During the previous Plan, another Nu 1.5M was spent on the same channel 

Infrastructure: At least 50 farmers in Meretsemo of Bongo gewog in Chukha will not use the irrigation channel this season to cultivate paddy.

Meretsemo is 19 kilometres away from Gedu. The channel which was constructed more than a year ago is not able to bring water to their paddy fields.

The five-kilometre channel brings water downhill through a pipe until Meretsemo from where the water has to flow upwards for a significant distance to reach paddy fields.

But due to weak pressure, the water is not able to reach the tank that feeds the fields.

Residents of Meretsemo blamed lack of expertise and poor placing of the irrigation channel’s water pipes during construction. An inadequate survey of the area is also attributed.

A resident, Phub Dorji said that the pipe connections were easily broken due to water pressure.

“Pipes are not connected professionally,” he said, pointing out that poor plumbing is to blame.

L-shaped and T-shaped pipe joints that were required in some areas were not used correctly, Phub Dorji said.

As village carpenters worked on the project, they failed to understand the engineering aspects, he said, adding that people had forcefully bent the pipes using the support of trees.

Village Tshogpa Thinley Dorji also said that pipes leaked in a few points, while at some points water could not flow properly.

“This irrigation channel will not help this year,” the tshogpa said. “It is already summer and time for cultivation.”

Thinley Dorji said that the survey of the land carried out prior to laying of the pipes is also to blame. He pointed out that there are numerous locations that needed different approaches.

Another Meretsemo resident, Karma, has also lost hope of using the irrigation channel this year. Besides people not benefitting from the irrigation channel, he said it is also a reminder that the government budget used to construct the channel has been wasted.

“A proper survey must be conducted again,” Karma said. “Professional workers must be given the opportunity to do the task.”

Karma also said that the model used in connecting irrigation pipes is suitable only in the plains where there would not be much pressure.

Meanwhile, the irrigation channel was constructed at a cost of around Nu 1.6 million (M). However, this is not the first time money has been invested in building an irrigation channel in the area. Around Nu 1.5M was also used for the channel in the previous Plan.

Although the pipes used then were smaller than the ones used today, residents of Meretsemo remember using the channel once in 2010. But after that first time use, the channel failed.

Bongo Gup Tashi Dorji said villagers always wait for rainwater to cultivate paddy in Merestemo.

“People have been able to harvest good yield every year because the soil retains the water better,” he said.

However, villagers have to work hard, which the gup said could have been easier with the channel. The issue was also raised during the Prime Minister’s visit to the gewog last year.

Meretsemo villagers have been expecting a team to come and review the project. However, no one has come to the village to check on the channel.

Residents of Meretsemo will start working on their paddy fields next month.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing