It is not a new idea, but the paying for environmental services initiative that was recently formalised in Tsirang is a good initiative in ensuring sustainability of precious natural resources.
The initiative is a collaboration between consumers and those living near the catchment area or water sources. It is a win –win scenario with the community paid for their services while they ensure water sources are protected. This way, we are putting something back after taking too much from the land.
It is an idea worth replicating all over the country and should be done fast.
Water is already a huge problem in the country. Whether it is for drinking or for irrigation, everybody is feeling the heat. One main cause of water shortage is the shrinking or drying water sources. It is being reported from all over the country. Human activities in the catchment area like logging or over grazing disturb the natural regeneration process resulting in shortage of water.
Today, despite rules and regulation in place, local beliefs are the only effective protection. Some areas are protected because people believe disturbing the local protective deities would bring misfortune. That too is changing fast with pressure on our resources. The misfortune, in this case, is the drying water sources.
In the past we tried giving ownership of natural resources to communities in our efforts to protect them. Some worked, some failed. Without some benefits, communities are not keen or convinced by the rhetoric of conservation policies. The community forest worked because the communities benefit from the initiative. Our farmers or villagers now know that there is no such thing as free lunch.
Such initiatives need not restrict to water alone. In urban areas, one of the biggest problems is waste management. Despite several efforts, it still remains a challenge. If the landfills are overflowing, we have not enough compactor trucks to ensure timely collection. When this happens, every corner becomes a dumpsite.
A small user fee could improve waste collection service even if not reduce waste. The fees could be used to maintain or purchase more trucks, the biggest hurdle today, to ease the pressure on collection. Residents wouldn’t mind paying a few hundred ngultrums a month if it results in efficient services.
A good example is the pay and use public toilets. No users argue paying Nu 5 per use if the toilet is clean and have running water. They will not pay if the condition is like the one at the Thimphu crematorium. The fee it seems is not invested in maintaining it.