Come winter and busloads of picnickers from the neighboring state of Assam pour into the bordering areas of Gelephu, Sarpang and Jomotshangkha that offer clean and quiet spots by the foothills and the riverside to revel and make merry.
The revelers bring with them either packed food or utensils to prepare a meal along with sound speaker systems that are usually cranked up to the limit to outdo the next group picnicking further up the river. Cheap and easily available alcohol on the Bhutan side is another major draw for the young male population of picnickers.
While this has been going for decades and contributes to the friendly people to people relations across the border littering by picnickers on the Bhutanese side is becoming an issue.
Popular picnic spots are usually littered with leftover food, polythene bags and water bottles. “Pet bottles was the most common type of trash I spotted,” Jigme Dorji, a Gelephu resident, said. “Tourists litter the place as they know that there is always somebody to clean up the mess.”
When tourists were asked about the mess they left behind they responded that it happens all the time and someone from the ‘safai team” would come and clean up.
Another resident said some tourists from across the border visit the Gelephu hot springs and leave behind empty pet and alcohol bottles.
Gelephu Thrompon Tika Ram Kafley said recently a group of officers visited a picnic site and found the place was littered. “The tourists who come to picnic are supposed to clean the area but this is not happening at times,” he said. The environment section of the Thromde regularly checks the sites but it is difficult to regulate the people to clean the area.
“The best way you can discourage people from littering is by setting a good example,” the Thrompon said. “Don’t throw your litter on the ground, pick up litter you see and dispose it in a safe place and don’t throw any litter including cigarette butts out of your car.”