Although Bhutan has an abundance of water, in terms of per-capita availability reading at 109, 000 cubic meter, however, the access to adequate and consistent water supply can no longer be taken for granted as the pressure on the country’s rich freshwater resource is growing with increasing development and population growth and climate change.
The four political parties have listed water shortage as one of the major issues in each of their manifestos, and pledging that they will accord the highest priority to provide adequate and reliable water for drinking and irrigation.
PDP to establish National Water Commission
PDP has pledged to ensure that each and every house in Bhutan has access to 24 hours of safe drinking water. PDP aims to prioritize access to alternative drinking water sources and top priority shall be accorded to rainwater harvesting and groundwater development. PDP plans to rehabilitate and build infrastructure to ensure quality and reliable water supply and review and improve the rural water supply scheme (RWSS) program.
PDP says it shall maintain existing irrigation channels and construct 700kms of new irrigation channels to irrigate about 50,000 acres of land. It shall adopt new irrigation and water efficient technologies.
The party will ensure the protection and management of catchment areas and water sources and carry out timely and regular monitoring of critical glacial lakes and risk assessment. Towards this end, PDP shall establish the National Water Commission (NWC) Secretariat directly reporting to the Prime Minister’s Office. The commission is to be the agency for water in Bhutan.
Currently, water management and related issues are under the purview of the National Environment Commission (NEC). The establishment of the NWC would mean that it would take over the mandate of water from the NEC.
In terms of legislation, PDP said Bhutan has the Bhutan Water Vision 2025, Bhutan Water Policy and the Water Act of Bhutan 2011. Article 4 of the Water Act enforces it ‘to establish suitable institutions’ to manage water in the country giving the government the tooth to establish the NWC. The ‘Bhutan Water Vision 2025’ document explains the water vision of Bhutan.
DPT pledges to frame National Urban Water Policy
DPT said it shall ensure provision of safe and sufficient water for every household by providing alternative long-term solutions to those settlements without viable water sources.
DPT will institute water user groups for management and maintenance of water supply schemes and implement strict water source protection and management. It shall also scale up rainwater harvesting and other appropriate technologies for enhancing water supply.
DPT shall frame a National Urban Water Policy and specific Thromde Water Supply Plan for all dzongkhag and Yenlag Thromdes for long term water security in urban areas and adopt proper protection and management of water sources and water supply system.
DPT shall expand water supply and institute a fair distribution of water and augment existing water sources by identifying new water sources, drawing from rivers and streams and rain water harvesting technologies. It shall allocate adequate resources to undertake construction of new and expedite completion of ongoing water reservoirs, tanks and supply facilities.
DNT to establish autonomous water management agency
DNT will adopt and include water security as a national key result area (NKRA) in the 12th FYP. Upholding the recommendation in the integrated water management plan of 2016, DNT will give utmost importance to water security by including it as an important objective in the 12th FYP.
DNT aims to prioritize the establishment of a dedicated water management agency that will provide effective governance. The agency will review and implement the National Integrated Water Management Plan 2016 and the River Basin Management Plan for ensuring equitable water distribution and sustainability of water resources.
The autonomous agency will report to the Prime Minister. It will function under the board of directors and work closely with all other stakeholders to ensure that adequate water for all is achieved by 2021. To facilitate the work of the agency, DNT will streamline all relevant acts, regulations and policies.
DNT will review the water supply systems of each thromde and urban areas and develop a comprehensive water distribution plan to ensure all thromdes and urban areas have 100 percent access to adequate drinking water.
DNT shall grant greater authority and financial resources to carry out activities related to ensuring supply of adequate water to the residents. DNT promises to assist the thromdes in building capacity and aligning rules, regulations and policies to make water equitable, adequate and available for all.
In partnership with the Royal Center for Disease Control, the water management agency will monitor water quality and treat all drinking water sources. Mechanisms will be put in place to monitor water sources, reservoirs and distribution systems on a regular interval. DNT will build capacity of local governments and communities to take care of their water sources.
DNT aims to carry out survey and map all the water sources for irrigation purposes and categorize agricultural land according to water availability. It will then allocate adequate funds to develop irrigation channels wherever necessary and ensure that irrigation water is equitably distributed.
It will explore different irrigation systems and methods depending on crop varieties to enhance productivity levels. DNT will work with National Land Commission and enable land substitution or allow conversion of wet land to dry land in cases where there is absolutely no water source for agriculture purposes.
BKP to offer 100 percent irrigation water
BKP pledges to provide safe and clean drinking water to every household. The party promises to provide 100 percent functional irrigation on existing infrastructure by repairing existing and developing new irrigation channels through effective implementation, smart technology suiting crop and climatic conditions, and smart and resilient agriculture corresponding to climate change.