Irrigation: Delayed monsoon and drying water sources is causing irrigation problems leaving farmers in Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue, and Trongsa at the mercy of the environment and dependent on the interventions of agriculture ministry.

At the Meet-the-Press on July 7, Agriculture Minister Yeshey Dorji said the ministry had to intervene after monsoon failed to provide enough water and in some villages paddy seedlings were completely wiped out for lack of water.

The ministry resorted to using water pumps to draw water for irrigation, so the farmers could cultivate paddy.

Of 11 gewogs in Punakha, the gewogs of Guma, Toewang, Barp and Chubu  faced shortage of irrigation water this paddy transplantation season. About 130 acres of paddy fields are dependent on water drawn through pumps to cultivate.

The gewogs of Toewang, Dawakha, Nawakha, Khawajara, and Bjibjokha have problems. Bjibjokha has a large irrigation channel completed in 2014 but it is enough for only the upper fields.

Two villages in Chubu gewog, and the villages of Changyul, Zomlingthang and Thara in Guma gewog, Punakha were rescued by water pumped from the Mochhu.

Lobesa village in Barp gewog, Punakha which has about 2,000 acres of paddy fields had fields in its upper areas lacking water.

In Wangdue, Ngashingekha in Rubesa gewog has the most severe irrigation water shortage. The village has been facing shortage of water every year but it has worsened this year in absence of rain.

The minister said that it is still not too late to transplant paddy. “The lunar calendar has two seventh months so there is still time for it,” he said.

The Renewable Natural Resource centres started paddy cultivation in Bajo and Chimepang fields a few days ago. These centres harvest the same time as farmers so the changla is not late, the minister said.

In Phangyul gewog, there is no water source. The irrigation water is sourced from the Baychhu through Kazhi gewog using channels built around 100 years ago.

The village’s irrigation channel broke down and despite having secured funds for its renovation a few years ago, it could not be done, the minister said.

Since last year, the ministry built a water reservoir in the village to partially solve the problem and allow farmers to cultivate paddy.

Of the five gewogs in Trongsa, Endochholing and Dangdhung villages under Langthel gewog were severely hit by shortage of water, which the ministry sorted out early this week using water pumps.

“The seedlings farmers nursed had completely dried up,” Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said.

The ministry is distributing free seedlings from government nurseries to the farmers.

“With plenty of seedlings and water becoming available, I am informed that the farmers are cultivating more fields than before this year,” the minister said. “The crisis there had become a blessing in disguise.”

He said the ministry had doubled the supply of farm machineries for hire to the areas hit by such water problems.

Most of the paddy growing areas in the southern parts of the country start their changla late so the machines allocated to them are brought to supplement the existing ones in the gewogs that could not cultivate from shortage of irrigation.

“So they are doing in days what took weeks earlier,” Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said.

The problems have been addressed for now, he added.

Puzhi village in Mewang gewog, Thimphu is using 60 acres for paddy cultivation and completed transplantation with water from the Wangchhu a few days ago.

The minister said the highest rainfall recorded between June 10 and 28 was only 47mm. “On many days, there was no rain at all,” he said.

Even in places with irrigation channels, if the sources dry up, it is difficult.

He said the change in weather is to blame, as some areas have experienced excessive rain.

Eastern dzongkhags like Samdrupjongkhar and Trashigang received too much rainfall causing roadblocks.

The minister said the ministry has learnt its lessons in how to solve such problems in the future.

“We’ve to prepare for such disasters in the future,” the minister said.

Tshering Palden