With the increasing number of cordyceps collectors in the highlands and the associated waste, concerns are being raised that if proper management of such garbage is not done, it will lead to pollution of pristine mountain environment. Environmentalists fear that the mountains will be strewn with all sorts of trash.
The recent cleaning campaign carried out by the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research, Bumthang, collected about 500 sacks of trash from the highlands of Wangchuck Centennial National Park. According to the Park manager with the WCNP, Tshering Dendup said trash never seen before in the high altitudes is now seen everywhere.
Discarded plastic bottles, food wrappers, rags and many other waste left behind by Cordycep collectors and tourists were collected from the cleaning campaign done last week.
A researcher with the UWICE, said that waste is a major issue in all collection sites and the team along with 200 other volunteers collected huge amounts of trash in a day from the collection sites.
Going by the waste collection he said it indicates that not many really care about the garbage despite an awareness campaign on the sustainable Cordyceps harvesting and waste management.
Strict rule and regulations clearly specify on how to manage the garbage and the concerned forest ranger is required to inspect the collection areas to ensure that all garbage are collected and properly disposed by collectors.
Further, couple of days before the certificate of origin is issued by concerned forest ranger, the rules warrants a cleaning campaign to be organized.
The rule also has fixed the responsibility on the Gups whereby they are required to appoint at least four Tshogpas per gewog to monitor proper garbage collection and disposal by collectors. This is to be done during the issuance of permit, before the collectors pack and venture into the mountains.
“The nominated Tshogpas shall ensure that all plastics, bottles, cans and papers are brought back to their respective homes and biodegradable wastes dumped into the pit after the collection season,” states the rules.
Meanwhile the WCNP Park together with collectors has adopted a procedure called GIGO, Garbage in Garbage out, where at the beginning of the collection season, forestry officials are designated at all entry and exit points.
These officials record what garbage is being taken inside the park by the collectors when they are headed for collection. The same forestry officials also record what has been brought out when collectors return from the month-long Cordycep collection in the mountains.
This, according to the park office is an effective garbage management tactic.