Prime Minister, Dr Lotay Tshering has asked the team heading the water flagship programme to rework on its components and activities planned for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

During a review meeting of the flagship programme yesterday, Lyonchhen asked the team to include irrigation water along with drinking water supply under the flagship programme.

Led by the National Environment Commission Secretariat (NECS), the water flagship programme would be implemented by the works and human settlement ministry, Gross National Happiness Commission, health and the agriculture ministries.

Majority of the components included in the water flagship programme for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, which is also incorporated under the Annual Performance Agreement (APA) of the agencies concerned, focused on drinking water supply.

Under the programme, 11 dzongkhags and four thromdes have been identified. Protecting critical watersheds and wetlands, developing adequate and climate resilient infrastructures, improving the drinking water quality surveillance and strengthening implementation of water legislation to provide 24×7 safe drinking water for the selected areas were some of the key objectives presented at the meeting.

The first phase of the programme would be implemented in Chukha, Dagana, Mongar, Paro, Pemagathsel, Samdrupjongkhar, Samtse, Trashigang, Trongsa, Wangdue and Zhemgang and the thromdes of Gelephu, Thimphu, Samdrupjongkhar and Phuentsholing.

The areas were identified based on the number of households and water supply per hour per day.

However, Lyonchhen said that the primary presentation made by the team was based only on drinking water supply. “Drinking water and irrigation supply has not been linked. Irrigation supply has been based on the existing scheme,” he said.  “The flagship office should consider the viability of how these two could be clubbed. Ultimately we want 24×7 supply for both drinking and irrigation water.”

Lyonchhen said that irrigation is equally important. “In many places, irrigation and drinking water share the same source.”

Officials from the team said that irrigation component was added only later based on Lyonchhen’s and cabinet’s directives. The Nu 3 billion outlay earmarked for the programme might not be enough, said an NEC official. The implementing agencies for drinking and irrigation water supply are also different.

Lyonchhen also said that the activities in the first term should include more research components and investments for long-term sustainability of the programme. Mapping the whole water sources in the country and devising professional methods to solve water issues in the long run could have been considered, he said.

Lyonchhen said that unlike other flagship programmes, which would eventually merge with the mainline activities with different ministries and agencies, the water flagship programme would function as a separate body.

The water issue is going to persist, he said, which is why the programme should also consider sub-specialising human resources and water engineers.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has started visiting agencies to work closely and review the targets and deliverables in the APA before its signing.

To begin with, Lyonchhen met with the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) to discuss the tourism development flagship programme yesterday.

He said it is important to agree on the components of the agreement so that government and all agencies are clear on the way forward and achievements by the end of the fiscal year.

He said that this is also to set clear responsibilities and accountabilities on the agencies by ensuring meaningful targets in the agreements.

Younten Tshedup