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Poor landfill management leaves residents of Umtoedkha fuming- Punakha 

Residents of Umtoedkha in Lingmukha Gewog of Punakha have long been bothered by the landfill site in their village, which is poorly managed. According to them, the garbage heaps attract cattle to consume toxic wastes that result in their deaths. The chiwog is now requesting the concerned agencies to address the matter at the earliest.

It is a common sight to see cattle feeding upon the trash from dawn to dusk every day. The animals easily enter the waste disposal site since it does not have a proper fencing system. The barbed wire fences have been erected around the landfill site. However, it is not much of a help.

Add to this, without a caretaker, the main entrance to the dump yard is open all the time. Recently, some employees from a waste segregating company were at the site. But they were troubled by the cattle scavenging on the wastes.

Residents recount losing 16 cattle to the harmful wastes and 14 others slaughtered at the landfill by miscreants since 2015.

“Eleven cattle were found slaughtered and stolen from the landfill sites in 2015. We even got the flesh of three cattle, but could not arrest the perpetrators. Our cattle are directly going to the landfill site right after being released from the village. But when they return, they bring along all waste items, polluting the village,” narrated the Tshogpa, Kinley Dorji.

The Tshogpa further went on to say that on behalf of the chiwog, he has made several requests to the gewog and the municipal to well maintain the landfill.

“In other places, we see the landfills are well managed with good fencing system and a caretaker. But here, we don’t have a caretaker and a good fencing system. Earlier, the landfill had a caretaker but citing water shortage, he left. We have requested the Dzongkhag Tshogdu to recruit a caretaker and build proper fences around the landfill.”

A resident from Umtoedkha, Zeko told BBS that his three cattle died due to the consumption of toxic wastes like plastic and glass pieces.

“The landfill is located in the midst of the forest where we let loose our cattle. So, the cattle directly go there and end up eating all kinds of waste. Just a month ago, three cattle of mine died after eating waste.”

Since the dump yard is located two kilometres from the settlements alongside the Lingmukha Gewog Centre Road, villagers have also voiced health concerns and the growing dog menace, fed by the garbage.

“All the waste items including rotten meats are dumped there. So, dogs bring them nearby our homes. Dogs also bring diapers. Likewise, there are countless dogs at the landfill, causing safety issues,” said another resident in Umtoedkha, Cheki Dorji.

Some residents also shared the struggle under the stench of toxic landfill.

“Wild boars are entering the landfill and bring along the wastes in our surroundings. Also, we have to travel via the landfill area to town and since houseflies are omnipresent there, I worry about my health,” added Nima Wangmo, also a resident in Umtoekha.

Some others sought relocation of the landfill.

“We have given the No-Objection-Letter to construct the dump yard. But according to that letter, they should maintain it properly. However, since they didn’t follow that letter, we are faced with problems. Animals of Guma Gewog and Martalungchhu under Thedtsho Gewog in Wangdue are affected too. We would be grateful if the landfill is either relocated or improved,” pointed out Tshering Penjor.

The matter was at the heart of the Dzongkhag Tshogdu meeting recently. The house resolved to construct a landfill each in every gewog of Punakha.

Regarding the landfill site at Umtoekha, the Khuruthang Municipal Office has no plans to relocate it.

But plans are in place for the landfill to receive a thorough makeover, which includes the construction of retention walls. It will be prioritised in the next Five-Year Plan.

About five truckloads of wastes from Barp, Guma and Lingmukha gewogs, and Khuruthang throm end up in the landfill every day.

Changa Dorji, Punakha

Edited by Pema Lhaden