Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering yesterday replied to a question on water issues by asking two of his cabinet ministers, who had come to attend the Friday Meet, whether they had brushed their teeth in the morning.

Both the ministers said water was available and that they did wash at home. The prime minister, who also resides at the Lhengye Dhensa in Motithang, however said that he washed his face in the office at the Gyalyong Tshogkhang as there was no water in his residence.

He highlighted the reality of water issues at the weekly meeting with the press, which is held every Friday.

“Water is very important and we will have one dedicated central body that is responsible for catering to water needs, be it for drinking or irrigation,” lyonchhen said.

The government believes that water is a problem that needs to be resolved irrespective of difficulties.

Lyonchhen said that although water issues are looked after by agencies including the public health department and the agriculture ministry, the problem remains. The government, however, he said was determined to deliver its water pledge.

Dr Lotay Tshering said that the government has worked out a flagship project. He did not elaborate on the details of the project.

“Water is an issue. We will solve it. You dial a BPC number when light goes off. We will have something like that,” he said.

Reports of water shortages for irrigation and paddy fields being left fallow are common every summer. Bhutan’s per capita water availability may be one of the highest in the region but weak water distribution system has perennially left the taps at home run dry.

The government has promised to provide 100 percent drinking and irrigation water for all by 2021. Although access to safe drinking water in the country has improved over the years, drinking as well as irrigation water shortages have been one of the growing challenges.

The government attributes the water problem mostly to poor water distribution networks despite an abundance of the resource and lack of proper regulation and enforcement.

In its manifesto, DNT states that Bhutan has one of the highest availability of water per capita in the region, reading at 109,000 cubic meters, but scarcity of water is reportedly a serious challenge in most rural villages and urban towns.

“It is an irony that there is acute shortage of water, primarily drinking and irrigation, in the communities despite abundance at the drainage basin.”

MB Subba