…gewog disagrees, say there is enough water citing distribution challenges
Younten Tshedup | Gelephu
Shortage of drinking water is a seasonal phenomenon in Gelephu.
Many would however, disagree, especially the residents of Gelephu gewog based on the persistent water shortage they have been facing over the years.
Pelrithang khatoe chiwog resident, Dena Nath Nepal, said that families spent weeks without water supply in the area. “In groups we have to climb to the source and fix it ourselves,” he said. “The tshogpa and gewog officials are aware of the problem but we continue to face the same problem year after year.”
He said that while the problem intensifies during winter, even during the rainy season, there is no constant and reliable water source for the chiwog.
With the completion of a new water source (Balukhola) last year, residents had pinned their hopes on the new source to resolve the drinking water crisis.
However, residents say that they have not benefitted from the new source so far. “We continue to face water shortage just as in the past even after the completion of the project,” said a resident of Pelrithang.
Another resident, Lachuman Gimirey, said that constructing a water source more than 18km from the gewog was a mistake. “We had better options to explore, which would have actually proven useful to the community.”
The 65-year-old farmer said that although water is supplied on alternative days, it was not enough for his family of 13. “The old source is dependent on a seasonal stream, which dries up completely in winter.”
Another resident said, “We had high hopes from the new source. We heard that source was handed over to the gewog. We are still waiting for the water to reach our homes.”
The plumber in the area, Bala Ram Khatel, said that drinking water has remained an issue in the gewog for more than a decade now. “Since four years ago, we have been hearing the water from Balukhola would resolve these issues. No water has come from this source so far.”
The 78-year-old plumber said that the pipelines used in the distribution network were of inferior quality, which is why there were frequent breakages along the pipelines.
Of the three types of pipes available in the market, Bala Ram said that the one in use is of the lowest quality.
Residents claimed that water from the new source has not reached their homes because the infrastructures and distribution network were of poor quality.
“The project is not even an year old and it already has to be fixed regularly,” said another resident. “The gewog should have properly checked when taking over the project from the contractors. It has been a waste of time and money.”
Gewog officials however, disagree that the water issues in the area are as severe as people claim.
Gelephu gup, Ugyen Wangchuk, said that the reservoir tank with a capacity of 300,000 litres, fed from Balukhola is full and functional. “We have supplied water to the gewog from the new source after we took over the project,” he said. However, he said that since the distribution pipelines from the reservoir tank are small, it is not able to hold the water pressure from the bigger pipes.
“We are replacing all the smaller pipelines with bigger ones. Once we complete the replacement, we can once again release the water as usual,” said the gup.
He said that constructing the new source some 10km above Samtenling gewog centre was decided during the last gup’s tenure. “Maybe it was because there was no other alternative source in Gelephu gewog. I just helped in completing the ongoing project as my responsibility as the new gup.”
He added that there is enough water for the residents and current needs are being met from the local source. The Balukhola water would be made available once the distribution network is fixed, he said. “One reason if there is no enough water could be because of the growing population.”
The gup said that it is not because of the poor quality of the project but since the location of the source was far-flung and through dense forest, animals, especially elephants damaged the pipelines.
The new water supply system was constructed at a cost of Nu 37.4 million.