Samdrupjongkhar residents still grappling with water shortage

What the people want is 24-hour water supply

Yangchen C Rinzin

In Samdrupjongkhar thromde, residents do not deny that it has come a long way in terms of developments. However, residents have only one wish, a clean supply of 24-hour drinking water.

There is the problem of housing crunch, too. But it is secondary.

Residents say that although water problem in thromde has improved compared to the past with a new water treatment plant and few water projects, access to proper drinking water still persists in many pockets of the thromde. Monsoon makes the situation worst when landslides wash away the pipelines.

Samdrupjongkhar town

In the past, the thromde explored two bore wells near the automobile workshops and state mining corporation Ltd office for Local Area Plan (LAP) 2 and LAP 3, but there was no water even after digging more than 250 metres deep. Thromde spent almost Nu 800,000. However, after years of attempt, Samdrupjongkhar Thromde has a new water treatment plant that has almost solved the water shortage.

But residents still face the shortage because of the poor water distribution network and the network is old. Residents might have to wait until thromde completes construction of water distribution network where the work has already started.

“Otherwise, monsoon means we have to store rainwater or fetch water from neighbours or Dungsam river,” Sonam, a resident said.

Residents might still have to wait until thromde comes out with permanent measures to solve the housing crunch. Some residents shared that it would not be solved until people stop constructing only hotels in town.

However, if it is not for the water shortage and housing crunch, residents shared that developments came slowly but Samdrupjongkhar has developed over the years.

A resident, Kinley who has lived half of his life in Samdrupjongkhar, said that most towns now have a proper footpath and constructed a bridge over Dungsamchhu that helps students of Samdrupjongkhar Primary School during monsoon. “Otherwise, it would be difficult to cross the river.”

Samdrupjongkhar Thromde was declared as one of the four Class A thromdes by the Parliament in 2010. The thromde extends from Samdrupjongkhar main gate until Dewathang town, with six constituencies.

Street lights, town beautification, double lane roads, bypass roads from town to Charkilo, truck parking, children’s park, and open-air gyms were some of the developments residents shared they have seen over the years.

“Thromde is trying their best to solve the issues although they still need to do more. The only problem here is water supply, and anyone who comes as Thrompon should end this problem permanently,” Sonam Zangmo said.

But fronting stands as an issue that is yet to be solved. The Covid-19 pandemic and closure of the border have reduced the fronting this time, according to the residents.

“Otherwise, almost all shops from tailoring to electronic to small shops are operated by non-Bhutanese, but owned by Bhutanese.” Karma Choden, a resident said.

Residents also feel that Samdrupjongkhar Thromde may be forgotten with the new Nganglam-Gyalpozhing highway where many people travel to east via highway leaving out Samdrupjongkhar.

Thrompon Karma Sherab Thobgyal, who is serving his second term as Thrompon, said that thromde over the years tried to solve the issues especially drinking water supply and that was his first pledged since his first term. “But I didn’t know it would take so much time to fulfil the pledge because of paperwork and funding issues,” he said. “It took almost five years just to start the water project and now we’ve come up with a water treatment plant and three bore wells, finally.”

Thrompon agreed with the issue of water supply.

There is also a plan to have a similar water treatment plant in Dewathang constituency. The thrompon said the distribution in Samdrupjongkhar would also improve because the ADB has approved the proposal. “But it might take another two years to complete. So, I hope people can be patient and understand that various systems take a lot of time.”

However, coming to the housing crunch, thrompon shared that it was not the mandate of Thromde to construct houses but thromde provided space for national housing to construct houses for civil servants. The thromde has also approved several private constructions after four LAPs were finalised and approved.

Karma Sherab Thobgyal said that Samdrupjongkhar thromde would not be forgotten and will be a commercial hub with entry and exit point for tourists being approved and with Motanga industrial areas.

“We’re trying to work and solve issues but there are funding issues that take time especially to fulfil as pledged,” thrompon said. “Thromde has developed and will be developing, which is why we’ve also proposed to expand the municipal boundary to increase the development and economy.”