It is peak monsoon. Dark clouds circle the valley of Choeten Kora town in Trashiyangtse. Everyday, light drizzle turns to a heavy shower.
A town resident, Tashi Wangmo, is worried. She said it’s been raining for the last one week.
The 50-year-old, who lives by a stream in the heart of town, is worried that the stream would swell. The recent flash flood in Bumdeling has added to her fear.
The stream, Serkang, has a history of swelling unpredictably.
Residents say that around this time last year, the stream swelled at midnight forcing people to evacuate the town towards the new dzong area.
“Every year we have to run towards the dzong when the water level of the stream rises,” she said. “Every night we have to go to bed worrying that the stream might swell.”
A businessman said he makes sure that his mobile phone and torch are charged with batteries. “I also ensure that all necessary items like warm clothes and shoes are put inside a small backpack and keep it near the door. We never take chances with this stream.”
The former town chimi, Nima Wangchuk, recollects stories he heard about the stream. “The stream swells from time to time especially during auspicious days (15th and 30th day of the Bhutanese calendar),” the 80-year-old man said.
According to a local lore, the source of the stream is located at a cliff called Tongbrak (thousand-cliff). “Inside the cliff, it is believed that there are a thousand monks meditating. During auspicious occasions, when the monks perform rituals at the cliff, the water level rises,” Nima Wangchuk said.
He said 108 waterfalls are located at the cliff from where the stream begins. “During auspicious occasions, the waterfall appears like a prayer flag.”
It is believed that the major flood that washed away the settlement of the town some 100 years ago was also because of the stream. “According to a 90-year-old monk who I met during my days as a mason, the Serkang stream used to flow from a place, which is above the current dzong’s location,” Nima Wangchuk said. “After that flood, the stream changed its course and it flows from the middle of the town now.”
Some residents say that even when the day is bright and sunny, the stream swells. “This is very unusual of a stream to swell on a bright sunny day when we haven’t received rainfall for weeks,” a resident said.
Meanwhile, the residents have approached the thromde ngotshab to initiate some precautionary measures.
Trashiyangtse’s thromde ngotshab, Ugyen Lhamo, said that the fear from Serkang stream is a major concern to the residents. “Although the fear was there for a long time, no one took it up and discussed with the authority,” she said. “Now we’re taking this issue seriously and will be discussing it in the upcoming dzongkhag tshogdu.”
Ugyen Lhamo said the residents have requested for a siren system near the source of the stream to alert them of the danger. They have also suggested looking into the possibility of a flood protection wall.
Younten Tshedup | Trashiyangtse