Thinley Namgay

Officials from the human settlement (MoWHS) presented the progress status of the Water Flagship Programme (WFP) to prime minister on January 23.

Activities for the 15 dzongkhags and four thromdes are being planned.

Project Management Unit has adopted four strategies with an overall allotted budget of Nu 2,671.96 million. The strategies include declaration and protection of critical watersheds and wetlands, development of adequate and climate-resilient infrastructure for thromdes and dzongkhags (municipalities and rural areas), improvement of drinking water quality surveillance and the better implementation of water legislation and governance.

The maximum budget has been allotted for the second strategy owing to more activities.

Programme Manager Sonam Jamtsho said, “Under the first strategy, the consultation workshops with Sarpang and Gelephu thromde have been completed and  also the gewog level consultations on watershed management. Demonstration on assessment in the field has also been completed. Training workshop for field officials of Sarpang and Manas forest division have been conducted and initiated the incorporation of watershed assessment for 10 dzongkhags. ”

Sonam Jamtsho said that in the second strategy, the sensitisation tour to local governments in 11 dzongkhags and four thromdes were carried out to identify irrigation schemes, areas with critical water scarcity and possibility of exploration of groundwater.

Officials said the expression of interest to recruit three consultants was floated from December 2 to January 13 which includes the introduction of climate-resilient water treatment technologies in partnership with University of Applied Sciences, Dresden, Germany, identification of urban water projects for Asian Development Bank (ADB) loan financing, and discussions on exploration of groundwater resources with the Department of Geology and Mines.

Expert mission from Water Management International (France) to carryout assessment of non-revenue water for Thimphu and Phuentsholing thromdes, identifying rural water supply schemes for financing through Green Climate Fund in partnership with Food and Agriculture Organisation, and preparatory work for loan financing from ADB for urban projects are ongoing, as per the officials.

Bidding document for procurement of equipment for water quality testing under preparation has been included in the third strategy.

The official said that the Chukha, Mongar, Pemagatshel and Samtse were identified for the preliminary assessment of groundwater.

They said they would receive technical assistance from World Bank for the rapid assessment of institutional setup for creation of water agency. “We initiated the collection of data and preliminary assessment of water tariff guideline. Regarding the integration of irrigation, schemes were identified for possible integration for seven dzongkhags.”

Lack of accurate data on water sources, quality of planning and design, urgent need for water resources mapping, and need to assess ground water resources in critical areas were some of the key observations from the sensitisation tour.

Concerns about the sustainability of infrastructures after the completion of the flagship programme, resource gap and availability of experts are identified as challenges.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering informed the officials that the WFP would be an independent body in the future and instructed the officials to collect water-related data from all the gewogs and villages and make better use of expertise and resources.