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Governor, Centre strategise to save Zanskar from flash floods

BJP MP from Ladakh pointed out the dangers downstream when the river melts.

NOOR-UL-QAMRAIN  Srinagar | 24th Jan 2015

The Raj Bhawan in Jammu and Kashmir has got in touch with the Central government after experts and the Kargil district administration alerted the state government about possible flash floods in the downstream areas of Zanskar Valley. An artificial dam created by landslides has blocked the upper reaches of the Phutkal river there.

The state government has already taken some remedial measures after the Kargil district administration issued flash flood warnings. "The government has already closed the Chadar trek route for tourists after the landslides in the area," said deputy commissioner of Kargil, Muhammad Sadiq Sheikh. He said that the government was also monitoring the villages along the river bank and will take the decision whether to shift the villagers from their homes or not.

Informed sources told this newspaper that the Centre plans to dispatch experts to examine the possibility of a deliberate breach created in the dam, as the artificial lake created by the landslides is still small. "The team will assess the situation and a decision would be taken accordingly", Raj Bhawan sources said. State government officials said that the river is frozen at this time and the possibility of it breaching its banks is low. However, once it melts in summer, it can be dangerous to life and property downstream.

Earlier, BJP MP from Ladakh, Thupstan Chhewang requested the Union Home Ministry to intervene into the matter and save the Zanskar Valley from an eco-disaster. He has informed the Central government that the Phutkal river got completely blocked due to the slide of loose soil and has resulted in an artificial lake. "The accumulated water may burst any time and will pose great danger to the travelers and to the villagers living in the low lying areas of the river", Chhewang said.

The Kargil deputy commissioner said that they have done their aerial survey of the area and added that other measures would be taken in consultation with expert teams and with other government authorities. He said that the decision would be taken after the teams visit the spot and their advice would be taken as final. Chhewang and many locals are afraid that the lake can burst any time and wash away dozens of villages near the river bank including some bridges and other properties.

Chhewang told the media that there is no response from the Central government. In 2010, the Leh Ladakh flash floods wreaked havoc to life and property, triggered by massive cloud bursts. State government officials said that if the team will suggest that the water is to be drained out of the artificial lake, disaster management teams along with experts from the Army and BRO will take a final call on the matter.

"We are monitoring the situation and are in touch with the Central Government", a senior state official told this newspaper.

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