MP's SOS to Delhi on 'imminent eco-disaster' in Kargil

Greater Kashmir

‘Blockade of Phutkalriver can be disastrous for Zanskar Valley’

Srinagar, Jan 18: Member Parliament from Ladakh, Thupstan Chhewang, has alerted New Delhi over the “imminent eco-disaster” in Kargil due to the blockage of Phutkalriver, saying “it can be disastrous for Zanskar Valley and its adjoining low lying areas.”
The MP’s SOS comes in the wake of stopping of world famous Chadar Trek for tourists due to blockade of Phuktalriver between ShadaySumdo and Shun.
“This is a very serious matter which could result in disastrous calamities affecting whole of Zanskar Valley and low lying areas of Leh and Kargil districts downstream of Zanskar and Indus river. I request your kind and personal intervention in the matter which may be kindly treated as most urgent,” Chhewang wrote in a letter to Union Minister for Home Affairs, Rajnath Singh.
The MP has also taken up the matter with the Minister of State for Home Affairs KiranRejiju, Governor of Jammu and Kashmir NN Vohra and Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister.
Chhewang said the river flowing from Shun got blocked near Marshun due to sliding of loose soil. “As per reports from official sources, the river got completely blocked and huge amount of water got accumulated at the stretch of about five kms towards ChumikGyatsa. Depth of the water could not be ascertained as ice has formed and the height formed from sliding of soil from one side of the mountain is about 200 feet as ascertained from chopper,” he said.
“The accumulated water can burst anytime and is posing great danger to the travellers on Chadar and villages located near river at low-lying areas,” the MP warned.
Executive Councilor, Zanskar Affairs, LAHDC Kargil, SkalzangWangail said the Chadar trek route has been closed for tourists and trekkers due to landslides.
The state government in 2011 had revived the Chadar Trek on frozen Zanskarriver nestled between mountainous Ladakh to attract tourists to the region during winter. The Government has declared 2011 as Adventure Tourism Year to attract tourists to the Himalayan State with special focus on Ladakh which is dotted with peaks and mountains.
Situated at an elevation of 13,154 ft, Zanskar is surrounded by the Ladakh and Zanskar ranges.
Officials said the Chadar Trek was used for thousands years by local inhabitants as the only link to the outside world when the passes and roads get closed due to heavy snowfall.
“We have done an aerial survey during where we found that at ShadaySumdo at a distance of 5.5 Km below Murshu a whole side of the mountain has slid into the Valley and the river has been blocked by a 200-feet slide. Due to these circumstances the road has been closed for movement as it could prove fatal for travelers due to extreme conditions,” Wangli said.
Officials said the Deputy Commissioner Kargil Muhammad Sadiq Sheikh assessed the situation created due to the blockage of the river.  “It has been decided in a meeting that movement on Chadar route will be stopped immediately. SDM Zanskar was directed to submit a report for shifting of villagers along the river bank while a team of expert from Army, BHPC, Civilian Administration and BRO, will be sent to the exact location immediately to streamline the flow of the river again, and team from disaster Management will be sought for help,” they said.
A local leader of Lungnak-ZanskarStanzinLhakpa has also warned of a disaster in Kargil, “if timely action is not taken.”
“This could result in a huge disaster and once this lake gets burst, many of the villages near the river bank including Yougar, Tsethang, Ufti, Rinam, Pishu, Zangla would be blown away; likewise many villages in Sham valley of Ladakh region. Many bridges starting from Phuktal, Cha, Ichar, Raru, Pibiting, Zangla would be washed away,” he said.
Lhakpa said the Chadar Trek is the only means of livelihood for the locals in winter by working with tourists. “This will affect the local economy. There are hundreds of labourers working in a project at Nimoo-Padum-Darcha Road. All foreign and domestic tourists are held at Padum and Leh and local residents are worried about the situation and its consequences”, Lhakpa said.
Meanwhile, police teams have been deployed at Nerak village and SangamNimoo to prevent any trekkers, locals from undergoing the Chadar Trek, the MP’s letter reads.