Due-Zhi and Bara villagers pin their hope on water flagship programme

Phub Dem | Paro

The light showers came as a relief to the parched land.  Two days ago, the ground looked baked even with the sky overcast with clouds.  The terraced fields, shorn of crops or signs of cultivation, indicate it has been dry for some time.

Without water, this had been the case for locals of Due-Zhi and Bara in upper Dopshari gewog, Paro.  The wait for water has been long.  However, with the early spring showers yesterday and the day before, there is hope in the air.  Villagers were told that the area would be covered under the upcoming water flagship programme in Paro.

The two villages have been without water for years.  Bara, which is located above the road, wears a deserted look.  Rice fields are left to fallow.  Locals tried their hands at apples, but without water, the fruit trees are dying too.

Due-Zhi, which is located below the road, has access to water for irrigation from the mini hydroelectric project nearby.  Both Bara and Due-Zhi were dependent on surplus water the villagers of Jipa, a neighbouring village, shared.  Locals said that, although land price in Paro was soaring every year, they couldn’t sell their land because of water scarcity.

Due-Zhi-Jipa tshogpa Kinga Tenzin said, while the existing water source had dried up, the number of households increased. “The water that was sufficient for three households is now shared among 20 households.”

There is a water channel above the village that brings water from the Drakey Pangtsho lake, but residents were unable to tap the water due to the requirement of heavy equipment

With limited households, some locals said people do not know where to raise the concern. “Many have left the village but are willing to return if the water issue is solved.”

Tshering Penjore, a native of Due-Zhi, remembers growing paddy on his family’s land.  He said that, earlier, Due-Zhi had only four households.  Over the years, it increased to more than 30.

He claims that it had been 27 years since the residents had stopped cultivating the land due to water shortages. “If the government can maintain the old irrigation channel, water connection from Drakey Pangtsho can reach the village.”

Another resident Sonam said that he was willing to return to his land and start some projects, but said it was impossible to do anything without water.

He said that if the flagship programme starts sooner, he could begin planning for utilising the land.  Like him, residents are looking forward to the water flagship programme.

Dopshari Gup Tshering Dorji acknowledges the water shortage facing the community.  He said that poor management from the source to the households was the cause of the shortage.

Although there were water issues in Bara, he said no one came to the gewog to raise the issue.  He said that if people come forward with the issue, the gewog could help.

There are possibilities of connecting water from Jepa, for which the residents should come up with proposals. “The land was left to fallow, but if people come up with projects, gewog must supply water.”

The water flagship programme in Paro is expected to benefit six gewogs.

The gup said the programme was delayed because of some mistakes in water connection mappings and also due to the lockdown. “We’ll carry out a re-survey in two weeks and start the programme at the earliest.”

The gup said proper planning was needed to ensure funds are utilised well.  It was found out that the government invested more than Nu 10 million for water projects in Shari gewog.  However, Tshering Dorji said that it did not serve the purpose.

He said that the money was spent on buying equipment without proper studies. “Unnecessary tanks and pipes were connected without any research.”

For instance, a water project was set up in Kudung where tanks were built, and homes were connected with pipes.  However, the source dried up after the completion of the project.