Action Plan to resolve Zanskar river crisis to begin within next 15 days

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Feb 20: The implementation of Action Plan chalked out to resolve the situation that has arisen due to blockage of river Phuktal in Zanskar Sub-Division of Kargil district will begin within next 15 days and completed by ending March by the experts from different fields under the direct control of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
This was decided during the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) meeting chaired by the Union Cabinet Secretary, Ajit Seth and attended by Defence Secretary Radha Krishna Mathur, Union Home Secretary L C Goyal and head of the National Disaster Management Authority besides experts of different fields.
The State Governor, N N Vohra, who had written to the NDMA for dealing with the situation on emergent basis, has asked the Chief Secretary to monitor closely the implementation of the Action Plan in close co-ordination with NDMA.
During the meeting, the report on the Phuktal River blockage, submitted by the expert team of the NDMA that conducted ground survey of the site, where artificial lake has been created on the river due to a massive landslide, was discussed in detail.
Both the options worked out by the expert team were deliberated upon in the meeting and finally it was decided that controlled and supervised blasting using some explosives to breach the landslide and make a channel for flow of water would be the most safe actionable solution, sources informed.
They said that the expert team comprising members from the Central Water Commission (CWC), Geological Survey of India (GSI), Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE), Survey of India (SoI) and National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) has also recommended use of air force laser guided bombs for breaching the blockage. However, this option did not find support from the Defence Secretary in view of some concerns raised by the Indian Air Force, sources informed.
Both these options were recommended by the expert team on the basis of ground situation in the problematic area, which is 90 kilometers from Padum and 43 kilometers from Purne.
Stating that prevailing situation demands removal of blockage well before April, when the snow will start melting and pose grave threat, the Union Cabinet Secretary decided that implementation of Action Plan by carrying out controlled blasting would begin within next 15 days in order to complete the same by ending March.
“The intensity of danger, which the blockage of river and creation of artificial lake carries, can be gauged from the fact that approximate volume of water blocked by the landslide dam is 24 MCM. The size of the blockade is 600m long, 50-60m wide and about 50m thick. The gradient of the gorge is 70 degree”, sources said.
Chief Secretary, Jammu and Kashmir, Mohammad Iqbal Khandey, who along with Principal Secretary, Planning and Development B R Sharma, Commissioner Secretary Irrigation & Flood Control Dr Pawan Kotwal, Commissioner Secretary Revenue, Vinod Koul and Deputy Commissioner Kargil participated in the meeting via video conferencing, was directed by the Union Cabinet Secretary to ensure relocation of all the 42 families, which are inhabiting in the areas on the downstream of the river, well before the start of work by the NDMA experts.
After controlled blasting, the landslide would be removed by deploying local manpower as they are used to work in such climatic conditions, sources said, adding National Crisis Management Committee has decided to provide proper insurance cover to all those who would be engaged for removal of debris and construction of channel for flow of water.
In order to ensure proper coordination between all the agencies involved in the implementation of Action Plan, a control room would be established in the problematic area with proper communication network in the shape of satellite phones, sources disclosed, adding experts of Union Ministry of Water Resources would also install equipment in order to carry out necessary monitoring.
As the expert team faced much difficulties in reaching the area for assessment of ground situation, the National Crisis Management Committee has decided that a temporary helipad would be constructed in the close vicinity of the problematic area for airlifting of men and machinery required to remove the blockage, sources said while disclosing that Indian Air Force has been directed by the Union Cabinet Secretary to provide all logistics in carrying out daunting task of opening the outlet of the river.
NDMA as the Nodal Agency will coordinate the whole operation in tandem with other Ministries including Home and Defence while as Divisional Commissioner Kashmir would coordinate on behalf of J&K Government.
The constant aerial/satellite monitoring of the site is being done and data collected on daily/hourly basis.
Meanwhile, Governor has appreciated the approval of an Action Plan, which will involve integrated efforts from the State and Central Government agencies including CWC, Survey of India, Central Institute of Mining and Fuel Research, Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment, NHPC, BRO, Army and Air Force.
The Raj Bhavan Spokesperson recalled that consequent to the intervention by the Governor last month, urging the NDMA to constitute a Multi-Disciplinary Expert Group to evolve an Action Plan for dealing with the situation, an Expert Committee was constituted by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), which visited the blockage site last week.