A few kilometers from Kanglung in Pangthang chiwog, all the farmers are busy as it is summer and time to plant paddy.
The air is filled with grunts of a power tiller that’s preparing the fields for paddy transplantation.
Pangthang is considered one of the rice growing chiwogs in Kanglung gewog in Trashigang but today the chiwog is in dire need of better irrigation.
Tshering Yuden, 35, who is slogging in the scorching heat with her legs deep in mud is worried as she has to stop her transplantation work after lunch due to shortage of water.
She plans to go door-to-door to request her neighbors to share their irrigation water. “It is very difficult convincing them but there is no other option for us as we are running short of water.”
Farmers say this is not the first time they are facing irrigation water shortage. They have been living with it for almost 15 years now.
The village’s only irrigation water source located some six kilometers away at Bunthai in Khangma has almost dried up.
The irrigation canal from the source was first built in the early 90s and the people of Ritsangdung-Pangthang chiwog benefited from the source for almost 12 years.
With growing population and mushrooming of regional and corporate institutions near the source, residents started using the same source for drinking purposes.
Following the drying up of the source, an alternative source at Shingtsedrang was identified but with limited water, villagers in the chiwog had to depend on rainwater for irrigation.
Moreover, without a concrete canal and due to shortage of water, the practice of stealing water from the paddy terraces is rampant in the village.
Sangay, one of the villagers, said that there are people who divert the water into their fields as the water flows down. “We have to constantly monitor the volume of the water as it is easy to divert the water from between and direct it into their own fields.”
He said he does not wish to leave his land fallow like last year. “This year, I am not sharing my irrigation water with anyone as it is difficult to complete the paddy transplantation work on time.”
The farmers are worried that if the transplantation is delayed their harvest would be affected.
Another villager said that constructing a water tank near the Shingtsedrang source could help solve the shortage of irrigation water in the village. “Even if the source is small, we can store the water in a tank.”
Currently, more than 20 acres of paddy fields are left fallow in the Pangthang chiwog. Tshogpa of the chiwog, Tashi Namgay, said residents have approached him on several occasions to report the issue.
He said that every year, water from the sources is decreasing in volume and most of the sources have begun drying up. “Irrigation channel is rain-fed and unless there is heavy rain, water is never enough to irrigate fields here.”
“The problem of irrigation water shortage is one of the major concerns for the chiwog,” he said. “The gewog has informed the authorities concerned.” Meanwhile, more than a thousand acres of paddy fields in lower Pangthang have turned into a jungle following irrigation water shortage in the village.
Jigme Wangchen from Kanglung, T/gang