Melamchi area at risk: Floods could strike again at any time

  • Published Date : August 31, 2021

15th August, Kathmandu: Experts have pointed out that floods and landslides could hit Melamchi again even before the assessment of complete loss and damage caused by the floods in the Melamchi river. The statement was made as there is still a risk of landslides in Vemathang where the debris was accumulated and the area above it.

After the floods in Melamchi, Department of Mines and Geology concluded that the area is still not safe for residence due to the risk as per their recent study. Shiva Baskota, Senior Divisional Geologist of the department, said that the study commenced from 6th August came to this conclusion after conducting a geological study of the area. During the ‘Hakahaki Debate’ organized by Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists (NEFEJ) on Sunday, he said that the debris coming from above Vemathang were deposited at Vhemathang ground and there is a risk of overflowing at any time.

“The area where Melamchi and Pemdang rivers meet which lies above Vemathang, were flooded and the ground was filled with debris for about 10 meters,” said Geologist Banskota, “The debris did not come from Melamchi River but instead the debris accumulated in Vhemathang seems to have come from Pemdang. Landslides have been reported in the area around the Pemdang River.” He said that the risk was the same as landslides were still occurring in that area adding that the risk of landslides above the Melamchi River is also increasing. He said, “Floods may occur any time again during the monsoon season.”

According to Banskota, the intake of Melamchi Drinking Water Project located in Ambathan has been filled by debris up to 15 m. According to him, the debris accumulated in Vemathang alone can fill up 1.5 million trucks. He said that floods could occur at any time since there is no way to manage the accumulated debris. He also said that the risk was high as landslides were still occuring in Pemdang.

Arun Bhakta Shrestha, Engineer at the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), who is studying the glaciers said that the risk of floods and landslides in the downstream area is still high as the accumulated debris in Vemathang and the hill slopes above are still unstable. “There was snowfall in the Melamchi catchment area due to cyclone Tauktae and Yas. The floods seem to have occurred after all the snow melted, ” he said. A lake of 8,870 cubic meters seems to have disappeared. It has been found that 70,000 square meters of snow melted due to the global warming. It can also be perceived as an effect of climate change. ‘

Similarly, a large debris has been created in Melamchi village due to the earthquake. The Melamchi River was blocked post the debris flow and the river was flooded due to the dam created by the debris. A landslide of 400 meters caused huge damage to the Melamchi market area. Because the risk is the same, the local people are still at greater risk.

Dr. Rijan Bhakta Kayastha, HOD of the Department of Environmental Science and Engineering, Kathmandu University, said that everyone should be especially vigilant. He said that it was necessary to take precaution as all the small and big rivers in the Melamchi catchment area could be flooded at any time.

Similarly, Dr. Reshma Shrestha, Associate Professor, Kathmandu University, said that risk mitigation measures should be adopted. She said that all entities should pay special attention to reduce the risk. Similarly, senior geologist Vishal Nath Upreti said that priority should be given to the development of early warning system for risk reduction. “Damage can be minimized by connecting early warning systems for every 4-5 square kilometers,” he said. “It would be good if we could make it mandatory for hydropower companies to install early warning systems in their project areas.”

NEFEJ President Kosmos Vishwakarma stressed on the need for the media to pay special attention to the information provided by the experts in order to disseminate information to the general public. “Journalists have a major role in disseminating the information from the scientific reports to the general public in a simplified manner,” he said. Additionally, he said that more scientific studies need to be carried out for this. He said that NEFEJ will always work together to make scientific studies available to the public.