As the monsoon season descends upon us, the familiar anticipation of refreshing rains is tempered with concerns about the challenges it brings. While the monsoon is essential for agricultural productivity and ecological balance, our vulnerability to its adverse effects poses significant challenges.  

Our rugged terrain and heavy rainfall make it highly susceptible to waterlogging, landslides, and flash floods during the monsoon season. The torrential downpours that we are witnessing in our southern dzongkhags have caused flash floods that wreak havoc on infrastructure and disrupt lives. The damage caused by landslides not only leads to loss of property but also poses risks to human lives and hampers transportation, cutting off communities from essential services. As of yesterday, residents in Thimphu were seen rushing off to fuel depots as they hear highways being blocked by landslides.    

While abundant rainfall is a blessing to our hydropower and the paddy growers, Bhutan’s water resource management faces unique challenges during the monsoon season. Managing the water flow effectively is essential to prevent floods, minimize soil erosion, and ensure a steady water supply throughout the year. Developing comprehensive strategies that involve efficient irrigation systems, reservoirs, and flood control mechanisms can help harness the benefits of the monsoon while mitigating its negative impacts. 

The frequent disruptions are only going to increase in the future due to climate change, to transportation networks hindering trade, tourism, and access to essential services. To build resilience, there is a pressing need to invest in robust infrastructure that can withstand the monsoon’s fury, ensuring connectivity and enabling sustainable economic growth an area international donors could lend a helping hand in. 

The challenges posed by the monsoon in Bhutan require a collective effort involving government bodies, communities, and individuals. Promoting awareness about monsoon risks, imparting knowledge about disaster preparedness, and conducting regular drills can enhance the community’s resilience. Early warning systems and timely evacuation plans can save lives and minimise the impact of natural disasters. Additionally, integrating climate change adaptation measures into development policies can enhance Bhutan’s preparedness for future monsoons.

An advantage in our case has always been the cooperation and ready support from the public and local authorities, despite being heavily constrained by technical capacity and resources. Members of the public assisted the rescuers trying to evacuate two people stranded across a swollen Kalikhola stream in Chuzangang. 

It is good to hear from the Prime Minister that measures have been stepped up and disaster response teams are on alert. We know from flooding experience in Gelephu, and Pasakha, that everything will be done to save lives and properties. 

We also have experienced lack of action post-disaster. For instance, residents by the Toorsa river living in the vicinity of the NHDCL buildings have been expressing concerns and requesting for better protection walls in the area. After a similar flooding last year, the residents in the area had to rebuild their lives all over again. If nothing is done as such incidents increases in frequency and magnitude, more families will be pushed into poverty and desperation. We can change that.