Melphey residents concerned over recurrent landslides

Disaster: Although farmers welcome the arrival of monsoon, the case is otherwise for residents living below the steep slopes of Melphey in Trashigang.

When Melphey got connected with road few years ago, drainage was also built to channel rainwater across the road towards a watercourse.

Following heavy rainfall on April 22, about six metres of the concrete drain outlet were washed away.  The heavy current of the water caused landslides up to a kilometre away.

Other drains were also damaged and overnight roadblocks occurred around the junction near the dzongkhag court.  Recently, a car narrowly escaped a huge falling boulder at the junction.

The vulnerable areas are the settlements below the dzongkhag court road, where several government housing colonies and private buildings stand.

“As and when it rains, the drain water swells and floods the road,” a resident, Passang, said. “Instances of falling boulders are frequent.”

Residents of BPC colony said the heavy rainfall in April left their parking lot with sand, soil and boulders.

“More than three truckloads of soil and boulder had to be cleared then,” another resident said. “Few years ago, water would even get into our houses.”

In 2013, a flood along the same slope washed away a wooden house, a temporary shed and five people, including a schoolgirl.  After the incident, the municipal authority constructed a retaining wall and proper drainage.  No such cases have been reported so far.

Municipal engineer, Pema Dechen said they were planning to connect the outlet gap with a cast iron pipe as a temporary measure to control floods and landslides.

The office has committed a budget of Nu 0.1M, financed by the dzongkhag administration from the disaster management fund, to carry out mitigation measures until the monsoon is over.

They are in the process of procuring stones and aggregates to connect the iron cast pipe, which would then divert water back to the watercourse.

“We’ve consulted with competent authorities and should we be able to mobilise funds, we’ll construct retaining walls around the damaged outlet site this winter,” she said.

A resident Tshering Norbu said that monsoon was the worst time of the year for them.

“Though things might have improved, the area where we live is sinking by the year,” he said.

By Tshering Wangdi, Trashigang

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