No sight for permanent solution until 2018

Service: Samdrupjongkhar at this time is wet with the monsoon not relenting. But what they lack is reliable drinking water. Residents are irked with the shortage of water for the last two months.

But this, the residents said is not new and shortage of water has not improved even after becoming a thromde.

Residents living both in the lower and upper (extended areas) market either fetch water from the stream or from the dug well Dantak constructed years ago. They are not good for drinking. Some depend on rainwater. When the water comes, it is either dirty, muddy or heavily chlorinated making the water look like lime squash juice when poured in a glass.

A permanent solution was on the minds of the people when the town was declared a thromde four years ago.   This was reaffirmed when their first and newly elected thrompon had priortised drinking water as the most important task. He promised to solve it.

Going by the residents, the promise is yet to materalise and time is running out. With only six months left on his tenure, residents said they have given up hope on the thromde office to solve the water problem. They are now calling it a “lip service.”

“Did they (thrompon and his team) push it hard knowing that this was a problem?” a resident requesting anonymity said. “Were they even bothered?”

Another resident, Pema, said even if the town didn’t develop, not many would complain. “Everybody expected the water problem to be solved.” Although, all the houses are connected with taps, Karma, a private employee said, they are dry most of the time.

“The summer heat is unbearable and it’s tiring having to call friends and neighbours for water or go to nearby stream to wash clothes and fetch water,” she said. “The thromde office could at least adjust a truck to distribute water or find alternatives.”

Hoteliers also complain of water shortage that’s affecting their business.

Thrompon Karma Sherab Thobgyal said they are doing everything possible to solve the problem. He said although he had pledged, it was not easy to solve the problem overnight because there are many procedures to be followed to implement plans or fulfill the pledge.

He admitted that there wouldn’t be a permanent solution even by 2018 although they have taken some measures to solve the problem temporarily.  “By 2018, an ADB project to construct a new water treatment plant would come, which is expected to bring a permanent way out,” the thrompon said.

Karma Sherab Thobgyal said they are doing whatever possible, but it was mainly those people who have been living in Samdrupjongkhar for a few years that are complaining the most. “Residents that have been living here for ages know well that the water supply has always been a problem in summer.”

Monsoon disrupts the water supply every year.

The water pump house that supplies water from Dungsam river to the town gets damaged; pipes are damaged or blocked because of heavy landslides. “People should come with officials to see the ground realities and how officials are working everyday to solve the problem instead of commenting on my pledge,” the thrompon said. “I am also a resident and am affected too.”


Temporary solution

However, supply is expected to improve.

Urban planner Sonam Tashi said they are reviving an old dug well and working on a Nu 24 million borehole to supply water by tapping underground water. “Once it is ready, we’ll immediately start distribution to the police camp area, where 30 percent of the water from present pump house is supplied. The water that is supplied to this area will then be diverted to the town area,” he said.

Maintenance work on the old pump house and pipes are carried out on a daily basis as a heavy down pour in the evening would mean no water in the morning

Engineer Sonam from the Water Supply Division said demand for water has increased.  The present source located about 4km from the town was constructed when the town had a population of about 2,000.

The two tanks at the source have a capacity of about 900 and 1,000 cubic meter of water. A third, with a capacity of 400 cubic meters was built near the hospital that distributes water to the town. “The pump house was not planned for future expansion. Now the population is about 6,000 and that is why there is a water shortage,” he said.

He said to distribute water equally they started rationing with each area supplied for two hours every day. “The water was mostly supplied only to the core area and now when the water is distributed to other areas too, they feel the shortage.”

Yangchen C Rinzin,  Samdrupjongkhar