Authorities concerned lack expertise and resources

Choki Wangmo

If a flashflood occurs again in Wangdue’s Athang gewog, of the kind it saw August last year, devastation could be huge.

Mitigation plans are affected by an acute shortage of expertise and other resources.

Last year, the formation of an artificial lake upstream caused the small stream, Phangruchhu, to swell. As a result, there was massive structural damage and loss of human lives. Punatsangchhu Hydropower Project II suffered a loss of Nu 7.5 billion.

In response to the question from Athang-Thedtsho’s Kinley Wangchuk in National Assembly yesterday, Home Minister Sherub Gyeltshen said that although the authorities concerned had carried out assessments at the site of the incident, there was no solid finding due to capital and human resource constraints.

The report submitted by the specialists from the National Centre for Hydrology and Meteorology, Department of Disaster Management (DDM) and Department of Geology and Mines had concluded that the flashflood was caused by an outburst of an artificial lake formed by a convective cloudburst.

Cloudburst occurs when warm air meets cold air and saturated air meets unsaturated air.

The report was not comprehensive since the specialists couldn’t visit the source due to challenges related to the location of the area, Lyonpo said. “Topographical and geographical mapping couldn’t be conducted.”

Since the Punatsangchhu project started in 2007 before DDM was formed, Lyonpo said the project should be responsible and carry out disaster risk assessments to avoid loss. “Disasters are inevitable in the fragile landscape caused by drilling and cutting of the mountains.”

Constant disturbance to the landscape could have caused disruption, Lyonpo said.

The home ministry, he said, was ready to carry out detailed aerial and ground surveys to confirm the causes of the flood and prevent such catastrophes in the future but there was shortage of budget and human resources.

Last year’s was the second flashflood in Zawa-Jarogang chiwog in Athang gewog.

According to flood hazard assessment for Wangdue by the human settlement ministry, there are two major rivers in Athang Gewog. Nyebachhu and Marachhu caused flooding in 1968 and 2017.