… project official says all was good a few weeks ago

Chencho Dema | Punakha 

The paddy saplings are ripe, and paddy fields in Yousakha-Chorten Nyingpo chiwog in Kabjisa gewog, Punakha are ploughed and ready for cultivation. Usually the landscape would be covered in greenery by now. 

However, the locals are waiting for irrigation water. They are frustrated. 

The construction of 8km Hokatsho irrigation project, constructed with the Green Climate Fund, that was handed over to the community on May 30 was expected to supply adequate water for cultivation.

The chairperson of the chiwog’s water association, Khandu said that the problem was with the distribution line since there was adequate water at the source.

Khandu said that there is plenty of water for irrigation in Dokuna, where there is no cultivation. “We asked the authorities to connect three of the water sources we used to draw water for paddy cultivation before the construction of the canal, but they did not heed our request and connected only one water source,” he said.  

Paddy saplings

Canal remains clogged

Farmers requested the gewog to connect the two other water sources through the same line namely Kar-Yu-Na and Phurub-Tochu-Khoesa which required no extra expenses. 

The project manager of GCF, Sherub Gyeltshen said he recently returned to Thimphu from Kabjisa gewog after resolving the issue. 

“The issue was that the water directly flowed through main pipeline and only small amount was flowing through the Distribution Points (DP) or outlets. Therefore, on the request of the beneficiaries and dzongkhag, a gate valve was installed at the tail or end point to control the water outflow and to let more water flow through the DPs into the fields,” he said. 

He said that the water flow was high until a few days ago.

“Out of the three water sources, the one we have tapped with the main pipeline has the largest water source, and this was done in accordance with the design specifications. The source water is also sufficient,” he said. 

Gup, tshogpa, and the water association chairperson and beneficiaries signed the handing taking note indicating their satisfaction on the scheme construction but now they are complaining, he said. 

He said that the water sources have either dried up or reduced in volume across the country due to less or no rain. “Few issues will crop up as it is a new scheme but dzongkhag administration and project will try to resolve them. Recently, the beneficiaries also damaged one of the gate vales which the project replaced with a new one. 

He said that farmers are continually doing their paddy transplantation from the irrigation water while some beneficiaries have already completed the paddy transplantation. 

Normal water distribution and paddy rice cultivation starts on May 1.The cultivation is two weeks behind schedule according to Khandu. 

Phurba, 51, who has not yet begun cultivating paddy, claimed that the seedlings have likewise dried up. If the problem is rectified in a week, they could still cultivate, but after that, it will be too late. “Even rain doesn’t do much good because the drains where the water used to flow to our fields are clogged with mud by the project,” he said.  

Former Kabjisa Gup, Dorji said that it was a major issue and that the relevant authorities should look into it urgently. 

“While some households have reduced rice saplings, they are still unable to cultivate due to a lack of water, others have hired power tillers but are unable to use them,” he said.  

Another resident, Gyem said, “One of the distribution points is located above my land. However, there is not much water flow.” 

Kabjisa Gup Sonam Dorji said that villagers have been complaining about the lack of water to his office for more than a week. He said that on June 13, he wrote to the dzongkhag administration about the problem and was waiting for a response. 

“I also informed the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly about the situation because it is his constituency, and he has agreed to look into it,” he said.

The project was handed over to the dzongkhag on May 30, this year. Kumar Galley, 45, believed there would be enough water for cultivation. On June 1, he removed 160 bundles of saplings. “All of my saplings have dried up because I was unable to transplant them,” he said.  

Most of the farmers cultivate enough for themselves and don’t buy imported rice. They  said that they are worried of missing the paddy cultivation this year. 

With a Nu 30.15 million funding from GCF, Hokatsho irrigation canal was expected to benefit 54 households and irrigate 190.2 acres of paddy fields in the Yousakha-Chorten Nyingpo chiwog.