For the many vendors running meat shops and vegetable shops in Thimphu’s Norzin Lam vegetable market, as well as other business owners and residents, the flash flood that happened on 15 April 2023 was nothing out of the ordinary.
The Norzin Lam Vegetable Market vendor Dawa, 28, recalled her experiences of facing the flash floods every monsoon season.
Dawa stated, “I have been a vegetable vendor here for two years. During those years, I saw two or three accounts of flash floods, and the most recent one was the first this year.”
She remembers how Thimphu Thromde took action last year to build a drainage system to lessen the effects of flash floods. She claimed her business suffered during the construction duration, but she endured it with the hope with such a drainage system would end the problems of over flowing drain water during the monsoon.
“We thought that the drainage system construction would have helped, but it did not, as the latest flash flood, which you can see, proves this,” she said.
She claimed that despite the drainage system’s inefficiency, their belongings were not as badly damaged as those of the meat shop vendors located at the building directly on the path of the overflowing drain water.
One of the meat shop owners on the first floor of Norzin Lam Vegetable Market said, “We rented the shop under Thimphu Thromde, and during the flash flood this year, we did call Thimphu Thromde, but they did not come to inspect.”
The owner of the meat shop declared, “Despite our repeated requests and the Thromde’s efforts, it is still ineffective. Since 2019, we have been dealing with this problem. Every year, the same thing happens.”
The owner of the meat shop acknowledged that the Thromde manages the drainage system annually, but it appears to be ineffective. He said that people throwing their trash down the drain has further worsened the problem.
Similarly, the Thimphu Thromde also stated that the recent flash flood in the city was due to the sudden untimely downpour. The cause of the flood was due to the clogging of the drainage system due to some reckless trash disposers.
The Thimphu Thromde justified, “We clean the drains in regular intervals to maintain the thoroughfare of the drains but it so happened that few unexpected blockages happened.”
Despite its best efforts, Thimphu Thromde appears to be of no value in helping people during the monsoon season. The drainage system they developed is ineffective, as many people have complained. Either the water overflows the drainage system they built, or it does not flow at all.
The owners of five meat shops recollect the monsoon season flash flood in 2019 as being the worst because they lost 2 to 4 meat storage freezers at a cost of between Nu 32,000 and Nu 42,000 each.
Although the owners of the meat shops have taken steps to save their establishments and freezers, it does not appear to be working.
The owners of the meat shops tried to prevent the water from entering their store during the monsoon by adding support under the freezers and by constructing a little wall in front of the door, but it did not work.
Though business is slow during the flash flood, the shop owners claimed that they always live in fear of flash floods during the monsoon season. Their main worry is that the freezers will become damaged or cause short-circuiting during business hours on other days.
Similar to this, the building’s caretaker, who must live there with his family, is most impacted by the flash floods.
During the flash flood during the monsoon season, he claimed, “I literally have to wake up in the middle of the night and carry my child and go upstairs, which is discouraging me from working and disrupting my life.”
He expressed that he has no sense of security during the monsoon season and is in a state of constant worry.
Despite the difficulties, there are restaurants in the Norling building that are willing to stay and operate their business, as their building owners provided aid after the flash flood, in terms of cleaning. Though for shop owners in the Norzin Lam vegetable market the same help is not extended.
Meanwhile, Thimphu Thromde said it conducts frequent cleaning and inspections during the monsoon season to avoid such incidents. Thromde urges the public to take care of their surroundings and avoid disposing of garbage inappropriately. Thromde waste collection services are strengthened and made accessible to all residents for timely disposal of their waste.
The Thimphu Thromde also said, “The number of flooding counts cannot be ascertained as it depends on the intensity of the rainfall.”