Improved Waste Management Through Capacity & Infrastracture Building in Paro, Bhutan


The Kingdom of Bhutan is a landlocked country with an area of approximately 38,000 square kilometer in South Asia. It is located amidst the eastern end of the Himalaya Mountains and is bordered to the south, east and west by India and to the north by China

Shrouded for centuries in the misty serenity of the great Himalayas, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, or Bhutan, as now known to the rest of the world, developed its own distinct civilization.

This deeply spiritual land is home to a unique identity, derived essentially from a fertile religious, rich cultural heritage with much reverence for it’s prestine environment. 

The Bhutanese have deliberately and zealously safeguarded and preserved their rich culture and traditions, its ancient way of life, in all its aspects. And it is perhaps one of the world’s last strongholds of unspoiled wilderness. It is a part of the earth that represents a fabled realm. 

Bhutan is a land where the past and the contemporary co-exist in harmony. 

It is a land of about 650,000 people who believe that Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product.


Nowhere in the Himalayas is the natural heritage, pristine environment more rich and varied than in Bhutan. In historical records, the Kingdom was called the ‘Valley of Medicinal Herbs’, a name that still applies to this day. About 72.5 per cent of the country’s area is under forest cover with a mandate by the Royal Government of Bhutan to ensure that the coverage remains over 60% for all times to come. 

Fortunately for Bhutan, maintaining a balanced natural ecosystem remains the central theme of its development process. The country’s development policies disregard sacrificing its natural resource base for short term economic gains and are consistent with the central tenets of sustainable development, environmental conservation and cultural values.

Bhutan is one of the few countries in the world to provide free education and health to the citizens. Already, the public outlay on health, education, water supply and sanitation accounts is the major expendature of the Royal Government’s expenditure. But as the population increases, and more and more people expect to have improved access to these basic social services, the burden on the exchequer can only increase.

The Royal Government of Bhutan faces new challenges, as a result of opening the country to economic development. Threats to the continued integrity of Bhutan’s natural resource base are increasingly being felt from a variety of “developmental” sources—infrastructure construction, industrial expansion, increasing urbanisation, compromising landuse management practices, high population growth rate, employment shifts, changing consumption patterns and introduction of new technologies.

I am currently working for the National Environment Commission Secretariet, stationed as the District Environment Officer of Paro District (one of the twenty districts) in Bhutan. The National Environment Strategy “The Middle Path,” the main policy document for the environment sector is designed to balance economic development and environmental conservation in Bhutan. The Middle Path aims to minimize or mitigate the likely impacts resulting from the development process. Therefore, for development to take place there is a costly price to the natural environment.

As the District Environment Officer of Paro District, Bhutan I was proud that my District was awarded the  ‘Clean District Award’ in 2007, from the WWF in recognition for our contribution to the environment. Our achievements was in environmental conservation, as we realised that  environment conservation would lay the foundation for a green environment which would ensure clean water and clean air for all. 

In the coming years, Paro District hopes to be able to solve the waste disposal issue faced by the municipality. At present the population of Paro is over 36,433 (est. PHCB – 2005) but till date the municipality does not have a proper land fill site for solid waste disposal. The waste from residents, hospitals, workshops, e-waste etc are not segregated and wastes are currently being disposed off by open burning by the river side. This way of waste disposal by open burning results in air and water pollution. In order to avoid this way of waste disposal, I hope to with this Action Plan to take initiative for the improvement of a proper waste management system.

Above Picture: Unsegregated waste in Bhutan

Current Situation

The following is the Data for the District of Paro:

  • Paro Municipal has no landfill for waste disposal
  • No land fill site identified as yet
  • Waste is being disposed of by open burning by the riverside
  • The population of Paro is 36433 (PHCB 2005) of which 2932 stay in the Urban area
  • The In-flux of migration is at 8.84%

The way the waste generation is increasing is alarming. The key reason for this is:

  • increasing population
  • growth of infrastructure 
  • rising consumption of ‘conveniently packed’ consumer goods

Stakeholders Analysis for the Solid Waste Mangement Project

NoStakeholderAgencyLevelRelevance / Responsibility
1National Environment Commission, RGOBGovernmentNationalResponsible for all laws and regulations issued with related to solid waste management and environment
2Tourism Authority, MoEA, RGOBGovernmentNationalResponsible for the scenic beauty of the pristine environment to ensure positive exposure for Bhutan to market Tourism as a sourse of revenue generator
3Ministry of Health, RGOBGovernmentNationalResponsible for the welfare of the health of the citizens and to ensure minimum expendature on health, by being proactive in dealing with issues that have an adverse impact on the human health
4District Administration, Paro, RGOBGovernmentLocalResponsible for tackling all issues related to health, environment, education etc for all issues in Paro
5Municipal Authority, Paro, RGOBGovernmentLocalResponsible for managing all urban waste including collection, disposal etc. Includes managing sewage, water supply, electricity, municipal taxes, implementing regulations issued by the RGOB
6Town Community, ParoPublicLocalResponsible to ensure representing the local community issues to the RGOB and also used as a medium through which regulation, actions taken by any agency is, informed to the general public. 
7MediaAutonomous NationalResponsible for highlighting all the issues that are of critical importance to the nation and to ensure transparency and accountabily of all projects and activities and making individuals aware that, they are accountable be it in the private or government sectors.

Note:- RGOB stands for the Royal Government of Bhutan
Paro is one of the 20 districts in Bhutan
 All other agencies not mentioned are in Thimphu, Capital of Bhutan


Problem Description

Paro is one of the twenty districts in the Kingdom. One of the main strategic importance is that it currently has the only airport in Bhutan. Given this fact, most tourist visiting Bhutan enter and exit Bhutan via Paro. Tourism is also one of the highest foreign exchange revenue generator to the national exchequer. Tourist visiting Bhutan, come to experience the pristine environment along with the rich cultural heritage that has been preserved through time. 

The District of Paro currently has a population of 36433 approxamitely of which over 2932 stay in the Urban area. With an In-flux of migration is at 8.84%every year, the main town of Paro is rapidly expanding which are straining the existing waste management system.

As of date, the District of Paro, Bhutan does not have any landfill site. All the waste are being collected by the Municipality Vechiles every day and taken to a location about 1 Km north of the town by the river side. The location is approximately 300 meters from the main road and about 50 meters from the river.

The facts about the site is that since it is not a land fill, the waste accumulates. The only way to decrease the volume is by open burning of waste. This results in air pollution as well as water pollution as small stream from the rivers also carry away waste.  

As of date no serious effort has been made to tackle the issue of waste. It is important that this be tackled as the effect of the waste management visible all around has an impact on the beauty of the surrounding. Tourist from all around the world come to experience Bhutan for the beauty and when they come and see the waste site located right by the river, their impression of the pristine and beautiful Bhutan vanishes. That impact is having on the number of tourist visitors in Bhutan as numerious complaints have been lodged with the Tourism Authority as well as letters in the National Media about the negative impact.

Further, the water and air pollution is having an impact on the human health of people in the vicinity. Disease outbreaks will occur, and there fore it is of utmost importance that the issue is tackled urgenly.


1. Inadequate Waste disposal measures

-Because there is inadequate waste disposal measures such as no landfill, no incenerator etc, the waste is being disposed of at a location 300 meters from the main road. This results in accumulation of waste at the site as as it is not a land fill site, the only way to ensure that accumulation of waste is not there is to open burn the waste. This results in air pollution as well as water pollution as the remaining waste enters the river when the level of water increases.

2. Minimum Segregation of Waste at house hold levels

-No segregation of waste is done at the house hold, further compounded by the fact that no segregation of waste is done at the disposal site prior to open burning of the waste. Therefore, the composition of waste being burned is biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste.

3. Minimum Segregation of Waste in Public locations

-As there are not adequate dustbin available to the public, waste are discarded either indescrimentatly or mixed. Therefore as there are no resourse to segregate waste, the waste have to be disposed off by open burning.

4. Weak Capacity to deal with Waste

-As there is no focal identified official for the waste management, there is no constant focus on how waste is being monitered, collected, disposed. Due to this, no constant importance is given and therefore the waste management methods are not being updated in keeping with the increase in waste.


1. Negative Environment Impact 

As the waste being disposed off at the disposal site are being openly burned, the result is that air and water pollution is having a major impact on the surrounding.

2. Decrease in revenue generated from Tourist visiting Paro, Bhutan

As all tourist visiting Paro, Bhutan have come to enjoy and appreciate the natural pristine environment, tourist have been very dissapointed at the sight of the disposal site within 300 meters of the main road. Tourist have written complaints about this and stated that they would not like to visit Bhutan again as they were dissapointed.

3. Increase in Government Expendature for Health related Illness

As all medical expence incured by all the citizen are free of cost, with the number of illness reported within the location increasing, the expendature on disease is on the rise.



Project Design ElementsDescriptionIndicatorsVerifiersImportant Assumptions and Pre-conditions
Development Objectives1.Cleaner Environment2.Hygenic Environment and to ensure that all citizens are protected from the impacts of waste.  -A decrease in 20% of disease case reported-decreased toxity in water downstream-decreased  complaint lodged by the tourists to Tourism Authority by 50% – Ministry of Health-Department of tourism-all activities are carried out simultaneously and completed-no increase in other sourse of pollution (only municipal pollution)
Immidate Objectives-Improved waste management system in the District of Paro, Bhtan-volume of waste being openly burned to decrease by 50% within 3 years -old open burning site replaced by incinerator-new land fill being utilized– Waste Act passed by the National Parliment and regulation in place to provide legal backing for implementing waste management practices
Outputs 1.0 suitable land fill site developed              2.0 Improved Segregation of waste 2.1 Improved segregation of waste at disposal site2.2 Improved segregation of waste at sourse        2.3 Increased Public awareness           3.0 Reduction in volume of waste  discarded in public locations3.1 Reduction in waste discarded indiscriminately3.2 Public awareness / training carried out                       4.0 Improved Capacity along with technical manpower4.1 Technical Manpower specialized in waste management to oversee waste disposal1.0 budget classified by relevant program head for consultancy for landfill, design, aquiring land, construction are  step wise completed and completion report submitted for verification as per the time schedule.    2.1 + 2.2 volume of waste collected and kept aside for recycling to increase by 50%(quantified by number of garbage containers collected)    2.3 Number of participants attending public awareness programs to be one individual from each household        3.1 volume of waste collected and kept aside for recycling to increase by 50%(quantified by number of garbage containers collected)   3.2 Number of participants attending public awareness programs to be one individual from each household          4.1 technical staff specifically identified to oversee waste management and trained in one course of 3 months    1.0 all reports stage wise as per the program schedule should be completed and submitted to District Environment Officer regularly-Municipal Office work order to start dumping at new land fill site     2.1 + 2.2 Municipal Authority only collects segregated waste and registers complaints / statements from individual refused in dumping as they do not complying with new procedure. 2.3 survey carried out before and after awarness along with questions-verify from Census Department about  one individual attending from each household     3.1 Municipal Authority only collects segregated waste and registers complaints / statements from individual refused in dumping as they do not complying with new procedure. 3.2survey carried out before and after awarness along with questioniers-verify from Census Department about  one individual attending from each household       4.1 order to identify individual for training for 3 month course and then issued order to oversee waste management for 2 years without transfer-Central government provides technical support and resourse              -awareness campaign makes an impact on the public in their attitude toward waste management and the importance                      -awareness campaign makes an impact on the public in their attitude toward waste management and the importance                       -Government understands the urgency to tackle waste issue as an important emerging issue that effects all the citizens and provides support and technical expertise Enforceable legislation in place with the enactment of the Waste Management Act
 Activities 1.0 Land identified   1.1Public Clearance obtained for aquiring land1.2 technical design of landfill 1.3 contruction 2.0 Private sector business parties encouraged to segregate the waste and keep the money earned. Otherwise make understanding and subsidize if found fiancial unfeasible. 2.1 + 2.2 Subsidize garbage containers and only collect segregated waste to be taken to the disposal site 2.3 Conduct Awareness program   3.0 + 3.1 Business enterprise informed and required for keeping garbage containers accessable (within their area), for public use  3.2 (same as activity 2.2) 4.0 Training of one staff for 3 months in waste management techniques4.1 Transfer of that technical staff specifically to hande waste managementInputs 1.0  Technical Staff to survey and identify land 1.1 Finance to aquire land 1.2 Finance and Technial Staff1.3 Finance 2.0 Training materials for awarness programs along with Finances to organize the awareness programs  2.1 + 2.2  Financial Resourse to subsidize supply of more waste containers   2.3 Training materials for awarness programs  3.0 + 3.1 Financial Resourse to subsidize supply of more waste containers    3.2 (same as input 2.2) 4.0 Finance for training staff  4.1 Government  order for identifying officals specifically for waste management   


Activity to be carried outAmount in Nu (millions)Remarks
1.0 Land identified0.11 
1.1Public Clearance obtained for aquiring land0.05 
1.2 technical design of landfill0.7 
1.3 contruction4.5 
2.0 Private sector business parties to buy additional dust bin0covered under subsidized garbage containers
2.1 + 2.2 Subsidize garbage containers and only collect segregated waste to be taken to the disposal site0.8 
2.3 Conduct Awareness program0.35 
3.0 + 3.1 Business enterprise informed and required for keeping garbage containers accessable (within their area), for public use0covered under subsidized garbage containers
3.2 Conduct Awareness programConduct Awareness program0conducted along with awarness under 2.3
4.0 Training of one staff for 3 months in waste management techniques0.35 
4.1 Transfer of that technical staff specifically to hande waste management0staff of municpal office

Discussion of Solutions

1. Currently the District of Paro, Bhutan has no land fill site. Due to this reason all the waste generated within the town and the surrounding are collected by the local municipality and taken to a location which is close to the river site. As there is no other place to dispose of it, the only way to reduce the volume is to burn the waste by open burning. As a direct result of this, there is air pollution as well as water pollution. With the ever increasing population it is critical that this issue of waste management is properly tackled at an early stage so that a system is in place which will be as environment friendly as possible to preserve the environment.

As the type of waste generated by the town generally comprises of the urban waste, the main composition would be as follows:

         – biodegradable (constitutes about 70%)

         – non biodegradable (constitues about 30%)

If the segregation is properly done, the biodegradable waste can be composted and in this way value added. As this requires adequate land, it can be located near the landfill being constructed. That way the volume of the landfill is also saved and hence the life of the landfill can be increased.

With regard to non biodegradable waste the main composition are as follows:


         -tin / metal

         -card board


If these are segregated at the sourse and sent for recycling then the volume would again reduce and hence as less volume of waste is sent to the landfill the life of the landfill would increase.

The waste which have no value should then be disposed at the land fill. However it is very important that proper procedure such as compacting done as per the technical requirement to ensure the full utilization of the landfill volume. 

It must be noted here that other waste from Industry, Agriculture, Hospitals are not included within the Municipal waste and hence is not considered in this seneario. Another method of disposal be properly analysed seperately and implemented seperately.

2. The Government should subsidize and provide Garbage bins in order for the households to segregate the waste. During the collection of the waste by the Municipal Authority, only waste that are segregate should be collected. In that way, half the waste handleing cost has been handled individually by the citizens making them responsible citizens. This should also be done after proper training and awarness programs are conducted to ensure that the full impact waste is having on our environment. 

3. In addition to segregation of waste at the individual house hold it should be the responsibility of the business establishment and the business community to keep garbage bins in close proximity as well as different bins such as plastic, tin, organic etc seperately. This is because all the establishment is within the perimeter of the urban centers where most of the population are present. As with the household waste, training and awarness programs should be incoperated together.

4. The Government or the Private sector should provide additional garbage collection vechiles to collect the waste seperately. This is because if the waste is segregated but insufficient collection vechiles are there, then the very purpose of segregation would fail. If the vechiles are provided, the cost would eventually be supplemented by the fact that more energy is not required in segregating waste at the disposal site, etc.. 

Monitering and Evulation

1. Indicators and Verifiers

To verifiy the achievement of goals, the following main agencies will be involved.

1. The Ministry of Health, based on the existing reference of health related illeness of individuals effected by the vicinity of the disposal site. The incident of disease should decrease by 20% by the year 2012.

2. As there are numerous complain reported to the Tourism Authority of Bhutan every year, there should be reduction of complaints by 50% in the number of complaints lodged regarding the waste problem at Paro.

3. The Municipal Authority should verify that waste being openly burned should be decreased by 50% by 2012. This should be quantified by the number of vechiles of waste segreagate in relation to the total volume of waste collected.

2. Task Force

As the Activity Schedule is completely detailed, with regard to the time frame, the overall work will be supervised by the following task force:

1. District Environment Officer

2. District Planning Officer

3. District Engineer

4. District Health Officer

5. Municipal Engineer

6. Town Committee

7. Other relevant stakeholders.

The task force should meet quartely to update the progress, based on the resourse available and with line with the government regulation and policy. 


The problem of solid wste is the emerging environmental problem in Bhutan. With increase in urbanization, and with the urban population increasing at about 10% per annum, the Royal Government of Bhutan has realised the issue of the waste. The National Assembly of Bhutan in the recent parliment sitting has instructed the National Environment Commission to submit the Waste Management Act. With the political will and the support of the people, and with the Draft Waste Management Act already prepared and ready for tabulation in the National Assembly for approval, we expect that the act will be passed within a year. 

With the Waste act, to be enacted, we are very optimistic that legal authority for proper implementation of the waste management procedures would go a long way in helping with reducing the negative impact of waste to the environment.

Regardless of the legal tooth, our actions at the earliest will ensure that the path for proper waste management is initated. 

The land fill would be the most ideal method of waste disposal given the current situation of Paro District. Since the process has been in the pipeline, a renewed effort is required to take initative to quickly resolve the issue. 

While the land fill site is being persued, awarness programs and training carried out to the public should be implemented to ensure that civil responsibility is instilled in the minds of the citizen. This would ensure minimum waste being disposed of, and there by with recycling and composting, only the minimum waste of no value would be disposed of in the landfill. 

Also with the number of awareness campaign to makes an impact on the public in their attitude toward waste management and the importance apart from the issue of segregation of waste, the importance of reducing waste should also be incorporated to ensure that minium waste is disposed at from the individual house holds.

Additional measures that can be taken up at a later stage would be setting up of a proper composting plant to handle the biodegradable waste properly.

But given any process, a start is netherless the way forward. Like they say ‘a stich in time saves nine.’ Therefore, tackling the issue just while it is emerging would be the best way forward for the Citizens of Bhutan as well as the natural pristine environment.

Prepared by : Jigme T Tsering