Friday, 22 August 2008

Bhutan ; Getting to grips with garbage

21 August, 2008 - Each person generates about a kilogramme of household waste everyday, according to the first national survey solid waste survey carried out in urban centres of Bhutan by the department of urban development and engineering services (DUDES).

The survey, which was conducted from November 2007 to January 2008, in 10 urban centres showed Phuentsholing as the highest centre, with each individual generating about 1.2 kg of waste. The lowest was recorded at Trashigang with 0.6 kg.

Bumthang dzongkhag produced the highest non-household waste with an average waste of 3.1 kg of waste per day, followed by Paro with three kilogrammes. However, the result depended on the number of samples collected during the survey. A total sample of 175 was collected from Thimphu, which showed an average waste of 2.7 kg, while 234 samples were collected from Bumthang.

DUDES deputy executive engineer, Sherub Phuntsho, who coordinated the survey, said that ten urban areas were taken for the survey since most development activities were happening there. However, he said that the response to the survey was poor.

The survey covered 11,068 households, which accounts for a total sample population of 52,371 people.

According to the survey, organic waste like vegetables, fruit remains, and garden waste topped waste composition at 58 percent. The highest waste was found in Phuentsholing and Samdrup Jongkhar.

Paper and paperboard formed the second highest fraction of municipal solid waste at 72 percent. Solid waste included all paper products, corrugated and non-corrugated carton boxes and packaging material. Offices generate the highest paper and paperboard waste.

Although use of plastic bags was banned in Bhutan in 1999, plastic waste formed about 13 percent of municipal solid waste.

Bhutan also generated about 4,3697 tonnes of municipal solid waste from its urban centres in 2007. Of these, organic waste made up 25,388 tonnes, paper and paperboard 7,516 tonnes, which is equivalent to about 1.53 billion A4 size photocopy paper. Plastic waste generation was estimated at 5,550 tonnes, which is roughly 24 plastic bags per capita per week.

The findings were presented at the first national conference on solid waste management at the Royal Institute of Management in Semtokha. More than 150 people from various agencies, dzongkhags, corporations, and industries are participating.

At the end of the three-day conference, it will find a concrete solution to the waste management problem in the country.

Addressing the opening of the conference, the finance minister, Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu, said, “Nothing is more damaging to the environment than the waste we generate. We must find new solutions to old methods of managing waste that are not effective,” said the minister.

The minister said that the attitude of people should change and not to leave it to the concerned agencies to solve the problem. “We need more awareness and shoulder more responsibilities,” he added.

The work and human settlement minister, Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba, said that the government lacked a clear role and proper rules and regulations. “We must have a concrete action plan,” he said.

“All of us must think and head towards the same direction. With the new development activities, we must find solutions accordingly,” said the minister.

“If the current practices of municipal solid waste management system, such as open dumping and burning goes on, not only will the life of the existing landfills be reduced but it’ll have a big environmental impact,” said the DUDES deputy executive engineer, Sherub Phuntsho.

Participants at the end of the first day recommended public awareness of waste reduction, especially at the school level, solid waste management plans with clear vision, involving all bodies at the local level, adequate funding and revision of municipal taxes.

Tandin Wangchuk

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