Waste Management in the Chin Capital: An Urgent Challenge for Municipalities and Citizen

Salai Van Bawi Mang summarizes the challenges for adequate waste management in Chin State. Waste management is a complex task and involves various stakeholders. Indeed, waste management requires considering the effectiveness of environmental, economically affordable, and socially acceptable solutions. Waste management and disposal are not only the responsibility of the government, but every citizen also has the duty to dispose waste systematically. The current attempt of the Hakha Town Plan, intiated in 2016, lacks a systematic management approach to waste problems. This would include a public awareness program regarding waste and its management, and the control, collection, transportation, processing, and disposal of waste in line with the principles of public health, economics, conservation, and other environmental considerations.

Hakha Waste Management System According to Chin State’s General Administration Department (GAD) , the Hakha City population has increased from 21,068 in 2017 to 30,000 in two years, with 4,958 households in a total of eight wards. To this day, the city municipal service can only collect waste for six of the eight wards. The waste collection department has only 12 staff and four trucks, but two of those trucks have not been operational to this day. The Hakha municipal department has set up four public dumpsites, requiring everyone to throw their solid household waste in these designated places. If not adhered to, those throwing waste elsewhere are due to be fined 20,000 kyats. The four dumpsites are not proper landfills, but just haphazard areas next to the roadside. Among these four places, two— New Hakha Side and Cawbuk Ward along the Matupi Highway Road— are mostly used by both municipal staff (waste collectors) and the general public. The other two are not used very much because of their distance from the city. As the management of solid waste has huge implications for the future, the social and environmental sectors must be concerned, including infectious diseases, human health, and sanitation, land and water pollution, obstruction of drains, and loss of biodiversity. However, it seems the decision to select these four places was only based on how far the garbage is located from the city rather than with regard to environmental and public health issues.

The Cawbuk dumpsite is the most used among the four dumpsites, holding mountains of trash. This dumpsite is located in a ravine connected to a small stream that flows to the Nawi Small River. Nawi has been used for drinking water, as a site for fresh-water fisheries, for paddy fields and as a public space for campaigns and other social activities. The Nawi flows to the Timit River, which supplies drinking water for the Hakha people as well as for irrigation. In many ways, the Timit can be seen as the main water source for the Chin people who live in Hakha and Thangtlang townships because it flows through the entire territories of the Zophei, Zotung, Lautu, Mara and Senthang (ZZLMS) tribal areas. When the Timit river reaches the territory of these ZZLMS tribal groups, it is called the Bawinu River. These ZZLMS tribes represent approximately 60% of the population in these two townships.

The new Hakha dumpsite, in addition to the Cawbuk dumpsite, is also a concern not only for the people of Hakha but also for ZZLMS tribe groups who exclusively depend on the Bawinu River, which is downstream of the Timit and its resources. Among many major issues is the fact that this location holds roads to the paddy fields, and for farming and livestock (cow, goat, horse, and buffalo) by the local community. For the local people, livestock is a very important source of income, cultivation for their paddy fields and transportation. Therefore, this location is of concern for both public health and livelihood issues, as they relate to the future of the local people.

One person interviewed from the New Hakha dumpsite describes the impact of unorganized and ineffective management of solid waste:“Since the municipality set up this area as a dump-site, we have lost our livestock gradually because they (municipal officials) throw the waste without sorting and organizing so that our animals eat a lot of plastic. Animals eat everything in front of them, whatever it is, because they do not know what is toxic for them.”

In general, these two dumpsites are situated in the main water sources for the local people who truly depend on the river and its resources.  The locations are also quite close to the main road, meaning the dumpsite is an eyesore for the local people, and smells bad.According to local experts and town developers’ estimations, the total population of Hakha might reach a hundred thousand (100,000) in 2030, meaning that sustainable waste management should be a special consideration in town development. This includes avoiding high risk locations. The present situation is not sustainable for the current population growth estimates. The problem needs to be addressed.