Saturday, February 19, 2011


Many families along the Indus River at Spituk fell victim to unusual freeze that led to river water diverting into inhabitated places forcing many including local migrant labourers and Tibetan refugees abandon their houses caught up in the midst of ice and water. Many agricultural lands of the main village also remained covered under ice sheets until situation got better lately with melting of thick ice layers enveloping the riverbed paving way for the water flow.

While most of the families abandoned the area some four families continued to live there hoping to retrieve their belongings from delipetated houses caught in the midst of thick ice layers and flowing water underneath. "I have my tools and generator set submerged in ice, said Tsewang Rigzin a carpenter who set up a small unit here to earn his livelihood.

Similarly, Pasang had grocerries worth around 60 thousand rupees in her collapsed house and shop in the middle of ice. Things were lying all strewn in damaged shop. Another victim Tsering Dorjey from remote Sku Markah valley migrated about 14 years ago to live here with his family as he makes his living by working as labourer in nearby army establishment. His house with cracks and collapsed walls bared the room floors covered in ice.

We were caught unaware of the sudden water and ice in the middle of the night on January 24, and had to cross to safety in chest deep ice and water making our feet and body numb, Rigzin said. The water-block walls along the bank was all submerged under ice as the entire river stretch from this end to the other side was all covered by thick undulating ice sheets.

The Spituk bridge had ice layer touching beneath its surface giving an indication of the thickness of the ice that has caused the blockage of water flow underneath its sheath and then cuasing diversions at loose boundaries. Army in its bid to try blasting with explosives at certain points left one of them injured severely.

Reasons behind this unprecendented phenomenon, as per official assesment, was blockage at Phey village due to debris and boulders that came along with August flash flood in Phyang village rivulet damming the river causing the gradual freezing from that point which was exarcerbated by extreme temperature (around minus 30) in Leh at that time. NHPC on request of LAHDC Leh breached the blockage by removing the boulders with the help of a special JCB machine.

The impact has been drastic leaving many families homeless and agricultural lands covered by ice sheets, a scene never witnessed before according to Tsering Chondol 56 a resident of Spituk village, whose house also developed cracks forcing her to abandon it and live elsewhere. Three houses also got affected in the main Spituk though the other houses close to the river too were threatened by this rising of ice sheets and water seeping into lands along the river.

Gatuk Tsering (64), a Tibetan refugee working as road labourer, has been living with her three sisters. Their house was in the midst of thick ice and river water, and they were lving in a single room of relatively safer neighbor's house. Similarly four other families were using this single house as their only place to live as all their houses have either collapsed completely or submerged in ice and water.

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