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Water shortage in water abundant Bhutan?

The problem of water shortage has been increasing in Bhutan over the years. This problem in a country that is rich in water is ironic.

Climate change could be contributing to the drying up of water sources. That is why growing cities like Thimphu and Phuentsholing are running short of water. In the rural areas, people have no water to drink and to irrigate their fields. And we are just looking at and talking about the drying water sources.

The bigger problem, however, is our inability to look at viable alternatives. It is pathetic when a state resource like water get politicised. This has happened in other countries. It could happen in Bhutan too very soon if we keep looking at and talking about the drying water sources and do nothing about it.

RAA report has found that about 34 percent of water is lost along distribution networks. Irregularities in water distribution networks such as illegal tapping, water connection bypassing water meter, approval of water connection from transmission lines, and diversion of water supply are rampant.

In a country like Singapore, water is imported. In a challenging environment of a densely populated island, access to water has been made universal, affordable, efficient and of high quality. This has been possible because of innovative integrated water management approaches such as the reuse of reclaimed water, the establishment of protected areas in urban rainwater catchments and the use of estuaries as freshwater reservoirs along with seawater desalination in order to reduce the country’s dependence on water imported from neighbouring country, Malaysia.

Our emphasis should be on proper legislation and enforcement, water pricing, public education. And how much have we invested on research and development, for example? Those are the departments where we are lacking today. Investing millions in a project that is unsustainable is a waste of resources and poor planning.

Righting these problems besides, we must think about tapping rivers, streams and rivulets that run down the valleys to solve the shortage of drinking and irrigation water. We have more water than we could ever need.

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