The team heading the water flagship programme will rework on the programme. Irrigation water was initially not included when drawing up the programme.
It is included only on second thought, on the advice of the prime minister. Irrigation water is as important as drinking water. It cannot be ignored.
Beyond the urban areas, it is the most important. Every cultivation season, farmers across the country are affected. Some delay cultivation to harvest unriped crops and feed it to cattle. Some leave their fields fallow and look for alternatives. One of the main causes of the great urban drift is the lack of water to sustain a rural livelihood.
In agriculture, which is still the mainstay of the country, without water, nothing is impossible. We are largely a rice eating population. Rice needs water, plenty of them. Agriculture experts are well aware. They know best how important irrigation water is in the sector.
Even as the programme is being reviewed, some farmers are rushing paddy transplantation. Some are giving up because there is no water or the quality is unfit for agriculture. In some places, desperate farmers are buying or bartering water for labour.
Nobody needs to tell our policy makers of the priority. We have a national vision of food self-sufficiency. Without water, the grand vision of our forefathers will only remain a vision. We need to work towards achieving it.
Bhutan boasts of rich water resources. Unfortunately, some of our water sources are drying up. The causes are natural, like changing climatic patterns or man made like disturbing catchment area or destroying irrigation channels from other developmental activities.
If there is water, the problem is in distribution. Some have more than enough while some are deprived of it. Traditional water sharing systems have worked well thus far. In some places it is a boon, in others, it is becoming a problem, as land gets fragmented or more sharecroppers take up cultivation.
It is said that the cause of the next global crisis will be water. Perhaps it is exaggerated, but it will be the cause of several problems in Bhutan. The Constitution mandates the state to promote conditions that will enable the pursuit of Gross National Happiness. Shortage of irrigation water is destroying the very basis of community vitality.
When what they need is water or hands in the fields, some farmers are busy running to the gup’s office or the police station. There are cases of villagers getting physical or destroying the paddy fields for stealing water. All these stem from the shortage.
It is a shame that we have not prioritised irrigation water for so long after a lot of promises. Agriculture has been the source of livelihood for generations. It gives reasons for people to abandon their agriculture land. The trend is that no one from younger generation seems to grow crops any more. The work is difficult and unrewarding. If there is no water to grow crops, every body will migrate to the cities.
In places where land value is skyrocketing, farmers are waiting for the first opportunity to convert their fields to plots where they can build hotels and shops. Shortage of water is a good reason to convince the government to let them abandon agriculture.