Photo Courtesy: Punakha Member of Parliament Lhaki Dolma

NCHM to enhance disseminating information on weather forecast

Farmers across the country were devastated seeing their hard work go in vain due to unseasonal and heavy rainfall from 17 to 20 October.

Many have raised the question as to why the concerned authority failed to warn farmers from harvesting their paddy when rains were predicted ahead of time.

An official from the National Center for Hydrology and Meteorology (NCHM), Singye Dorji, said that no country can provide an accurate weather forecast. He said weather forecast is being done considerably better than in the past years. However, NCHM can only provide 70 percent accurate weather forecast.

“In order to make a forecast for tomorrow, we must consider the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF), which forecast the weather. We must examine the weather of the last several days, as well as satellite images, to determine where the wind is blowing, and how the clouds are forming in South Asia. We also look at websites from other nations. And other nations have other models, which we run through, and then forecast the weather for three days,” he said.

He said there are no experts to conduct weather forecast, but no country can anticipate an exact prediction. “Approximately 70 percent of the rainfall should fall during the monsoon season, which occurs in June, July, August, and September,” he said.

He said that discussion on the social media pointed to NCHM not notifying the impending rainstorm 10 days earlier, and the devastation that followed. 

“We knew that it was a right time to cut the paddies since the monsoon was retreated around 10 October, and the monsoon also retreated in West Bengal and Nepal too. So, we haven’t received rain, and the farmers decided it was a good time to harvest the paddies. And then there was a brief period of low pressure, followed by a rapid change. As a result, we can never anticipate (the weather) more than 5 or 10 days ahead,” he said.

NCHM has individuals working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People can also call them with any queries on the weather prediction.

“We need everyone’s cooperation. For example, our office needs to improve disseminating information, but it would help if those people in the capital who have access to Facebook can disseminate the information to their families or relatives and inform them if they can postpone their paddy harvesting. Though we cannot interpret the accurate weather forecast, but around 60 to 70 percent of it will be correct,” Singye Dorji said.

He added that similar problems are likely to occur year after year as a result of climate change. “We can only forecast for three days at the moment, but for farming purposes, we need to forecast for lengthy days, which we have on our website. And we’ve posted a prediction beginning in July on our website. We will deliver these services in three to four weeks. And we will announced it via television and social media, which will benefit the farmers,” he added.

A resident in Thimphu, Kinley Penjor, said that despite the NCHM’s full initiative and announcement on rainfall forecast, it appears that many farmers are unaware of such a weather forecast.

“To avert another tragedy like this, a common communication mechanism must be created to convey crucial weather prediction information to all the farmers. It’s heartbreaking to watch and hear that all of farmers’ hard work has been in vain,” he said.

Another resident, Sonam Wangmo, also said that weather forecast for all 20 dzongkhags is broadcast every evening on the national television as well as other mediums, like  newspapers and websites. But only a few people plan work activities based on weather forecast.

“It has never been a part of our culture. However, this does not imply that we should continue to be as uninformed as before,” she said.

She stated that the failure might be due to a lack of information being sent to farmers across all gewogs.

“We need to activate the RNR network, as well as the gewog and village representatives’ network, in order to avert such disasters in the future,” she added.

A farmer in Kasadrapchu, Thimphu, Thinley Wangchuk, stated that the rain has harmed the paddies. Even if the harvested paddies dry up, they would lose their texture and taste.

“This year’s rice will not be tasty, and the quality will suffer. And we won’t get a fair price for the rice this year,” he said.

Tashi Chozom of Tsirang said she had expected a large rice harvest this year, but the rains caused the paddy crop to get damaged as it was immersed in water and muck.

“This year, I believed I’d have a big yield, and be able to sell and send it to the children, but the rain has destroyed about half of the paddies,” she explained.

Ugyen Wangmo from Paro said the farmers in the dzongkhag are devastated since the Paro is the hardest hit.

“The paddies have soaked in the rain, and the rice within has been harmed and will decay quickly. All of our efforts have gone in vain,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister, upon the Royal Command, met with the people of Paro conveying His Majesty’s message on Thursday.

 “I came here on His Majesty’s command to convey this; His Majesty will compensate through His Majesty’s Kidu initiative,” Lyonchhen said.

The PM said that the heavy and continuous rainfall in the last few days affected the crops in 13 districts.

“The pandemic has already wreaked havoc on the country, and it is now causing havoc on the crops. The farmers had worked hard all year, but when it finally came to harvest the paddies, they were ruined, leaving the farmers dejected and anxious,” Lyonchhen said.

Some of the farmers in Paro declined to take the Kidu saying His Majesty is already doing a lot.

Lyonchhen also said that His Majesty commanded the Zimpoen, and the Kidu Office would collaborate with the dzongkhag and gewog offices to conduct a comprehensive assessment and compensate the affected farmers.

Lyonchhen added, “Paro is the hardest hit district with over 800 acres damaged. Samtse is next, with around 500 acres destroyed. And about 170 acres were destroyed in Punakha, 150 acres in Wangdue, and 30 to 50 acres were damaged in the other districts.”

Meanwhile, PM met with the affected farmers of different gewogs in Punakha yesterday to convey the Royal Command, and on 23 October, PM will meet with the affected farmers of Wangdue Phodrang.  

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