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Paddy cultivation – a thing of the past

Once a flourishing rice bowl, the drying up of Peling tsho robbed Decheling of irrigation 

Agriculture: For want of water, the land, where paddy was once cultivated commercially as a viable and thriving business by the farmers of Decheling gewog, Samdrupjongkhar, has been left fallow for more than four years.

Back then, farmers from the three chiwogs of Namdeling, Shingchongri, and Bapta would be seen busy during paddy cultivation seasons.  Today, save for buckwheat, maize, soya bean and oranges that villagers still grow, the farmers don’t want to go back to paddy cultivation anymore.

With water not even adequate for drinking and the only water source, Peling tsho, drying, farmers reasoned that cultivating paddy would only aggravate the acute water shortage in the village that has a population of 4,226.

“I’d prefer growing oranges, instead of looking forward to a plan of having enough water for paddy cultivation,” a farmer, Ngawang, said.

Nganglam drungpa, Nima Gyeltshen, said they visited the gewog a few times to identify a suitable location for a reservoir tank that would feed water for irrigation in future, but the land owners were least interested. “I don’t think paddy cultivation will materialise, and the plan has been shelved for now,” Nima Gyeltshen said.

However, the agriculture ministry is still pushing to revive paddy cultivation in the gewog.  The ministry is also banking on the regeneration of Peling tsho, which would guarantee sufficient water for irrigation.

According to the agriculture extension officer, Pema Chorten, discussions were held with UNDP in 2013, and Nu 300,000 was committed to come up with an irrigation water pump in the gewog.

“But we need to carry out feasibility studies and submit the structural plan, before UNDP releases the budget,” Pema Chorten said. “The survey team managed to measure about 38.2 acres of land last year.”

Following budget constraints, the feasibility studies have come to a halt since then.

Another reason for farmers moving away from paddy cultivation was because of the registration of dry land as wetland.  Since most of the area was marshy, dry lands were registered as wetlands, Pema Chorten explained.

“The complication here was that, although the land was wet in reality, it was reflected as dry land in the thram,” Pema Chorten explained.

More than a decade ago, it was a different story.  Paddy cultivation was thriving with the Peling tsho irrigating the fields.  However, rampant deforestation in the 1970s, affected the catchment area and the lake.

About four years ago, when the villagers realised the lake was drying, they decided to discontinue paddy cultivation, foreseeing the consequences and risks.

Now, the agriculture division and the paddy cultivators are looking forward to the conservation of the lake and building the water pump.

“When the water pump starts functioning and, if water is enough for every household in Decheling, we’ll use the excess water for irrigation purpose,” Pema Chorten said.

By Tshering Wangdi/Nganglam

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