Bhutan calls for common action to combat water crisis

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering addressing the 4th Asia-Pacific Water Summit


Bhutan called-for countries to support each other with rapid technological progress and ensure efficient water management system at the fourth Asia-Pacific Water Summit held yesterday, 23 April.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering reiterated the statement virtually and requested member-states for a common action to arrive at ideal solutions given the cross-cutting nature of water and climate.   

The summit was held in in Kumamoto City, Japan with the theme: “Water for Sustainable development-Best Practices and the Next Generation.”

    “We cannot establish water as a core component for economic progression and human advancement if we do not support each other,” PM Dr Lotay said.

    The prime minister added that it is a talk about the element that circulates in our shared eco system and that we must reduce net water loss and wastage collectively.

“We have to harness not just every drop but every molecule of water. For instance, breaking up H2O into hydrogen and oxygen have huge potential to generate sustainable energy, thereby opening up a whole new sector of economy,” the prime minster said.

    He said that as every country charts out the national pathway to accelerate recovery efforts, the summit makes us rethink and re-priorities. He added that the way ahead is exciting and that we be guided by our understanding and spirit of collaboration that will be reflected in the Kumamoto Declaration.

Further, the prime minister welcomed the announcement of the Japanese initiative to strengthen national capacities in the Asia-Pacific region and said that it will address our current limitations in areas of water governance.  

Lyonchhen pleaded that we should work together in a way that is capable to harness advantages at every point in the water cycle. In addition to meeting the conventional needs and utilities, the Prime Minister said we must prepare ourselves to embrace fast emerging technologies around water.

“Only then will we be able to derive the true meaning of its reference as white gold that enriches every life on earth,” he said.

 The PM also highlighted Bhutan’s water story during the summit which was held among the high-level delegates from across the Asia Pacific region.    

He said that snow and glacial lakes feed Bhutan’s streams and rivers, and that it is a pride in boasting one of the highest per capita availability of water in the world which is part of our rich natural heritage and exotic ecosystem.  

Lyonchhen said Bhutanese attach huge importance and spiritual significance to water bodies like lakes and rivers and also prohibits people from climbing mountains which are higher than 6,000 metres which, he said, indirectly help us in our conservation efforts. 

“Some streams and lakes are regarded as sacred and have healing properties. These customs and beliefs, in a way, helped us protect water sources and preserve it for generations,” he said.

While stating that the main source of revenue in Bhutan is hydropower due to the conducive environment for power generation, the prime minister shared that Bhutan has water problems without a dedicated institution tackling the issues related to it.

    He said some of the factors are climate change which has induced water scarcity at the sources. “Our glacial lakes are receding and catchment areas are drying up. At the same time, the constant risk of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods looms and threatens whatever infrastructure we have built.”

    The prime minister shared that the initiative of protecting our natural resources, including water, stems from the personal vision and sacrifice of His Majesty the King.

    “Through Royal initiatives, communities across the country have enhanced access to water for drinking and irrigation. In just about two years, during the pandemic, a group of youth volunteers called De-suups started the nationwide water project,” he said.   

    PM added that while the project is ongoing, Bhutan has to build further on the foundations that has been laid, and that works are underway to institutionalize a wholesome water management system through a professional governing body.  

    Lyonchhen said the country would be able to explore required resources, keep pace with emerging water technologies and introduce dynamic water policies in the coming years.  

     “We are excited about what lies ahead of us and it is a joy to be sharing our experience at such forums. In doing so, we are motivated with newer ideas and opportunities other countries will bring along,” he said.