Phutkal river blockade: NDMA team reviews contingency plan

Phutkal river blockade: NDMA team reviews contingency plan

Experts have warned of ‘imminent catastrophic flashfloods’ in Zanskar and its low-lying areas in case of bursting of accumulated waters in the artificial lake.

A high level team of experts from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Monday reviewed the state’s contingency plan to deal with the ‘imminent eco-disaster’ in the mountainous Kargil region due to blockade of Phutkal river in Zanskar Valley.

Phutkal got completely blocked on January 15 due to landslides, forming an artificial lake on a stretch of about five kms towards Chumik Gyatsa.

Experts have warned of ‘imminent catastrophic flashfloods’ in Zanskar and its low-lying areas in case of bursting of accumulated waters in the artificial lake.

The NDMA team led by V D Roy, Director Central Water Commission, reached Leh last evening and held meeting with senior officials of Leh and Kargil on Monday. They also reviewed the state’s contingency plan in the wake of blockade of Phutkal river.

“The committee assessed threats to life and property in Zanskar and contingency plan of the state government to deal with the situation,” Deputy Commissioner Kargil G Prasanna Ramaswamy told Greater Kashmir.

Ramaswamy who has been nominated as Nodal Officer for liasioning with the team, said he apprised it of the situation in Phutkal based on aerial recent survey conducted by him.

“We told the committee that there is no road accessibility to the blockage spot and briefed it about the steps taken by the district administration including formation of Quick Response Team in vulnerable areas,” the DC said.

Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Rohit Kansal said the team will make assessment of the river’s blocked stretch on Tuesday. “In case weather is favorable, the team will make spot assessment on Tuesday. We have asked the Indian Air Force to facilitate the team’s visit to the spot,” Kansal said.

Director of the Central Water Commission VD Roy said there is no immediate threat to life and property due to flashfloods as the river is frozen. “However, the accumulated water from the artificial river can burst anytime and we have to remain vigilant. Unlike during cloudbursts or floods, the district administration has got ample time to take measures for avoiding threats to life and property,” Roy told Greater Kashmir.

Officials said around 600 metres of the river stretch has been blocked by soil and boulders creating a height of 50 metres. They said the present water level in the artificial lake due to the blockage is 80 percent of total height formed which amounts to storage of 30-35 cubic million water.

“Our priority will be to suggest measures for safely releasing accumulated waters by making breach or removing the blockade. We can take final decision after making spot assessment of the blocked site,” Roy said.

Roy also recommended installing an automatic river water monitoring system near at Phutkal to keep give hourly updates on water level using satellite powered transmitters. “We will formulate a strategy after taking all parameters including present situation, topography, water levels to prevent the situation from escalation,” the CWC head added.

The meeting was attended by Executive Councilor, Zanskar Affairs Skalzang Namgial, DC, Leh Saugat Biswas, DC, Kargil Prasanna Ramaswamy, Director, NHPC B D Patin, SE HQ, Vijayak-R k Dhiman, Scientist-F, SASE R K Verma, Director, GSI-B M Gairola, Officer Surveyor, SOI Maheshwar Singh and SSP Leh, SDM Khaltsi.

Pertinently, Governor NN Vohra had asked the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to constitute a Multi-Disciplinary Expert Group with representatives drawn from National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), Central Water Commission, Geological Survey of India, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology and other concerned to evolve an Action Plan for dealing with the issue.

Following the alarm, the NDMA constituted an expert Committee to proceed to the site. The Member Parliament from Ladakh, Thupstan Chhewang has also been seeking Government of India’s intervention to deal with the situation. In 2010, the flashfloods triggered by a cloudburst in Leh caused massive damage to life and property. In 2014, Jammu and Kashmir also witnessed large scale destruction due to floods triggered by incessant rains.