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Audit finds drinking water contaminated in Thimphu

Drinking water quality tests conducted in Thimphu thromde showed worrying results, according to Royal Audit Authority (RAA) report.

The report stated that some residents have been drinking contaminated water. The performance audit was conducted to ascertain the effectiveness of Thimphu Thromde in providing safe, adequate, reliable and equitable drinking water to its population.

The report that covered from 2010-2016, stated that the water treatment plants at Dechencholing and Megaypang in Chamgang have not been tested.

“There were also no records of tests carried out at the distribution network, although water safety plan requires weekly monitoring of the water quality of pH, chlorine, and turbidity and monthly monitoring of E. Coli content in the water.”

It stated that the thromde had tested the water samples from the hospital reservoir tanks regularly but the water quality in schools was never tested except for Jigme Namgyel Middle Secondary School.

The Royal Centre for Disease Control (RCDC) had tested water quality in the schools and found that the water in some was grossly polluted.

“Thimphu thromde had never tested water quality in schools and institutes although the nature of the consumer warrants so,” the report stated.

The thermotolerant coliform tests conducted by the RCDC between June 2016 to November 2016 showed thermotolerant coliform presence as high as 200 in case of Jigme Losel Primary School in September, followed by Yangchenphug Higher Secondary School with 100 in June.

Coliform bacteria are unlikely to cause illness but their presence in drinking water indicates that disease-causing organisms such as pathogens could be in the water.

Auditors said that community and private water connections were more contaminated compared to the thromde’s water supply.

The values for thermotolerant coliform tests in the case of Royal Institute of Management (RIM) and Babesa Middle Secondary School were 1,000, which was alarming indicating the water is totally polluted. “Thus, it is worrying to note such situation because there are many residents having private and community water connections,” the report states.

Many residents in Thimphu municipality are still using water supply from private and community water sources, despite the Water Regulation of Bhutan, 2014 requires the thromde’s water supply system to be the only source of potable water supply system within the municipality’s jurisdiction unless this is technically not feasible.

The audit authority also found unequal distribution of water leading to water shortages at ground in certain areas.

Auditors found irregularities in water distribution network such as illegal tapping, water connection bypassing water meter, approval of water connection from transmission lines, provision of more than one water connection per dwelling and water supply diverted to community water tank.

During the period 2010 – 2011 and 2015 – 2016, revenue amounting to Nu 28.49 million was lost as a result of loss of water in the water distribution network systems.

While the government spent Nu 338.32M to build the water distribution network from Megaypang water treatment plant to Babesa, Lungtenphu and Olakha areas, and supply began in November 23, 2014, charges were never imposed or collected by the Thromde from the area as of June 2017 causing a loss of Nu 20.37M in revenue.

The Water Act of Bhutan, 2011 requires the thromde to impose and collect water supply service charges, water disposal service charges and other service fees as prescribed.

Despite significant lapse of time, the master plan for national drinking water is not yet formulated to identify available options to guarantee that there is sufficient quantity and quality of water for future generations.

Thimphu thromde had not instituted monitoring system for supervision of the water network system.

“The absence of monitoring system had led to huge loss of water, water revenue and interruption in water supply,” the auditors pointed out.

Thimphu, being the capital city, has almost 20 percent of the country’s population and more than 90 percent of them live in central Thimphu and draws water from the four treatment plants at Motithang, Jungshina, Dechencholing and Megaypang.

The draft audit report was issued on July 19, 2017 to Thimphu thromde, MoWHS, NECS and RCDC for factual confirmation, comments and feedback. Responses received from Thimphu thromde have been incorporated in this report.

The RAA provided 15 recommendations to improve management of drinking water in the municipality. The Thimphu thromde did not submit its report on the implementation of the RAA’s recommendations.

Tshering Palden

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