Hakha Municipal Solid Waste Management Committee / Governance

Hakha Municipal Solid Waste Management Committee / Governance Clearly, the national governments do not take any responsibility for local level, city waste management issues. Instead, the respective townships and city development committees take the role of overseeing wastes management issues, including financing, planning and municipal services. At present, under the Chin State government, the municipal department concerning waste management has still not established its own laws and procedures to address the challenges of solid waste management. The department’s project cycle management has not worked properly due to the financial situation, lack of technical and resource capacity.

According to Pu Thla Hre, former Chin State Municipal Department Director, the revenue for waste management is very low, and it is generated through general taxes and the collection of fees for waste disposal services. For example, users pay 200 kyats for waste pick-up services but this is not fixed and depends on the garbage size and amount of waste. Since the revenue collected is very low, the government cannot properly manage the total expenditures associated with waste management, including the cost of petrol, workers and other expenses. They cannot provide adequate services for the public, and in return, the public are not satisfied with the money paid for the services. The public believes that the municipal department only serves because of their obliged duty, rather than to develop the town systematically. As a result, the committee fails to achieve the trust and support of the public.

According to Pu Sui Thio, the Chin State’s Minister of Transportation, there is an overall lack of technical capacity: “It is very clear that they cannot handle even their duties and they do not know how to develop and manage the city. As municipal staff, they should have checked what are the needs of the city and what should be implemented. But they are not like that.”

Additionally, public participation in waste management is still limited due to a lack of awareness on the issue. One local NGO has been trying to tackle this problem. The Community Care for Emergency Response and Rehabilitation (CCERR) has been working on collecting plastic wastes and raising awareness on environmental issues in the city. They provide services for collecting public waste on the main road and for big events like Chin National Day and International Environmental Day. Sometimes youth volunteer groups and university students also participate in collecting the city’s waste. Public and civil society participation is rarely seen in waste management activities in Hakha, the capital city of Chin State.

“We cannot provide the service of collecting public wastes, however we buy the used plastics for recycling. As for civil society participation in waste management, it is really weak,’’ says Flora Bawi Nei Mawi, the coordinator of CCERR. Futile efforts to prohibit dumping waste with “Do not throw any trash here” signs without further information or discussion, simply result in the public continuing to throw away their solid waste in the prohibited area at nighttime.

After asking over 30 Hakha residents from different wards respectively about 1) whether they know of the dumpsites where the city’s waste is thrown, and 2) whether there is any separation of hazardous waste and solid or recyclable wastes, none of the respondents knew where the dumpsites were and had never even heard about hazardous waste. Furthermore, the residents did not even know that waste itself can be recycled. Education on the “3Rs” (reduce, reuse, recycle) needs to be initiated. In terms of medical wastes (including disposal of hospital waste and pharmaceutical products) there is a basic awareness amongst health workers, but not the general public. Only a few people are aware that, according to the formal procedure (hospital and immunization waste management), the disposal of syringes, needles, outdated drugs and expired or leftover medical solvents must be burned or buried underground in landfills.

“One thing I really worry about is that people are throwing hypodermic needles with all the other wastes into the municipal trash collection. It is really dangerous for us’’ stated one of my respondents from Dinlo ward raised his concerns on throwing wastes unsystematically. How to Move Forward? A long-term vision should be created for waste management, considering the high risks for our health and the environment. Both the State and Union governments should create a platform where civil society and the public can participate in addressing waste problems, including reviewing current waste collection systems, revenue collection, and choosing dumpsites or landfills.

In the short term, the Chin government, especially Hakha municipality, should immediately stop using the current dumpsites positioned next to small streams and proceed with an alternative solution to dig a trench or landfill, or find ways to take into account for the environmental impacts and to safeguard against them. A capacity-building agenda should be initiated. Building staff capacity, human and financial resources of township development committees are urgently needed, as well as the technical support and cooperation necessary in order to provide waste management services, including waste collection and public awareness, adequately and effectively.

Finally, a comprehensive public awareness program is urgently required to promote awareness on increasing environmental issues and educate the public to engage in city development. The ultimate effect may be that the government program of addressing waste problem could be implemented more smoothly, and move more quickly towards effective management and the provision of adequate public services.