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Setting trash afire

Aug 23, 2012

In absence of a proper landfill site for villages in Trashigang, Bhutan, the common practice has been to burn the garbage inside the pits villagers use to dispose wastes, which according to officials is a health hazard.

Tshering Zangmo from Bhazor, about 20 minutes drive from Lungtenzampa under Samkhar gewog, connected by a farm road sets on fire a heap of waste that includes plastics, pet bottles, worn out foot wears and papers.

It is an accumulation of a few day’s waste from her house.

“I burn especially plastics and papers in my disposal pit in my backyard,” Tshering Zangmo said. “With my disposal pit filling up every few days we’ve no choice but to burn them.”

Every one in the village follow this practice, including  those from other nearby villages.

Another Bhazor villager, Nima Dorji said with shops cropping up in the villages that sold grocery items wrapped in plastics, pet bottles and other packet food, unperishable wastes increased every year.

“Perishable wastes like vegetables are fed to cattle,” he said. “But what of plastics wastes in absence of a recycling plant.”

Until recently, he said, none of the villagers knew that burning plastics was hazardous to health.

Villagers said they began burning non-biodegradable wastes following suggestions from health officials.

Ironically, a few other health officials have been educating the villagers of the lethality of burning in open plastics.

Open burning of plastics, some health officials said released highly toxic pollutants like dioxin, acids, sulphur and nitrogen oxides.

“They cause cancer in humans, particularly children who breathed more than adults and were in the initial stages of building their immune systems,” one doctor in the dzongkhag said.

He also said it was detrimental in hormonal development in people.

“Open burning of plastics can also cause birth defects and reproductive failure,” a dzongkhag health official said.

Dzongkhag agriculture officials added considerable amounts of toxins contaminate the soil, surface and ground water.

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