A study by experts has found that Thimphu is vulnerable to many types of natural disasters. Rainfall-induced floods and landslides were among the many dangers facing the city and its fringes.
Thimphu Thrompon Kinlay Dorjee said that although there is no lake at the source of the Wangchhu, disaster management team should be prepared as heavy and continued rainfall could trigger flooding. Four places along the Wangchhu are marked as risk zones – the Lingkana palace area, Changlimithang, Changjiji football ground, and the Convention Centre. We are talking about half the city at risk almost. Further downstream are settlements by the banks that could be equally risky.
Constructions in Thimphu are mostly on the alluvial fan deposit sites that are formed by layers of debris like twigs, mud, and sand. Such settlement sites are not stable and could be risky at times of natural disaster. This calls for a landslide inventory study and mapping to identify risk-prone areas and to prevent landslides.
Now that the study has recognised the dangers, there is a need to prepare and inform the public about flood, especially those who live in and around the risk prone areas. Awareness is by far more critical than just identifying the risks. Without such studies, the city had to grapple with haphazard planning, which shows in the form of flooding sewerage every time there is a little rain. Drainage systems are mostly defunct. Overflowing water damage roads, making it risky for pedestrians and drivers. Rapid urban growth coupled with inadequate urban infrastructure has resulted in shortage of basic urban services for residents. Access to water, sanitation, solid waste management, and urban transport are some of the challenges facing urban Thimphu today. Congestion and poor urban mobility have been restricting the city’s growth. These are manifestations of city planning gone wrong.
Our hazard maps may not be 100 percent accurate, but they could warn us about the possible dangers in the future. The challenges we face today are not only born of our inability to plan our city, but are also upshots of lack of studies to guide our planning. If we can identify the dangers, we could plan our city in such a way that our settlements are safe from natural disasters like floods and earthquakes and the residents can enjoy the basic urban facilities.