A fer­tile vil­lage laid to waste by lack of ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter

Bhutan Times - - Home - Lhakpa Tsh­er­ing from Wang­duepho­drang

Rice farm­ing is the pre­dom­i­nant agri­cul­tural ac­tiv­ity in the fer­tile vil­lage of Gay­bakha in Wang­duepho­drang Dzongkhag, but lack of ir­ri­ga­tion is af­fect­ing this life­line ac­tiv­ity in the vil­lage.

Agri­cul­ture is the main­stay of the peo­ple in Gay­bakha. Rice and maize are the ma­jor ce­real crops grown in the vil­lage and rice is, by far, the most im­por­tant and pre­ferred food crop of the farm­ers. The crop holds a huge po­ten­tial be­cause the vil­lage is con­nected by a farm road.

But the vil­lage does not have nat­u­ral flow­ing ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter. The only way in which it can get enough wa­ter to keep the crops alive is through an ir­ri­ga­tion chan­nel. And ir­ri­ga­tion is the only means of en­hanc­ing agri­cul­ture in the vil­lage.

In­ter­views con­ducted with the farm­ers from the vil­lage re­veal that they have faced er­ratic ir­ri­ga­tion short­age over the years, which has now be­come a ma­jor chal­lenge.

Nidup Zam, 43, a farmer from the vil­lage, said the short­age of ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter has hit the vil­lage over the years. “I have grown paddy but I couldn’t ir­ri­gate my fields on a reg­u­lar ba­sis,” she said, adding that her har­vest was af­fected by short­age of ir­ri­ga­tion.

The vil­lage has been fac­ing ir­ri­ga­tion prob­lem for many years now.

How­ever, De­sang, the ge­wog ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer of Daga Ge­wog, said ir­ri­ga­tion is not a se­ri­ous prob­lem in the vil­lage. “There is no pres­sure from the pub­lic on the ge­wog of­fice,” he said. “The two small chan­nels have been serv­ing the pur­pose un­til now.”

But the vil­lagers say the need of ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter has been raised in many fo­rums, even to in­di­vid­ual gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials. But help is not likely to come soon.

Nidup Zam said that when­ever gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials vis­ited the vil­lage, they promised to look into the prob­lem but the prob­lem is still un­re­solved.

Gay­bakha has only two small ir­ri­ga­tion chan­nels which can­not carry enough wa­ter to all the paddy fields dur­ing the time of trans­plan­ta­tion.

Tsagay, 69, said the vil­lagers had been hop­ing for a res­o­lu­tion to the prob­lem but in vain.

The ge­wog has ren­o­vated two ex­ist­ing ir­ri­ga­tion chan­nels at the cost of Nu.1.2 mil­lion. How­ever, Pema said this has not solved their prob­lem.

Sonam Dorji, 60, an­other farmer, said the small stream of wa­ter flow­ing through the chan­nels does not reach the paddy fields when it is sunny be­cause the wa­ter seeps into the soil along the way.

Rain is the pri­mary source of ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter for the paddy fields in the vil­lage. But not get­ting enough rain on time af­fects the har­vest, the farm­ers say.

The farm­ers de­pend on rain-wa­ter for paddy trans­plan­ta­tion. They are happy as long as there is suf­fi­cient rain­fall for paddy trans­plan­ta­tion. How­ever, rain-wa­ter is not re­li­able. Ugyen Dorji, 53, said de­pend­ing on rain wa­ter de­lays paddy trans­plan­ta­tion. More­over, rain­fall is be­com­ing er­ratic by the year.

The paddy trans­plan­ta­tion sea­son in the vil­lage is in the fifth month of the Bhutanese cal­en­dar. Ac­cord­ing to Nidup Zam, trans­plan­ta­tion is, how­ever, de­layed by a month lead­ing to de­layed har­vest and low yield.

The Ja­pan gov­ern­ment has built a mud pond to dis­trib­ute wa­ter to paddy fields but for want of wa­ter pipes, the vil­lagers have not been able to use wa­ter from the pond. Ugyen Dorji says the pond would be more ben­e­fi­cial if it was built with con­crete, not mud.

Due to lack of ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter, some ter­raced fields in Gay­bakha have dis­ap­peared into the for­est and they have be­come grazing ground for cat­tle with weeds and plants cov­er­ing paddy stumps.

The vil­lagers said it is a sorry sight to see cat­tle grazing in the fields which used to be filled with paddy heaps.

The fields at the end of the vil­lage could not be cul­ti­vated for want of wa­ter. Wangchuck, 46, an­other vil­lager, said, “Since there was an acute short­age of ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter, some farm­ers’ paddy fields had to be left fal­low.”

Mean­while, Pema Rinzin, 56, said the farm­ers im­port half the rice they eat. “If there is no ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter, then I am sure our paddy fields will re- main fal­low,” he said. “We are in­creas­ingly im­port­ing rice from In­dia.”

The farm­ers raise cat­tle to earn some in­come to buy rice, veg­etable oil and other nec­es­sary items.

Although the vil­lage is far from any river or stream, the farm­ers have found a wa­ter source that they can draw ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter from. Ugyen Dorji said ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter can be drawn from the source at Sa­gaji or through a wa­ter pump from Sa­mazhing be­low their vil­lage.

A sur­vey has, how­ever, found that the wa­ter source at Sa­gaji was too far from the vil­lages and chan­nel­ing it to the vil­lage would cost a huge amount. Lack of bud­get was cited as the rea­son for not con­struct­ing a new ir­ri­ga­tion chan­nel.

De­sang agrees that if the vil­lage were to bring wa­ter from the iden­ti­fied source, a huge amount of money needs to be in­vested, and it might even cost the ge­wog’s en­tire bud­get.

The con­struc­tion of an ir­ri­ga­tion chan­nel for the vil­lage was a pri­or­ity in the 10th five-year plan (FYP). Nu.200, 000 was al­lo­cated for the ren­o­va­tion of ir­ri­ga­tion chan­nels in the 10th FYP, but the bud­get could not be used for Gay­bakha since the wa­ter source was too small.

The ge­wog has pro­posed a new ir­ri­ga­tion chan­nel, ac­cord­ing to for­mer Gup Wangchuk.

The ge­wog ad­mi­nis- tra­tive of­fi­cer said the con­struc­tion of Gay­bakha ir­ri­ga­tion chan­nel was not in the 11th FYP. He says that if a pro­posal comes from the pub­lic, the ge­wog of­fice may in­cor­po­rate it in the 12th plan. “The ge­wog will def­i­nitely bring the mat­ter up when draft­ing the 12th FYP,” De­sang said.

Dzongkhag agri­cul­ture of­fi­cer, Sonam Zangpo, said the pub­lic should raise their is­sues to the ge­wog of­fice and then sub­mit a pro­posal to the dzongkhag.

Things are ex­pected to change if wa­ter pumps are sup­plied for ir­ri­ga­tion.

Pema Rinzin has planned to grow vegeta­bles but could not for veg­etable cul­ti­va­tion also re­quires wa­ter.

The lack of ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter and re­sult­ing low agri­cul­tural yields have forced most young peo­ple from the vil­lage to leave the vil­lage and work by the road­side at Pu­natsangchhu Hy­dropower Project. The vil­lage is now mostly pop­u­lated by old peo­ple and home­mak­ers who have stayed back with their cat­tle.

Lo­cated on top of a steep hill, the vil­lage looks al­most de­serted from the dev­as­ta­tion caused by the Wang­due-Tsir­ang high­way widen­ing.

Gay­bakha is lo­cated in the south­ern part of the dzongkhag on the right bank of Pu­natsangchhu. Daga Ge­wog con­sists of vil­lages of Um Khatey, Um Khamey, Wo­gayna, Gay­bakha and Tak­sha-Sili.

The ge­wog is home to 152 house­holds with the pop­u­la­tion of about 1,347 ac­cord­ing to pop­u­la­tion and hous­ing cen­sus 2005. It is to­day a quiet vil­lage with about 98 per­cent of the to­tal area un­der for­est cover. (This ar­ti­cle is re­ported with sup­port from DoIM)

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