Despite efforts, the College of Natural Resources (CNR) in Punakha faces an acute shortage of water every summer.

President of CNR Phub Dorji (PhD) said the problem is not new and that it has been there for a few years now. “We have water problem during rainy season, especially around July and August.”

One of the reasons, he said, was that the source gets blocked because of mud and debris. “The water also becomes muddy due to landslides. When landslides occur along the area, pipes get damaged.”

The other reason is because of the distance, he said.  “The source is above Thinleygang, and the place is locally known as Okolom, which is about 20km away from the college. There’s a frequent breakage in the pipeline.”

He said that the problem had been there since the early 1990s in the area. It was learnt that the community around the area also faced similar problem.

Around 2012, a new pipeline was laid. Following this, works began to expand roads near Thinleygang, Phub Dorji said. “During the time, there were many times when the pipeline got damaged because of the development works.”

However, between September and June, the college faces no water problem, he said.

A student at CNR who chose anonymity said that when she first joined the college this month, she was unaware of the situation. “I struggled for a week here, adjusting to the routine of storing water.”

She said that the students use stored water for cooking. “I buy mineral water for drinking.”

Phub Dorji said that people are sent to check and repair the pipelines everyday to keep the water flowing at the college. “Some staff also went today to check the source. If the shortage lasts more than a day, we hire tankers from Punatsangchu, Punakha dzongkhag administration, Punakha Thromde, and Royal Bhutan Police, Royal Bhutan Army to fill the tanks here.”

He said the students also volunteer and help in maintaining and checking the pipes for damage.

CNR is exploring a new source around Nenjakha, which is about 10km away from the college, he said. “We had a couple of meetings with the community and local leaders.”

The new source that is yet to get confirmed is expected to be better than the existing source. The distance is shorter and the maintenance cost is likely to be less.

Phub Dorji said that the college was also exploring pumping water from underground. “Mawongpa water solutions conducted a survey on August 18. Although they were positive of the technical feasibility of the method, we are considering its sustainability.”

The college has had a new tank constructed this June for storage in addition to the four existing tanks.

According to Phub Dorji, each hostel has a syntax tank to store water. “About seven water filters were ordered for water sanitation purpose.”

There are about 858 students in the college today. When CNR opened the number was only about 150. It is likely to cross a thousand coming year, he said. “The increasing number of students also must be one of the causes of the water problem.”

A-21-year-old student studying sustainable development management at CNR said that the timing of the water is unreliable. “If we have an examination tomorrow, the water supply resumes today evening and most of our time go into washing, and storing water.”

This, she said, affected their academic performance. “When there is water, students living on the upper floor also rush for it as the water is not available upstairs.”

Phub Dorji said that the problem couldn’t be denied. “Even when it doesn’t rain here, the area around the source always gets rain. It’s not that we didn’t invest, we have invested. When the road expansion was completed. The damaged pipelines were all repaired.”

Once we have talked with the community, we will work towards connecting the new source, he said. “We have everything ready.”

Rinchen Zangmo | Lobesa