… such as water shortage and accessibility for the disabled 

Assembly: There is no specific policy on making public infrastructure, private buildings and public spaces disabled-friendly said the works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden during the National Assembly’s question hour yesterday.

Lyonpo was responding to Drukjeygang-Tseza representative Karma Dorji who asked how the ministry is working on making such infrastructures disabled-friendly. He pointed out that in order to reduce poverty, providing right and equal access to public spaces, infrastructures and creating a conducive environment for the disabled are important.

The minister said that though disabled-friendly designs were specified in the Bhutan Building Rules 2002, it has not been followed by both government and private builders because of additional expenses it would involve.

For instance, there are specifications in the rules on how to build disabled-friendly steps in buildings. “In the rules, it also specifies the need to build railings to make the building safe for the disabled,” Lyonpo said.

The rules also include the need to build disabled-friendly toilets.

The ministry however is reviewing the Bhutan Building Rules 2002. “The ministry is planning to initially start with pilot projects instead of directly starting as policy. We are also working on what needs to be done for the disabled,” Lyonpo said.

Nganglam representative Choida Jamtsho asked about reports of drinking water shortage in the thromdes of Mongar, Pemagatshel, Tsirang, Samdrup Jongkhar, Zhemgang and Paro. He asked what is being done to address the water shortage.

Lyonpo said the ministry is working on ensuring safe and equitable drinking water as per directives from the Cabinet. The minister also said that access to drinking water is better in  other dzonkhags when compared to Thimphu.

“In Thimphu, because of steady rise in the population the problem of insufficiency continues despite the on-going works to improve water supply,” Lyonpo said.

But the minister added that no reports of major shortages have been reported though the problem does exist along with quality and safety issues. The minister also pointed out that the shortage is also because of poor management.

“Even when there is enough water at the source there are shortages because of leakages which wastes about 32 percent of the water,” Lyonpo said.

This wastage was attributed to carelessness of both service providers and users who do not replace broken water taps.

Drying up of sources or reduced volume at the source in the lean season is another factor contributing to the water shortage. “There are records of the water volume at source falling by 50 percent in lean seasons,” Lyonpo said.

The minister added that the existing perennial shortage in Thimphu should be addressed with a water supply project of 15 million litres from Dodenma on the way. With this additional water supply, there should be enough water to support a population of 200,000.

As of now Thimphu’s projected population is 124,000. Currently, the city faces water shortage of 2.9 million litres every day, which should be resolved by the Dodenma project but only with improved management.

“It is important for both users and service providers to improve water use management,” Lyonpo said.

Similarly, Samdrupjongkhar will also get a new scheme of 250 million litres, which should be enough even if its existing population of 9,000 doubles. This project will be completed by next year.

New projects are also lined up for Tsirang, Mongar, Phuentsholing and Paro.

Responding to Dramedtse representative Ugyen Wangdi’s concern on the overrun costs caused by the delay and suspension of works of the Dalbari-Lhamoizingkha road, the minister said that the estimate from the ministry has indicated no significant rise in cost and work will resume. “Of the contracts, one has been tendered out with plans to resume the works from October,” Lyonpo said.

Ugyen Wangdi also asked who should be held accountable for overrun costs incurred by the suspension of the works. “Should the ministry or Anti-Corruption Commission be held accountable,” he said.

To this, the minister said that the ministry also tried to hold people accountable for the overrun costs as per the commission’s recommendations. “But because it was an international tender, lack of clear rules has limited the ministry from taking actions against anyone,” Lyonpo said.

“Since the problem was from lack of proper system and procedure pertaining to international contracts, the commission could not hold anyone accountable nor could the ministry,” Lyonpo said.

Tempa Wangdi