Plans are on the way to mitigate damage from the flooding seasonal river

Roads: Plans to build an additional floodway and other flood mitigation measures along the banks of the notorious Setikhari in Gelephu would be framed this winter, according to the works and human settlement minister, Dorji Choden who visited the flood areas recently.

The minister said that the floodwaters could be tamed by constructing additional floodway of over three kilometers from where it was left earlier, as suggested by the local leaders.  “Whatever is needed to be planned to protect the lives, settlement and property from Setikhari floods would be done in winter,” Dorji Choden said.

Setikhari has its source at Juprey and Dechenpelri from where the seasonal river flows cutting through the heart of Khamey Pelrithang on the right bank and Lekithang, Pemathang and Zomlithang on its left bank before joining Maokhola in the south.

Setikhari was just a small stream until some extraction of stones and boulders disturbed its natural course in 2004.

“The problem began and grew bigger from 2004 when water from Setikhari started flooding to areas outside its course,” Gelephu gup, Tashi said, adding that the removal of boulders and stones from its riverbed and protection walls led Setikhari to flood threatening lives, property and settlement located downstream.

“Now Setikhari poses risks to Khamey Pelrithang on its right bank and Pemathang, Zomlithang, Lekithang and even Gelephu throm on its left bank,” Tashi said, adding acres of land both private and government has been damaged by the floodwaters downstream.

This monsoon, flooding damaged around 15 meters of floodway (protection wall) upstream and over 300 meters downstream below the Zhemgang-Trongsa highway. The debris from Setikhari has also clogged the culvert leading the run-offs to run on the road.

In 2013, a 2.4-kilometer long floodway was constructed along the banks of Setikhari as preventive and mitigation measure. Gup Tashi however said the lack of adequate budget has hindered from bringing the floodwaters under control since the floodway couldn’t be constructed till the source in Juprey.

Flood engineering and management division deputy executive engineer, Kinley Dorji said the ministry is planning to construct Sabo-dam at source of Setikhari in Juprey, which would enable dredging of debris and swift flow of water.

“The local leaders are also proposing construction of floodway further upstream till the source measuring roughly three kilometers,” Kinley Dorji said.

The minister also said the ministry would look into what needs to be done to the culvert on the highway.

“We would see whether bigger culvert needs to be constructed or if reinforcing the existing culvert would be enough,” lyonpo Dorji Choden said.

The ministry also directed the gewog to keep clearing the debris in Daula river, which has also been causing floods in Pelrithang. Daula is located just over 50 meters away from Setikhari.

“The ministry is discussing with dzongkhag, thromde, local leaders and engineers on finding effective and lasting solutions based on the past practical experiences,” lyonpo Dorji Choden said adding it is not easy to deal with natural disasters.

“There is no easy solution for flooding water of Setikhari since it is changing the course because of its multiple sources,” the minister said.

The minister also said coming up with permanent lasting solution would need years of data collection on floods, rainfall pattern and weather condition, which is unavailable.

“However, there is scope to strengthen what has already been done,” the minister said.

Tempa Wangdi, Gelephu