Water crisis

a clarion call

This winter appears to be agonizingly cold. As if that is not enough, Thimphu’s water distribution system has literally tanked. With freezing temperatures, water pipes at the source are either blocked or damaged and as a result, many parts of Thimphu are grappling with prolonged water shortage.

And it seems there is little that can be done. Brace up, for it is going to be a long and cruel winter.

The ongoing water crisis in Thimphu and other parts of the country due to extreme weather conditions has exposed our vulnerabilities and sheer unpreparedness to handle such situations.At best, Thimphu Thromde has send out public notifications advising property owners to insulate water pipes within the building premises. It has also notified that it is doing everything possible to improve the situation through repairs of water pipes damaged due to freezing.

The problem is, the water crisis continues. And Thimphu residents are at the receiving end, with taps running dry for weeks in a row. What is hilariously ironic is that even Prime Minister’s residence had no water for days on end. When that happens, it basically means the problem has reached epic proportion.

Keeping humor aside, it has become critical for public service providers such as the Thromde to rethink ways to address such emerging issues and challenges. Already, Thimphu has been facing water shortage issues for many years now. Not much has been done to address this issue going by the recurring nature of the problem. If there were any earnest efforts, maybe they were too little or the results were not visible.

So the water shortage problem continues, and it will continue with the current pace of urban sprawl in Thimphu and inward mobility of people.

From a development and planning point of view, basic services such as drinking water, electricity, roads and drainage have to be prioritized. Enough resources have to be identified to sustain a certain population within a specific area. That is as basic as it can get.

But if we look at Thimphu’s new expanded townships, the likes of Olakha and Babesa, we have not learnt much from our past mistakes. In fact, we have not learnt anything at all. These new towns are poorly designed. The roads are narrow, with no proper parking space or parks for children. Worse, these so-called new towns have faced perennial shortage of drinking water.

Certainly, something has gone terribly wrong, somewhere.

The first priority for Thromdes should be to provide basic services without disrupting normal life. That is the least we expect of them.

As for the water crisis during this winter, it might serve as a critical reminder for all of us – service providers and property owners alike – to take appropriate measures to tackle freezing temperatures. Besides, it also calls for proper planning including contingency plans to respond to such crises in future. Hopefully, we will learn from this experience.

At a national level, the current government has pledged to ensure 24/7 water for all in the next five years. It is an ambitious pledge that will take a lot of doing. But let’s start small. Let’s solve this winter’s water crisis. And perhaps, the Prime Minister might want to start by addressing the water problem at his residence first.