The Water Flagship Programme will be implemented possibly by 2021 to ensure availability of adequate water for drinking and irrigation, foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji said at the Friday Meet on June 28.
In response to a question on government’s progress on addressing the issue of irrigation water, Lyonpo said that besides unemployment, the government considers the issue of water as one of the top priorities.
As the prime minister has specifically mentioned while presenting the state of the nation report, water is included in the flagship programme, Lyonpo said.
“In addition, it has received one of the highest budgets among all the flagship programmes.”
Lyonpo said that of an additional funding of € 7.3 million approved by the European Union to Bhutan during the Prime Minister’s visit to Brussels previous week, a majority of it will be used for the water flagship programme.
“We are also talking with various agencies and specialists about bringing new and innovative water technology.”
According to the minister, Bhutan has adequate amount of water, however, the problem is with its reach into the fields.
“Therefore, to ensure how water can reach the needy farmers, it is not money but all we require is a technology,” he said. “We have adequate money but lack of technology is one of the biggest challenges today.”
Lyonpo also said that the government is aware of the hardships people are going through, but it takes time to resolve the problem.
“However, once the flagship programme takes off, it will definitely make a difference. We are done with mapping sources where all waters are available. Agriculture ministry is working closely for a flagship programme to ensure both drinking and irrigation water.”
“We are confident that within our tenure, we will ensure water for drinking and irrigation”, Lyonpo said.
According to the 12th Plan, the flagship programme aims to provide access to 24×7 safe drinking water to both rural and urban households.
Once implemented, it will also undertake construction of new water supply schemes, rehabilitation of existing water supply schemes, water source protection and water quality testing and surveillance.
The programme will also ensure adequate irrigation water, it stated.
The programme implementation will be led by the National Environment Commission Secretariat (NECS) and Ministry of Works and Human Settlement together with Local Governments, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture and Forest, and Ministry of Finance.
Currently, an indicative outlay of Nu 3 billion has been earmarked for the programme.
The Population and Housing Census of Bhutan (PHCB) 2017 revealed that only about 81 percent of housing units have reliable water supply during the critical hours of the day, this is at 5am-8am, 11am-12pm and 5pm-9pm, and about 1.6 percent of households still need to travel for at least 30 minutes to the nearest water sources.
While according to the National Irrigation Master Plan 2016, of the total 105,682.43 acres of cultivated land, 64,248 acres still depended on rain-fed traditional irrigation system.
A major challenge for ensuring continuous water supply was caused by drying up of water sources according to the plan document.
Bhutan has one of the highest per capita water resource availability in the world with 94,500 m3/capita/ annum.
However, due to its imbalance geographical and temporal distributions, it is leading to experience of shortages in local areas according to the Bhutan State of the Environment Report 2016.
Poor demand management, inadequate infrastructure, and poor distribution network, ineffective enforcement of regulations, and unreliable source were also identified as primary reasons for intermittent supply of water in the plan document.