Irrigation channel flowing to Sigay’s paddy field is clogged with sand

NRDCL will introduce additional measures to solve the issue

Phurpa Lhamo | Punakha

As paddy cultivation season nears, digging sand out of her irrigation channels has become a routine for 80-year-old Sigay.

With one of the Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited’s (NRDCL) sand quarries located in Tshokhona, Punakha, sand and dust have become a significant problem for the residents and farmers.

According to Tshokhona Tshogpa Dago, farmers and residents have been complaining about the dust from sand excavation for years.

The issue is heightened during excavation season. Sand excavation season begins in November and goes on until early April.

Manager Mani Gyeltshen of NRDCL’s Shar Branch did not deny that there was problem of dust during early excavation.

NRDCL has also received requests, verbally, from Tshokhona Tshogpa and written letter from the Barp Gewog Office to address the issue.

Nima Tshering, a Tshokhona resident, said that sand affected vegetables, fruits and paddy cultivation, adding that it is common to find thick layers of sand in the paddy fields. “We are requesting NRDCL to take measures to solve the dust issue because we are really being affected by it.”

Every day, at east 50 trucks ply between sand depot in Tshokhona and Punakha-Thimphu highway. The number goes up to 100 trucks in peak season.

Kinley Om, a farmer, said that increasing sand in the paddy fields had today affected crop production.

In earlier letters, the farmers have also requested NRDCL to not mount sand above the height of the CGI sheets erected between the paddy fields and sand quarry.

A farmer said that when the sand was mounted, it was easily blown by the wind, thus affecting the houses in Tshokhona.

NRDCL pays a yearly compensation for crop damage to 18 households in Tshokhona. The compensation payment began in 2017 with households receiving a minimum of Nu 8,640 and a maximum of Nu 55,296 depending on the quantity of land and the type of crop grown.

Mani Gyeltshen said that NRDCL had plans to erect wind barricades to lessen sand flow in the paddy fields and houses in Tshokhona.

Strong winds damaged barricade net installed last year.

Mani Gyeltshen said that the nets would be reintroduced with improvements. The nets are six metres in height.

CGI sheets, 3.4 metres high, are also erected between the stockpiled sand and the paddy fields in Tshokhona.

Until recently, tankers were used to sprinkle water along the road to avoid dust.