According to the Engineer of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Khandu Tshering, the Ministry will engage youth in the construction of irrigation canals in the country after providing some basic training.
His Majesty The King in a recent Royal Address called upon the youth of the country to come forward and replace the foreign workers going home in projects like construction of irrigation water works.
“We never thought of engaging youth since they were unskilled and based on the procurement rules and regulation we didn’t involve youth before. Now we will be engaging youth and currently we are working on the training module which will be developed soon. We will impart the basic training to the youth in Build Bhutan project, Gyalsung and in the 42nd batch Desuung training. After they complete their training, those interested core groups will embark on the project,” he said.
He said that four training centers for irrigation have been identified in Paro, Thimphu, Tencholing in Wangduephodrang and Chukha.
He said that the country has 277,000 acres of cultivable land.
“Of that around 208,000 acres is a cropped area, and so we have around 65,000 acres fallow land in the country after we did a survey in 2009. Over the years because of the climate change there are lot of irrigation water sources drying up and youth have been migrating into urban areas leading to the decrease in the number of able bodied people in the villages to maintain such water systems,” he said.
He also said that till the 6th and 7th plan period, agriculture was on full swing as there was many projects in different parts of the country.
“Towards the end, the policy of decentralization came into practice and in the process the irrigation engineers were pulled back into some central agencies and they could not focus on irrigation. They had to concentrate on other developmental works and somehow the main focus on irrigation was lost,” he said.
He stressed that towards the 10th plan people felt that the irrigation activities were drying up and there is need to revive it. And in 11th plan they had to start and they started going by the parameter of those areas with 70 households and above in order to have more visibility.
“While prioritizing we came up with 108 irrigation schemes to be implemented over the plan periods. Our target was to achieve 700 plus km irrigation canals for over 11,000 households and close to 25,000 acres supplied with irrigation water if we were in a stable position,” he said.
In the 11th plan, irrespective of the man power and limited funding the ministry by itself managed to complete 33 schemes, he said. He pointed out that as a result, over 16,000 acres has been assured irrigation water. Close to 200 km of lines were built and over 5,000 house hold has been benefitted in 11th plan.
He added that those that were in the list but couldn’t be completed because of the limited budget were completed by the dzongkhags.
“The magnitude of the work, the amount of the money spent on the scheme, the quality of the work will not be at par to what we have done. They did not carry out work on the whole stretch but constructed wherever it was required and so including the works competed by the dzongkhags, around 74 schemes were completed in total,” he said.
He added said in the 12th five-year plan, of the left over schemes of the 108 schemes, 36 has been included in the Green Climate Fund project.
“However, we cannot say how sufficient it will be but at least these schemes have been approved,” he said.
For overall irrigation activities, 15 mn USD been approved and with this budget they have to cover 36 schemes for 10,000 acres and close to 3,000 households will be benefited.
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