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Punakha farmers accuse irrigation project of failing to deliver sufficient water and for delaying paddy transplantation

People of Chhoeten Nyibu-Uesarkha Chiwog in Punakha say that the new irrigation water project for their Chiwog is not supplying the required amount of water. This is despite the irrigation pipes delivering water to their full capacity to the paddy fields. Farmers say paddy transplantation works have been delayed due to a shortage of irrigation water.

The eight-kilometre-long Hokatsho Irrigation Water Supply project in Kabisa Gewog was completed towards the end of last month. During a trial, it worked fine initially before a section of the pipe burst.

The water supply had to be then stopped for rectification. Farmers say their old water canal would have served better if it was not covered by the soil when the new pipes were laid. Old canals near the fields were covered with mud and laid with pipes on top of them.

After the rectification, another trial was carried out. Farmers were again not happy with the quantity of water delivered.

“Somehow, we received some irrigation water a few days ago. We have mutually discussed and managed to share the water among three households each at a time per night. Earlier, our irrigation water used to be sufficient for around seven to eight households at a time, and they used to get their water shares from 6 PM to 6 AM the next morning,” said Khandu, water caretaker.

“Earlier, we used to get our water shares in the evening and do the plantation the next day. We used to complete almost all the work in one day. But today, the water is not sufficient for even three households. Forget about this year, I think we cannot work even next year also if the situation remains the same,” said Namgay Bidha, a farmer.

“This water will never be sufficient if all farmers come forward to do the work together at a time. Moreover, my land is far away from here where water does not reach even the next morning. How can we work in such a situation? It’s better to leave the plantation works if we cannot start the plantation before the 15th day of the lunar calendar. It will just be a waste of our resources,” said Tandin, another farmer.

“There is huge water from the source due to rainfall these days. Last time, there was no water. There is also enough water supplied to the water tank from the source, so I am suspecting the water pipe carrying water from the tank may be too small,” said Tashi, a farmer.

The new irrigation water supply was constructed with more than Nu 30 M from the Green Climate Fund.

The project manager said that the delay in paddy transplantation works was not because of faults in the new irrigation project. He says there has recently been a nationwide drought delaying agricultural work. He added that this has resulted in the shrinking of the water source.

“Experts studied how much water is required for an 86-acre wetland. Accordingly, we have used water pipes of 200-millimetre diameter. These pipes are quite huge. So, we have used the recommended size of water pipes. The facility has been designed to provide sufficient water for the people and from our side, there is enough water,” said Sherub Gyeltshen, the project manager of the Green Climate Fund.

He added that the old water canal near the paddy fields had to be covered to protect the pipe from damage. He also said that new canals could not be dug to bury the pipe, as he could not acquire forestry clearance because the area falls under a protected area.

The new irrigation water supply was built to benefit more than 50 households in the chiwog.

Changa Dorji, Punakha

Edited by Kipchu