Water scarcity leaves paddy fields fallow

Agriculture: Paddy transplantation season has ended in most parts of Wangdue but Sangay Zam of Kumchi village in Phangyul is yet to start plantation.

As a result of water scarcity and scant rain, Sangay’s family couldn’t carry out plantation and are worried about what to eat next year.

Sangay is one of the many villagers of Phangyul gewog that grapples with water shortage. “By now we could have carried out plantation on more than half of the paddy fields, which is enough for the entire family to feed on,” she said.

Her family owns more than 10 acres of land.

With no irrigation water source and water sources drying up, the gewog’s four villages of Kumchi, Phangyul, Goenkha and Changu are heavily dependent on rain for irrigation. This year the villages didn’t receive any rain during transplantation time that was further aggravated by prolonged sunlight because of which most nursery plants had dried up. “We even feel like migrating to urban places under such circumstances,” Sangay Zam said.

Apart from irrigation, even drinking water is scarce in these villages.

Tashi Dorji, 58, of Goenkha said when there was plenty of rainfall his family and 24 other households of Goenkha would have completed about 95 percent of paddy plantation by now.

However, this time the family managed to work on less than half acre of land when they received some rainfall in the past few days. He said there was only one irrigation source in Goenkha that is formed by rainwater.

The 25 households take turns to irrigate, which means each household would get a day each to irrigate after every 25 days.

Yesterday was Tashi Dorji’s turn but he was not lucky enough as the quantity of water reduced after transplanting half of his one-acre field. The family will have to buy imported rice next year since it will be late to wait for the second turn.

Singye Dorji, tshogpa and excavator operator, said although the power tiller was useful in villages but when it comes to places like Kumchi, Goenkha and Phangyul villages, villagers could hardly make use of it. They pay Nu 1,400 as hiring charges a day but given the water shortage they could only make use of it for about an hour or so although they can use it for eight hours.

Phangyul’s agriculture extension officer, Dendup Wangchuk said in 2015 about 110 acres of wetland could not be transplanted given the water shortage. While they are yet to measure the total area this time, going by the current situation the area could be larger than last year, he said.

Phangyul has around 401 acres of paddy land excluding those left fallow.

Unlike other places, the water scarcity issue is severe in Phangyul, said Dendup. “The problem can’t be resolved even with money or deploying water pumps as there are either no sources available or it is too far.”

Phangyul Gup Ugyen said the water scarcity issue in Phangyul is an old story. Both the gewog and dzongkhag has been trying to resolve it but in vain.

The only solution is to bring water from Baychhu, which was also recommended by Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, he said. The Prime Minister after visiting the gewog also asked the dzongkhag to work on the Baychhu source to resolve Phangyul’s prolonged water scarcity.

However, sources said bringing irrigation water from the Baychhu would require convincing Kashi gewog, as the water has to come through Kashi to reach Phangyul.

Dawa Gyelmo | Wangdue

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