A twin water crisis hits Bhutan’s rural areas

Although Bhutan has been aiming at achieving food security by increasing the production of cereal crops, especially rice – the effort has been mired with many challenges.

Lack of irrigation water, loosing of potential wetland to the developmental activities, and a host of challenges has been proving to be curb the self-sufficiency target. .

The most pressing issue in the rural areas is lack of irrigation water and adequate drinking water.

This has hindered in food self- sufficiency, nutritional improvement and income generation of the farmers. Furthermore commercial farming is also significantly hindered.

The farmers of Lokchina, Sampheling and Darla geog under Chukha dzongkhag have shared their grievances to the relevant agencies regarding the acute shortage of drinking water and irrigation water in their villages.

More than 2,000 households living in these three gewogs have been facing water shortages for a long time and few farmers have been depending on rain water as other alternative water sources have dried up.

According to the Lokchina Gup, Indral Lal Galley, the nearby water source in these gewogs are drying up and farmers need to travel far to fetch clean drinking water. He added that fetching water, both for household chores and farming is very hard to manage, especially during winter.

Similarly in Mendrelgang gewog under Tsirang dzongkhag the irrigation water problem is often serious and this has hindered the increasing of crop production. In the absence of irrigation facilities, the farmers cultivate paddy for self consumption by only depending on rain water.

The Mendrelgang Gup Yeshi said that farmers in Mendrelgang, Pemashong and Shershong grow orange, paddy, cardamom etc and have the potential in growing these cash crops in large scale, but the farmers face insufficient production of crops, particularly paddy and vegetables due to lack of water.

He said that the gewog does not have a water source to construct irrigation channels and there is nothing the government is doing about it.

However in Shingkhar gewog under Zhemgang dzongkhag where commercial paddy cultivation is being done, the farmers have received irrigation channel in all the villages except in Radhi.

The Shingkhar gewog Gup Ngedup said that drinking water shortage is often   encountered by the farmers though inadequate irrigation water has been resolved a few years ago.

He said that the gewog received complaints regarding drinking water shortages and so the gewog is exploring a water source to curb the shortage.

Shortage of drinking water and irrigation water has been reported from almost every part of the country and in many rural areas the water supply system has stopped functioning after a few months or years due to poor quality construction. Many rural water schemes were not maintained, sources had dried up and there were also those which were not well constructed along with poor planning and monitoring.

Meanwhile, the government is taking the shortage of drinking and irrigation water seriously and has promised to allocate more budget in supplying enough water both in rural and urban areas.

The government had pledged to take up the issue of drinking and irrigation water supply on a war footing and go all out or the alternative would be disastrous for the country and its citizens.

The Agriculture ministry is exploring water sources and building irrigation channels to solve the water shortage apart from bringing more wetland into paddy cultivation and reviving wetland left fallow due to water shortage.

The government is helping renovate and repair irrigation channels. Rehabilitation of Taklai irrigation system in Sarpang is the biggest project, the government has undertaken so far.

In the current scenario, as per the study carried out by Research Development Center Bajo, the national production of rice is about 78,000 tones which can hardly meet 50 % of the requirement and so there is a need to import 21,000 metric tons of rice each year.

Even restaurant and shop owners in rural areas say that it is hampering their  business.  According to Karma Tenzin, a shopkeeper in Sarpang, the water supply is very erratic and many households do not get enough water supply.

This article was made possible due to support from the Department of Information and Media




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One comment

  1. It is high time that Government should support for making compulsory rainwater harvesting for each households according to the size of plinth area of the house, so that they can use it for outdoor purpose as well as indoor for toilet flushing and washing. It will contributing a lot to the world for climate change if certain small step is taken by some one with innovative ideas.

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