Budget drought hits irrigation schemes

The government will look into pre-financing the schemes to boost DoA’s performance 

Water: Thirty-seven irrigation schemes of the 108 that the government identified in the 11th Plan may not materialise.

The agriculture department proposed to drop the schemes for want of budget during the ministry’s mid-term review recently.

Department of Agriculture’s director general Nim Dorji said, “While proposed outlay budget to implement 108 schemes was Nu 2,500 million, there is no funding assurance apart from Government of India and few from other projects.”

The government of India has committed altogether Nu 390 million. But, “There is no funding assurance for 88 remaining schemes,” he said.

The department has a target of increasing paddy fields under improved irrigation system to 79,040 acres.

The director general said it also has to reduce the target of “increased paddy field area under improved irrigation system” from 79,040 acres to 61,447 acres.

He said Phuntshothang agriculture rehabilitation project in Samdrupjongkhar worth Nu 194M, which was earlier not in the Plan, needs major irrigation works, which alone would cost about Nu 60M.

The agriculture ministry has a cereal production target of 223,737 metric tonne (MT) at the end of the Plan of which paddy production target is 98,894MT per annum. The ministry has achieved a production of 78,763MT per annum from a baseline of 78,730MT at the start of the Plan.

According to agriculture officials, farmers in Dagana and Tsirang because of drought last year had left fallow about 50 and 65 acres of field each respectively. The two dzongkhags combined lost about 138MT as a result.

Despite that, the ministry recorded an increased average productivity of 1.57MT per acre last year compared to 1.3MT per acre in 2011.

The ministry also brought 612.94 acres of horticulture or cash crop area under irrigation using drip and mini sprinklers.

The RNR sector has achieved an annual growth rate of 2.94 percent against the target of four percent. The sector growth was 1.9 percent before the Plan’s implementation.

Of the 108 identified irrigation canals worth Nu 2.2 billion  (B) in the 11th Plan, 36 schemes started in 2014-15 fiscal year with a budget of Nu 191M.

Another 35 are identified for the next fiscal year but the ministry is still seeking funds.

The department proposed a revised budget from Nu 2.3B in the budget outlay to Nu 2.52B.

Gross National Happiness Commission secretary Sonam Wangchuk said that pre-financing was needed for better performance in the agriculture sector.

Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay said the government could explore the option of pre-financing those projects under Project-Tied Assistance (PTA) using the fund from the consolidated account of the PTA budget.

Tshering Palden

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