Rukha Chiwog’s fish farmers struggle amid water scarcity

For years, fish farming has been a lifeline for many people of Athang Gewog’s Rukha Chiwog in Wangdue Phodrang. It has been a reliable source of income for them. However, things have worsened in recent times. Water shortage has prompted many to abandon their ponds. From around ten fish farmers initially, there are only two today. Fish farming started around eight years ago in the chiwog with high hopes.

Having enough water is crucial for fish farming although fishes don’t require as much attention or food as other livestock. Fish farming is one of the simplest ways for farmers to earn money as long as water isn’t an issue.

However, due to water shortage in the ponds in Rukha Chiwog, some fish farmers stopped their operations a couple of years ago while others did so last year.

The water supply was disrupted by floods. Moreover, farmers said as there was no livestock extension officer in the gewog centre, timely monitoring of the ponds was not carried out. Otherwise, the chiwog used to produce around 15 metric tonnes of fish every year.

Farmers say the current water supply is only enough for their paddy fields.

“Raising fish isn’t an issue when we have enough water. The problem arises because our water supply is shared with Samthang village and there’s also water seepage along the way. This means we don’t get enough water for irrigation and fish ponds. So, we had to stop farming fish,” said Nima Tshering, a resident of Rukha Chiwog.

“I had a fishpond before but it didn’t produce much because it was manually built. With government support, I upgraded to a machine-excavated pond. However, despite all efforts, the pond couldn’t hold water properly. This has affected our income generation,” said Tashi Dorji, another resident.

However, the last two fish farmers, one in Rukha and another in Samthang villages are doing well with their fish thriving with enough water supply.

“Before, I used to earn only around Nu 50,000 to 60,000 in a year from fish production. But since last year, my earnings have increased to more than Nu 100,000 per year. I have tried various businesses like poultry and piggery but I have found that fish farming is the most profitable for me,” said Chokila, a fishery owner.

“My hard work is paying off with a good income and the government’s support adds to it. I don’t intend to stop doing it as we have government support. I sell around twenty kilogrammes of fish each year, earning around Nu 30,000,” said Dawa Tshering, another fishery owner.

The district administration has proposed Nu 1.69 M to the Department of Livestock for water source restoration and fishpond maintenance.

The work is scheduled to be carried out in the first financial year of the 13th Five-Year Plan.

According to the district livestock officials, nine additional fishponds will be built in Rukha village with financial support from the United Nations Development Programme and the district and gewog administrations.

Once the new fishponds are built and the old ones revived, farmers expect to produce more than 20 metric tonnes of fish annually. This is also expected to boost smoked fish production and reduce pressure on riverine fish.

Changa Dorji, Wangdue Phodrang

Edited by Sonam Pem

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