Monsoon is here and so are the water problems again. Around 12,000 residents in Gelephu have been drinking contaminated water for more than 10 days now.
The thromde is helpless. The infrastructure has failed. The flash flood last year destroyed the water treatment plant at Maochhu while dredging works are blamed for disrupting the natural underground seepage. The Maochhu treatment plant was not built for surface water treatment.
Quarantine facilities or hotels have been the hardest hit. The quality of the water is so poor that residents said it couldn’t even be used to wash dishes.
At this rate, the outbreak of a waterborne disease is imminent. Many will turn up at the hospital with diseases. The pandemic is already burdening the health system and an outbreak of disease is the least we need at this hour.
Those who could afford have been buying bottled mineral water for drinking and even to cook. These are additional expenses on top of the monthly water utility bill they have to bear. Those from the average families are struggling to meet rising living costs due to the pandemic which has hampered businesses and livelihoods.
Water for drinking and sanitation is to be the first priority for water allocation as per the Water Act 2011 and the Water Regulation 2014. The provision of adequate and reliable, clean drinking water is an essential service for all residents.
The thromde has been plagued with breakage and leakage of water pipelines due to old pipes and a lack of proper monitoring and inspection tools to detect faulty pipelines. The thromde heavily depends on Passangchhu and Mao infiltration galleries which are said to be at risk of getting washed away during the monsoon.
The thromde water demand projection for the next five years and 10 years are 254 m3/hr and 277 m3/hr respectively whereas the yield in 2020 was 231m3/hr. This means water scarcity is only going to get worse.
More than 41 percent of our population lives in urban areas. The demand for domestic water is increasing due to changing lifestyles caused by rapid socio-economic development.
Drinking water shortage has been a chronic problem across the thromdes for decades now. All political parties pledged to address them if elected. The 12th Plan has an ambitious water flagship programme with an outlay of Nu 3 billion.
The programme needs to prioritise addressing Gelephu’s plight. The thromde is eyeing to draw water from Balukhola to supply safer drinking water.