Tshering Namgyal | Banjar

Three years after a dry land irrigation scheme was implemented through a dry land irrigation network project, farmers of Lebi Tokari Pam in Tsamang, Mongar, are still waiting for water to reach their fields.

The gewog administration and agriculture extension office is executing the project departmentally.

Villagers said the irrigation scheme is expected to benefit at least 40 households, including the 13 permanent residents, with a total land holding of about 80 acres of fields.

They said they could not irrigate their lands because of a years-long acute water shortage.

Gewog officials said that through the project, water is being trapped from a clean stream at Meralung water source and taken through 5km of a pipeline distribution network to the fields.

They said water will then be catered through individual reservoirs for both irrigation and drinking purposes.

However, farmers are still sceptical about the progress of the work.

They said they have contributed labour for more than two years.

A farmer, Tenzin, said each household contributed labour for more than a month and carried materials from the road.

“We’d hire pickup trucks to transport materials like pipes, sand, cement, and iron that have been dropped at the gewog centre, paying Nu 800 per trip. We’ve constructed the reservoir ourselves by hiring labourers,” he said.   

“But the water has not reached our field.”

The materials have been procured from the total project budget of Nu 1.6 million through the climate-resilient agriculture project.

Farmers said work has been stalled due to a lack of adequate materials and technical experts at the site.

“Pipes and iron rods are not enough. They provide only three rods for the construction of a three cubic metre water reservoir tank when the requirement expert recommends at least 26 rods for the given tank size,” a farmer, Dorji, said.

Villagers also said they did most of the tank construction work themselves without a dedicated engineer to supervise or a plumber to assist at the site.

They said that even if a plumber comes, he spends just a day or two at the site and returns to the dzongkhag headquarters.

Meanwhile, out of the 21 households that have constructed water tanks at present, many have not been able to construct lids, and about 20 households did not receive pipes for internal distribution.

Villagers claimed that the pipeline distribution also has alignment problems at a certain point and they are worried if water will pass through it to their reservoir tanks.

“There’s a serious issue with everything in this project right from the material supply to the monitoring. We don’t know who will compensate us for our weeks of labour? We need somebody to monitor the work properly as per the estimates and design,” Dorji said. “The project should be completed soon, too.”

Due to management issues, residents complained that two truckloads of sand unloaded beside the road had been washed away by the summer rain.

They also said bags of cement are damaged near the gewog centre.

Meanwhile, the Royal Audit Authority (RAA) had also issued a series of memos related to the work such as non-reconciliation of financial statements amounting to Nu 23,027, irregular fund balances under the refundable deposit amount of Nu 94,000, and non-adherence to the standing circular on the purchase of HDPE pipes that amount to Nu 24,945, which the gewog administration is required to deposit into audit recoveries accounts.

The RAA had also pointed out non-ascertainment of consumption of cement due to non-maintenance of Part III for the development work and asked the gewog administration to engage the concerned site engineer and take the measurement of work being executed and record it accordingly.

Gewog officials were not available for comment.

The activity was not funded through Green-Climate Fund financing as mentioned in the print version of this article.