De-suung National Service executed many water projects this year, bringing an end to drinking and irrigation water problems many villages faced for decades.
The projects are initiated in response to His Majesty The King’s command in September last year and it will continue until water is connected to every household in the country.
Water shortage has been a complex issue until now. Generating more than 70,572 million cubic metres of water annually, Bhutan is considered the most water-abundant country in the region, but taps constructed in front of houses through rural water supply scheme since 1970s have been left dry for years. Fields have remained fallow.
Many people in the country will never forget the Taklai irrigation canal in Sarpang. The largest irrigation canal constructed in the 1980s could have supplied water to more than 2,900 acres of paddy fields, but it failed miserably. Local residents there share stories of how some involved in the project became rich.
We have always known that water shortage was because of poor governance and management. With successful completion of many projects by the de-suups, it also revealed that it takes commitment to bring water to the needy.
If His Majesty The King did not put his heart in the water project, people in water-rich Bhutan will live without adequate water forever.
Water is a necessity and our plans and policies have been geared toward providing adequate water. The Water Act of Bhutan 2011 and the Water Regulation of Bhutan 2014 prioritised water connection as an essential service.
The main problem, like in all other issues, is that the grand provisions in the plans and policies have failed to translate into action.
It was only His Majesty’s concern for every citizen that brought the water to the doorsteps.
The government also claimed to have allocated the highest budget for water flagship programme. It wanted to bring new and innovate water technology. However, the de-suung projects were executed with minimal budget, resources and technology.
Past water projects in the country also did not last long because of lack of protection and care of infrastructures.
As a royal gift, communities should now ensure infrastructures are taken care of. They should take ownership of it.
With identified caretakers and plumbers, projects executed through the national service are different.
With rapid modernisation and climate change, pressure is on scare water sources.
Communities should also be sensitised on proper usage. Dzongkhag and gewogs officials should take that responsibility.