Four machines have been deployed at Omchhu bridge in Phuentsholing for 24 by 7 dredging purpose no matter what the weather forecast is. The four machines which were deployed from June 27 will be deployed until 27 August and if required they will further extend the timing.
Ironically, the problem with the newly constructed Omchhu Bridge in Phuentsholing is that it is vulnerable to flooding given the low river bed levels due to sedimentation. The risk is high whenever there is heavy rainfall.
Phuentsholing Thrompon, Uttar Kumar Rai said that the bridge is at risk based on two grounds. The first is the design of the bridge and on the other hand the sedimentation. He said, “The height of the bridge is 4 meters, however, during heavy rainfall, the sands and debris gets piled up at the bridge leading to sedimentation.”
The Thrompon said that in case of heavy rainfall they deploy 10 additional machines.
Meanwhile, he said that the Thromde alone cannot do it due to budget constraints as during summer they need to deploy machines all over. “We have conducted a stakeholder meeting to address this issue and thereby we have given the dredging work to Chhimi RD and Buddha construction. It is purely to tackle the disaster and not for profit making,” he added. He also said that they have not yet discussed on selling the materials outside. “However, they cannot deploy their machines all the time which is why in order to get the cost of fueling for their machines we have given it them on the modality of dredge and track,” said the Thrompon.
Chhimi RD has been selling the dredged materials to the Samtse-Phuentsholing highway but Buddha construction has not piled enough and for now they are doing the dredging work voluntarily, he added. “If they have piled up enough materials in future, than we will decide if we will sell it outside. Even if they are allowed in the future they will have to pay royalty for each truck load,” he said.
Talking about the threat to settlement, he said that they have evacuated 18 families of the National Labor Force and they are temporarily being kept in the Badminton court in Phuentsholing. The evacuated families were affected in the past. And for now there is no settlement on the down river side of the bridge, he said. The Thrompon said that if the bridge gets clogged, an artificial lake will be formed and if that happens than it may pose a threat to the settlements which are currently there in the Truck parking. This is why they have been carrying out dredging work 24/7.
“If we did not do the dredging now, there is a chance of threat to life and property including the collapse of the bridge itself. And if that happens, more budget will go with the reconstruction and other works. So this is why we felt that going with modality of dredging and track can save a lot,” he added.
The Thromde and Dungkhag are monitoring the work from time to time but the CDCL, Forest and NRDCL are at the site monitoring the situation 24/7.
He said, “When it comes to disaster, the work for the safety of the people and settlement is not solely the responsibility of Thromde. This is a social responsibility and people must come forward. They just come and watch rather then helping. If they come forward, then we will lead and tackle the situation together.”
He said help is needed during such times as they run out of manpower and machines as they have to be at multiple places of disaster, he said.
On the other hand, he said that due to a change in the system people do not want to come forward though Thromde was ready to pay them and at the end of the day Thromde and people are the ones suffering.
He said that those families who are in badminton court for now will be soon shifted in a temporary shelter at Kabraytar Nursery Park. “We have a plan to construct sustainable and permanent houses for those workers in Khariphu where there will be no threats. We have a plan to start the construction soon,” he added.
The span of the Omchhu Bridge is 46.8 meters with a carrying capacity of 40 MT. The bridge was constructed at the cost of Nu 75.12 mn and was inaugurated on 17 April 2019. The ADB has funding 85 percent of the capital as a loan, while the government has funded the remaining 15 percent.