Around 300 people moved to higher ground following swelling of Sarpang river
Rain: Sarpang town was evacuated yesterday afternoon after the Sarpang river threatened to break it banks following heavy rainfall for almost a week.
Sarpang town consists of 52 shops and around 300 people.
The level of the river that flows just below the town had risen to dangerous levels and had washed away portions of soil at the edge of the settlement, as of last night.
Two temporary toilets near the riverbank and some scrap belonging to a scrap dealer were also washed away.
Following this, the dzongkhag immediately identified three locations on higher ground to evacuate the town to.
As of yesterday, almost all the town’s shops had been shifted to the Sunday vegetable market located a few minutes walk away from the town.
Goods of a few shops have also been moved to the dzongkhag’s badminton hall at Sarpang Taar.
The dzongkhag administration, since early morning yesterday, deployed its pool vehicles and other medium vehicles to help shopkeepers evacuate the town.
Town Tshogpa Karma Tshering said that of the total of 52 shopkeepers, around 30 of them had separate residences located in safe areas. Temporary accommodation for about 20 shopkeepers has been arranged in Sarpang Taar by the dzongkhag administration.
The tshogpa added that although the rain had subsided in the town area towards the evening, the river level remains high.
As of yesterday, heavy rainfall was still reported upstream of the Sarpang river. “It isn’t safe to spend nights in the town,” said Karma Tshering.
He added that besides the threat from the river, clogged drains also diverted water towards the shops covering the town in muck.
However, automobile workshops located above the highway are safe and have not been evacuated.
Sarpang’s disaster focal person said with the evacuation complete there is no risk to lives. “All arrangements have been made, families settled at one place and shopkeeper’s goods are at the vegetable shed,” he said.
Four families residing in a two-storey building adjacent to the riverbank have also been evacuated along with their belongings. The swollen river had reached the edge of the building.
Heavy rainfall had also caused the Maukhola river to swell in Gelephu affecting a water treatment plant and cutting off water supply to the core town area.
Thromde officials are currently making arrangements to pump out turbidity from the treatment plant.
Besides the core town area, the water treatment plant also supplies drinking water to the hospital, a guesthouse and two schools.
Thrompon Tika Ram Kafley said that although the rain has subsided and the level of the Maukhola has decreased, the thromde will not be able to release water from the treatment plant.
“The treatment plant is contaminated and turbidity is too high after mucky ground water seeped in,” he said. “Should there be no rainfall tonight we should be able to release clean water by (today).”
He also added that the swollen Maukhola almost washed away the treatment plant itself, which is located adjacent to the riverbank in Bijanbari.
While the thromde has not received any complaints regarding water shortage in the town, Thrompon Tika Ram said the thromde would make arrangements to reach water to houses facing shortage. “We’ve three boreholes from which we can supply water in trucks,” he said.
A swollen Amochhu, while eroding small portions of land, did not cause any significant damage in Phuentsholing as of yesterday.
The level of the river had gone down as of last evening.
The Phuentsholing thromde and some business establishments located along the river had diverted the river just last month.
While the river did flow over the diversion structure yesterday, it still managed to divert much of the water away from the business establishments.
“The river flow was divided into three and its effect minimised,” said Sherab, the proprietor of Rigsar Construction. The river’s water had eroded its way into the company’s land. However, the company had also built temporary dams the previous night which kept the water at bay.
Business persons said the construction of the diversion had helped even though the initiative had not totally succeeded.
Not all the businesses located along the Amochhu had contributed for the diversion.
Initially, the businesses and the thromde agreed to raise about Nu 3.8 million (M) for the diversion.
Sherab said not more than Nu 900,000 was collected from the businesses. “The ones who should actually contribute more have not complied yet,” he said.
The fund was also used to maintain the road to the Amochhu business settlement area.
The business community located along the embankment is recommending the government install river protection, pointing out that the private businesses cannot do it on their own.
One business person said that the government must step in, pointing out that insurance companies would have to bear the brunt of losses if anything were to happen.
The matter has also been discussed with the thromde. It has been recommended that should companies not contribute, the thromde should cut off the supply of electricity and water to those establishments.
Meanwhile, the Omchhu in Phuentsholing has also swollen but had caused no damage as of last night.
The Bhalujhora stream in Pasakha, on the other hand, has been causing problems whenever there is heavy rainfall. The road department has been continuously clearing the affected areas to keep it open to traffic.
The Amochhu, in July last year, broke its banks and caused seven families to lose their homes and property besides causing millions in damage to business establishments.
Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang and Rajesh Rai | P’ling