World Water Day is an international event observed worldwide on 22 March. The day is observed to raise awareness and learn from each other on the importance of water as fundamental resources for livelihood, economic growth and environmental sustainability.
In Bhutan, the day will be observed with the theme on “Water: Securing Bhutan’s Future” at Samtengang Central School, Wangduephodrang. The event is organised by the National Environment Commission in collaboration with Watershed Management Division, Department of Forests and Park Services, Wangdue Dzongkhag Administration, Management of Samtengang Center School, Bhutan Water Partnership, with support from the Asian Development Bank.
His Excellency Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk, Minister, Ministy of Health, will grace the occasion as Chief Guest.
At the day, Honorable Lyonpo will launch National Integrated Water Resource Management Plan 2016, National Drinking Water Standard for Bhutan, 2016, Baychhu Watershed Management Plan and Payment for Environmental Services Framework and Field Guide.
The details on each of the launch documents are provided below:
1. Bhutan’s National Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) Plan provides a coordinated development and the management of water, land and related resources, in order to maximize the economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems.
IWRM is a holistic approach that seeks to integrate management of water resources within that of the broader socio-economic and institutional framework for development planning and management. It primarily seeks to improve coordination among water management entities, including river basin organizations, with a focus on allocating and providing reliable water services in an equitable manner. This requires resolving trade-offs to maintain a proper balance between meeting various sectors’ needs, and establishing adaptable governance mechanisms to cope with evolving circumstances and drivers of change. In IWRM, the basic unit for integrated management of water resources is the river basin.
The basic principles of IWRM include: considering water holistically, managing it across disciplines and sectors, ensuring wide participation in decision-making, and strengthening institutions and their coordination. These in turn need to be supported by sector-wide policy reforms, development of water laws and regulations, strengthening of coordination mechanisms, and decentralization of planning (through river basin organizations). Guidelines are:
- Water is a finite, vulnerable and essential resource, which should be managed in an integrated manner.
- Water resources development and management should be based on a participatory approach, involving all relevant stakeholders.
- Women play a central role in the provision, management and safeguarding of water.
- Water has an economic value and should be recognized as an economic good, taking into account affordability and equity criteria.
Because it is holistic, IWRM necessitates an inter-sectoral approach with representation from all stakeholders, and in which all aspects of water (hydrological, ecological, socio-economic) are considered. IWRM also incorporates sustainable development objectives to safeguard the resource base for future generations.
A central goal of Bhutan’s NIWRMP is to achieve water security, in particular under the looming threat of climate change. Water security defined in the plan as the capacity to provide sufficient and sustainable quantity and quality of water for all types of water needs/services, and to protect people from water-related disasters. Water security has five key dimensions. Managing these five dimensions together make up the ultimate aim of IWRM.
- household water security (satisfy household water and sanitation needs in all communities)
- economic water security (support productive uses of water in agriculture, industry and energy)
- urban water security (develop vibrant and livable thromdes)
- environmental water security (maintain the health of rivers and ecosystems)
- resilience to climate change and water-related disasters (build resilient communities that can cope and adapt effectively)
The preparation of NIWRMP is supported by the Asian Development Bank and Government of Japan.
2. National Drinking Water Quality Standard (NDWQS): The NDWQS was approved during 42nd session of the National Environment Commission meeting held on February 26, 2016.
The National Drinking Water Quality Standards is established to ensure safe drinking water to protect consumer health. The standard describes the quality parameters set for drinking water and maximum permissible limit for each of the set parameters. Such primary standards protects public health by limiting the level of contaminants in drinking water. It shall apply to all drinking water supplies owned and managed by thromdes, dzongkhag administration, gewog administration, chiwogs, villages, Water User Associations, institutions and households. The standard will come into forced effect from July 2017.
WHO provided technical support for the development of National Drinking Water Quality Standard.
3. Baychhu Watershed Management Plan: The Baychhu Watershed Management Plan was developed in an integrated and collaborative manner involving all relevant entities at the watershed level. The approach will be gradually scaled up to cover other degraded watersheds in the entire country based on environmentally sustainable, economically efficient, and socio-culturally equitable and acceptable code of practices.
The observance of World Water Day is an annual event demonstrating Bhutan’s strong commitment to environmental conservation and sustainability. Each year new ideas are launched, awareness raised and Bhutan joins the world in fighting for sustainable management of fresh water resources.
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