Precautionary measures needed to minimize risk at Memelakha landfill

Labourers that work to segregate wastes at the Memelakha landfill need more precautionary measures from risks caused by hazardous wastes, like corrosive glass and metals.

A worker with the Thimphu District Municipality (TDM) at Memelakha landfill, Purna Bahadur, 24, said that labourers working in the landfill do not get any extra allowance. He said, “We go to hospital for Tetanus Toxoid (TT) injection every six months.”

“Annually, we are provided work dress, gumboots, gloves, and masks to cover our mouth,” Purna Bahadur said, adding that TDM officials make several visits to the landfill to monitor the safety of labourers.

“We need more gloves and gumboots as gumboots do not last for a year. We have to buy the gumboots from the market once they are worn out. The work dress, gloves and gumboots are given to us only once in a year,” he said.

Most of the labourers wear their gumboots during the monsoon season. “Instead of gumboots, safety boots would be a better option. Also, we need gloves that can handle broken glasses and metals,” Purna Bahadur said. He pointed out that it is challenging to work in the landfill due to the foul smell and the endless flies.

TDM’s excavator operator at Memelakha, Jigme, 25, said it is very difficult to work in the landfill under hot sunshine due to the intense foul smell.

He said that the labourers at Memelakha landfill get the same uniform as all the thromde workers. “We need more safety materials to protect ourselves from the hazardous wastes,” Jigme said. He pointed out that sometimes workers get hurt by glasses and metals.

Greener Way worker at Memelakha, Shambu Subba, 22, said, “We face difficulties in working at such places as we are surrounded by hazardous wastes, like glasses and metals. Our hands are cut even through the gloves.” He said that Greener Way provides safety boots, rain coats and work dress to its labourer. However, he said that they can do with a spare work dress, safety boots and rain coats so that they can have a change of clean work outfit.

Chief Environmental Officer, TDM, Tshering Penjor, said, “We need a high standard of safety measures to prevent direct contact with the hazardous wastes and with unwanted gases, like methane.” He added that workers at the landfill are likely to suffer from an adverse health impact in the future. Therefore, TDM provides the labourers at Memelakha landfill with gloves, gumboots and shirts and pants to minimize the risks of handling the hazardous wastes at the landfill.

TDM has four labourers and three excavator operators that segregate wastes in the landfill and Greener Way has also put some of its labourers at the site.

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