Thimphu’s dry spell continues

If there is one thing in Thimphu as scarce as gold, it is a constant supply of drinking water.

Despite having more glaciers than anywhere else in the world and its location in the Himalayas, Bhutan is at risk of acute water scarcity. The draft strategic environment assessment report for Thimphu structure plan predicts that in the next 10 years, Thimphu is likely to face daily water shortage of about 3.1 million liters.

The causes of water shortage range from issues like climate change, watersheds drying up and improper planning, distribution and management of water resources.

The problem of Water shortage is significantly prominent in core areas like Olakha, which has seen a construction boom in recent times, Changjalu, Changjiji, and Changzamtok, not to mention many other areas reporting sporadic shortage of water supply.

And residents have been at the receiving end. Many even are forced to hire taxis to collect water from alternative sources.

Male office goers in Changzamtok are seen collecting water in jerry cans and buckets for the office bathrooms.

An employee said that he has to spend the morning hours of work collecting water for the office. “The work place gets dirty and it is unhygienic.”

Others said that the problem is made worse by poor governance and management in the water sector. While there are laws governing water, they are often archaic. “Attempts to reform water management have simply added new bureaucracy on top of the existing framework, creating agencies with overlapping duties,” said an officer goer.

This has made Ministry of Health responsible for rural water supply, the works and human settlement ministry for urban areas and the Ministry of Agriculture ad Forests for irrigation and hydropower.

The winter chill only exacerbates matters with pipes freezing and bursting.

Bhutan has recorded five snowfalls this winter with the lowest temperature recorded at -11 degree Celsius on January 1 and 16 in Haa, followed by Gasa on January 15.

An engineer from NCHM’s Weather and Climate Services Division told Business Bhutan that the weather will improve only by the end of February.

Meanwhile, people are waiting for the commissioning of Dodena water plant in North Thimphu this month, which is expected to ease water shortage to a certain extent.

A Thromde official in an earlier interview said that the commissioning of Dodena water scheme will address the issue of water shortage in Thimphu. It is supposed to be commissioned on February 21. “Pipes will be buried underground to combat formation of ice in pipes,” said the official.

Phub Dem from Thimphu