With legalization of Cordyceps collection, the highlanders are bound for collection in droves every season. These collectors meanwhile take in all the garbage and come out only with Cordyceps.
A tell-tale sign, that irrespective of individual gains, nature stands to be polluted consistently and damagingly. Concerns are raised that if proper management of such garbage is not done, it will lead to pollution of the pristine mountain environment. Environmentalists fear that the pure mountain will soon bear the brunt of such human carelessness and will be strewn with all sorts of trash, junks, waste and rubbish.
Such an issue was discussed at length during the recently organized Annual national stakeholder workshop on Cordyceps marketing. It was attended by all key stakeholders including the collectors and exporters, in addition to the park managers, Gups and other officials from government agencies.
According to one of the Park Managers from Cordyceps growing park, garbage never seen before in the high altitudes is now visible everywhere. “Discarded plastic bottles, food wrappers, rags and many other waste created by Cordyceps collectors are increasingly found,” said the Park Manager.
In the past, most of these highland areas remained free of trash and garbage. Such mountains were known for their virginity, clean surroundings, fresh air and scenic beauty. This is because, except for seasonal herders and tourists either camped for short period of time or just passing-by, not many people carrying garbage visited the place.
But with legalization, many people had good reasons to go to these places carrying all the trash. Most often, the garbage doesn’t make it back to where they came from.
However, rules and regulations are in place in order to regulate and manage such garbage. Having deemed the need for one, the stakeholders themselves, in one of the previous sittings have formulated the Cordyceps Collection Rules and Regulation.
The rules clearly specify how to manage the garbage. It states that the concerned forest ranger shall 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 warrant a cleaning campaign to be organized.
The rules also fix the responsibility to the Gups whereby they are required to appoint at least four Tshogpas per gewog to monitor proper garbage collection and disposal by collectors. This shall 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.
The Park Manager of Wangchuck Centennial Park (WCP) in Bumthang, D.S Rai, said the park together with collectors has adopted a procedure called GIGO, Garbage in, Garbage out. He said, at the beginning of every collection season, forestry officials are designated in all entry and exit points.
These officials record what garbage is taken into the park by the collectors when they are headed for collection. The same forestry officials also records what has been brought out when collectors return from a month-long Cordyceps collection in the mountains.
This, according to the WCP manager is an effective garbage management tactic. “These ensure all garbage taken inside is brought out, leaving none behind.”
Similarly, Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary in the east has formed groups among the collectors. A leader is appointed from among the members of the group. “The leader coordinates and ensures that garbage is properly managed by group members,” said Park Manager Pankey Dukpa. The garbage after segregation into biodegradable and non-biodegradable is carried back or buried. “This is ensured by the leader.”
The Park Manager of Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP) said it is very important that garbage in the park areas is managed well. Even in the JDNP measures are in place to ensure that garbage is properly taken care of especially pertaining to those created by the Cordyceps collectors.
Gup Wangchuk of Naro gewog in Thimphu said that gups are equally concerned about such an issue. He said that they do everything they can to ensure that garbage in the collection sites is properly managed. And all collectors are properly advised on this.
However, in an earlier study conducted by Department of Agriculture Marketing and Cooperatives (DAMC), 96% of the collector respondents said that they don’t really know much about managing garbage. This means that not many really care about the garbage that piles up in the collection area rather they come out only with Cordyceps.