Agriculture: One of the rice growing gewogs, Gosarling in Tsirang is today in dire need of better irrigation channels.

While Gosarling does have an old irrigation channel, it falls in the middle of three other gewogs: Kilkorthang, Mendrelgang and Dunglagang. The water in the irrigation channel is shared among farmers of the other gewogs, mostly Dunglagang and Kilkorthang. As a result, hardly any water reaches Gosarling.

The gewog does have more than eight irrigation channels most of which were constructed some 20-30 years ago.

One of them, a 14km channel in Zomlingzor chiwog is as old as 60 years. The channel is still used as it has been maintained regularly.

Gosarling Gup Kharka Bahadur Tamang said that every year, water from the sources are decreasing in volume and most of the sources have begun drying up.

Sources of four of the irrigation channels that brought most of the water to the gewog, Gup Kharka Bahadur said, have begun drying up.

“Most irrigation channels are rain-fed and unless there is heavy rain, water is never enough to irrigate fields here,” he said.

He added that Gosarling has in total 327 acres of wetland, of which only about 280 acres is cultivated. The rest is either left barren or farmers grow other crops such as maize or cardamom.

The Harpey river that flows below Damphu town is one of the major sources of water for Gosarling. However, water can be drawn from the river only after the peak of the monsoon season, which is too late for farmers who have to transplant their paddy earlier.

The gup said that because of the lack of irrigation water, at least 56 households have given up cultivating their wetland in the gewog. “When you can’t farm, farmers have no option but to look for other means to earn,” he said. “A few people I know have gone to work for the National Work Force on the roads.”

Among the six chiwogs of Gosarling, Zomlingzor is the worst affected. The chiwog has two irrigation channels. The most reliable source located about 14km away has enough water.

But because the channel was built in the 1950s and despite maintenance, much leakage occurs along the way, Tshogpa Jit Bahadur Kharka said.

“An estimated Nu 2 million will be required to lay HDP (High-density polyethylene) pipes or to build a concrete irrigation channel on the same route,” he said. “But the gewog does not have money.”

The situation in Zamlingthang chiwog is similar. Its more than 70 households depend on the little water that is drawn through three irrigation channels. It has been more than four years since the fourth channel was damaged.

Three of the channels have had concrete added at certain intervals to prevent water loss through leakage but it has not helped much, Tshogpa Damber Singh Sunwar said.

However, Gosarling still managed to achieve its 11th Plan target of producing 400 metric tonnes (MT) of paddy a year. Last year it produced 522.2MT.

Tsirang as a whole produced 4,443.8MT of rice last year, 1,056MT short of its 5,500MT annual target.

Meanwhile, villagers are hoping for a better harvest this year, going by the heavy rain Tsirang received in last few days.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang