Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) is implementing a water flagship program to tackle the shortage of water for irrigation. According to the Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor, the government cannot assure 100 percent irrigation water supply due to the unreliable water sources.
“Irrigation is dependent on water resources which measurably are the perennial streams, and it is dependent on precipitation patterns and also dependent on forestry patterns. That’s why it will fluctuate at anytime,” said the Agriculture Minister.
Lyonpo said that the government has to construct the water channels for irrigation along the fragile mountain slopes. Any disturbances, like landslides or floods, can damage the irrigation channels at any given time.
“At any given time, the irrigation water storage may fail, so we can never say we will achieve 100 percent water for irrigation. On the other hand, irrigation is capital intensive, whether you construct open channels or packed channels or put in water pump system or anything. These are all very fragile to natural disasters. It will always have mechanical problems,” the Agriculture Minister said.
Lyonpo said that the operation and maintenance cost of irrigation channels are very high. Even if the government constructs and hands over the irrigation water channels to the farmers, they will fail to keep up with expenses for the operation and maintenance.
“What is important for people to know is that from this water flagship program, we are not going to invest much on the very long irrigation canals which is capital intensive, and which will have lots of operation and maintenance challenges, and we will also not invest or prioritize canals which will have lesser benefit and lesser coverage of the cultivation area,” Lyonpo said, adding that the government will prioritize on irrigation channels that can be constructed within a short period and is of benefit to a greater agricultural expanse.
“When we talk about the water for irrigation, the government can only try to do the best, but we cannot guarantee that we can achieve 100 percent. In the water flagship program, we have around USD 14 million from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), and we also have the ongoing World Bank projects. GCF has identified eight dzongkhags and we have four to five projects to complete under the World Bank.”
The flagship program was initially for drinking water, but as per the recommendations from the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, the flagship program water for irrigation was also included in program.