… on addressing their irrigation woes

Agriculture: The farmers of Baap gewog in Punakha usually complete their paddy transplantations by the birth anniversary of Guru Rinpoche every year, which was yesterday.

However, only farmers of the lower part of the gewog had completed their  transplantations as of yesterday, while more than 100 households in upper Baap still await irrigation water.

“We are yet to transplant paddy on more than 600 acres of paddy fields,” said Drakpa, a farmer from Usakha chiwog in upper Baap. “We are worried as the plantation season is drawing to a close.”

Paddy is not just the main source of income for the farmers of Baap but many of them are sharecropping and have to pay their landlords with rice.

“With not even a single droplet of rain, we are worried about the likely consequences we might face on failure to carry out paddy transplantation this year,” said Namgay, another farmer.

There was some rainfall earlier with which Drakpa’s family managed to carry out transplantations on about an acre but without more rain or water to continue the irrigation, the field dried up.

Thangkha, who claimed to have 17 family members to support, is worried about the consequences. “Since we are solely dependent on agriculture, failure to carry out paddy transplantation would mean facing grave repercussions,” he said. “Almost every expense including those for our school going children and household needs is met by selling rice.”

The problem arose when the irrigation channel connecting Toeb-Rongchu at Chaksakha was blocked by road widening works between 2014 and 2015.

However, the Department of Roads spent Nu 5.5 million and cleared the block last year.

Widening works has however again blocked the irrigation channel, farmers said.

The department and affected farmers held a consultation meeting at the site of the blockage in March, this year, and agreed to carry out maintenance work only in 2017 when highway widening work will be completed. This decision was reached as it was found that the irrigation channel could not be prevented from being blocked during the widening work.

The works and settlement ministry agreed to provide Nu 4.2M for the purpose.

Baap Gup Wangchuk said that since villagers require an immediate solution for this year’s transplantation, as a temporary measure, the ministry has provided the gewog with Nu 650,000.

“We can’t irrigate 600 acres of field using piped water, therefore we decided to look for pumping facilities,” he said.

The decision was passed through the gewog tshogde.

The initial plan was to purchase a pumping machine from Australia with the help of an expert from the Bajo research centre, however, the plan was dropped after they learnt it would take three months to reach the gewog.

Following which, they decided to borrow pumping machines from the agriculture machinery centre in Bajo.

Gup Wangchuk said it requires three machines to pump water from a source located 85 metres below the irrigation channel. Each pump costs Nu 2,000 to hire daily.

“If we pay the hiring charge, we will not have enough for fuel,” said the gup. As a result, on June 14 they wrote to the ministry requesting to do away with the hiring charges. “We are yet to receive the ministry’s response,” he said.

“We are hopeful to receive a positive response from the ministry, which will help us provide irrigation water for all the villagers within a few days and complete 99 percent of transplantation works,” he said.

Dawa Gyelmo | Punakha