Business enterprises lose millions to Amochhu flood

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Krishna Ghalley
from Phuentsholing

The recent Amochhu flood has left business communities in Phuentsholing reeling from shock caused by major losses as flood waters washed away major workshop properties built on the left bank of the river.
The flood has affected more than 50 workshops, scrap dealers, go-downs, canteens and restaurants along Amochhu bank. Apart from the workshops, Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan Limited’s go-down and several temporary settlements and shops were washed away. The road condition has also worsened with numerous potholes. Fourteen shops are currently closed in the area.
Among them, Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), JB Engineering Company Private Limited, and Bhutan Concrete Private Limited have suffered maximum losses.
BHEL has lost goods worth more than Nu 500mn while JB Engineering has lost more than Nu 8mn worth of infrastructure. Machineries still remain unaccounted for. JB Engineering’s proprietor Karma Wangdi Tamang said losses would be re-assessed soon. All the company equipment has been washed away and only the office and entry gate remains.
While BHEL’s office remains undisturbed by the flood, some materials for hydropower construction, which were kept near the riverbank were either washed away or submerged according to BHEL’s Construction Manager, Gautam Sudradhar. “Unless the river level subsides we cannot exactly put a figure to the losses but roughly Nu 500mn worth of materials have been affected,” he said.
BHEL plans to recover the submerged materials once the flood subsides and weather conditions turn favorable.
BHEL had parked materials worth Nu 1.1bn at the riverbank including 12 pieces of water conducting paths, turbine hardware components, generator hardware components, and mechanical panels. Apart from these, other components were submerged as well.
BHEL has insured with United India Insurance Company, officials from which will be visiting and assessing the value of lost materials. The Indian insurance company will provide refunds, which would be facilitated after the company procures new materials to replace the lost ones.
The materials were kept for Punatsangchhu Hydropower Project I and II, and Mangdechhu Hydropower Project Authority.
JB Engineering lost water pump, mixture machine, and serving machines which being uninsured the loss would have to be borne by the proprietor. “I tried to insure with two insurance companies, but they refused saying that the location is at a flood-risk zone,” Karma Wangdi Tamang said.
Karma Wangdi Tamang plans to restart his business from scratch with the remaining resources left at his disposal. He is waiting for Phuentsholing Thromde to relocate land and complete repairing 12 vehicles in a workshop he owns.
JB engineering’s two remaining office roofs could collapse anytime as the river continues to erode the bank, the proprietor said. The company along with neighboring companies has already started mitigation works to reduce the risk of further losses. “We are trying our best to mitigate the flood with available materials,” he said.
“We would like to request Phuentsholing Thromde to take immediate action to mitigate the flood and reduce risks,” he said, “His Majesty and the ministers’ visit have however raised the morale of the victims at the hour of suffering,” he added.
Bhutan Concrete Bricks has lost an office, cement go-down, machineries, stocked sand, a four-unit permanent staff quarters and labor camp established near the plant. The plant is still partially submerged under mud.
Proprietor Tenzin Dorji said that he has stopped working after the flood. He has lost stone dust, a raw material used for making bricks worth Nu 0.5mn. He plans to restart his business once the river is permanently diverted as his plant could be destroyed if another flood strikes. “If the river is diverted immediately, it would help all the business communities here,” he said. “Our company used to produce 5,000 bricks worth Nu 35,000 a day. There is much demand but I am stuck. This will hamper business loan repayment.”
Another company that has suffered losses is Thanghong Iron and Steel Products, which keeps finished products of Nu 2.5mn a month. “We could only retrieve goods worth Nu 1mn. The rest has been washed away,” Manager Phurba Wangdi said. The company supplies gabion box, chain links and other ordered materials.
TCS Workshop has lost a canteen, a gate, tyre section store, water tank and servicing duck used in the workshop worth more than Nu 0.9mn. “We are still running in loss as staff have taken leave and equipment are missing which stops us from resuming work,” Proprietor Tashi Wangdi said.
The only option left according to the businessmen was to deploy machineries and divert the river towards the right bank, which could have minimal impact until the monsoon ends in September.
Meanwhile Phuentsholing Thrompon Uttar Kumar Rai said that since the area is not meant for business, the Thromde had already notified the business entities to shift their workshops to allocated areas.
“We don’t encourage them to establish their businesses on the river banks which is risky,” he said, adding that for flood mitigation, the Thromde alone cannot take direct decisions as the land has been leased to DHI-Infra.
Meanwhile, His Majesty’s visits have created hope in the turmoil. “We are really grateful to His Majesty for leading from the front during such a situation,” Thangthong’s Manager Phurba Wangdi said.
The Prime Minister, Chief Operations Officer of the Royal Bhutan Army, and Home and Agriculture Ministers, accompanied His Majesty.