Housing damage in Trongsa linked to hydropower comes up in Parliament

Dragteng Langthil’s Member of Parliament (MP) Gyem Dorji during the Question Hour session in National Assembly shared that upon the unforeseen cracks and deformation on land and houses under Dragteng and Langthil Gewogs in Trongsa after the construction of hydropower tunnel, there were few recommendations made by expert team for immediate implementation.

Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Project Authority (MHPA) had received complaints from the nunnery and 6 households located above and below the National Highway at Kuenga Rabten under Drakteng gewog, Trongsa on 28 November 2019 regarding the formation of cracks in their building structures.

He said the recommendations made by an expert team for the immediate implementations were not executed till date.

In response Economic Affairs Minister, Loknath Sharma, said that subsequent to the complaints, a number of assessments were carried out by multidisciplinary experts at different time periods such as the MHPA Internal Committee, Interdisciplinary group from DHPS, DGPC and DGM, and JICA experts.

Further, assessments were also carried out by the Dzongkhag Administration in coordination with the MHPA, the minister added.

“Through all the assessments carried out by different expert groups, there wasn’t any conclusive evidence to suggest that the subsidence of the area is directly due to the project’s activities,” Economic Affairs Minister said.

He during the session said that it was observed and measured there was no leakage from the HRT, subsidence due to water seepage was ruled out and the nunnery is at vertical cover of 107-215 m and lateral cover of 68-308 m from the HRT and thus the impacts of tunneling was ruled out.

However, the impact due to project construction could have links with these cracks formation and deformation, he said, adding that it cannot be ruled out straight away, and other factors such as improper drainages, heavy rainfall and tremors induced by the mild earthquake in 2019 are also factors to be considered.

He said, “We have taken actions, whereby, we have installed inclinometers at various sites to monitor the movement. Rectification works worth Nu 8.834 million (mn) are paid by the project to nunnery and few affected households in the Kuengarabten area and Drakteng gewog.”

The project through its social responsibility had to support such measures as cracks, and deformation were not observed before the project or during early time of construction, therefore, there is a coincidence that it might have triggered it, the minister added.

All the recommendations of the report prepared by the investigation team are being implemented including drilling, installing inclinometers, 3D surface monitoring and cracks and roads maintenance.

DoR was provided with a budget of Nu 64 mn for highway maintenance and the works are still ongoing, the Economic Affairs Minister pointed out.

He also said support is being rendered to the nunnery in shifting its location. Continuous monitoring and collection of data will be done to assess the situation.

“To avoid such impacts for future, MoEA has approved Bhutan Hydropower Guideline 2018 and Dam Safety Guideline 2020,” the Economic Affairs Minister said.

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