Tackling Water Scarcity in Barshong

   TwitCount
Constructing a conservation pond

A team of officials from ICIMOD and the District Agriculture Office in Tsirang visited Himalica pilot sites in Barshong, Bhutan, from 21 March to 8 April 2016 to sensitize local farmers on water management practices. The activity was based on the findings of rapid water assessments conucted in Barshong under Tsirang Dzongkhag in 2015. 

Responding to the interest shown by farmers during the rapid asssessment,  the team demonstrated key methods like  rainwater harvesting system, plastic-lined conservation pond, sprinkler irrigation, and drip irrigation system to the farmers. Barshong suffers from water scarcity, and the problem is compounded by the lack of effective water management among farmers. 

The visiting team dug and demonstrated six plastic-lined conservation ponds of varying sizes in all the five communities of Barshong Gewog. The total landholding of a household was the determining factor for the construction of plastic lined ponds. The smallest plastic-lined pond (4 x 3 m, 1.2 m deep) can store upto 14, 000 litres of water. 

With the ponds ready, farmers are now waiting for silpauline sheets, which must arrive soon as monsoon is around the corner. Farmers might lose interest in experimenting with the technology if the sheets don’t arrive in time. Further, rainwater collected in the pond without silpauline sheets could seep into the soil, causing damage to the surrounding land. 

During the visit, the team also explored the possibility of protecting drinking water sources in the community and found several perennial water sources that could be protected, for example, in upper Barshong. Unfortunately, most water sources are located in private land and landowners are reluctant to cooperate for long-term water source protection through gully plugging, fencing the catchment area, and plantation. 

The issue was discussed at length with the chief district agricultural officer, Pema Choifil. He agreed to “cross-examine the ownership of the land title with the district land record section.“ He said that even if the water source falls within private land, the Water Act of Bhutan could provide some leeway for protection work. “This is a serious issue and needs to be discussed at the Gewog and the district assembly,“ he added.

The team also assessed goat farming groups and vegetable production groups, as well as the improved goat sheds, bio-digesters, and rural market access in all communities. A total of 22 households have received material support to build improved goat sheds. Half of them have already begun work. Similarly six households have received material support to build bio-digesters.