As the season for paddy plantation approaches, the people of Sergithang begin to worry.

That is because while they have a huge area of fertile paddy fields, getting enough irrigation water is a major problem. Among the five chiwogs, Sergithang mae and Tashithang face the worst problems.

This issue was raised during agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji’s recent visit to Tsirang.

Tashithang, the largest chiwog in terms of households with 84, draws irrigation water from two sources of Tshedachu and Larichu. Water from the Tshedachu is brought through a 2km irrigation channel to irrigate over 100 acres of fields belonging to 30 households.

While the water at source is already drying up and is mostly rain fed, the channel is in bad shape with numerous leakage points. The channel requires major repair. Although the government had provided pipes to draw water, landslides have washed away certain portions and a fallen boulder has damaged one area, Tashithang tshogpa, Rinchen Phintsho, said.

The water from Larichu is brought through a 1km irrigation channel. It benefits about 35 households but that too requires major repair. “The channel is as old as it was constructed in 1952 and isn’t stable enough to hold adequate water,” the tshogpa said.

The tshogpa added that there isn’t a nearby source but if that the channel is repaired those 35 households will grow bountiful paddy.

There are about seven households located above Tshedachu. They have huge fields but because of no irrigation water source, the fields have been left barren.

However, there is an option that could benefit all 72 households that have paddy fields. Water could be drawn upstream of Larichu, which requires construction of at least 7km of irrigation channels. It is not a perennial river.

Construction of this 7km irrigation channel was proposed in the 11th Plan as well but was scrapped. “Drawing water from the Larichu is necessary. With water aplenty farmers will be encouraged to grow more rice and vegetables,” tshogpa Rinchen said.

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji directed the gewog administration to conduct a detailed study of the irrigation channel and alternative source and submit a report to him.

For almost 10 acres paddy fields belonging to farmers of Sergithang mae and toe, an 8.5km irrigation channel supplies water. This channel is old and has leakages at several points. It was cemented in 2007. These are fairly new paddy fields; most of them were constructed in 2010 and 2011.

Here as well people have found an alternative source. There is a non-perennial river, Jhatey, located 9km away. Hopes of getting a permanent source of irrigation water were high among farmers because in 2015 a survey was also carried out, Sergithang mae tshogpa, Budha Bir Rai said.

“Water from this river will benefit people of three chiwogs of lower Semdenjong, part of Tashithang and Sergithang mae,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sergithang gup, Man Bir Rai said that the Renewable Natural Resource Centre, Bajo has already surveyed to construct an irrigation channel from the Jhatey river. It could not be immediately done because of lack of budget, he confirmed recently.

Another chiwog facing acute irrigation water shortage is Rilangthang. Here government had provided at least 57 rolls of pipes to draw water but the 2014-forest fire burned down the majority of them.

“The area of laying pipes is such that pipes could not be buried, instead it had to be hung over a cliff,” he said. “All naked pipelines were burnt.”

He added that while irrigation water is a major issue in his gewog he has not been able to concentrate on the problem as he has been busy with other important work after assuming office.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang