Lake burst: NDMA under attack for ‘shoddy’ work

JAMMU: There is more than what meets the eye in the sudden bursting of the artificial lake created on the Phuktal river in the Zanskar subdivision of Kargil district due to landslide blockage on December 31 last year.

Lake burst: NDMA under attack for ‘shoddy’ work

The artificial lake on the Phuktal river in Zanskar. Tribune File Photo

editorial@tribune.com

Arteev Sharma andAmir Karim Tantray

Tribune News Service

Jammu, May 7

There is more than what meets the eye in the sudden bursting of the artificial lake created on the Phuktal river in the Zanskar subdivision of Kargil district due to landslide blockage on December 31 last year.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and other agencies have drawn flak for “shoddy” work to tackle the impending flood threat in the region.

The joint task force of the Army, the Air Force and the NDMA claimed on April 1 that the tragedy had been averted after they created a channel through the blockage to drain out water from the artificial lake in a regulated manner.

The NDMA was appointed as nodal agency by the Government of India on January 24 to formulate and implement the strategy to clear the Phuktal blockage.

Taking cognisance of the alarming situation in the Zanskar subdivision, Governor NN Vohra directed the state administration on January 21 to request the NDMA to constitute a multi-disciplinary expert group to evolve an action plan for dealing with the situation.

Till the formation of a new government in Jammu and Kashmir on March 1, the Governor was looking into the issue and held deliberations with the authorities concerned for an early solution to the crisis.

It took almost 50 days for the NDMA, which reached Ladakh to assess the situation on February 8, and other agencies to start work on creating a channel for regulated flow of water, notwithstanding repeated requests from representatives from Kargil, Zanskar and Leh for early clearance of the blockage.

They apprehended that flashfloods would cause disaster in the entire Zanskar subdivision once the frozen river, where the landslide blockage had formed the 15-km-long artificial lake, and the glacier started melting.

“The government must explain what the Cabinet Secretary and his expert team were monitoring all along? Irrespective of the extent of damage, the NDMA team must be taken to task. It should be pulled up by the Chief Secretary and he should explain what it was doing,” said an angry Nawang Rigzin Jora, Congress Legislature Party leader and Leh MLA.

He said he stood vindicated. “I had forewarned the government both inside the Assembly and outside that the NDMA team comprising sectoral experts which was given the responsibility to solve the problem had done shoddy work. Imagine making a channel two metres wide and two metres deep in loose, rocky and sandy terrain and expecting it to drain out the discharge from a glacier 50 metres thick, 100 metres wide and 14 kilometres long,” he said.

Mohammad Haneefa Jan, Chairman and Chief Executive Councillor, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Kargil, expressed his displeasure over the NDMA’s “faulty work” and favoured a high-level inquiry to fix the responsibility.

“There were several shortcomings in the exercise of the NDMA. On the one side, it claimed that it had averted the tragedy and on the other, such extensive damage was caused to public property due to floods. An inquiry should be conducted to take the guilty to task,” he said.

Tsering Angdus, Executive Councillor, Zanskar Affairs, LAHDC, Kargil, said, “The NDMA’s declaration that it had averted the tragedy by creating a channel through the landslide blockage was like cheating and an act of deception with the people of Zanskar.”

“Had the NDMA not announced it, people would have taken some precautions. The NDMA is responsible for the enormous loss to public property. We will visit the areas affected tomorrow and order an inquiry into the negligence on the part of the NDMA,” he added.

Phutkal timeline

Dec 31, 2014 A landslide blocks the Phuktal river, creating an artificial lake

Jan 21, 2015 The administration requests the NDMA to set up an expert group to evolve an action plan to deal with the situation

Jan 24 Union Cabinet Secretary constitutes NDMA panel comprising experts to formulate a strategy

Feb 8 Team in Ladakh

Feb 13 Team conducts ground survey and collects  soil and boulder samples

Feb 18 LAHDC-Kargil Chief Executive Councillor seeks Ghulam Nabi Azad’s intervention over issue

Feb 20 Union Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth approves action plan and decides on getting water drained out through manual breach

Feb 26 Joint delegation of LAHDCs of Leh and Kargil call on Governor, requesting him for urgent clearance of blockage; district administration declares the area avalanche-prone

March 28: Joint task force starts work on channel to drain out water

April 1 Joint task force says it has created a 75-metre-long channel through the blockage to drain out water