Works have disrupted irrigation channels and paddy fields in Rongthong

Road: Farmers in Rongthong had begun preparing nurseries for their paddy saplings when the irrigation water started running muddy.

It was April and Project DANTAK had just started the ongoing 180Km Samdrupjongkhar – Trashigang highway widening works at Rongthong. The existing road width of six meters would be further widened to 10 meters.

About two weeks ago, the irrigation pipeline was also disrupted affecting about 40 households.

Rongthong Tshogpa, Sangay Dorji said they were never informed that the highway widening works would coincide with the maize and paddy cultivation time.

“About three households didn’t carry out transplantation because the widening activities had started above their paddy fields before the season,” he said.

Most villagers are old and they have to hire labours to take up farming works, the gup said adding that this would also impact paddy yield.

“We understand that developmental activities are inevitable,” he said. “But had we been informed, villagers would have opted to cultivate less crops.”

About 15 households are also affected after their maize fields above the road were excavated to make space for the primary highway. Two houses are at a risk prone area.

Officer Commanding (OC) with Project DANTAK Kumar Jayant said they had informed the dzongkhag administration that works would begin from April 2. The forestry office was also informed.

“We have to excavate an additional four meters of road,” he said adding that there are instances when the water supply gets affected during the works.

He said the cutting of irrigation pipeline was necessary but mitigation measures are being deployed so the water flow is not restricted.

“As soon as we cut the pipe, we dig a drain at the edge to channel through the water. If some slides occur, we have a machine to clear it at the earliest,” he said.

The OC recommended that water crossing across the road should be directed through culverts and not over the roads.

If people could point out where the irrigation channels would be affected, he said that arrangements could be made to avoid spilling of water over the newly blacktopped double lane road.

“If they can give us about five locations at least about 700 meters away from one another, we can use Hume pipes to direct the water across,” the OC said.

Farmers also said that if Project DANTAK could take up widening works in winter, then crops would not be affected.

Project DANTAK said that should the public propose in writing on what distance of land should not be cleared in which season and copy the same to the dzongkhag administration, the letter would be forwarded to higher authorities for action.

Kanglung gup Kinzang Dorji meanwhile said that the government would compensate the affected households whose crops (maize) were damaged.

Tshering Wangdi, Trashigang