It’s been more than seven years since seven households of Phungtenchu gewog in Tsirang left 15 acres of their paddy fields fallow.

This, according to the farmers, is because the Burichhu flowing nearby has been washing away portions of their paddy fields every year since 2009 after the river changed its course. “So far at least six acres of fields have been washed away,” a farmer said.

The Burichhu also washed away the main irrigation channel.

The issue was raised during the agriculture minister Yeshey Dorij’s recent visit to the gewogs in Tsirang.

After the main irrigation channel was washed away farmers have not been able to cultivate the land.

A villager, Sangay Tenzin said that he owned three acres of paddy fields and he used to harvest enough to feed his family of seven. “We also could sell some and earn an income.”

His family now depends on imported rice.

Another landowner, Tshulkhrims Yountan Gyatsho, who owns 2.8 acres of paddy fields said a major flash flood in 2009 washed away over an acre of land along with the irrigation channel. “In the following year, farmers repaired the irrigation channel and cultivated some part of the field but it was washed away again.”

Farmers said they lost hope after 2011 when the irrigation channel was damaged beyond repair.

“A detailed damage report was submitted to the gewog as well as dzongkhag administration but nothing has progressed,” said Tshulkhrims who is a former gup.

He added that the land was fertile and enabled people to cultivate paddy twice a year.

Norbuthang tshogpa, Purna Bahadur Rai said the river has changed its course towards the fields and building protection walls did not help in diverting the water.

“Although the dzongkhag planned to built a gabion wall, it had to be dropped as the cost was high,” he said. “An estimate was about Nu 7 million.”

The tshogpa said constructing walls will be a temporary solution. “A permanent solution will be to either change the course of the river or if we could get land replacement.”

Meanwhile, agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji directed the gup to submit a detailed report on the issue. “We can then think of a solution or can apply for land replacement,” he said.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang