Two months after it was inaugurated, the wastewater treatment plant in Hejo, Thimphu is not yet operationalised.

Thimphu thromde has still not connected the wastewater pipelines from the households to the treatment plant.

Funded by JICA, the treatment plant was constructed at a cost of 100 million Japanese Yen. Mokan Joka System Co. Ltd based in Japan with M/s Vajra Builders as the local constructor constructed the plant.

Thromde officials said the pipes could not be connected due to budget constraints. In an earlier interview with Kuensel, a thromde official had said that thromde was waiting for the plant’s construction to complete for it to connect the sewer lines to about 30 households.

Thrompon Kinlay Dorjee said the works and human settlement ministry kept the thromde in the dark while the work was carried out and that the plant was also inaugurated in his absence.

“I am unaware about how many pipes are connected or not and I cannot comment on this as I’m also in the dark,” the thrompon said yesterday

One of the thromde officials said that some of them learnt about the plant only during the inauguration even though the thromde would have to construct a similar plant nearby to meet the requirement of Hejo’s population.

“But we cannot do anything until we’ve the budget and if we were involved from the start then we would have managed,” the official said. “We’ll have to keep it on hold unless we have budget and future scope of expansion is not even in discussion.” Kuensel learnt that JICA has planned a visit to the plant next month.

The thromde was supposed to hold a public consultation in Hejo to connect the lines after the inauguration. At the consultation, Kuensel learnt that the residents were never informed about such a plant coming up in their locality.

Kawang demkhong theumi Ugyen Penjor said that besides the residents, even he was unaware about the plan. He said that he was informed only two days before the inauguration.

“Nor the thromde or the ministry informed us about the plant coming up in Hejo,” he said. “We knew about the plant only when we were invited for the inauguration and I was asked to gather the residents.”

Ugyen Penjor said at the inauguration they learnt that residents should connect the pipes to the plant. He added that thromde officials then presented them the cost estimation, which ranged from Nu 60,000 to Nu 200,000.

“The residents were supposed to connect pipes from their homes until the manhole, after which thromde should connect it to the plant,” he said.

However, Ugyen Penjor said that even if they did their share, it was of no use because the thromde has still not connected the sewer lines. About 18 residents of the 80 households were interested and five have already started.

Thromde charges a connection fee of Nu 3,000 per household.

Works and human settlement ministry claims that the plant is now handed over to the Thromde but thromde officials said there was no well-planned transition.

An official from the ministry said the thromde was already given three months to connect the sewer lines before inauguration and that thromde officials including the thrompon were involved in the project since the start.

The thrompon had also signed a MoU and had been involved in site visits and identification of the project site.

Construction of the treatment plant began in 2017 after the Department of Engineering Services signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Mokan-Joka System (MJS) of Japan and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in December 2016.

“From the ministry’s side, the work is complete and after the inauguration, it was thromde’s responsibility to keep it operational,” an official said. “Even two officials from the thromde were sent to Japan to especially study about this particular project and numerous meetings were held with the thromde to carry out the project.”

However, the officials who were sent to Japan have today left for their studies in Australia.

An official with the ministry said that as a temporary measure to keep the plant running, about 33,000 liter of sewerage waste was brought from Dechencholing area to fill the plant. “The plant might remain empty if not connected soon.”

When operational, the sewerage treatment system would cater to 86 households and more than 700 people in lower Hejo. It would prevent secondary pollution such as foul smell, is cheaper, takes limited space and can be operated unattended.

The plant constructed with locally available materials and using simple technologies would help the residents from having to clean the septic tanks manually.

Yangchen C Rinzin