Thursday, 4 August 2011

Irresponsible Dumping of Wastage- The Most Significant Environmental Problem in Bhutan.

Bhutanese enjoyed a serene and healthy environment and lived in close harmony with the natural environment since time immemorable. From the snow-capped mountains in the alpine north to the massive plains of subtropics in southern foothills, Bhutan have undisturbed and pristine natural environment, within which dwells the inhabitants adhered towards their way of living steeped in Buddhist tradition and culture. However, with the passage of time, the way of living changes and these calls for modern development to meet the necessities and comforts of our people but ironically, we are to face problems of environmental instability and pollution, due to waste mounting.
How long should such an act continue???

Solid waste can be defined as material that no longer has any value to the person who is responsible for it, and is not intended to be discharged through a pipe. It is generated by domestic, commercial, industrial, healthcare, agricultural and mineral extraction activities and accumulates in streets and public places (NSAP, ISWM 2007). But fatefully one way or the other, these solid wastes and other non solids wastes from various sources goes into our pristine environment. Environment in the context of science is defined as the sum of all physical, chemical, biotic and cultural factors that affect life of the organism in any way. Therefore, the environment constitutes the land on which we dwell, the air we breathe, the water we drink, et al. The major environmental problems that we face today are the pollution of air, water and soil, the effect of which is devastating and perilous. While there are many factors which causes environmental degradation and related problems, the irresponsible dumping of wastage is seen as one of the most significant environmental problems in Bhutan. 

Causes and Sources of Waste:
Bhutan just a decade or two ago, did not face much waste problems but in the recent years, we could see and sense the consequences of mounting waste in most of the urban areas and even in rural villages. This makes us think why there was a drastic increase in the wastage (Bio degradable and non-degradable). Following are some of the factors that lead to the increasing of wastage.
  1.  Increase in Population: Population explosion is one of the major problems that lead to the increase in waste in our country. The increased population calls for the need of more resources and consequently more wastage. Though wastage is minimal in our rural areas, the urban areas like Thimphu and Phuentsholing face lots of problem in proper management of waste. As for the case of Thimpu, it generates about 10 tons/day (UNEP 2001a). These urban areas are seen with sprawling settlements mainly due to rural urban migration. The population growth rate is estimated between 7-10% per annum (ADB) in these urban centres. Sewage is one of the serious wastage that causes considerable pollution to our environment. 
  2. Urbanization: The urban areas are expanding very fast and many construction works are happening every year, to accommodate the ever-increasing pressure of population and other infrastructure. This demand more supply of raw materials but due to inefficient utility, many goes as solid waste (metals and plastic). Moreover, every citizen looks for the comforts of living so there are considerable wastage from the automobiles and other electronic gadgets.
  3. Industrialization: In order to boast the economy and create employment opportunities, and produce self-sufficiency in basic commodities, the nation calls for the boasting of industries. Industrial development is fairly new in Bhutan. The total number of industries increased by 34% from 2001 to 2005 (Country Inventory Reports 2008). Most of the existing industries were established within the past ten years or so but each produce considerable wastage. Health and Medical Waste, Food and Beverage Processing Industries, Wood, Metal, and Mineral processing industries, Automobile workshops, Textile industries including polythene based industries, Gas industries.
Irresponsible Waste Disposal:
With a huge quantity of wastes produced annually, Bhutan is faced with problems of disposal of the wastes. Though the biodegradable wastage from the homes can be disposed safely in smaller quantity, Bhutan does not have a single scientific landfill site to dump the lump of wastage that a city produces. Besides the government does not have proper Waste Management Strategy until 2007. The only document that gives any kind of guidance on handling hazardous wastes is the Environmental Codes of Practice for Hazardous Waste Management produced by NEC in 2002, which is also not strictly adhered. Therefore, this leads to the disastrous method of dumping the wastes in the natural environment, causing considerable threat to the fragile ecosystem and society. So it’s clear that poor government policy and response, lack of political will, lack of appropriate economic and human resources, and weak local institutions result in poor waste management. Meanwhile LACK OF CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY of urban residents is also a major cause o irresponsible dumping.

Impact of Waste on Environment:
The impact of such method of waste disposal is huge on the environment. Our fragile mountain ecosystem is prone to perish if proper tactic is not applied in managing the waste. The wastage from the automobile works and major industries, agricultural discharges and sewages and other wastes, which are directly poured into free flowing rivers, pollutes the water increases the Biological Oxygen Demand, causing death to the aquatic lives and rendering the water unfit for drinking. The industrial chimney wastes, the automobile exhausts, the other gases from different sources and gadgets cause air pollution. We experience warmer weather annually which is attributed to global warming is caused by environmental degradation and increased air pollution. Various nondegradable wastes like plastics, rubbers, iron rods, etc. which are disposed elsewhere remains for long time in soil depleting the fertility and causing threat to microorganisms. This environmental problems leads to other problems:
i. Health:  Deteriorating environment conditions are a major factor in poor human health and quality of life. Polluted waterways make communities more vulnerable to water-borne diseases and soil contamination can affect both the quality of food and its resistance to disease. Toxins released into the air contribute to air pollution and result in human respiratory diseases, especially in urban areas. In addition, items such as glass can be hazardous to the safety of humans and animals alike. 
ii. Economy: Poor environmental conditions affect the economy in many ways, including decreased food production, poor animal health and reduced tourism opportunities. There are instances where some tourists pointed out that if there is one thing that tarnishes the Bhutan’s Shangri-La image, it is waste. The unfriendly environment means less attraction for our highly valued tourists and this would really hamper the economy of the country.
Such serene vales should never become a story of the past.

Preventive Policies:
UNEP promotes preventive policies among policy makers and industry through initiatives on sustainable urbanization, health and environment, education, environment and livelihood security and waste management, including e-waste. The Royal Government of Bhutan then requested assistance for the formulation of a National Strategy on Integrated Solid Waste Management which is why we have the National Strategy and Action Plan, Integrated Solid Waste Management, 2007 owing to the supports from UNEP and the RRC.AP.
The National Strategy on Integrated Solid Waste Management outlines how all waste that may have a negative impact on public health and the environment can be removed regularly and in an affordable way so as to protect the environment, safeguard public health, reach sustainability. The main focus in the Nationa Strtegy has been set on:
  • ensuring that waste producers become responsible
  •  addressing the root cause by reducing waste to a minimum 
  • gaining control over waste related pollution
  • and establishing a well trained work force.
Besides Public participation, Community Mobilization Program, and Capacity Building Program has been considered as the underlying principle for all implementation activities.

Now having known the factors responsible for waste generation and shortcomings in its management, the consequences of odd mode of waste disposal, it’s high time that every citizen of the nation join hands together in combating the waste management and sustain our environment. Bhutan being a developing country categorized under LDC, cannot afford to adopt and transfer of the technologies from the developed countries in waste management. But we Bhutanese possess a sacred value of mutual understanding and cooperation. Now  it’s high time we re-inculcate these values in our thoughts and try reduce our own wastes in first hand and then join the government in implementing the new waste management strategies so as to foster the spiritualism and love towards our pristine environment, which is nations greatest asset. We the concerned citizens should promote and practice 3R methodology of Recycle, Reuse, and Reduction of wastes and if we can at least plant a tree. Let us retain our nation’s reputation of clean and green country until eternity. 

  • ADB: Asian Development Bank. 
  • ISWM: Integrated Solid Waste Management. 
  • LDC: Least Developed Country
  • NSAP: National Strategy & Action Plan. 
  • NEC: National Environment Commission 
  • RRC.AP: Regional Resource Centre for Asia and the Pacific 
  • UNEP: United Nations Environment Programme,

  1. Yangzom, Karma. Managing Hazardous Wastes, RETA 6361 (REG), INVENTORY REPORT, BHUTAN.
  2. National Strategy & Action Plan, Integrated Solid Waste Management 2007, Bhutan.
  3. C. Visvanathan and Ulrich Glawe, Domestic Solid Waste Management in South Asian Countries – A Comparative Analysis.
  4. Miscellaneous notes and info’s.


  1. * It is not LCD but should be LDC, acronym of Least Developed Country rated by the UN based on three main criterias of Low Income, Human Resource weakness and Economic Vulnerability.

  2. wow, nice article...m relieved, u r utilizing ur tym nicely and reading some very important papers.....:)
    this article of urs come at a time when waste management is a very big issue here in the country...and NEC and DoFPS are working really hard on developing guidelines for waste managemnet...... hope every responsible bhutanese citizen will come together and solve the problem of waste in the country....

  3. Wow! letro.....very nice one.......I really appreciated your work...keep it up and keep posting la........

  4. We should really mind our own waste.
    thanks for your appreciation, Kiyya and Tandekx.

  5. talking about waste management to people is all the time wastage of time. Bhutan will take time to understand the importance of proper waste management. recently i have visited the landfill site, its shame on us to see lots of recyclable waste which meant that people are not keen to recycle. potentially toxic lechat was seeping down the area......Anyway nice to read this article. Salute la author!