Choki Wangmo

Waste incinerator import will henceforth require environment clearance (EC).

The National Environment Commission (NEC) last week notified the trade department that “EC is a prerequisite for any proponent or entity wishing to import incinerators. This is to curb unwarranted import of incinerators in the country.”

The secretary of NEC, Sonam P Wangdi, said that importing incinerators without an EC was allowed in the past because of urgent situations created by the biomedical waste due to Covid-19 Pandemic.

At least 2 incinerators were imported without an EC, which were later awarded the clearance.

Chief environment officer, Thinley Dorji, said that intervention was necessary because of plans to import more by various entities.

According to the waste management flagship programme and national plan for biomedical and hazardous wastes, the use of incinerators is intended for the safe disposal or destruction of biomedical or hazardous waste.

“EC is a requirement to study the location, baseline data like emission and effluence so that impact is reduced on the environment and the people,” Sonam P Wangdi said.

Too many incinerators in the country, he said, would disrupt the circular economy concept and was against the 3RS—reduce, reuse, and recycle.

In a circular economy, waste generation is minimised through the careful design of new products and an industrial process in which materials constantly circulate in a closed-loop system.

Under the waste flagship programme, import of three incinerators funded by UNDP is frontloaded to burn medical waste from the Covid-19 treatment centres in Mongar, Gelephu, and Phuentsholing.

According to Bhutan’s Waste Inventory Report Bhutan generates 172 metric tonnes of waste every day, out of which medical waste amounts to 996 kilograms.