At 3 pm on Thursday 64 year old Tshering Wangmo went to the kitchen and turned on her tap, but to her shock instead of water she got ‘diesel water’ and frothy bubble coming through the pipe.
Soon her kitchen was covered in the fumes from the fuel. Still not able to believe her eyes and ears she quickly checked her gas cylinder and stove for any leakages to see if they were causing the smell.
Before long all the six apartments in the building were getting oily diesel water from their taps whose fumes filled up the kitchens and bathrooms of all the six apartments and also the small cottage of the caretaker at the back of the building. The apartments smelt more like a petrol station then residential accommodations.
Despite residents keeping their taps on, the diesel fluid persisted for even around 24 hours after the incident. A resident saw the water even dirtying his electronic filter which could not filter out the diesel water.
An on the spot investigation by a local Thromde water Engineer, a private plumber and caretaker showed that this was a deliberate sabotage with somebody tampering the water supply to the building. The diesel like fluid was not only present in large quantities in the four main water tanks in a locked attic above the building but also in the external pipe supplying those tanks.
The building owner is a Chencho Wangmo and her brother Lhendup, who looks after the building, said that this was the third time that the Thromde’s drinking water supply to the building had been sabotaged.
He said back in 2014 water had stopped flowing effectively to the house and on checking they found a bucketful worth of reddish chemical like substance that looked like red chilli powder but turned the water milky in the pipes. The plumber initially thought it was chlorine but on doing further checks it was not so.
The point of sabotage was the T-point of the pipe around a hundred meters away from the building where even a controller that had been installed had been removed.
Recently water again stopped coming into the building and again on checking the T-point the caretaker Tshering said she found around 3 kg worth of round stones that had all been deliberately stuffed into the same pipe.
However, apart from the above instances the latest instance is the worst as even though multiple taps were kept open for hours the diesel liquid and smell did not go away.
The caretaker and plumber estimated that around 10 to 20 liters of the fuel had been pumped into the building’s water supply point. The private plumber said that a plastic sack that had been put around the T-point had also been removed indicating that the T-point had again been used to sabotage the water supply.
Resident and civil servant Karma Yangzom said, “It seems that this is the act of somebody who is frustrated with not having enough water and so wants to do such things.”
Other building residents speculated if the landlord and her family had any disputes and enemies but the landlord and her family members, who stay in a different place denied any such personal enmity.
Building residents are in a state of fear and uncertainty and their main anxiety is if the next time the same saboteur pumps in some poisonous chemicals potentially causing a threat to the life and safety of the families staying in the building.
Curiously, only this building has been targeted over the years with nearby buildings not facing such problems.
The Thimphu Thrompon Kinley Dorji said, “This looks like an act of sabotage either intended to target the house owner or some resident staying in the building.” He said that the Thromde has handed over the matter to the Royal Bhutan Police for investigation.
A Thromde official said that the RBP based on the complaints from the Thromde and building residents has pledged to do a thorough investigation on the issue. The staff said that even the Thromde will offer full cooperation.
The building is in a largely VIP area with it being a few meters above the Minister’s Enclave and the last building before the road to Sangaygang.
A resident said that this kind of deliberate and repeated targeting of such a large number of people can be compared to even a terrorist like act. Meanwhile with the absence of clean water, residents have been forced to use mineral water for washing, cooking and drinking.
As per the Bhutan Penal Code the endangerment of a public water source is a felony of the third degree if it creates substantial risk of serious physical injury to the public. A felony of the third degree attracts a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of nine years for both of which Thrimthue cannot be paid. This charge can even go up to a felony of the first degree which has a minimum sentence of 15 years a maximum of life imprisonment.