Lhakpa Quendren

Gelephu — After enduring years of safe drinking water shortages, especially during the monsoon in Gelephu thromde, residents now find relief with the new Gelephu Landmark Water Project. 

The water project in Dechenpelri (Edi), located about 7km from Gelephu town, supplies drinking water to over 12,000 populations in Gelephu thromde and parts of Dechenpelri in Samtenling gewog.

The landmark project supplies water to five of the six constituencies within the Gelephu Throm, while the Rabdeyling area benefits from reliable water provided by the existing water treatment plant at Passangchhu.

Gelephu Landmark Water Project supplies drinking water to over 12,000 residents

The water from the landmark project is released round the clock to ensure continuous availability to residents, and significant strides have been made to improve water accessibility in the Thromde area, according to officials from the Gelephu Thromde administration.

Samtenling Gewog receives over a million litres of water daily. Currently, the water supply caters to the upper Dechenpelri village, while efforts are underway to distribute it to the lower Dechenpelri area.

Dechenpelri Tshogpa Karma Tenzin said that the water project has addressed about 70 percent of the water issue in his chiwog. He added that the remaining households will be covered in the coming month.

“The progress is currently hindered by the lack of pipes, with some of the pipelines remaining blocked due to age. If we have enough pipes, the water treatment plant can fully address the water scarcity issue,” he said.

Samtenling gewog has been in discussion with Gelephu gewog for support regarding idle pipes. These 15km-long 50mm pipes have remained unused since Gelephu gewog’s failed water project from Bhalukhorla sometime in 2015, despite completing pipeline connections, due to engineering failures.

Residents of Dechenpelri have been relying on an unrealistic water source at Shetikhari toed, located about 3km above their village, which is prone to frequent landslides. 

“The residents often come together to clear the water source, only to face the same issue with the arrival of the subsequent monsoon season. The villagers have to provide labour for this task even during the winter months,” Karma Tenzin said, adding that this long standing issue has burdened the residents with significant expenditures. 

Dechenpelri Chiwog has about 160 households, including 80 unregistered households. Gelephu Thromde has replaced the old water tank for the chiwog with a robust structure, and the existing water source will be retained to ensure sufficient water supply across the chiwog.

Thromde’s project management team is working to facilitate the completion of pipeline installation for Zomlingthang, Pemathang chiwogs, and other parts of Gelephu gewog. Initially, each gewog was tasked with laying water pipelines since it was not within the scope of the landmark project.

“We are actively working to address this issue and expedite the pipeline laying process in Gelephu gewog to ensure that residents receive the water supply they need as soon as possible,” said an official.

Some residents in Jampeling Demkhong, however, continue to face water shortages. “Earlier, the thromde said that we would receive water round the clock, but it is still released on a scheduled basis for about 20 to 30 minutes twice a day,” said a resident.

On this front, the thromde said that current initiatives are effectively meeting the demands of the community, and not a single complaint has been received through the complaint redressal system operated through G2C and other channels.

Meanwhile, the water treatment plant at Mauchhu, which experiences muddy and silty water flowing into the gallery pond during the monsoon, serves as an alternative water supply source to be used as and when required.

The treatment plant

The water treatment facility can process 12 million litres of water per day (MLD). Data shows over 8.5 million litres of treated water are distributed daily from over 10 million litres of raw water entering the treatment plant. This leaves about 1.5 million litres of water unused or in surplus.

This means that over 700 litres of water are distributed per person daily. In many developed countries, the average per capita water usage ranges from 100 to 400 litres per person per day, considering additional needs such as bathing, laundry, and other domestic uses.

The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests a minimum of 50 litres per person per day to meet the basic needs of drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene. This amount is considered essential for maintaining health and sanitation standards.

For quality and reliability, raw water enters a balancing tank before moving to a flocculation tank, where chemicals form impurities into flocs. After separation in a lamella settler, settled flocs accumulate at the bottom and clarified water is stored in a treated tank before distribution.

A Gelephu thromde official said that chemicals have not been utilised in the water treatment process thus far due to the water’s high level of cleanliness. “The process ensures that the water we use is clean and safe for drinking and other daily activities.”

This climate-resilient water supply infrastructure spans 3.7km from the intake at the Bhaluchhu water source and extends 8.6km to the water treatment plant, followed by 9.4km of distribution lines to reach the community.

The Gelephu Landmark Water Project, initiated in April 2022, was inaugurated in December 2023, with a total cost of Nu 375 million out of the initial budget of Nu 477 million. 

This is the most ambitious of the over 40 nationwide water projects undertaken by de-suups as part of the DeSuung National Service. Throughout the 19-month duration, the project equipped more than 230 participating de-suups with the skills and knowledge required to build and manage such systems.