Neten Dorji | Toedtsho

Farmers in Toetsho gewog have been waiting for more than two years now to reap the benefits of the newly built Zhingma irrigation canal.

The about 3 km-long-canal is going to change the way farmers work and increase the yield. However, the problem with the irrigation scheme farmers say, they are yet to benefit from the irrigation canal.

Villagers said the poor quality work and problems in the alignment of the canal have caused problems to irrigate the fields.

A farmer, Dorji Wangdi, said that last year they could not cultivate paddy and some had delayed their paddy cultivation by two weeks.

“We’re expecting to benefit from a new irrigation canal by next year as we heard the contractor re-built the canal, otherwise the problem will remain,” he said.

The farmers mostly depend on rainwater to supplement the water from Phatsa Brak stream. “Without an additional supply, cultivation of paddy is difficult.”

Residents said that the small irrigation water from Phatsa Brak which served the purpose in the past for more than 200 households in farming has become insufficient on sunny days as it is also used for drinking.

“With only one source for all of us, we face shortages, especially during paddy cultivation. The same source is shared among more than 300 households,” said a resident, Sonam Zangmo.

She said farmers are seriously affected when Phatsha Brak stream becomes small during the dry season.

The farmers said landslides and falling boulders easily destroy the canal in rocky areas affecting the supply. With heavy rain and seasonal spring water, farmers could cultivate the paddy this time. However, they said rain is uncertain.

“We have to depend on rainfall to cultivate our fields. This year, I was able to transplant paddy,” said a resident Sangay Choezom. “We have been anxiously waiting for a new irrigation water supply but it is taking a long time.”

Given the poor quality of work, the farmers have given up all hopes for the Zhingma irrigation canal.

“We have been waiting for Zhingma stream for over two years but we didn’t get even drop,” said a resident. “A household has to wait more than five days for their second turn to  irrigate the fields. The paddy plants don’t ripen well without adequate water.”

Some fields in the area have been left fallow due to insufficient water.

Toetsho Gup Dechen Wangdi said that poor quality of work by contractors has affected the farmers.

“As per the dzongkhag administration’s order, the contractor has re-built the canal. We hope it will serve the purpose in the coming year,” the gup said, adding that dzongkhag was yet to handover the canal to gewog.

The gup said the irrigation canal will benefit the whole lower parts of Toetsho gewog.

The Zhingma water source is located about nine kilometres from the gewog centre.