Going by the kind of river protection works carried along the banks of Shetikharey stream in Gelephu, locals hope that monsoon might not cause damages in the locality like last year.

The Shetikharey stream, which swells every monsoon, causes destruction and cuts off the area from Gelephu, affecting students and travellers. The damage was worst last year.

To avoid such destruction, Gelephu dungkhag and gewog administration is scooping out sands and boulders from the riverbed, making a deep passage for the stream to flow in one course.

Six contractors are executing the work.

Local residents say that the river changes its course every year, intensifying its destruction. “A bridge was constructed over its initial course and inaugurated last year. But two months later, the swollen stream changed its course and flowed through Pelrithang Khatoed village,” a resident said. “There was no river under the bridge.”

Gelephu gup Ugyen Wangchuk said that constructing walls and deepening the riverbed is the best solution to control the huge volume of water spreading into the villages. “I don’t see any other way to stop the stream from spreading into the village,” he said.

He said that to prevent disaster and flooding again, long stretches of protection walls are being constructed.

In the four-kilometer stretch, at least nine walls will be constructed from the source at Zomlingthang to the Gelephu-Zhemgang highway. Each wall will be having a length of 25 to 50 meters.

The gup said that protecting the adjacent villages, lives and properties of the public was his top priority.

Gup Ugyen Wangchuk said they are speeding up works to complete it before monsoon.

He said that if the protection work cannot complete before monsoon, Zomlingthang village will be at threat of flooding. There is also a huge water tank supplying water to villages of Zomlingthang, Pemathang and Lekithang.

“If the water tank bursts entire Gelephu town could flood,” the gup said.

The sand extracted after dredging is being transported to the Gelephu thromde. It is used at the ongoing works on constructing internal roads of the local area plans of the throm.

However, a bottleneck for the ongoing works is a bridge at the Zhemgang-Gelephu highway. “This bridge was one obstruction that led to water overflow on the highway and spread into the village below the highway,” a resident said.

The gewog administration appealed to the Department of Road (DoR) to dismantle the bridge and construct a new one, which will allow huge water passage from underneath. The issue was also raised during the recent dzongkhag tshogdu.  “Our effort in controlling and channeling water into one will be a waste if a new bridge is not constructed here,” the gup said.

DoR officials, however, said that the department does understand the necessity of a larger bridge over the highway and that they fear dismantling the existing one will cause even bigger disaster this monsoon.

Chief executive engineer, CB Mongar, explained that constructing a new bridge would require several months, which is not possible before this monsoon. “If the existing concrete bridge is dismantled, the traffic flow will be totally disrupted,” he said.

He added that the DoR would begin works on constructing the bridge early next year so that it is complete before monsoon.

Meanwhile, the ongoing river protection works are being carried out at the cost of Nu 47.5 million.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Gelephu