Climate Resilient Water management in Rural Bhutan

With a grant from the City of Vienna, Friends of Bhutan Austria supports a project of the Bhutanese organization Tarayana Foundation for an integrated, climate resilient water management in Goshing, in the district of Zhemgang.  The aim is to combat the drying up of water sources and thus improve the livelihood and food security of the inhabitants of the village of Lichibe. First of all, a hydrological mapping of the spring catchment area of Lichibe will be carried out. Together with the inhabitants, ditches will be dug and water reservoirs will be built. In addition, a water user group will be established and education on improved sanitation and hygiene will be provided. Finally, the villagers are also building pour-flush toilets in each of the 54 households.

Water sources are drying up

Water is basically one of the most abundant resources available in Bhutan. However, while most of the rivers run in the deep valleys, the settlements on the mountain slopes depend on smaller water sources, ponds and swamps. These are increasingly drying up and it is difficult to tap year-round water sources. A 2021 study by Bhutan’s Ministry of Agriculture shows that many of the approximately 5,000 springs available nationwide are drying up. This makes it all the more important to conduct a comprehensive hydrological mapping of the entire spring recharge areas. This found that 149 out of 527 watersheds in Bhutan are already degraded. Only 93 were classified as pristine. For Zhemgang, six of the 24 watersheds were found to be degraded and out of 296 water sources, 70 were already drying up.

Climate change threatens Bhutan’s spring flows (Kuensel, 9/20/2023).

The target group

According to the latest Living Standards Survey in Bhutan, Zhemgang District has one of the highest poverty rates at 41 percent.

Goshing is among the most remote and least developed gewogs (blocks) in Panbang Dunghhag (district). The gewog consists of 5 cluster villages (chiwogs). The total population is about 3,090 people with 230 households. Economically, the people of Goshing depend on agriculture and livestock. They grow oranges, cardamom, ginger, and various fruits that generate their household income.

Lichibe is one of the most remote villages in Goshing. The village is inhabited by 54 households (200 people, 98 men and 102 women). It is located at an altitude of 1,950m.

75 percent of the households do not have adequate access to water resources, so food security in Lichibe is non-existent. There is also a lack of hygiene and sanitation facilities, resulting in health and nutrition problems.

Project data

Project name: Climate resilient water management in rural Bhutan
Funding: City of Vienna 30.000 Euro; Tarayana 8.196 Euro; Residents of Lichibe through own contribution 8.400 Euro
Project partner: Tarayana Foundation
Project duration: November 1, 2023 – March 31, 2025
Thematic focus: Climate resilient water management
SDG Tracker: SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation; SDG 2: No Hunger