A decade ago, people of Bobsar chiwog in Goshing, Zhemgang had to walk for a day to reach the nearest road head in Panbang and Gomphu.

With the opening of the Gomphu-Panbang highway, people only take about 25 minutes to reach Panbang. The highway also opened up developmental activities and benefitted the local residents.

However, located right below the highway, the villagers also have to face the brunt of development, as the residents of the 45 households in the village could not cultivate paddy this year.

Bobsar is located about 300ms above Mangdechu. “With steep slopes, pumping water is also not possible,” a villager said.

Goshing gewog mangmi, Pema Samdrup, said people of Bobsar had been relying on rainwater until now, as the water sources are located above the highway. “But this year, there was no rain during cultivation season and people were forced to leave their fields fallow.”

The local leader said that the gewog and agriculture extension office are aware of the problem and they were exploring ways to take the irrigation water through the highway.

Zhemgang dzongkhag agriculture officer, Phuntsho, said that he did not receive any report as of now. “But the weather is very erratic.”

He said that the dzongkhag agriculture office and gewog had initiated and resolved many irrigation water issues.

“The gewog renovates and maintains most of the irrigation canals through gewog budget.”

Phuntsho explained that the dzongkhag initiated and renovated an irrigation canal in Takabi through the ministry’s irrigation division. “Through the central budget, the irrigation canal, which was not renovated for more than 30 years, was maintained and it is benefitting the local residents.”

He said that the agriculture sector is now emphasizing people to develop terraces. “We are now exploring funds for Trong and Dangkhar, where there is a need for major funds.”

Meanwhile, in Bobsar the paddy fields are overgrown with grasses. People have let their cattle graze on them.

Thinley Wangchuk, 55, said he would usually be guarding the crop from wild animals.

He said he owns an acre of wetland, which usually produces rice enough to last his family of 11 for a year. “Some of my children might have to go and look for manual works at the construction sites this year. We might have to buy rice.”

Another villager, Rinchen Gyuden, 28, said people in the village sowed paddy seeds but they could not transplant the saplings because of lack of irrigation and rainwater. “The saplings are damaged and we couldn’t do anything.”

The father of three said the whole village might have lost about 80-90 drey (traditional grain measuring instrument) of rice while sowing the seeds. “Most people might have to rely on construction works to buy rice.”

Villagers said that Bobsar is not the only village that is affected by lack of irrigation water. “In Budashi and Lamtang, people have ploughed the fields but could not cultivate because of lack of water,” a Pantang resident said.

The villagers also said that although all political parties promised to resolve the irrigation water issue, they do not have much hope. “When there is no source nearby, I don’t think parties could connect us with reliable water.”

Tashi Dema