Providing continuous safe drinking water to every household in the country has been identified as one of the important activities in the 12th Plan, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, said during the opening of the national water symposium at Ariya Hotel in Thimphu yesterday.

He also said that managing water resources is one of the important flagship projects identified in the 12th Plan.

Lyonchoen said that despite having abundant of water in the country, it cause disputes between villages and neighbors  “To ensure such things don’t happen, it is important that there are proper measures to efficiently supply the available water to every household in the country,” he said. “To have proper measures in place, we have to discuss with the stakeholders including the experts.”

He said that of about 200 countries in the world, Greenland has the most fresh water, followed by Iceland, Guyana, Suriname and Papua New Guinea. “Bhutan stands sixth.”

Prime Minister said that Bhutan has a population of 750,000 and fresh water consumption per capita is 102,000 cubic metres. “Compared to other countries in the region, Bhutan has adequate fresh water.”

He said that there are six big rivers in the country and Thimphu alone has 17 streams. “Still then, we are not able to supply enough water to all the residents in the city.”

Lyonchoen said that in some areas in the city, there is a continuous flow of water and people tend to waste water because of excess water, while in some areas, people have a difficult time not having enough water.

He said that it could be clearly seen from the top of the Thimphu valley how many water sources are there. “There are more than 17 streams but we also see many water pipes connected to these water sources.”

“If a person is to have a water pipe each then we will never have enough water for everyone,” Lyonchoen said. “If this is the situation in Thimphu, what will be the situation in rural areas? This could be the reason for the disputes in the rural areas.”

Lyonchoen said that the government had provided enough budgets for both rural and urban areas. “However, there are many agencies and departments influencing those responsible for managing water resources, because of which drinking safe water is not supplied equally to all the people.”

Besides providing continuous safe drinking water to all households, Lyonchoen stressed the importance of irrigation water in the agriculture sector on which about 60 percent of the country’s population depends and in hydropower projects.

“If there is no enough water then no matter how big a hydropower project is, the project will not be efficient,” he said.

Prime Minister said that the symposium should focus on how to supply adequate water to the households and how to conserve water.

He urged the participants to come up with a proper measure to manage water resources in the country.

An official with National Environment Commission (NEC), Tenzin Wangmo, said that symposium is organised at a national level to discuss issues and challenges of water and water management.

“With the mandate of water management being spread across many sectors, coordination has been the greatest challenge for NEC as the national coordinating agency,” she said. “We see this symposium as an opportunity to collaborate, identify synergies and areas of cooperation to ensure that our water resources are protected, conserved and managed in an economically efficient socially equitable and environmentally sustainable manner.”

She said that the symposium is timely as 12th Plan is being prepared and the output from the symposium will directly fit into it.

NEC Secretariat and Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research, Department of Forests and Park Services is organising the three-day symposium with support from WWF and USAIDS.

Dechen Tshomo