I n response to a question from the writer on the drinking and irrigation water problem facing Bhutan, the Prime Minister Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay admitted that both drinking and irrigation water were major issues and a lot needed to be done.
In the case of urban areas the PM said that he recently met the Thrompons and he appealed to them to ensure clean and safe drinking water 24 hours a day.
“We have enough water at least in Thimphu and Phuentsholing for 24 hours into seven days safe water and if we cannot do it then it is not only the Thrompon and Thromde’s failure but also the governments. We must work together to provide urban residents with safe and clean drinking water,” said the PM. Lyonchhen said that rural drinking water supply was a very complicated issue. He said that many rural water schemes were not maintained, sources had dried up and there were also those which were not well constructed.
The PM in a frank admission said that after a count of water taps the health minister was alarmed with the number of non functional ones and so he has plans to construct and repair many such schemes.
Lyonchhen said two specific problems affected rural drinking water. One, he said, was inconsistent data and giving one example he said that while evaluating the mid-year performance of Dzongkhags one Dzongkhag claimed 98 percent functional schemes while another had only 53 percent functional schemes. “Somewhere our data gathering is not enough and our statistics are not giving the right numbers,” said the PM.
To remedy this the PM has talked to the National Statistical Bureau during the mid year evaluation to generate data that can be trusted and used.
The second problem according to the PM was that though the Ministry of Finance said that it was allocating a lot of money for rural water, nobody was clear on where it really went as some went to the ministry, some to Dzongkhags and some to Gewogs which meant it was all over the place. He said with such complications it was important to find out how much really was being spent to build new water supply schemes.
“A lot has to be done as the welfare of the people depend on clean drinking water and sanitation,” said the PM.
The PM said that reliable irrigation water supply is essential to income from farms but irrigation schemes had fallen into disuse. He said that some traditional irrigation schemes were not repaired and maintained and as a result today some lands were lying fallow.
The Ministry of Agriculture according to the PM is doing a complete survey of irrigation schemes required to ensure food security.
The PM said that reliable irrigation water was important for both agriculture and livestock productivity and so the government is not only repairing existing schemes but it is also building new ones as it was a major priority.