The threat looming large over Zanskar in Ladakh for the last three months following the creation of an artificial lake by a massive landslide on Phuktal river is over as the Army, in a joint operation with the IAF, the NDMA and the civil administration, succeeded in making an artificial channel for “controlled” discharge of water.
Code named “OP PHUKTAL”, it took them over five days working under -25 ºC and braving high winds to create a 75 metre long, 2×2 metre channel by controlled blasting method. A total of 175 kg of explosives was used, said an Udhampur-based Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel S D Goswami.
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Pointing out that the entire operation had to be maintained by air in view of the area being cut off during winter, he said that the Army and the IAF helicopters made 500 sorties ferrying 38 tonnes of load over more than 300 hours under extremely hazardous and demanding flying conditions. A camp area of 10×15 metre was established on a ledge of the rock face near the landslide site and thereafter the composite task force swung into action.
“Water has finally started gushing across in an uninterrupted manner from the lake,” Colonel Goswami said, adding “the flow is currently being closely monitored”.
A massive landslide had created a 15-km-long artificial lake on Phuktal, a major distributory of Zanskar river, at an altitude of 13,000 ft nearly 100 km east of Padam in January. The landslide caused complete blockage of water resulting in accumulation of more than 30 million cubic meters of water. This had led to apprehensions that a sudden bursting of the landslide would cause unimaginable catastrophe leading to submersion of villages, loss of livelihood and damage to life and property. The state government immediately brought the matter to the notice of the Central government.
Consequently, the National Crisis Management Committee declared the situation a “national crisis” in February and constituted an expert committee under the NDMA for technical assessment and to prepare an action plan to avert crisis.