Water: The infiltration gallery of the water treatment plant in Gelephu is expected to be cleared soon. The infiltration gallery, which is a structure used to transfer water to or from a soil aquifer, was filled with sand when the Maochhu flooded on July 20 this year.

As the gallery filled with sand, drinking water could not be supplied to residents of Gelephu town following the recent heavy rains and flooding in the southern parts of the country. The treatment plant supplies 80 percent of the town’s residents with drinking water.

While the Royal Bhutan Army, Royal Bhutan Police, police trainees at the Jigmeling training centre, Desuups and thromde officials managed to clear some part of the gallery.

The water treatment plant’s chief engineer, Karma Dupchuk, said they made several attempts to clear the gallery manually and with pumps. More than half the sand in the gallery has been removed. “Depth of the gallery is 13 metres and they have already cleared sand up to some seven metres,” he said.

“The small pumps also did work in pumping out the sand but it was taking a long time and we did not want to continue doing that,” Karma Dupchuk said.

High powered motor pumps were at the site until yesterday. “I am pessimistic that we will be able to pump out all the sand soon,” he said.

Officials of the treatment plant said the other reason for having the gallery flooded with sand was due to the Natural Resources Development Corporation Ltd’s (NRDCL) trucks carrying sand. “Traffic of heavy vehicles lead to lowering of the river bank towards the treatment system and water flowed accordingly,” an official said.

Based on this, the thromde tshogde discussed the issue and it was decided that NRDCL and thromde officials would jointly look for an alternate route for the trucks.

The water treatment plant’s site engineer, Karma Tenzin, said the treatment system provides drinking water to 80 percent of the town. A gravity-fed water system and bore well in the town area cater to the rest of the town’s residents.

Designed to produce four million litres of water a day (MLD), the treatment plant still produces 2.5MLD today while an older plant produces 1MLD.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay visited the treatment system on September 11 and instructed the officials to clear the gallery at the earliest. He also asked the officials to deploy more effective pumps.

The wall around the gallery that was built at the cost of some Nu 19 million was also washed away.

Karma Dupchuk said in preparation for the next monsoon, they are also expecting a team from the UNDP and Department of Disaster Management soon. “We are looking forward to reinstating the walls around the gallery,” he said.

The Maochhu infiltration treatment plant was constructed in 2010 with a fund of a little more than Nu 48M.

Nima Wangdi | Gelephu