetch firewood,” Changlu, a farmer said. “We even said the wastes would affect the different water sources located next to the dumpsite, but they said it will not have any affect.”

He added that while environment commission officials had declared the land not feasible, an investigation by dzongkhag officials had led to the site being approved.

Dzongrab Karma Wangdi refuted the allegations and said all investigations were thoroughly conducted after their first complaint, and that neither were their concerns ignored nor the site constructed forcefully.

“We informed villagers about the site and constructed only after it was declared feasible,” the dzongrab said. “We have constructed as per the Environment Act, and rules and regulations.”

He added the plan was to bury the wastes once the dump site is filled. He said he is unaware wastes being burned because no one has been instructed to burn wastes.

“With huge wastes problem in the town, the dumpsite is very important. There is no complaint of any kind of damage or effect from the dumpsite reported and we have to continue using the same dumpsite.”

Dzongkhag environment officer Chimmi Wangchuk said the dumpsite is environmentally safe and they do not encourage burning. He said they had earlier identified three other places but it was either not feasible or too far from the town.

“Their claims are baseless but we’ll check if they say the wastes are getting burned. As per the Act and regulations, all the concerns they made were ruled out.”

The wastes are collected only once in a month.

However, the dzongkhag administration has not received any letter from the villagers claiming that the wastes are being burned.

The dumpsite will not be relocated.

Yangchen C Rinzin,  Pemagatshel