The status on rural water supply was shared as Bhutan observed the World Water Day

Water: About 13,732 rural households across the country are facing drinking water problem, according to a rural water supply inventory, 2014 that the public health and engineering division (PHED) conducted.

Chief engineer Rinchen Wangdi presented the status of drinking water in the country, as Bhutan observed the World Water Day themed, “Water and Sustainable Development” at the Walakha nunnery shedra in Punakha, yesterday.  As part of the event, health officials also presented three water filters to the shedra.

While the water shortage problem is not severe in Bhutan, as compared to other countries, he said, the issue still deserved attention.

He said, in most cases, water projects in the country didn’t last long, due to lack of protection and care of water sources.

“We read about water shortage problems faced across the country in newspapers, but most people don’t know where their water source is located,” Rinchen Wangdi said.

The chief engineer said an inventory on rural water supply found that 83.3 percent of the 80,926 rural households across the country have access to piped water supply, while 16.97 percent do not.

He said there were 5,420 rural water supply schemes across the country, and 94.14 percent of the rural households have been covered.  About 4,764 households have not been covered by the scheme, which represents 5.86 percent of the total rural households.

The report also pointed that there were only 1,569 water committees, indicating a low level of community ownership over the facility. “Poor community ownership will lead to scheme getting defunct, as no one in particular will be willing to take responsibility to manage the facility put in place by the government,” officials said.

Rinchen Wangdi said the inventory was conducted to establish authentic and realistic baseline data for rural water supply schemes in the country.

The inventory also found that there were 61,204 tap stands put in place for the 5,420 schemes to supply clean piped drinking water to 76,180 rural households.

But only 57,739 tap stands were found in good condition and the remaining 4,746 tap stands were totally defunct.  About 6,448 tap stands that were in good condition do not have running water.

Except for Haa, Paro and Dagana, the remaining 17 dzongkhags have coverage above 90 percent.  Health officials said an individual initiative, or having a water committee in the locality to protect, clean, maintain and manage water usage in the community, would contribute towards having sustainable water.

Walakha nunnery shedra’s principal, Khenpo Dorji, said, forget water sources, even drupchus (holy water) were drying.  This, he said, was a signal to every individual to start caring for existing water sources.  He said Walakha was also faced with a water problem and its current water source was about two days walk away

“When we recite prayers, we recall the Buddha first, as he is the source of religion. Likewise, when we drink water, we should think of our water sources,” he said.

By Dawa Gyelmo, Punakha