State visit: His Majesty Carl XVI Gustaf and Her Majesty Queen Silvia gifted a water pump for irrigation to Bjara village under Toewang gewog in Punakha.

Bjara, Khawakha, and Tsephu villages have been experiencing acute shortage of water for irrigation. The farmers cultivate paddy in more than 168 acres.

The villages lie along the Phochhu, and is around a 10km drive from Punakha town.

The water pump is expected to directly benefit eight households in Bjara village and would benefit about 50 households indirectly.

Handing over the pump to the gup, His Majesty Carl XVI Gustaf said, “You should call me if it doesn’t work.”

The water shortage has worsened in recent years, farmer Shenga said.

“When we were young, we had adequate water for paddy cultivation. But now water scarcity gives us nightmares every year, especially during paddy transplantation,” 43-year-old Kado from Tsephu said.

The farmers have to wait for 15 days for their turn to irrigate their fields as three villages share one water source.

“If some of them can depend on the pump for continuous water supply, then the rest of us need not wait for long,” Kado said.

The pump has to be tied to a pole anchored in the river. The river current pushes water through the pump towards the fields.

Their Majesties visited Sangchen Dorji Lhendrup nunnery in Wolokha yesterday and later lighted butter lamps at the kuenrey of Punakha Dzong.

The Swedish National Committee for UNICEF contributed USD 2.1 million for improving the quality of education in Bhutan and for establishing early childhood care and development centres.

Their Majesties were on a three-day state visit to the country at the invitation of His Majesty The King. Bhutan and Sweden established diplomatic relations in 1985. Their Majesties visited Bhutan in 1993.

Their Majesties were accompanied by Sweden’s minister for social security, Annika Strandhall, Sweden’s ambassador to Bhutan, Harald Sandberg, senior Swedish government officials, a business delegation and media.

The visit is expected to further strengthen the longstanding relationship between Bhutan and Sweden.

Their Majesties will leave Bhutan today.

Tshering Palden