Three gewogs have acute shortage of water for irrigation
Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue
The people of Wangduephodrang take pride in the varieties of indigenous rice they grow. From Nabja to Tantshering to Wangdakam, the dzongkhag is known for rice.
High on the pride list is the Shar gi Wangdakam grown in the shar region, Bjena gewog. However, rice cultivation that needs plenty of water for almost four months is under threat from the shortage of irrigation water.
Shortage of water is forcing farmers to leave fields fallow. Records with the dzongkhag agriculture sector shows that over 1,780 acres of land has been left fallow.
Of that 50 percent is in the three gewogs of Gasetshogom, Gasetshowom, and Phangyul gewogs.
In Phangyul, of about 1,000 acres of command land (cultivated and cultivable land), more than 370 acres remain fallow. The Phangyul-Kumchi chiwog, which has around 175 households, is among the many affected in the gewog.
According to Phangyul gup Ugyen, almost all land in Phangyul-Kumchi remained fallow despite farmer’s effort to cultivate.
He added that because lack of water has affected irrigation, farmers tried cultivating chillies. That too failed. Similarly, in Genkha chiwog, around 50 percent of the land remains uncultivated. And in Chumgen, around 30 percent of the land was not cultivated.
Famers of Gasetshogom have resorted to finding employment outside the gewog as farming is affected without water. According to Gasetshogom gup, Kinley Gyeltshen, due to lack of water, people find work in other’s field (those with water), work at construction site and along the roads.
“If not for the rain, they cannot do anything. So they have to find another source of income,” Kinley Gyeltshen said.
Of five chiwogs in the gewog, four of it has serious water issues. The affected includes around 150 households.
Wangdue’s water issue, apart from drying of the water sources is also because of the traditional water distribution system. Most in Gasetshogom gewog despite owning land, doesn’t have access to water. This according to Kinley Gyeltshen is because in the past, despite one selling their land, the share of the water is not sold with the land.
When it is paddy transplantation time, quarrels and arguments are common in the dzongkhag. “We also have unresolved court cases, which is an issue for everyone,” said Kinley Gyeltshen.
If not for the water issues, Wangdue bears major potential in agriculture. Wangdue is home to seven verities of rice like Wangdakam, Tantshering, Machum, Nabja, Mapp phogom, Bonday, Bajo kapp and Bajo mapp. Wangdakam produced from Bjena gewog is a speciality and sells for around Nu 250 in market.
There are solutions identified, which could run into millions of ngultrums. The Wangdue dzongkhag has identified three major waters sources.
For Gasetshogom and Gasetshowom gewogs, the water source at Hasotshamchu located around 43km from the gewogs was identified. The dzongkhag has proposed Nu 125 million (M) budget for the project. However, on further study, the dzongkhag concluded that a total of Nu 251M was required for procuring and laying of the pipes.
The dzongkhag is today seeking additional budget. According to Wangdue’s Planning Officer, Passang Dorji, if approved the project would benefit around 532 households.
He added that another source at Baychu will help resolve the issue in Phangyul gewog. A budget of Nu 187M from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) was already approved. Groundwork has begun to bring the water located around 34km from the gewog.
Another source from Pangza chhu in Khotokha has also been identified to help water issues in Ruebisa and Bjena gewog.
The project has secured a fund of Nu 50M from the Small Development Projects and another Nu 67.65M from GCF. Work will begin in 2021 and will be completed by 2023.