Blocked Phuktal river spills over, floods Zanskar

KARGIL: The artificial lake formed on river Phuktal in Zanskar subdivision of Kargil district breached on Thursday morning washing away dozens of bridges, schools and residential houses.

The lake was formed last year when a massive landslide blocked the Phutkal river in the Zanskar area of the frontier region. The district administration issued an alert and advised people living near the banks of the river to move to safer places beforehand. However damage to infrastructure is being ascertained. 

Hassan Khan, the Deputy Commissioner of Kargil was quoted as saying, “The artificial lake on river Phuktal, in Zanskar area of the frontier district, burst suddenly at 8:10 AM causing flash floods.” This prompted authorities to launch an evacuation operation in the affected villages. “About six bridges, including motorable ones, have been washed away but there are no immediate reports of any casualty,” he said. 

“There are around 2,000-3,000 inhabitants in the area and efforts are on to move them to safer places. The area is inaccessible but we are trying our best,” Khan said.

Officials said the released water was yet to reach the small town of Padum, the headquarters of Zanskar sub-division of Kargil district. Those who abandoned their homes in Padum, are anxious and helplessly waiting to see what damage the water from the burst lake may cause.

On December 31 last year, Phuktal suffered a blockade by a massive 200 feet high landslide dam, equivalent to the height of a 20-storey building, leading to the creation of a lake extending more than 10 km.

The area is enroute to the famous Chadar trek that attracts tourists from across the world. The Nimo-Bazgo hydroelectric project in the adjoining Leh district also gets water from Phuktal river. 

Teams from the central and state disaster management authorities had visited the artificial lake and even released the accumulated water marginally to bring down the threat to downstream areas. 

Last month, the army claimed to have cleared the blockade of the river by creating a channel through the landslide area that facilitated the flow of water downstream. The army had said, it created a 75-metre-long channel, 2-metres deep and 2-metres wide, through controlled blasting using 175 kg of explosive, over five days. Following the effort, an artificial channel was reportedly created through the landslide area that facilitated flow of water downstream. The army had said, water was cleared out at the time and started gushing across the landslide in an uninterrupted manner from the lake formed. 

Jora says vindicated 

Srinagar: Congress Legislature Party leader Rigzin Jora Thursday said he stands vindicated over the breach in an artificial lake in Ladakh.

In a statement he said, “I had forewarned the Government both inside the Assembly and outside that the NDMA team comprising sectoral experts who were entrusted the responsibility to fix the problem had done shoddy work. Imagine making a channel of two meter depth, two meter wide in loose, rocky, sandy terrain and expect it to drain out discharge from glacier 50 meter thick 100 meter wide and 14 km in length. These experts of NDMA did not even apply common sense, forget about coming up with any scientific solution to it.”

Jora said that the channel in loose rocky sand would not hold out. “It was too small considering the discharge expected,” he said. “All this was known to the NDMA team as one of its member confided to a local  people that it cannot do anything, lake will burst on its own”.

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