Water, water, everywhere yet …

… many localities in the capital struggle on a daily basis to get their fair share

Resource: Water shortage continues to plague Thimphu, with some pockets of the city still not having access to reliable water supply.

Some parts of Changzamtog, Chang Gedaphu and the colony above pension colony, known as Kachoe lam, still manage their own water supply, as they are not covered by the thromde’s water supply grid.

However, with increasing settlement in these areas, people fight for water to the extent of cutting each other’s water pipes almost every day.

There are several private water sources above the Kachoe lam connected with some 200 water pipes to supply water to homes in Chang Gedaphu and Kachoe lam and some parts of Changzamtog.  These water sources, residents said, were built about two to three decades ago.

For the past few weeks, residents of Kachoe lam have faced acute water shortage.

An ongoing road construction above Kachoe lam, according to residents, has aggravated the situation. The 799-metre road leads to the private land of Yarkey group, where a resort and college would be constructed according to site supervisors.

Residents said falling boulders from the site damaged water pipes, leaving them without water for days.  As the source also caters to Chang Gedaphu, residents there said they have been equally affected.

A Kachoe lam resident said, after her water pipes were broken, her home didn’t get water for more than a week.  “We finally managed to get water after constant dialogue with an engineer of Yarkey,” she said.

After the pipes were replaced, water supply resumed, but it lasted for only two days. When her son went to check the source, the pipes were stolen.

A resident fixes his broken water pipe connection

With so many water pipes, residents said it was hard to tell one pipe from the other, owing to which it took days to fix the connection.

A house owner in Chang Gedaphu also said that, although they have had water scarcity for the last few years, the construction that began about two years ago has worsened the situation.

“It’s either damaged pipes or the pipes being stolen, so we do the same – cut the pipes and connect to our connection,” he said.

Residents in these areas are so desperate for a reliable water supply that most admit to resorting to such acts.

“One moment, we have abundant water and the next we’re left without water for days,” Wangdi, another resident, said.

Yarkey’s site supervisor admitted that falling boulders often damage water pipes but that they replace them as soon as possible.

“More than the boulders, I think it’s the people themselves. They cut the pipes to steal water,” he said. “They’re so bold and do it openly.”

Thromde’s engineer with the water and sewerage section, Samten Lhendup, said the Kachoe lam area and Chang Gedaphu are not in the thromde’s water grid, as there are some difficulties in supplying from the main distribution lines that are located below these settlements.

“We’re not sure when we’ll be able to supply water because it’s not in the plan either,” he said.

In the past, water sources for every community were identified with people contributing woola (labour).  Individuals, who identified their sources, claim ownership over them even today.

The Water Act, however, states that water is a state resource and that the rights over water resources, including the bed and banks of watercourses shall vest in the state.  The act also states that every citizen has an equal right to it.

Over the years, several informal water users’ associations have come up and, as the thromde failed to provide regular supply, these associations filled in but charged users for new connections.

For instance, the one time fee for a private water connection to a new building ranges from Nu 6,200 in Dechencholing to Nu 90,000 in Babesa, apart from monthly payment to the source’s caretaker.  These payments go to the local area’s water users’ association that have a chairman and two to four tshogpas.

The Water Act also states that, if a person intends to abstract water from a new source, he/she has to seek approval from the National Environment Commission (NEC), after which a feasibility study shall be conducted.

However, these regulations have remained largely on paper, with both NEC and thromde not executing their roles effectively.

Meanwhile, engineer Samten Lhendup said the thromde would be taking over all private water sources in south Thimphu after they stabilise the water supply in that area.

By Kinga Dema

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