Thromde will prioritise flood mitigation in critical areas in mid-year budget review 

Nima | Gelephu

Residents living nearby small Ipoli stream at Namkhaling demkhong in Gelephu fear that the next monsoon would cause more damage to the community. Their only defense against flooding collapsed last monsoon when the stream flooded.

Over 100 households living in Namkhaling spent sleepless nights last summer and in winter they expect the thromde to strengthen the flood mitigation measures to reduce the risks.

The residents requested the thromde for a permanent floodwater protection wall at flood catchment areas during the recent thromde tshogdu held last month.

However, the thromde deferred the agenda for the mid-year budget review because there were not enough budget to implement the mitigation measures.

Chandra Homagain from Namkhaling said that the 200-meter long gabion wall was not in a good condition and remained buried under debris.

“The wall collapsed towards the end of monsoon. We were lucky this time. But, it would be risky for us. It won’t be enough to prevent the flood,” he said.

When it rains, it starts to flood suddenly in Namkhaling.

The thick deposits of silt and stones have covered gabion walls close to Namkhaling.

However, the stream course is growing wider by year, washing away land close to the stream. The flood triggered by the monsoon also washed away a check dam that was built as a mitigation measure.

“Dredging was done repeatedly but it’s not so effective. Now is the right time to come up with a permanent solution to save the community and public infrastructure close to the stream,” said Chandra Homagain.

Residents said that the 200-bed quarantine facility built to import foreign workers and recently upgraded water tanks were also at risk if proper flood protection measures were not constructed before the monsoon.

A resident from Namkhaling said that the flash flood triggered by stormwater during monsoons also flooded the border gate and settlement downstream.

The stormwater from the Dechenpelri area in Gelephu gewog collects near the Gelephu airport and flows into the small Ipoli stream. The stream passes through Namkhaling and border gate areas before finally ending into the plains of Assam in India.

Chandra Homagain said that there was an old irrigation canal leading from Pelrithang Khatoed up to the Big Ipoli stream in Samtenling gewog.

“We would be able to divert the stormwater to Big Ipoli and reduce the flood risk in Gelephu town should we improve that old irrigation canal. If the stormwater drainage is not properly developed, the town is also at risk,” he said.

The thromde thuemis from Sonam Gatshel, Jampeling, and Rabdeyling also said the stormwater drainage and sewerage lines in the respective demkhongs needed improvement before the next monsoon during the recent thromde tshogdu.

The activities proposed from all the thuemis were postponed to mid-year budget review, which would be held by January next year.

Gelephu Thrompon, Tshering Norbu, said the flood protection walls, stormwater, and sewerage lines improvement in demkhongs were ad-hoc activities endorsed during thromde tshogde.

“Those activities were pushed until the mid-year budget review, as there was no allocated budget. We have the opportunity to pool the budget during the mid-year budget review,” he said.

He said that the critical areas were in focus. “Dredging was done as part of mitigation. We would be able to prioritise directly affected areas in the mid-year review,” said Tshering Norbu.

While the thromde acknowledged the need to develop flood mitigation measures during the dry season, Gelephu thromde received a 40 percent less than the proposed budget, according to the officials.

Of more than Nu 425 million proposed as capital budget, the government approved only Nu 184 million for the year 2021-2022. The approved budget for current expenditure was Nu 134 million out of Nu 177 million proposed budget.

Thrompon said that the thromde couldn’t push for the proposed budget, as it was not convenient during the pandemic. “The country is not in a good condition and the government is in a bad position financially,” said Tshering Norbu.