MoWHS Minister says Thromde has the right to levy such fines
Recently, Thimphu Thromde decided to impose severe fines for what it says are illegal activities from parking cars on the pavements to connecting kitchen and bathroom waste water to the sewer. The comments section and social media in general was immediately swamped with individuals condemning the fines.
As per Thimphu Thromde, the decision on the various fines was taken by the Thromde Tshogde which is the elected tshogpas and the Thrompon.
The Bhutanese attempted to speak with the Thimphu Thromde Tshogde as they are the ones who brought in the fines; however, they refused talk because of the media protocol in place. Even though they are the elected local leaders, they said they are also compelled to follow the Thimphu Thromde management’s media protocols of written questions via email to the Thromde and written replies over a week or two if not more.
As per the Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS) Minister, Dorji Tshering, said “Which Act states they can’t levy such huge fines? So I don’t think they did anything out of context. They are all guided by rules, terms of reference, and legislation, I feel that legally they have not gone out of the frame work.”
He went on to say that Thromde is correct that these waste water should not be linked to the sewage system since doing so will cause complications.
Thromde will levy Nu 45,000 fine for either connecting roof water or kitchen and bathroom waste water to the main sewer lines.
Former Urban Planning Specialist of MoWHS, Meghraj Adhikari, explained that when they first began sewerage in Thimphu and Phuentsholing, it was anticipated that it would handle all of the waste waters, and in the past, when sewage connections were provided, individuals had their own septic tanks and had to link to it.
He said that due to the extra load, there appears to be a change in policy right now. Oxidation pond was formerly built to hold no more than 50,000 people in Thimphu back then.
“They have now built new mechanical ones, and there are two of them, as well as a mini treatment plant. For example, we have one in the ministerial building called ecocline, and they also take this type of waste water,” he said.
People are concerned that individuals who have previously connected with permission and consent from Thromde would now be considered illegal.
He went on to say that the problems appear to be caused by some people connecting rain water from the roof, which were never linked to the sewer treatment plant, but all used water should be connected to the sewer line, and that was the initial understanding.
“We connected all of the waste water in Phuentsholing to the sewer treatment plant, and water stagnation outside was much controlled resulting in a healthy environment. If we do not connect those waste water to the sewer connection, we will have to come up with a different arrangement, which means that all of the drain will have to be linked to the proper public drains, and how those water will be released to the river has to be sorted out,” he said.
He further stated that they should treat those waste waters by storing them in little pound for a brief period of time and then release them with minimal treatment.
“That is more difficult, costly, and less practicable. The suggestion is that we continue to link it to the sewer system and properly treat it; only then will our environment improve. If the new treatment plant is unable to handle the extra load, we should not consider closing the oxidation pond,” he stated.
Meanwhile, as per Thimphu Thromde, overflow is mostly prominent during monsoon season which is a clear indication that the public have connected their gutter to the sewer lines.
In other seasons, apart from a few blockages, there are usually no cases of sewer overflowing. However, blockages do occur and the main reasons for this, which results in overflow from the other end of the manhole chamber are: Flushing of sanitary pads, condoms, sacks, cloth pieces, debris from surface runoff, sludge from fats, oils and grease from kitchen waste.
Head of Operation and Maintenance Division under Thimphu Thromde, Tashi Dorji, said that if Thromde does not levy hefty penalties then it is unlikely that people will comply with the notification.
“Since most of these issues are of an urgent concern, we need the public to make these rectifications swiftly,” he said.
It was learned that most of the treatment plants across the capital are sewer treatment plants and their capacities are also small so they cannot treat kitchen waste water.
However, the Babesa Treatment Plant is a waste water treatment plant and has the capacity to treat the kitchen waste. By removing the gutter connections and even the kitchen waste from the sewer lines, a huge burden would be reduced on these lines.
As per Thromde, it will be strictly monitored by their Building and Sanitary Inspectors as well as the water meter readers after the given time period.
He said that storage water tank overflow and illegal water connections will be monitored by the water meter readers.
“Average water consumption based on the number of units or households can be calculated and it will not be difficult to verify those who are bypassing this system,” he said.
He stated that with regards to the footpath, this is still a mandate of the RBP. However, most building owners construct access roads in places where Thromde already have footpaths and turn them into parking spaces.
While the cars are parked, due to lack of space, a part of the footpath is obstructed by these parked vehicles. In such cases, Thromde will levy a fine.
He said the public need to understand that road cutting will only take place if the public require services, for instance sewer connection, etc.
“In such dire cases, where there are no alternatives, we have no option but to dig the road to provide people with the necessary services. Although we try to rectify these immediately, sometimes it is not possible due to the lack of manpower, resources and more urgent matters taking over,” he said.