Fresh and cool, it begins from the foothills of Dochula, the water that farmers of Lobesa use for irrigation.

It forms the Toebi Rongchu (stream) as it flows by the Toebsi gewog.  At Chasagang, about seven kilometres from Lobesa, it is diverted. Two channels take the water to about a score villages downstream.

The upper channel flows through the Lobesa or Messina town. The town had been expanding. When it enter the fields, it brings along with it PET bottles and their caps, plastics, old shoes, condoms and its cover- almost everything that is sold in the shops.

Waste is flowing into agriculture fields in Lobesa. The most affected is Jalu village that is nearest to the town.

To fight the intrusion, farmers organise cleaning campaign. Every plantation season, farmers of Jalu would go around collecting PET bottles, tins, plastics, and shoes dumped in their fields.

The second round of cleaning follows after irrigation water is released.

A farmer of Jalu, Kuenzang, 46, said the irrigation water carry waste, mostly PET bottles into the fields.

He added that the villagers were well informed about dumping waste and wouldn’t throw it. “We clean our surroundings and make sure to collect the waste. When the water is released in the fields, we have tins, PET bottles, even shoes.” He blames the Messina’s rapid urbanisation.

While waste collection in the irrigation fields took a maximum of an hour, bits and pieces of plastics are today engrained in the fields located near urban settlements. “It is risky for farmers, especially glasses,” said a sharecropper.

In Bajo, sixty-eight year old, Tsechu has already visited the residents near his field several times requesting them not to dump waste in his field. He said that beer bottles, PET bottles, pads, diapers and window glasses were a common sight in the field. “I have just picked glasses thrown in the field. And when I came to plough my field recently, they had dumped the glasses once again.”

Tsechu has worked in the fields in Bajo for over eight years. “This has always been going on for as long as I can remember. The waste are always dumped in the drains and we have been cleaning it every irrigation season.”

Irrigation water in Bajo comes from Baechhu located about 17km from Bajo.

“The water is clean when at the source. It is only when it reaches Bajo town that the water channel has to pass along a few houses. They dump all the waste in the drains,” another farmer Daw Tsangchu said.

While increasing waste in the field is a concern to farmers, it has not been raised to the local leaders.

Barp gewog’s agriculture officer said that farmers had once complained of kitchen waste and sewage from Messina town flowing into the irrigation channels in the past. “To solve this, the residents near the irrigation channels were asked to clean the drains before irrigation works began.”

Today Barp gewog conducts cleaning campaign once every month in the gewog.

Yuetsokha tshogpa, Pema Namgyel, said that waste was minimal in the areas away from Messina town. “The waste starts to increase from the fuel depot in the town. And farmers say that the waste is from the people in the town.”

Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue