By Dr Spalchen Gonbo, Stawa 03-20
Cow at the Bombguard near Leh, Ladakh
We must all thank Bombguard. In fact, we must thank Bombguard each time we discard something we don't need. We must thank Bombguard each time the municipal truck comes to our doorstep to collect what we don't need. We must also thank our country for the liberty we have to dispose things we don't need as many countries don't allow this freedom!
This contrast was driven home by my friend Oliver as we waited for the municipal truck near my home. He exclaimed, "You are able to throw your waste rather easily. In the West, we have to be very careful. We can be fined if we throw what we don't need. I can't even throw my laptop in the dustbin." Now you know if your Western friend was kind or opportunistic when he/she gifted you a five-year-old laptop! Perhaps, he/she was looking for a Bombguard in you! In Western countries, you are not allowed to throw food waste. You need a composite pit for it. You cannot even throw paper waste beyond a certain limit. The plastic waste needs to be packed in a certain way before the municipality will accept it. Sharp objects need to be disposed in a specific way as they can be a health hazards for waste handlers. In certain countries you have to pay before they accept certain waste.
Coming back to Ladakh, very few people know that there is a very nice trekking route between Leh and Sabu. In fact, people used to use this path to travel between Leh and Sabu in the past. I did this trek in 1985 with students from Lamdon School and some French friends during a school exchange programme. Everyone liked the trek on which you cross two passes.
I did the trek once again in 2014 with my children and my French friend and his children. Just as we started the trek, our French guests started spotting plastic litter along the path. It was very unusual for them and they started collecting them. Children are quick learners and soon my children too started collecting plastic litter from the trekking route. Initially everyone was enjoying the trek and the activity of cleaning the path. As we reached the upper valley of Bombguard, there was plastic everywhere. They finally gave up! For me it was an eye-opener. I discovered where our waste goes!
It made me think. We can handle food waste at home without burdening the municipality. Some pragmatic hoteliers ring the dog sanctuary in Nang and give them their food leftovers. I often wonder that if hotels and restaurants can leave space for parking, then they can also create space for a compositing pit. We need to be more judicious in how we handle the green and blue bins we have received from the municipality. At the same time, the concerned authorities must also be careful in handling the contents of blue and green bins without mixing them in their truck.
Perhaps we will produce less waste only if the municipality stops accepting more than a certain amount of waste each day. Similarly, we must start carrying our own bags instead of accepting or demanding a carry bag from each shop we visit. Perhaps we will be less enthusiastic about carry bags if shopkeepers start charging for them. Then we may even reuse the carry bags before regarding them as 'waste'.
We must remember that not very long ago there was a similar landfill in the valley just above Maney Tsilding. For years, our waste was dumped there. Then, on the night of 6 August 2010, nature expressed her wrath and fury. Floodwaters emerged from this valley along with the waste we had dumped there.