The past few weeks have been challenging for the capital’s residents. Many have been deprived of the most basic necessity for existence – water, both for drinking and washing. Those responsible for ensuring uninterrupted water supply, when confronted with the acute shortage, had an answer that either convinced many or left them unable to continue complaining.
Their explanation was that there is not enough water at the source “because of poor rainfall” this spring. This was enough to convince the complainants, who are left wishing for rain to solve their problem. Rain or not, the growing population of the capital needs water. It is the responsibility of the Thromde to ensure that there is an adequate water supply.
Located along the banks of the Thimchhu, the capital city shouldn’t have water problems. The river has not dried up. In fact, its volume is increasing, perhaps due to melting. However, it is not reaching the homes. It is disheartening that we cannot ensure enough water when we have a river flowing by. Thimchhu has its source in the mountains, which have received reasonably good snowfall even in peak spring. Why is there still a water shortage?
There is enough water, according to many reports. The problem lies in its distribution. While some residents are resorting to hiring tankers, others are fetching water in jerry cans. The inequality in distribution is evident from dry tanks in some places and overflowing tanks in others. Many people claim that the capital city favours only the rich and powerful. Given the water shortage in the last few months, they are not wrong.
Those with connections have arranged for private sources or tankers. The rest watch with envy and hope for rain. Some are discussing rainwater harvesting, even though it depends on rainfall. The bottomline is that water is still a problem in the capital city of a country that is ready to graduate from the club of least developed countries.
Meanwhile, three months ago, on the Birth Anniversary of His Majesty The King, the Prime Minister announced that four Thromdes and Samste would have 24X7 water by December this year. The people are waiting. They would be happy if they could get water for one hour to fill their buckets and drums so that they can meet basic needs like cooking and washing. If they or the agencies responsible for supplying water have to depend on rainfall, the promise will backfire.
We should be the last country to have a water problem. We have enough water. The problem lies in not being able to tap it or distribute it equally. Many agree that the water shortage problem in the capital city would be solved if the Prime Minister, the Thrompon, the ministers and their enclaves, and the Dashos or DHI companies faced shortages like the momo sellers or the public toilet keepers.
It is a shame that water is a perennial problem in water-rich Bhutan. There is enough water for all. The problem lies in our inability to tap into it. To be fair to the Thromde, they cannot ensure 24X7 water if they are not provided with the necessary resources or authority to do so. All fingers are pointed at the Thromde or Thrompon when there is a shortage. Are we helping the Thromde fulfill its basic mandate of ensuring enough water for people to drink, cook, and wash? How?