Chencho Dema  

Punakha — Paddy transplantation, the primary occupation of farmers in Barp gewog, Punakha, is in full swing. Usually, it is also a season of tension and occasional conflicts in the community mainly sparking from farmers stealthily diverting irrigation water from others’ into theirs’ at night.

It was Chencho Dorji’s turn to irrigate the fields in Yuwakha chiwog from the community’s canal yesterday. Unlike in the past, the 42-year-old farmer appeared relaxed and unperturbed today. He does not have to patrol the fields the entire night to look out for miscreants now.

The gewog has now issued a new rule last month that imposes a fine of Nu 5,000 if anyone steals the water during the paddy transplantation.

The gewog, particularly during the paddy cultivation season, frequently experiences incidents involving the destruction of bunds and the uprooting of newly-planted paddy saplings.

Last month, two such incidents were reported in the gewog, one of which was settled internally between the parties and the other of which required police intervention.

Many villagers in the gewog debated whether the long-standing tradition should continue after an incident where a band of men demolished the bund and uprooted the freshly-transplanted paddy of a 35-year-old woman who was accused of stealing irrigation water when it wasn’t her turn.

The residents of Tshokorna, Chasa, Eusakha, Euwakha, and Gamakha chiwogs recently met with their local leaders to discuss the issue, and they came up with a solution of imposing fines instead of destroying the bunds.

Since the new rule was implemented about a month ago, there have been no reports of water theft and no one has been spotted spending hours in their fields watching over the water in the early morning hours.

Every chiwog in turn has the opportunity to irrigate their paddy fields between 5 pm and 5 pm the following day.

Cheychey, the Mangmi of the gewog said during the recent meeting with the people, they proposed for a change and imposing penalty. “Every individual agreed to the new rule and signed the document for implementation. It was unanimously decided,” he added. 

 “We agreed to the new regulation and now we are hopeful that the severe penalty would deter anyone from stealing water,” said Latoy Om, 47, of Chimmipang chiwog.

“In the past, there were a lot of water-related problems that could arise while cultivating paddy. Arguments and physical violence would occasionally break out in fights, but with the new regulation, we are confident that these issues won’t arise,” she added.

Another resident from Yuwakha, Kinley Gyem, 41-year-old said that the dread of incurring a hefty punishment will deter people from stealing irrigation water. “Nu 5,000 is a significant sum for us and would prevent people from committing such acts henceforth,” she added.

According to Chencho Dorji, such traditions need to be modified. “I have paddy planted on three acres of land. Therefore, I am no longer concerned about water theft. Simply direct the water to my field, then unwind and chat with my friends now, he said.

Barp gewog has a total of 280 households with 80.99 acres of wetland and 158.99 dry land.

The total land area of the gewog is 865.35 acres of wet land, 253.22 acres of dry land with 784.36 wetland and 94.13 dry land of cultivated land also orchard 1.93 acres.