Wetland fallow for want of water

Shortage started after water was channeled to supply to the town

Land: If Zhemgang is one of the poorest dzongkhag in the country, fallowing of agricultural land is not helping the dzongkhag.  More than 270 acres of wetland belonging to over 100 households in Trong and Dangkhar, Pam and Krasphay villages has gone fallow from shortage of irrigation water.

The paddy fields located below Zhemgang central school and around went fallow after it’s only irrigation water source, the Dhuechugang stream located around five kilometers from Dangkhar was channeled to meet the water supply in municipality.

“The paddy fields went uncultivated for over 20 years since the water was diverted to municipal water supply,” a villager from Trong, Lhagye Tshering said.

The shortage of water has also impeded vegetable cultivation in these villages. Before the water was channeled, Dhuechugang stream supplied enough water for both drinking and irrigation to these villages.

“While the villagers and inhabitants of the dzong used water from upstream for drinking, the water from the downstream was used for irrigation,” Lhagye Tshering said.

Then Dangkhar, Trong, Pam and Krasphay were self-reliant producing over 20 truckloads of rice annually. But after the shortage of water, except for one or two households, rest of the vast paddy fields was left fallow today.

Tshogpa Norbu Gyaltshen said while Jarichu didn’t supply adequate water even before, the water shortage in the villages worsened after Dhuechugang was taken to the town area.

“The volume of Dhuechugang stream is also shrinking,” Norbu Gyaltshen said, adding although Dhuechugang is quite big at its source, the volume decreases as water reaches the town while none of it gets to the paddy fields from heavy seepage on its way.

Trong gup, Dorji Wangchuk said an irrigation channel for Dhangkhar has been planned since the 9th Plan, but never materialized. During the 9th Plan, the plan failed to materialize after the feasibility team from agriculture ministry found the irrigation channel construction from Serzhong infeasible.

“The team rejected the plan since around 15 kilometers of irrigation couldn’t be constructed through steep and rocky terrain,” Dorji Wangchuk said, adding the team also found the water to be too small to generate enough pressure to reach the villages.

Then in 10th Plan, the gewog once again incorporated the irrigation channel. The government even approved Nu 1M (million).

“The money however had to be returned to the government after villagers refused to construct the channel through labour contribution,” Dorji Wangchuk said. The villagers refused to take up the construction reasoning their incapacity to build such lengthy channel through steep and rocky terrains.

The channel is still included the 11th Plan. Dorji Wangchuk said the gewog has submitted for budget.

During a recent visit to the dzongkhag, finance minister, Namgay Dorji has told villagers that the government would be able to spare over Nu 5-6M for the irrigation channel but only if people were willing to contribute labour.

There is still hesitation among the villagers as they are not sure of building the channel without a skilled workforce. “If the government can fund the project, people would still prefer the construction to be contracted out than getting it done through labour contribution,” Norbu Gyaltshen said.

Meanwhile, agriculture minister, Yeshey Dorji during his recent visit to Zhemgang suggested construction of reservoirs tanks, which the gewog is also considering as an option.

Norbu Gyaltshen however said if new water supply for municipal, which is under construction from Serzhong could supply adequate water to the town, Dhuechugang could be returned to the villages for irrigation.

Tempa Wangdi, Zhemgang

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