It is hoped that the plan will ensure sustainable utilisation of water

Resource: Increasing developmental activities has led to poor water management and land degradation of the Baychhu watershed, which is the source for drinking and irrigation water of the largest urban settlement of the Punatsangchhu basin.

This was a major finding by experts who formulated the Integrated Watershed Management Plan (IWMP) for the Baychhu watershed.

The plan that was developed by the watershed management division and the forest and park services department was launched coinciding with World Forestry Day and World Water Day at Samtengang Central School in Wangdue on March 22.

It was found that most farm roads in the Baychhu watershed lack proper drainage systems, leading to increased erosion and landslides. Many of the cross-drains installed were non-functional apparently due to undersized hume pipes and absence of catch pits.

During the rainy season, the hume pipes get blocked with debris causing overflowing and leading to landslides.

Poor water management and road design, incomplete construction practices, lack of drainage systems, leakage from irrigation channels and drinking water pipes, and lack of storage tanks were also identified as causes.

An intensive network of farm roads improperly constructed on steep slopes has caused erosion and landslides along agriculture lands, while use of chemical fertilizers pesticides and weedicides have caused a decrease in agriculture productivity due to loss of soil nutrients, it is stated in the IWMP. Human wildlife conflict and forest degradation due to forest fires and deforestation were also attributed.

An officer with the watershed management division, Sigyel Delma, said the Baychhu watershed management plan has been developed to address various land use and water related problems within the watershed. This is because the Baychhu is a source for drinking and irrigation water in the Punatshangchhu basin and appropriate management interventions are required, she said.

The Punatsangchhu basin is one of the most important basins in the country covering an area of almost 10,000 sq km. The basin has been delineated into 52 separate watersheds. A rapid assessment and classification study carried out for the Punatsangchu basin in 2011 found that seven of the 52 watersheds were critical and require a watershed management plan. The Baychhu watershed in Wangdue was one.

Sigyel Delma said watershed management is essentially to ensure sustainable utilisation of the resources in a manner that can minimise negative impacts and enhance optimal utilisation of the resources. It is vital to have a sustainable management of watershed, as it consists of land, vegetation, water and people, and also to understand the use of resources by people and impacts on resources.

She added that the objective of the Baychhu watershed management plan is to achieve sustainable management of natural resources within that watershed, which is expected to improve the flow of ecosystem services and help enhance the lives of local communities within its boundaries and urban settlers outside the watershed.

The sustainable management plan of the Baychhu watershed will contribute to the economy by providing continuous supply of water for hydropower generation at Punatsangchhu, she pointed out. The plan outlines the implementation of activities based on locally appropriate strategies to ensure sustainable management of the watershed.

She said the watershed management plan was an outcome of extensive consultations at both gewog and dzongkhag levels, and also several technical field assessments.

The activities identified in the current management plan will be integrated into the area-based development and conservation plans of the sectoral programmess and the decentralized dzongkhag and gewog plans through a coordinated and participatory planning mechanism.

Based on the activity log frame provided, management activities will be implemented according to gewog boundaries, she said. The roles and responsibilities of local communities, external stakeholders and various committees are all detailed in the plan.

While Wangdue would lead the implementation of the plan, there are specific activities identified for implementation by each gewog, sectors and communities in the watershed. The activities proposed in this watershed management plan will be incorporated in the annual plans.

It is estimated that Nu 106.35 million will be required to implement the watershed management interventions.

Dawa Gyelmo