Thimphu thromde’s inefficient management of drinking water supply system has put the health of the city’s residents at risk. The Royal Audit Authority’s scathing report on the state of drinking water supply system in the capital city reveals that our municipality is incapable of providing even basic services like water to its residents.
The issue of water shortage has long plagued the city’s residents. The audit report, which was a long time coming, now tells us why. For when the municipality does work, its services are distributed unequally. For instance, 4.58 percent of households receive water for less than an hour a day while 26.7 percent receive 24 hours water supply. Among the eight zones in the city, homes in zone I, in upper and lower Motithang receive the highest amount of drinking water at 94.09 percent of the quantity required.
But areas in zone II, which include YHS, Lungtenzampa, Kawangjansa, Zhilukha, Hejo, Dzong, High Court area, and Langjophakha receive the least amount of drinking water at 27.65 percent. Zone I has a population of 17,037 while zone II has 10,387 people. Had the Thromde abided by the Water Act and its rules, every resident in the city would have access to safe, affordable and sufficient water for basic human needs. But it has not and so we have the hospital area in Changzamtog, home to a population of 30,685, the highest among the zones, receiving only 43.60 percent of the drinking water quantity required.
It is hoped that the prominence of residents living in certain areas, be it through their official positions or financial, do not determine the level of access to drinking water. That the residents of the Thimphu municipality receive 60.93 percent of drinking water against the required quantity shows that inefficiency is institutionalised in the thromde.
Another worrying finding in the audit report is the quality of drinking water supplied to schools and institutes. Save for Jigme Namgyel Middle Secondary School, water quality in schools was never tested. But tests done by the Royal Center for Disease Control found that water in some schools was grossly contaminated.
The shortage of water supply from the thromde has forced residents and institutions to source water from private and community sources, which may not be treated. We can’t blame people for resorting to such water sources, not when the authority responsible for the task is not doing its job. But for long we have been tolerating such practices and risking the health of the residents.
The audit report has identified the lapses in the water supply system. While it has pointed out flaws with the thromde, the sorry state of drinking water supply system in the capital highlights the weakness of central agencies and policymaking. The works and human settlement ministry and the national environment commission must be held equally responsible. Accountability should be fixed.
Poor water supply system has left the city parched and deprived its residents of basic needs. This is the narrative of Thimphu. This is the paradox of a water rich country.