Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar

With imported fish often coming under the radar of regulatory bodies, Samrang gewog in Samdrupjongkhar could provide the answer to the growing market for fish.

The gewog has ventured into fishery with some farmers already depended on rearing fish as a new alternative for livelihood. However, the main resource for rearing fish, water would become a problem in the gewog hampering the newfound wealth. Without water, farmers can harvest fish only once a year although it is possible twice a year if water is not an issue.

Dhan Bahadur, the first to start a fishery in the gewog started with two ponds and planted 7,500 fingerlings in 2017. He built the ponds  costing  Nu 30,000 and Nu 200 per kilogram of fingerlings.

Dhan Bahadur, 37, said he started rearing fish for self-consumption, but finding the potential started expanding. In the last three year since 2017, he earned more than Nu 100,000. He wanted to expand and rear fish on a huge scale, but said without water, it was impossible. “We have reported the matter to the gewog administration.”

Laxmi Narayan Pradan, 65, said that he is taking up the fishery for the first time and the dzongkhag livestock office supported him with constructions of the ponds and provided him with about 5,000 fingerlings. “It is an opportunity to earn income for farmers like us.”

He said they wouldn’t be able to harvest more than once a year like others because of the water problem in winter. “We hope the fisheries would do well as we are planning to pump water from Dewrali soon so that we could also harvest in winter.”

In summer, water is not an issue, but there is an acute shortage of water in winter because of drying sources. Farmers have to change the water in the ponds twice a year. “We need consistent water supply for fish farming. How can fish live without water?” said another farmer, Dolu Gurung.

For now, farmers will have to put on hold their plans to expand their fishery. Gewog officials said the water sources are located far away from the gewog which requires a massive budget.  “The gewog does not have a budget,” said gewog official adding that elephants also destroy the water channels.

“We are planning to propose in the next plan,” he said.