Officials say there would have been casualties had the slide taken place during the day
The residents of Sokpay village on the Dikchu-Rakdong road in the Gangtok district of Sikkim think that the Teesta stage V NHPC dam was responsible for a massive landslide that occurred there during the wee hours of March 26, 2023. The village is located above the site.
Residents this reporter spoke to also urged the authorities to shift them from the spot given the frequent landslides in the region.
“Every monsoon we have to evacuate and stay somewhere else. The authorities tell us that we will be shifted but it never really happens. We feel that the government can set up a colony somewhere nearby and shift us,” said Manju Sharma, a villager.
Sunita Subba, a shop owner at Selfie Dara, a popular ‘selfie’ spot that was washed away in the slide, lost her shop and house.
“I do not own this property but I have invested all my savings in this shop to support my family. According to the authorities, only the land owners will be compensated and not the tenants like us which is worrisome. All I had was this shop and three pigs which I lost to the slide. I have no means of earnings now,” Subba said.
Another villager, Mohan Neopaney, said this year’s landslide has been more disastrous compared to 2016. He added that he and many other villagers have lost their lands to such major or minor slides that occur almost every year.
Four houses were damaged in the slide. Eighteen families have been evacuated to safer locations nearby. Basic facilities like electricity and drinking water supply have also been hit in the village situated about 40 kilometres from state capital Gangtok.
The slide also cut off the National Highway that connects the area to North Sikkim district and damaged more than two kilometres of the Dikchu hills.
“There would have been a huge number of human casualties had the landslide occurred during the day since there is a good flow of vehicles on the highway plus tourists often stop by Selfie Dara to take pictures,” Balaram Adhikari, Zilla Adhyaksha Gangtok, told journalists.
The actual reason for the landslide is still ascertain. Adhikari said a survey of the spot would be conducted to find the reasons.
“We cannot simply blame the projects situated here since the main reason behind the slide is still unknown. However, directions have been given to the mines and geology department, who will conduct the research and survey on the root cause of the devastation,” he said.
Tushar Nikhare, the district collector of Gangtok, surveyed the site and took stock of the damage along with other officials from Gangtok district during the afternoon.
Immediate relief packages of Rs 130,000 each were provided to two house owners for losing their homes. Rs 40,500 was handed over to a cow owner and a house tenant was provided Rs. 25,000.
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