For a sustainable water management, monks take the lead

For ages, Bhutanese have lived in harmony with and great respect for their natural world. They used the resources provided by nature as needed and due to the simplicity of their lives; rarely did they contribute to environmental damages. However, this has changed considerably in more recent times. Not only are our lives no longer so simple, our relationship with the environment is much more complicated and now we have tremendous power to harm the environment.

Our lifestyle in the 21st century makes huge demands on the environment. We use more and more resources like timber and water without thinking of its effects. But mother earth cannot sustain all of our desires. The pressure on the natural environment coupled with climate change and other factors has resulted in drying up of numerous drinking water sources around the country.

High demand for the forest products such as firewood, timber and flagpoles too has contributed to degradation of watershed areas, resulting in decreasing water discharge. Other contributors are road constructions, infrastructure development, extraction of forest products (both legal and illegal), over grazing and forest fires.

Euthok Gompa Monastic School, above Shaba in Paro has realized that the forest coverage in the watershed is on decline and has observed signs of decrease in the water discharge from the sources. The monasteries and villagers in the surrounding villages are worried about the declining forest coverage and shrinking water sources.

Shortage of drinking water particularly for Euthok Gompa and Dra Karpo monasteries has led the monks of the two monasteries often fetch their drinking water from Hebichu, few kilometres downhill, taking most of their precious time which otherwise could be used for studying. Bestowed with such situation, monks could hardly take a weekly bath and this has caused some skin diseases among the young monks.

To address these problems, Eutok Gompa has sought financial help from Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation (BTFEC) for Rehabilitation of degraded watershed and improvement of water supply for Euthok Gompa and Dra Karpo. The two-year project that was started beginning this year is progressing well.  Once complete, the watersheds will be rehabilitated and the pressure on the watershed reduced; there will be secure water supply for the monastic schools and the communities; and health and hygiene of the monk will be improved.


Tree Plantation

Gegraded Lholing watershed

Through this project, the degraded Lholing watershed will be rehabilitated through enrichment plantation of native tree species and buffer zoning to restrict use of resources in watershed area. The extraction and use of sustainable quantity of fuel wood from the watershed for the two monastic schools will be reduced through installation of solar water heating systems. The other significant threat to conservation of Lholing watershed is due to extensive use of young pine trees for hoisting prayer flags on important occasions. This will be addressed through supply of long-lasting iron steel posts.With adequate supply of water, monks of two monastic schools including communities downstream can maintain health and hygiene. As part of the project, environmental awareness programme to all inhabitants within the watershed area would help in minimizing potential threats impinging functions and sustainability of services provided by the watersheds.This BTFEC funded project will directly benefit the two monastic schools of Euthok Gompa and Dra Karpo through supply of clean and adequate water for drinking and sanitation. There are 80 monks and 30 monks and nuns in Dra Karpo. It will also help hundreds of pilgrims visiting these monasteries.More than 250 households, with about 2900 people, of Zhunggarna, Langokha, Dunzhi, Drakarpo, Lholing will also benefit from the project. The excess water will help these monasteries and villages grow vegetables in their backyards.Euthok Gompa Lobdra is a monastic school instituted in a monastery build in the 12th century. It is one of the most revered and sacred monasteries in Paro. The monastic school is located on the dry ridge on the way to Dra Karpo Monastery. Euthok Gompa is located at the lower side of the watershed.

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