With the increasing population and human activity, waste management is becoming more important. In recent weeks, there were reports of many people penalized for failing to dispose of their waste. They have even been named and shamed in some instances. While these are highly appreciated to reform and change the behaviour of the people in handling waste management civic sense, the rigor of penalizing people must also set accountability to the enforcers themselves and agencies responsible for the enforcement of this law.

 Kuensel’s report reads that “Paro Dzongkhag Administration fined 100 shopkeepers and automobile workshops for various offences related to Waste Prevention and Management Regulation 2016.” However, the collection of waste in Paro is poorly organized. For example, the waste collection truck comes only once. They collect everything together without any segregation. Waste is then dumped openly without proper waste management. Second, apart from the main town, there is no collection of wastes or disposal sites in even nearby areas in Bongdey and Wochu citing it is not within the town area. Most drains were overflowing in the town and the children’s park was filled with litter and open electric sockets.

Chapter four of the Waste Management and Prevention Act provides the duties of both the implementing agencies and the public. The public has the duties of “civic responsibility and good ethics in waste management” and to “segregate, reduce, reuse, and recycle waste and avoid littering and reduce waste generation”. Similarly, this chapter provides detailed duties of various government ministries and agencies. For example, the Ministry for Works and Human Settlements and City Corporations, Dzongkhag Tshogdu and Gewog Tshogde have duties to ensure “waste prevention and management in the Thromdes, Dzongkhags and gewogs.” The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MEA), relating to wastes resulting from Trade and Industries and the Department of Trade, MEA, for ensuring waste prevention and management with respect to wastes resulting from transboundary trade including import, and export of waste and waste-producing materials. The Department of Information Technology, the Ministry of Information and Communication have the duty to ensure waste prevention and management with respect to e-waste. Similarly, Section 12 of the Act mandates the “implementing agencies to ensure that the reduction, reuse, recycling and disposal of non-hazardous waste are addressed in an environmentally sound manner to provide waste segregation and reduction mechanisms at source; and ensure collection and adequate management of waste at an approved site or facility inter alia composting for organic wastes.” But in Paro, hundreds of de-suups had to work day and night recently to clear the waste in the temporary vegetable shed in Paro town before converting to Kaja Throm. How do we fix accountability in such a situation for the failure of clearing the waste and who should be accountable for the failure in this case? 

Similarly, most towns in the country still lack proper management of waste including adequate waste collection vehicles, disposal bins or sites and Memelakha in Thimphu is in mess. Further, E-waste is becoming an emerging waste issue in the country. There is hardly any comprehensive policy on e-waste management in the country. Thus, waste management can’t be addressed by imposing fines on citizens alone and implementing agencies remaining as spectators without fulfilling their duties provided in the law. The law must be applied to state agencies for failing their duties and holding them accountable.    

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.