Irrigation master plan by this year

An integrated water resources management plan also in the works

IWRM: In the past decade, investments in irrigation dwindled affecting crop yield, especially of paddy, and led to fields turning fallow.

The absence of a long-term plan was the problem, agriculture officials said.

Agriculture chief engineer, Karma Tshethar, said: “We need a long term plan because irrigation is capital intensive and the five-year plan is not enough for proper direction and to optimise investment.”

The five-year-plan activities only focused on minor repairs, which failed to bring about significant impact on yield.

The country will have the irrigation master plan by the end of this year prepared by an Asian Development Bank project that is also preparing the national integrated water resources (IWRM) and Wangchu riven basin management plans.

“Now the government has realised that irrigation is one of the major inputs to increase crop production,” said Karma Sithar, adding that there is a need to pump in both human resources and money into developing irrigation infrastructure.

The plan would include an investment plan and the technology requirements for various regions and crops.

The ministry has identified 108 irrigation canals worth Nu 2.2 billion for the 11th Plan of which 36 are underway in this fiscal year with a budget of Nu 191 million. Government of India has committed Nu 390 million.

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

Besides these measures, the country has to do much more to improve its water security.

National Environment Commission deputy coordinator of the water resources section, Jigme Nidup, said an Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) plan is being prepared to improve water security of the country.

A 2010 World Bank report stated that the country’s water security is less than 50 percent.

The IWRM plan, prepared by a French consultancy, Aegis, along with Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN) and Bhutan Water Partnership, would include measures to improve the country’s water security through various measures.

The IWRM project coordinator, (Ph.D) Lham Dorji said that one of the main components of the 11th Plan is the need to coordinate the water sector and regulate it properly.

“It has also a lot to do in assuring basic rights such as access to clean drinking water,” he said.

“The aim is to take Bhutan’s score to 2.8 from the 2.2 out of five in the World Bank assessment.”

The project would mainstream the household supply, industrial usage, irrigation purposes and urban water situation in to the five-year-plan planning process.

The IWRM plan involves agencies involved in the water sector, ensuring a governance mechanism for these agencies in contributing to water security.

The increase in intensity could accelerate soil erosion and would adversely impact the environment.

“Overall the availability may look that there would be enough water but the timing is more important especially with climate change happening,” Lham Dorji said.

The plan would have mitigation measures for water shortage for the next 15 years.

“We’re in the process of identifying the issues with the water sector and we’ll plan accordingly,” he said.

A technical advisory committee comprising members from various agencies has been formed and will oversee the formulation of river basin management plans for three other basins after Wangchu.

The NEC will prepare the river basin management plans for other basins but would need human resource capacity building, Jigme Nidup said.

Experts said river basin management plans were long overdue considering the ecological significance of the country.

WWF Living Himalayas Initiative programme leader, Sami Tornikoski, said: “If we delay planning at the basin level, it’s only going to be difficult to manage water resources in the future which would have varying adverse impacts.”

Tshering Palden

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