Gangtok, Sikkim

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AT THE END OF THEIR ROPE

Dzongu villagers
Mon, Sep 11, 2017

Connectivity routes for Upper Dzongu villagers shrinking fast

BIJOY GURUNG

GANGTOK : Imagine scaling a 200-ft wall with just a rope to grab for safety and balance? Difficult but desirably a wanna-do-it challenge for many adventure lovers.
Now imagine scaling a slushy steep slope directly above a deep, flowing lake with just a rope for safety and balance. Add a heavy load of essential materials on your back.
Precarious hai but have-to-do-it compulsion for the marooned people of 11 villages in Upper Dzongu.
We are talking about Mantam Lake that emerged last August when the hill side avalanched and choked the flow of the river. Eleven villages of Tingvong and Sakyong-Pentong GPUs are cut-off since then as the around 3-km long lake washed away the road and submerged the bridge.
As an interim measure, the State government had deputed three rafts along with State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) personnel to row the affected people across the lake. The arrangement was that the affected-villagers from Upper Dzongu coming to the lake end and take a raft to cross the water body. From there, they used to catch a vehicle for reaching to Mangan. Same process was followed on the return ride-boat-trek journey to home.
Much water has overflown the dam of the Mantam lake since then. Sedimentation has now accumulated to such an extent that the rafts cannot approach the previous drop/collection point at the other side of the lake towards Tingvong. The second improvised drop/collection point has also been scrapped due to heavy sedimentation.
According to the SDRF personnel and local villagers, motor rafts cannot approach these two points as their blades get stuck into the sand sustaining damage. Use of the oar driven raft is also risky since the lake water current is fast due to the continuous release of water from the front end.
In the past two days, a third drop/collection point has to be taken which can be best described as ‘desperate times calls for desperate measures’.
The point selected is at the middle corner of the lake (as seen in the photo). People wanting to go their villages in Upper Dzongu are boated to this point. The raft rests aside the lake wall of the hill forest.
From here, villagers have to grab the rope or roots and climb up the steep incline of around 100-200 ft before they hit a relatively flat surface. After this, they need to cut a path across the thickly vegetated ground cover to reach the nearest road end towards Upper Dzongu. The entire ordeal takes about 20-30 minutes for the fit or the desperate.
A major slip while either climbing or coming down, the unfortunate person will dive straight into the muddy lake.
“Villagers are facing great hardships now. It is very difficult for us to climb up and down the slope to reach the boat. Forget about carrying loads. It is only that we are used to a hard life in the villages that we can take so much physical strain for reaching the boat. There is absolutely no chance for the elderly or children or sick people to cross the lake now,” said a Upper Dzongu villager.
Though other options are being contemplated, there is no quick solution as of now, it was told to SIKKIM EXPRESS at the site.
Sedimentation has covered almost half of the lake making the motor rafts useless and oar driven raft is risky considering the flow of the lake.
In coming months, the water levels in the lake would come down and people can walk knee-high on the heavily silted parts of the lake to some extent from where the boats will pick them up, it is being contemplated.
“The government should depute a medical team to Upper Dzongu so emergency cases can be tackled there itself. It is not possible to ferry the sick people at the moment. Stocking of essential commodities should also be done at Upper Dzongu,” said a villager.


Area: 7096 Sq Km
Capital:Gangtok
Altitude: 5,840 ft
Population: 6.10 Lakhs
Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 ft. to over 28,509 ft above sea level
Climate:
Summer: Max- 21°C ; Min – 13°C
Winter: Max -13°C ; Min – 0.48°C
Rainfall: 325 cm per annum
Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi