English | Dzongkha Wednesday, April 14, 2021

New 44M irrigation scheme to close the lid on old 62M project in Tashichhoeling, Samtse

Mar 1, 2021

A Nu 62 M project to bring irrigation water from the Biru River to Tashichhoeling in Samtse has not benefitted anyone. The Department of Agriculture centrally constructed the irrigation scheme some seven years ago. And an additional Nu 9.6 M was also spent to renovate the irrigation canal. However, this will all be in vain as a new irrigation scheme over the same canal is in the pipeline. 

The construction of the eight-kilometre open irrigation canal began in 2014. It was one of the priority schemes during the 11th Five Year Plan. The project was deemed complete and ready for inauguration when the monsoon in 2016 washed away the main intake tank at the source.

In the 2017-2018 financial year, a further Nu 9.6 M was spent to renovate the canal along the landslide-prone areas. The residents say they saw irrigation water running through the canal only for about a month. The project was hoped to irrigate the fallow lands in Tashichhoeling Gewog. What remains now are reminisces of a failed and wasted project.

“The project was completed in a year. They released water too. It was going good. We were also given an outlet point. But now it has become useless,” said Dhan Kumar Rai, a farmer in Chhusilgang_Dramedsa chiwog under Pemaling Gewog in Samtse.

The project was handed over without water running in the canal. While the irrigation scheme did not benefit Tashichhoeling Gewog, households affected by the construction work in Pemaling Gewog were not compensated.

“We were promised compensation for both damaged crops and land. It was also there in their project plan. We have also reported it to the gewog, dungkhag and the dzongkhag. But no one took notice of our appraisal,” said YeshiWangdi, the Tshogpa of Chhusilgang_Dramedsa chiwog.

“I had oranges and cardamom on my land. During the construction, 50 orange trees were damaged, and gradually more trees were damaged. As far as cardamom is concerned, I have lost count. All the sliding boulders and muds have damaged everything in its path,” said Sherab Choden, a farmer in Chhusilgang_Dramedsa chiwog.

“I had planted oranges here. It had to be uprooted along with cardamom. I have planted orange sapling again, but I think that will be damaged as well. These fields were giving good returns but are all damaged now with mudslides, boulders, and excavation. We can’t even work in these fields. Since the construction of the canal, I haven’t worked on this field,” added Som Raj Rai, from the same chiwog.

Nineteen households in Pemaling were affected by the irrigation scheme. Although there are no provisions in the National Irrigation Policy to compensate for damages during the construction of an irrigation scheme, the agriculture ministry made verbal promises.

“The former agriculture minister visited the affected site and agreed to send experts to do field assessment. The experts did the assessments, and the affected people were promised compensation for the damaged crops,” said Sangay Penjor, the Mangmi of Pemaling Gewog.

Four years on, and there is no word on the compensation. Meanwhile, people in the chiwog have signed public clearance on the new Nu 44 M irrigation scheme over the existing one. The new project will bury the previously constructed concrete channel.

“We will properly assess what went wrong in the previous project. For the new one, we will bury the polythene pipes inside the existing canal and move the intake 400 meters upstream to maintain intake pressure,” said Sameer Giri, the Tashichhoeling Gup.

“The pipes will enable a continuous flow of water from the source until the end without blockage. It will also prevent soil erosions. On the other hand, people won’t have to go for repair and maintenance works now and again,” said Chogyal Norbu, the Dzongkhag Agriculture Officer of Samtse.

People of Chhusilgang_Dramedsa chiwog in Pemaling are expected to reap the direct benefit from the new project. They will also be given a water point if needed. But whether this project will also turn out like the last one, only time will tell.

Sherub Dorji, Samtse

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