The thirsty dzongkhag

Pemagatshel Dzongkhag has put up a proposal to the Gross National Happiness Commission to pipe water all the way from Khaling in Trashigang. Preliminary studies have been conducted on the possibility of piping water from Wamrong but the idea was dropped after finding it unsustainable for long term.

During Lyonchhen’s visit to the dzongkhag in January this year, he said that, since the Khaling stream was said to be receding, there was a need to find a sustainable alternative. He suggested that creating an artificial lake on Oori stream, which is about 1000 m above sea level, for distribution of water to some nearby villages would be a better option.

This plan could mitigate water shortages in the lower valleys. But a similar alternative for people living on higher ridges, who are hardest hit by the shortage, needed to be explored.

Therefore, a team from the dzongkhag headquarters led by Dzongda, on March 1 assessed the water level of a stream called Khonmari in Zobel Gewog and did a preliminary study of water volume in the driest month of the year.

The team, comprised of engineers and local leaders, concluded that the stream would not only feed the need of some villages in Zobel Gewog but also some of those in Shumar Gewog.

The dzongkhag administration will now make a proposal to the government for further technical studies and assistance in installing water pumps to draw water. “We will be proposing for pumping the stream water to a distribution tank ideally located at an altitude of 2000 m above sea level,” said Dzongda Gholing Tshering. “A network of pipelines would then feed the needy villages.”

Both Zobel Gup Dorji Wangdi and Shumar Gup Lepo expressed their optimism about finding a lasting solution to water shortages in their gewogs through this project. “Only a scheme like this can solve the problem as most villages are located above the reach of streams,” said Dorji Wangdi.

Residents of Resinang village submitted to Dzongda that a new water scheme had become necessary to meet the growing demand for water. A water scheme built for 18 households more than a decade back now caters to over 31 households.

In the next village in Gonpasingma, gewog officials and government employees are trying to figure out why water does not flow through their taps. Some say it is because of faulty pipelines while others claim that it is because the scheme did not follow the original survey. But all of them agree that water did flow through the pipeline on two occasions – during the Health Minister’s visit to the village and when the audit of the work was being done.

Water scarcity has become a contentious issue in the dzongkhag. In the past, lengthy legal battles were fought between villages and individuals over water. The silver lining lies in the local authorities’ drive to improve the situation. Dzongda declared that all the gewogs in the dzongkhag will commit their resources solely on improving drinking water supply in the next financial year.

By: Gyembo Namgyal
Source: Bhutan Observer 

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