Parliament questions water shortage issue in Thimphu

Thimphu Thromde has  implemented only one  of the 15 recommendations the Royal Audit Authority (RAA) made through its performance audit on drinking water.

This was the finding of the Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) that was discussed in the joint sitting yesterday. Five recommendations was not implemented; the remaining was partially implemented.

The RAA in its performance audit found that though Thimphu Thromde had adequate drinking water production of 20,036 cubic metres a day compared with per capita demand of 19,287 cubic metres, there is unequal distribution.

Illegal water tapping and more than one connection in some households are cited as some of the reasons for water shortage. Further, the RAA found 28 car-washing units were supplied with treated drinking water. Of the nine reservoirs, only three had service tanks, which are used for treatment.

“No tests were carried out for many of the reservoir tanks. Tests carried out by Royal Centre for Disease control (RCDC) showed water in some of the schools grossly polluted,” the PAC report stated.

While this is one of the RAA’s recommendations, it was also not implemented as the Thromde and RCDC have not instituted monitoring and reporting system for water quality test.

Gasa’s council representative, Dorji Khandu, said that it is important to ensure both quality and quantity.

He said that in terms of quantity, there would be some loss because of the pipe loss and evaporation factors. “However, the quality of chemicals used for treatment is also imperative to ensure safe drinking water,” he said. “Water should be safe, accessible, affordable and reliable,” he added.

However, the PAC report stated that Thromde has initiated to address this issue by verifying the quality of chemicals and regents before use. This is the only RAA  recommendation that was fully implemented.

Trongsa’s council representative, Tashi Samdrup also suggested involving other stakeholders like, water shed management division and hydromet department besides the National Environment Commission, Thromde and RCDC.

Works and human settlement minister, Dorji Choden, said a master plan is being initiated by the ministry for all thromdes taking into the consideration the population projection for next 20 to 25 years.

She added that about Nu 1B has been spent in the 11th Plan to improve water supply and that in the 12th Plan all projects for drinking water will be taken up as flagship programmes.

She added that a water distribution network map is being prepared but in the old towns it is difficult to trace the connection. “We are taking the plumbers and manually identifying the network for the map,” Lyonpo Dorji Choden said. “We agree that there is issue with drinking water. We are trying to solve it but we have to take one step at a time.”

Pangbang MP, Dorji Wangdi, said the water Act makes the government responsible and accountable to supply safe, affordable and sufficient water supply to every individual. “Since the Act was passed in 2011, by now all projects should have been completed,” he said. While the RAA found that 90 percent in Thimphu has pipe connection, he questioned the water source for the rest 10 percent (more than 10,000). “This is a grave concern as there could be safety issues,” he added.

Thimphu’s council representative, Tshewang Rinzin, said there is clear differentiation between rural and urban settings when it comes to water supply. In urban Thromdes, he said reservoirs and treatment plants are being constructed. Whereas in rural areas, he said people have to contribute labour simply to install a connection. “When the matter is about safety, people in the rural areas must also have equal access to safe drinking water,” he said.

The Opposition Leader said that policies and laws in already in place. He recommended that providing safe, sufficient and reliable drinking water should be the prioritised whichever party forms the next government. “There is little use to suggest new initiatives as the government’s tenure ends in a couple of months,“he said. This recommendation was unanimously adopted by the house with the show of hand.

Lyonpo Dorji Choden also suggested the house recommending an institutional support from relevant agencies in building human resource capacity of the Thromde. This was also endorsed in addition to the PAC’s four recommendations on the drinking water supply.

One recommendation was for the RAA to follow up  with the Thromde on the recommendations that are partially and not implemented.

The committed also recommended a stronger coordination among the works and human settlement ministry, National Environment Commission, RCDC, health ministry and Thimphu Thromde.

Thimphu Thromde is also asked to discontinue providing treated drinking water for car wash and to prioritise water usage as per the water Act.

Tshering Dorji

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