The township is exploring a drinking water source from Balikhola to meet its demand till 2045

Nima | Gelephu

Gelephu thromde banks on Balikhola drinking water to address its problem drinking water shortage.

The shortage is felt especially during monsoon.

The Balikhola drinking water project is a 25-year design period that is expected to meet the demand of Gelephu thromde’s population growth till 2045.  The total population in 25 years is estimated to be around 88,000.

“If the population growth rate increases, it’d be difficult for the thromde to supply adequate drinking water to its residents in 25 years,” said an official.

Gelephu Thrompon Tikaram Kafley said the current water sources would not to meet the demand in future with increased population, development activities, and service infrastructure.

“Keeping all these in mind, we explored to extract easy, cheap, and sustainable water source. Design estimates are all furnished,” he said. “We wouldn’t have to opt for ad-hoc solutions, as this is in the pipeline. We’re trying to realise the project at the earliest.”

The water treatment plant at Maochu is expected to supply 4 million litres of water per day (MLD), Pelrithang water source 1 MLD, and the seven bore wells supplies 1 MLD each.

However, the actual production from these three sources is around 3.51 MLD, which is much lower than the design capacity, according to the officials from the thromde.

Gelephu thromde’s chief engineer, Ugyen Dorji, said that water sources were power-dependent, except for one at Pelrithang. “There are many challenges when it’s power dependent. During peak monsoon, lightning disturbs pump motor, resulting to frequent maintenance work.”

He added that the water supply from the bore well sources was operated using a single water pump that can take almost a week to repair in case of a mechanical failure.

The official said that the treatment plant at Maochu had natural infiltration design. “When Maochu dries, the treatment plant starts drying.”

It is also frequently disturbed by floods.  Due to dredging activities in the past, surface recharge was not possible because of the disturbances, according to the officials.

“This time there was no dredging activity. So we could use surface water to recharge the infiltration gallery,” said Ugyen Dorji.

The thromde is planning to explore more bore well stations.  However, no proper assessments have been conducted to confirm the availability of groundwater.

“We don’t know the volume. One day it might go down. Then the whole area would be affected. Unless we have a proper study we can’t keep on extracting groundwater,” said Ugyen Dorji.

A baseline assessment conducted for the project found that the current optimised capacity of 3.51 MLD from three different sources in Gelephu would last only for two years, considering the population growth rate of 5.5 percent annually.

The thromde has a population of about 19,000.