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Water Resources Management in Bhutan. G.Karma Chhopel. Introduction. Area 38,394 km 2 Population 634,982 (2005). Altitude range from 100m–above 7500m above msl. State of Environment. High-level political commitment 60% forest cover for all times Pristine Environment

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Area 38,394km2

Population 634,982 (2005)

  • Altitude range from 100m–above 7500m above msl

State of environment
State of Environment

  • High-level political commitment

  • 60% forest cover for all times

  • Pristine Environment

    • 72.5% forest cover

  • 9% biological corridor

  • ~50% protected area

Water resources management in bhutan

  • Conservation jewel of the Eastern Himalayas

  • Flora and fauna

    • 7500 vascular plants (82 are endemic)

    • >300 medicinal plants,

    • 50 species rhododendron,

    • >40 species of orchids

    • 770 sps of Birds (14 IUCN)

    • 167 sps mammals (26 IUCN)

High bio-diversity concentration

Biodiveristy invertebrates
Biodiveristy - invertebrates

  • Rich biodiversity

  • Historical reasons; N-Thailand, N-Myanmar, Yunan, Assam, etc.

  • Rhyacophila 34 sps, 32 in Nepal

  • Glossosomatidae 16 sps,

    14 in Nepal

Epiophlebia laidlawi

Hydraena karmai

Water resources
Water Resources

  • Bhutan is endowed with rich perennial water resources due to its head water source fed with permanent glaciers & associated glacier lakes, vast forest coverage & recurrence monsoon

  • Four major river basins are:

  • Amochhu, Wangchhu, Punatsangchhu & Manas

  • Major rivers flows North to South culminating into Indian plains

  • 3 transboundary rivers: Amochhu, Kurichhu & Gamri

Water resources management in bhutan

Major River Systems





Water resources1
Water Resources

  • Most promising hydropower potential sites are located deep steep river reach in narrow valleys (30,000 MW)

  • All most all the hydropower projects are run-of-the-schemes except few storage schemes in the foot hills

  • Natural rivers/streams water quality is reported as excellent conditions expect at localized urban areas

  • Deep groundwater is virtually unused in Bhutan; hydro-geological science is still at infancy

Water resources in bhutan
Water Resources in Bhutan

98% urban and 88% rural population has access to safe drinking water

Middle path national environment strategy
Middle Path: National Environment Strategy

3 avenues to sustainable development

  • Agriculture Intensification

  • Hydropower

  • Industrialization

All the above are major users of water

Water act guiding elements
Water Act : Guiding Elements

7th Session of the Parliament, 31 May 2011

  • Ensure conservation & protection & sustainable management of Water Resources

  • Grant equity in water allocation and use

  • Respect traditional water rights if based on equity and social justice

  • Ensure licensing of water for commercial uses

  • Be supported by secondary legislations

  • Uphold international legal norms and conventions

Water act 2011 7 th session of the parliament 31 may 2011
Water Act 20117th Session of the Parliament, 31 May 2011

  • Coordinate national IWRM

  • Conduct inventory on water resources

  • River Basin Management Plan (River basin committees and WUAs)

  • Set WQ standards

  • Set minimum environmental flow

Challenges and consequences
Challenges and consequences

  • Unpredictable seasonality

  • Accelerated melting of glaciers

  • Extreme Climate: Higher incidence of flooding and dry spells

  • Reduction in over all river flows & water shortages

  • Drying of water sources & rivers

Challenges and consequences1
Challenges and consequences

  • Increasing demand from increasing populations

  • Unsustainable development of hydropower

  • Extinction of plant and animal species

  • GLOF is another

    serious threat

Adaptation measures
Adaptation measures

  • Investing in alternative sources of energy (solar, wind, biogas)

  • Establish flood & weather forecasting and advance warning systems

  • Build check-dams & water reservoirs using natural contours of riverbeds

  • Promote rainwater harvesting & WSUD

Green Roof

Adaptation measures contd
Adaptation measures (contd..)

  • Adopt drought resistant varieties of crops & livestock

  • Place more areas under parks and protected areas

  • Protect watersheds and wetlands

Regional national initiatives
Regional & National initiatives

  • Bhutan Climate Summit for the Eastern Himalayas Southern watershed

  • Establish strong upstream-downstream economic linkages (cost-benefit sharing)

  • Establish an effective networking system for information, data and technology

    • Focal institutes for glaciology, hydrology, energy, food security etc.

    • Conduct inventory of water resources

  • Regional national initiative
    Regional & National initiative

    • Conservation of wetlands

    • Improvement of irrigation systems

    • Promoting rational use of irrigation water

    • Control the spread of impervious ground cover that impedes the recharging of ground water resources

    International support
    International support

    • Funds and technology for mitigation and adaptation measures

    • Funds to develop sectoral rules and regulations

    • Technology/ knowledge transfer from institutions such as MRC

    • Support research & monitoring programmes


    • Events in HKH have global consequences (social, economy, ecology)

    • Strong evidence of climate change

    • Need to act now rather

      than later

    • Investing for the world