Advice on waste and environment preservation by tourists who visited Bhutan

Some views on a recent trip to Bhutan

As first-time tourists in Bhutan, what has impressed us is that the government has had the foresight to preserve the pristine forests, heritage sites and magnificent mountain ranges.

Prior to our arrival in Bhutan, we were under the impression that the government has limited external tourism numbers to ensure the sustainability of environment and natural resources.

The reality is that many of the access paths to your amazing tourist sites are clogged with litter. It appears that the closer one gets to human habitation, the greater the litter. There have been a number of walks and hikes through villages and your cities that have been quite distressing due to the amount of litter. The impact on your environment is obvious.

The problem of litter, waste handling and recycling is complex and not limited to your country. It would appear that both locals and tourists contribute to this problem.

We have been fortunate in our travels here to have a guide and driver who are very conscious of the issues. We have on a number of occasions collected bags of litter along the way. We have seen excellent initiatives where schools and companies have “adopted” a trail or river to address the litter issues.

We believe that Bhutan is uniquely placed to address this issue. The commitment of individuals and groups to address the problem would benefit from a coordinated, concerted effort. We have traveled to many neighboring countries who have lost the battle of litter and frankly, they lose their appeal to the tourist or traveler.

Some suggested initiatives include:

Consider putting a container deposit on all drink containers. This strategy has been successful elsewhere. It also gives the people an opportunity to return bottles to claim the deposit from recycling centers. This strategy assumes that you have a recycling strategy in place.

• Continue a comprehensive education program through schools at all levels about the importance of safeguarding your environment through appropriate waste management. You can also use Mr Lakey Wangchuk (77330546) who does intensive free advocacy programs on waste management. We were certainly impressed by his actions during the three weeks we spent with Mr Wangchuk.

• Actively engage with your visitors to the country to limit the litter that they produce. Ensure that guides understand and promote the “pack in, pack out” mentality.

• Encourage the use of reusable drink containers and provide suitable filtered safe water to refill such containers.

• Consider allocating part of the tourist funds to your waste management, recycling initiatives. As we understand it, funds currently are allocated to health and education. Why not the environment and waste management?

The other issue that impacts on a tourist’s enjoyment of Bhutan is the number of stray dogs that roam the cities and villages. They appear to sleep all day and bark all night. We understand that there has been an initiative to de-sex the roaming animals. This is strongly supported as it will improve the experience for tourists (and perhaps the locals too).

Our visit to your country has been wonderful but we have been distressed to see the amount of litter that is impacting on your environment. We strongly believe that the Bhutanese can address the issues of litter, waste management and the impact on your environment. Please act before it is too late, and you lose the battle, as have many other countries.

Sue Frazer & Bruce White
Adelaide, South Australia
(Published on May 28, 2018)

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