Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Phuentsholing has been experiencing heavy downpours for the past week with the onset of monsoon. Toorsa river is swelling and has turned brown.

If some mitigation measures aren’t up in time, residents are worried about flooding.

Since the lockdown was enforced on April 16, construction work at the Phuentsholing Township and Development Project (PTDP) along the Toorsa embankment have completely stopped. With this work stopped critical work has also stopped, according to the sources.

Prior to the lockdown, AFCONS Infrastructure Limited had stopped the temporary protection wall construction to raise permanent protection. However, the work had not been completed. This exposes the area to flooding risk.

Rigsar Construction was working on it and its proprietor Sherab Dorji said the area is at risk. “Construction of the permanent protection walls is still incomplete.”

However, Rigsar Construction has already written to the Task Force about this risk. The construction work will begin today.

PTDP’s project manager from the implementing agency Construction Development Corporation Limited (CDCL), Kamal Dhakal said the risk of flooding was always there. 

“However, there is not much risk to the project area.”

While the permanent wall construction was completely stopped due to the lockdown, Kamal Dhakal maintained only a small portion from the temporary protection wall was dismantled. It can still be closed, he explained.

The current PTDP is a development work of 162.88-acres at Zone A (Package-I). There are five primary components—river training, backfilling, walkways (upper and lower), landscaping and 12 cross-drainage work. CDCL awarded the package to AFCONS.

Even if Zone A, located near the town has low flood risks, many are of the view the real danger is for Zone B area, which is upstream of Zone A.

Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited (NRDCL) has huge stockpiles of boulders in this area. River water has already reached the area where the boulders are stocked, which is currently shielding the area from flooding.

Should a flood-hit Zone B, it will be the eight-acre boulder containment zone at risk. The area was developed by Bhutan Exporters Association (BEA) and its members, spending Nu 16.5 million.

Considering the two major floods that changed the face of Toorsa embankments in 2015 and 2016, if a flood hits Zone B, water would come through Chamkuna area. But a road is being constructed in Chamkuna and a flood would ruin the progress. Also, the river will wash away the NRDCL boulders.

NRDCL Phuentsholing regional manager, Nawang Denden said Zone B had higher flood risks compared to that of PTDP project Zone A. 

“We have started protection work yesterday.”

NRDCL and a contractor have jointly started protection works near the BEA containment zone, Nawang Denden said.

A river protection wall will also be constructed upstream of the BEA containment zone. A 100-metre (five metre in height) gabion wall project, worth Nu 2 million, has been tendered.

“It has not been awarded right now,” Nawang Denden said.

Meanwhile, residents are worried following the notification from the National Centre for Hydrology and meteorology warning possible heavy showers in Bhutan due to the disturbance in the Bay of Bengal in India.