Getting rid of the household garbage in the morning may be a familiar ritual to most households and businesses in Thimphu.
Though the service is free many residents complain that the trucks come at office hours forcing some to store their garbage for weeks.
However, according to officials at the Thimphu District Municipality (TDM) these problems will hopefully be addressed with the privatization of garbage collection. The only catch here is that a service that was once free will be charged as part of your municipal bills.
The TDM which will bill the households will share a certain amount with the private operators for their services.
Though the exact time period for the launch of these private services has not yet been decided, the TDM is already studying the cost factor and the public response to the ongoing pilot project of waste collection by private companies in segregated bins in the Chubachu area.
Project manager and officiating chief environment officer Pema Dorji said, “right now we don’t have any service standard so we are doing this pilot project to determine what kind of waste storage system we should have or how much waste an individual will produce.”
“The quality of service and the public response on the effectiveness of these services is vital for the actual project to proceed,” he added.
The TDM will also be deciding on the amount of money to be collected from the service receivers.
Pema Dorji said that the garbage collection will be privatized but the segregation and other processes will still be the TDM’s responsibility.
There are two models of privatization process that the TDM is considering. One is that the private individual provides the services using the resources provided by the TCC. The other approach is providing the interested individuals with a long term contract during which the interested parties will have to invest heavily in the project putting in their own vehicles etc.
Currently the TDM has around 20 compactor trucks each estimated to be worth around Nu.2mn-3.2m from which three are kept for emergency purposes. Most of these trucks are either donated by the Asian Development Bank or by the Japanese government through the JICA project.
So, the main concern is about the private individual’s capacity to maintain these imported trucks which has to be run on a daily basis. As of now it has not yet been decided whether it will be sold to the individuals or leased out to them.
The project manager said, 50% of the staff working with the compactor trucks is recruited on a contract basis for two years, with the idea that, if the private sector takes over the waste collection process then the people involved in the business can be allocated through the contract.
As of now the garbage collection services the TDM provides to residents of Thimphu are completely free. However, the trial run of the privatization process will be held within the Norzin Lam area with a service charge, the Mechanical Transport Officer, Tashi Tshering said.
A TDM official affirmed that the privatization process will not lead to the relocation of land fill areas. He said that the process of managing a land fill involves a huge amount of cost, referring to Philippines as an example where landfills are run by private firms and they charge around 500 pesos (1 USD=42 pesos) for every truck load of garbage dumped. The official said that this would be expensive for Bhutan and added, “When it comes to dumping we’ll still be doing it”.