Appropriate waste management for clean rivers in Bhutan

Bhutan Water Partnership (BhWP) aligned to the World Water Day theme ‘Nature for Water: exploring nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century’ conducted a drainage cleaning exercise on 22 March in Thimphu, Bhutan.

Thimphu Chhu, a major riven in Bhutan, rises from the Himalayas and running over a bed of large boulders and confluence with several small tributaries before it enters to India. Regrettably, the drainages in Thimphu City, which carries contaminants and pollutants as well as waste ultimately empties into this river. By considering the adverse effects that can arise due to the rapid pollution of the River, National Environment Commission Secretariat invited several Stakeholders to join the project, cleaning drainages in Thimphu, at different capacities. BhWP, Under CORE Programme, ‘Activity No. 1 Conduct education and awareness programmes to sensitise youth on Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) principles’, collaborated with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) financed the project while several other governmental, non-governmental and corporate organisations provided the non-financial support including manual labour.

Volunteers from Ministry of Economic Affairs, Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN), Dessup, Bhutan Youth Department Fund (YDF), Construction Development Corporation Limited (CDCL), Pelkhil School, Thimphu Thromde (Thimphu City  Corporation ), Clean Bhutan, Business Opportunity and Information Centre (BOIC), Bhutan Health Trust Fund (BHTF), Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited (NRDCL) and Dzongkhag Administration gathered at the Thai Pavillion and kick started the initiative at 9am on 22 March to commemorate the World Water Day 2018. The volunteers were briefed on the planned activities and assigned them to the respective sites to carry out the activities. The cleaning was undertaken starting from NPPF Colony to the Thimphu Dzongkhag (District) Administration office along the city area (Norling and City Bus sites). Large amounts of waste, both degradable - leaves, food waste and paper, and non-degradable (plastic) were collected from the drains and the drains were washed with water with the assistance of Royal Bhutan Police. The programme was adequately covered by the National Television - Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS), aiming at raising public awareness on the waste management with the special focus on adverse effects of haphazard waste disposal into the water bodies and to inspire public for taking responsibility in managing their own waste and initiating activities to conserve the water bodies.

Lessons learned

  • The announcements aired through media prior to the event encouraged the multi-stakeholder gathering by bringing public and different sectors together. They have enthusiastically engaged the cleaning process from the beginning to the end by even accessing the most difficult parts of the drainage system.
  • The campaigns require a high level of volunteerism and collaboration.
  • Replication of cleaning projects are vital to maintain clean water bodies.
  • The stakeholder consultation meeting held prior to the campaign discussed the site locations, activities and assigned the participants by considering their proficiencies. The discussions held at the meeting helped in making alterations and improving the overall plan. The consultation meeting played a substantial role for the success of the overall event.
  • It is expected that the short documentary made on wastewater management will raise awareness and would self-motivate the public to maintain clean waterways in the city.

Way forward

With the rapid urbanisation, it has become high time for Bhutan to revive the existing waste management policies and to introduce new regulations for waste disposal in urban Bhutan. Therefore, BhWP will dedicate more resources for sensitise youth on IWRM and stimulate muti-stakeholder approach by establishing collaborations between the agencies working towards common goals in  conducting IWRM projects.