Wa­ter cri­sis a clar­ion call

Business Bhutan - - Editoria -

This win­ter ap­pears to be ag­o­niz­ingly cold. As if that is not enough, Thim­phu’s wa­ter dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tem has lit­er­ally tanked. With freez­ing tem­per­a­tures, wa­ter pipes at the source are ei­ther blocked or dam­aged and as a re­sult, many parts of Thim­phu are grap­pling with pro­longed wa­ter short­age.

And it seems there is lit­tle that can be done. Brace up, for it is go­ing to be a long and cruel win­ter.

The on­go­ing wa­ter cri­sis in Thim­phu and other parts of the coun­try due to ex­treme weather con­di­tions has ex­posed our vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and sheer un­pre­pared­ness to han­dle such sit­u­a­tions. At best, Thim­phu Thromde has send out pub­lic no­ti­fi­ca­tions ad­vis­ing prop­erty own­ers to in­su­late wa­ter pipes within the build­ing premises. It has also no­ti­fied that it is do­ing ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to im­prove the sit­u­a­tion through re­pairs of wa­ter pipes dam­aged due to freez­ing.

The prob­lem is, the wa­ter cri­sis con­tin­ues. And Thim­phu res­i­dents are at the re­ceiv­ing end, with taps run­ning dry for weeks in a row. What is hi­lar­i­ously ironic is that even Prime Min­is­ter’s res­i­dence had no wa­ter for days on end. When that hap­pens, it ba­si­cally means the prob­lem has reached epic pro­por­tion.

Keep­ing hu­mor aside, it has be­come crit­i­cal for pub­lic ser­vice providers such as the Thromde to re­think ways to ad­dress such emerg­ing is­sues and chal­lenges. Al­ready, Thim­phu has been fac­ing wa­ter short­age is­sues for many years now. Not much has been done to ad­dress this is­sue go­ing by the re­cur­ring na­ture of the prob­lem. If there were any earnest ef­forts, maybe they were too lit­tle or the re­sults were not vis­i­ble.

So the wa­ter short­age prob­lem con­tin­ues, and it will con­tinue with the cur­rent pace of ur­ban sprawl in Thim­phu and in­ward mo­bil­ity of peo­ple.

From a de­vel­op­ment and plan­ning point of view, ba­sic ser­vices such as drink­ing wa­ter, elec­tric­ity, roads and drainage have to be pri­or­i­tized. Enough re­sources have to be iden­ti­fied to sus­tain a cer­tain pop­u­la­tion within a spe­cific area. That is as ba­sic as it can get.

But if we look at Thim­phu’s new ex­panded town­ships, the likes of Olakha and Babesa, we have not learnt much from our past mis­takes. In fact, we have not learnt any­thing at all. These new towns are poorly de­signed. The roads are nar­row, with no proper park­ing space or parks for chil­dren. Worse, these so-called new towns have faced peren­nial short­age of drink­ing wa­ter.

Cer­tainly, some­thing has gone ter­ri­bly wrong, some­where.

The first pri­or­ity for Thromdes should be to pro­vide ba­sic ser­vices with­out dis­rupt­ing nor­mal life. That is the least we ex­pect of them.

As for the wa­ter cri­sis dur­ing this win­ter, it might serve as a crit­i­cal re­minder for all of us - ser­vice providers and prop­erty own­ers alike – to take ap­pro­pri­ate mea­sures to tackle freez­ing tem­per­a­tures. Be­sides, it also calls for proper plan­ning in­clud­ing con­tin­gency plans to re­spond to such crises in fu­ture. Hope­fully, we will learn from this ex­pe­ri­ence.

At a na­tional level, the cur­rent gov­ern­ment has pledged to en­sure 24/7 wa­ter for all in the next five years. It is an am­bi­tious pledge that will take a lot of do­ing. But let’s start small. Let’s solve this win­ter’s wa­ter cri­sis. And per­haps, the Prime Min­is­ter might want to start by ad­dress­ing the wa­ter prob­lem at his res­i­dence first.

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