Agriculture: Owing to less rainfall this year and an absence of a proper irrigation channel, rice growers of Pakaling chiwog in Radhi are expecting a substantial drop in yield this year.

About 100 acres of paddy field in Khudungpang and another 25 acres in Kologchi are supposed to be affected.

Farmers of Pakaling depended on a small stream in Khardung to tap irrigation water.

But a landslide damaged their earthen irrigation channel about a decade ago and the water supply reduced to a trickle.

Without adequate water after the transplantation this time, a farmer, Kuenzang Yeshey said weeds have started sprouting in abundance.

“We are expecting a further drop in the yield from 30 percent last year to 40 percent this year,” he said. “We have been facing the problem of water shortage for almost five years now.”

Given the problem, he added that few households have also stopped cultivating paddy, which is one of the main sources of income for Radhipas.

Radhi mangmi, Pema Wangchuk, said the transplantation also gets delayed by more than a month every season. This, he said was affecting the timely growth of paddy resulting in a lower yield.

“With water sources remaining dry until May, we have to wait for monsoon to arrive,” he said. “Those who would harvest up to 2,000 kg of paddy every year harvested about 1,500 kg last year.”

Besides Pakaling, Radhi gup Jigme Namgyal said that Tshangkhar, Langteng, Dekiling, Tokshimang and Jonla are other villages grappling with shortage of irrigation water.

There was an irrigation channel constructed sometime in 2003 to irrigate almost 70 percent of the paddy fields in Radhi. But a landslide washed it away. Through the IFAD funding of Nu 4M in 2012, the gewog then procured pipes to tap water from the Yudiri.

“However, another landslide after the Yudiri flood completely wiped out the water source. Ever since, most of the farmers are totally dependent on rainwater,” he said.

After the gewog raised the issue of irrigation water with the agriculture minister last year and during the recent gup’s conference, a team of engineers from Wengkhar department and JICA officials visited for inspections.

Dzongkhag Agriculture Officer (DAO), DC Bhandari said that the team carried out some feasibility studies to see the possibility of reviving the irrigation channel at Yudiri. “But we are yet to hear from them,” he said.

Radhi’s agriculture extension supervisor, Tenzin Rabgay said he received complaints from the Radhi rice group of Pakaling on the irrigation channel at Khardung. After carrying out surveys in five different locations, findings were submitted to the gewog and the dzongkhag administration.

“The problem would be solved and I was informed that the gewog has already procured the pipes,” he said.

In the 2015-2016 fiscal year, he added that the department has approved the construction of two irrigation channels in Radhi, one from Shedragpa to Yatongla Chema and the other from Chokornye to Khardung.

“We would also be carrying out installation of pipes at Phagpari area,” he said.

Radhi, also known as the rice bowl of eastern Bhutan is home to around 1,250 acres of paddy fields of which about 200 acres don’t receive adequate irrigation water.

By Tshering Wangdi, Trashigang