Unrelenting monsoons cause several landslides across the state
With the monsoon season in Sikkim typically beginning from May and lasting up to September, news of destruction caused due to heavy rains is the norm in the state, with landslides that cut off villages from the rest of the state and crops destroyed as collateral damage.
Sikkim’s average number of rainy days ranges from 100-184 days a year. This year’s monsoon, like most years, has caused numerous landslides and floods. 2019’s cloud burst at Tsong village, Yuksam led to the entire village being washed away with one casualty. Every year, in parts of Sikkim, due to the incessant rain there is at least one incident of horror.
On June 24, a State-level meeting on monsoon preparedness was conducted by the Minister for Land Revenue and Disaster Management Department (LR&DMD) Kunga Nima Lepcha at Tashiling Secretariat. The agenda of the meeting was to review the precautionary measures taken by stakeholders to combat the threats and challenges brought on by the monsoon season in Sikkim.
Lepcha, in the meeting, mentioned the extensive rainfall which occurs during the month of June up till September which often leads to disasters like landslides and flash floods, and suggestions were taken from various stakeholders on how to lessen the extent and impact of the damage.
The public was encouraged to remain vigilant in case of a disaster during the meeting as well as close coordination amongst the departments and stakeholders to avert any calamities during the monsoon being advised.
Since the above-mentioned meeting, many incidents have already taken place on June 27, a flash flood occurred in Passingdong, Upper Dzongu, North Sikkim causing large scale destruction with several properties and homes being wrecked, it has also come to light that around 35 families who were displaced have been shifted to a makeshift arrangement at Passingdang PHC, 17 houses being damaged in Upper Dzongu, and many concerned citizens have been appealing to the State government for the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).
Before the flash flood, three landslides had occurred in Passindong, causing Passingdong to be cut off from the rest of the state.
On June 27 a major landslide took place at a dam of the NHPC Teesta Stage-V project site at Apdara, East Sikkim causing heavy damage, while also causing Lum and Lingtyang villages of Lower Dzongu, North Sikkim to be cut off from the rest of the state.
The Teesta V-Power Station has assured in a press release, that no damage has been caused to the NHPC dam at Dikchu, and that it has been designed in such a way as to withstand natural calamities such as the landslide, hence the people living in the area have no reason to worry.
The non-stop rain has also led to many road blockages in and around the State with the North District being most affected, with routes like Mangan-Gangtok, Dikchu-Singtam, and Dikchu-Gangtok being disrupted due to landslides.
On June 28, the North Sikkim Highway was also blocked at two places- Thingda and Tenak, five houses had to be evacuated from the landslide area. The highway connecting the Indo-China border with the rest of the country has also been cut off due to landslide causing bridges and roads to collapse at many places.
With the monsoon season not only causing multiple landslides which at the moment seems to be affecting the North District of the State the most. Many farmers of the State have also incurred losses in their crops due to excessive rainfall, farmers of Lingchom, North Sikkim have incurred heavy losses after their cardamom fields were swept away by a landslide because cardamom is the main cash crop of Sikkim, many farmers like Dorjee Sherpa, a farmer from Lingchom rely on it for their income.
“Due to the excessive rain, crops like the ‘Dalle Khursani’ have been affected because of overwatering, to add more woe many farmers of my ward had to suffer due to our cardamom fields being swept away in a landslide. Like me, many depend on the money fetched from cardamon cultivation to get us through the year, I suffered a loss of around Rs. 20,000 which I had invested in cultivating the cardamom.
As mentioned before, landslides in Sikkim have now become a daily occurrence, it is the ones who are displaced due to such natural calamities who face the brunt of the excessive rain and continue to appeal to the Government for some form of financial relief. The Sikkim unit of the Bhartiya Janta Party on June 28, wrote a letter to the Minister of State DoNer, Dr Jitendra Singh Jee, requesting for relief and rehabilitation work from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Union Government in the affected areas of Sikkim.