The Cabinet has decided to establish a commission that would empower formulation of a policy and implement water supply schemes to ensure that every village and town has sufficient access to water supply, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said.

Lyonchhen said that the government has spent a lot of resources on drinking and irrigation water, yet a lot of water sources are drying up perhaps because of climate change or definitely because of infrastructure development.

“This is why the government has decided to tackle head on at a national level. In this context, we have decided to establish a commission,” Lyonchhen said. “We’ve asked experts to give us proposals and they suggested that we establish a water and sanitation department within the works and human settlement.”

However, Lyonchhen said that the cabinet discussed and found that it would require a commission and in the long term even a water ministry.

“When I say sufficient access to water supply, it should be available 24×7 and that our farmers have enough water for irrigation,” Lyonchhen said. “It is not that we don’t have enough water, Bhutan’s per capita fresh water is sixth in the world. We have water and we can’t go anywhere in Bhutan without hearing the sound of water.”

There is a need for agencies to collaborate to trap and maintain this water resources, look after them, explore the ground water and to ensure there is enough seepage into the water table, Lyonchhen said. “Considering all these, the Cabinet has decided that we should establish a commission and, as a first step, we will establish the committee to look into all the laws if there is a need for amendment and enact the law to empower the water commission.”

Lyonchhen added that it is an important mandate to protect and manage water resources for forest, hydropower, and especially for agriculture and drinking water.

“We’re spending way too much money and still continue to face water shortage. This is not acceptable. The government has been extremely concerned,” Lyonchhen said.

Yangchen C Rinzin