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With no water to irrigate the fields, the wetlands of Wanringmo in Ramjar, Trashiyangtse have remained fallow
Agriculture: With streams that irrigate the paddy fields drying, wetlands in three gewogs of Trashiyangtse – Ramjar, Toedtsho and Khamdang – are left fallow.
Cultivation in more than seven acres of paddy field in Wangringmo, Ramjar, stopped after the Bamnari stream dried up. “Cultivation ceased after Bamnari stream, the only water source for the fields, shrunk as it was channeled to the villages from upstream,” a villager from Ramjar said.
The water from Bamnari was drained into the villages, because the spring water that served for drinking water before dried up recently, he said.
Since then, the Bamnari that once provided enough water for irrigation to Wangringmo located downstream failed to supply abundant water for cultivation.
“The little water that flows downstream is only enough for a few landowners, while the rest of us downhill have no water,” another villager from Ramjar, Phuntsho said.
Wangringmo, located on the flat bank of Drangmechu, is known for its potential to grow chili earlier than others. While Wangringmo is the only wetland that has been left fallow in Ramjar, up to 300-400 acres of wetlands are left fallow in Khamdhang gewog for want of irrigation canal. Paddy fields in villages like Brenglung, Manla, Tshotsang and Shali in Khamdhang have also remained fallow for years from the lack of irrigation canals.
Khamdhang village, which once thrived with its wetland, has now turned its land into maize fields. “If we had water, Khadhang would be filled with paddy fields by now, because when we had water, everyone turned dry land to wetland,” a villager from Khamdhang, Sangay Wangdi said.
The villagers prefer rice to maize for staple food, he said, adding that, if they have access to water, they are still hoping to grow rice. “Villagers can no longer afford imported rice, the price of which keeps shooting up.”
From a total of 8,883 acres of wetland in six dzongkhags, 1,193 acres have gone fallow in the past ten years, according to a study by the research centre in Wengkhar under Mongar. If the trend continued, Bhutan would have no wetland in another seven decades. Fifty of the 69 gewogs in east imports 51 percent of the country’s rice consumption, the study pointed out.
But villagers of Khamdhang, anticipating water would flow into their fields one day, are still paying tax for wetland, which is double of that for dry land, although they have been growing maize for over 12 years now. The tax for an acre of wetland is Nu 24 annually.
“Most lands are fallow because of water shortage, besides other factors like rural-urban migration,” Khamdhang gup Ugyen Wangdi said. He said the fallowing multiplied after floods damaged the only water source from Buyang. The irrigation canal is still under repair. Ramjar mangmi, Karchung, said the gewog is planning to channel water to Wangringmo from Drangmeychu river using a water pump.
“For that, farmers also received training on keeping the fields engaged throughout the year rather than just paddy,” Karchung said.
Khamdhang, which continues to see an increasing area of wetland remaining fallow, would have water when the pending Buyang water supply is restored.
By Tempa Wangdi, Trashigang
Deprived of wetland to cultivate paddy, villagers of Damkhar under Gongdue gewog in Mongar have resorted to cultivating it on dry land. The practice is called pangbara. These days they are busy weeding the plantation.