Neten Dorji

Trashiyangtse– Nestled in the northern hills of Khamdang gewog, Darchen Goenpa is a world away from the hustle and bustle of town and village life.

At an elevation ranging from 1,500 to 2,000 metres above sea level with stunning views of mountains and khamdang villages, the Goenpa is rich in religious sites. The temple owes its existence to Ani (nun) Chorten Zangmo, the great grand daughter of 15th century Terton Pema Lingpa.

Besides religious sites, what makes this remote temple extra special is that it falls in a critical watershed area.

Besides the inhabitants near Darchen Goenpa, the lower part of Khamdang and Toedtsho gewog of over 10,000 residents rely on water originating from the rich water reserve that is recharged by the three lakes located near the temple.

Caretaker of Darchen Goenpa, Kabula,71, said the villager’s treasure trove started drying up around 1960. Multiple factors contributed to the lakes’ disappearance.

Lack of care, disturbance and the surface runoff from the ridge are suspected to have disturbed the underground aquifer of the lakes. Climate change is thought to be another contributing factor that caused the lakes to go bone-dry.


Saving the lakes

In 2020, Kabula requested local leaders if they could revive the three lakes. Then, the Toedtsho administration submitted the application to the  dzongkhag Administration.

The dzongkhag administration carried out feasibility studies and adopted an innovative, inclusive and sustainable approach to revive the lakes.

With support of Nu 4.5 million from the Commercial Agriculture and Resilient Livelihoods Enhancement Programme(CARLEP), the three lakes were revived.

The three lakes individually covers an area of 30, 20, and 15 decimals. The revival efforts began with clearing of the lakes’ areas, recharging water, and fencing the lakes.

Concrete walls were built at ridge of lakes to prevent the surface runoff from the ridge and all the three lakes were recharged from the Pangthang stream.



Darchen’s treasure trove was successfully restored to its former glory in 2021. Villagers living in the lower parts of Khamdang and Toedtsho are reaping the fruits of riviving the lakes.

Residents say the water supply from Dungdung Yey was not enough before the revival of the lakes.

“It was challenging for us to get enough water for drinking and irrigation because streams were drying up. Revival of lakes has solved the water shortage problem,” said a villager, Sonam Choden.

Another  villager, Sonam Zangmo said without water supply in the village life is hard.

“Without adequate water, life was terrible. I am happy that the water scarcity is now resolved because of revival lakes. This makes our life in the village easier,” said Sonam thanking for reviving the lakes.

Sertsho Bratsa Tshogpa, Tharchen Yoezer, said that many dried streams have reappeared today.

“The lakes used to be full and served as a water source not just for us and our livestock but also for wildlife. Reviving lakes by dzongkhag has played a role in solving the water shortage.”

He said the revival of lakes has benefited the three chiwog;, two chiwog in toedtsho gewog and  one chiwog in Khamdang gewog.

Khini-Tokshing Tshogpa, Karma Drupchu said, villagers have enough water for drinking and irrigation this year after revival of the lakes.

“I was worried about the future of our children – what would they do without water? Thanks to the project, our children’s future is secured. Water scarcity is not an issue anymore,” said the tshogpa.

The three lakes are critical water sources and reviving these lakes is important for preserving the water sources.

Dzongkhag Deputy Agriculture Officer, Chimmi Drakpa said, Martsho lake had half water before the revival, while Kartsho and Phurpa lha tsho were on the verge of drying up.

“We refilled the lakes, and now all three have full water.”

He said the lakes benefited more than 360 households of Toetsho gewog and Daka-Domtsang chiwogs of Khamdang gewog.