A massive landslide broke out in Sokpey village, under Dikchu Zang block in Gangtok district, Sikkim on the wee hours of March 26, damaging over two kilometre of the Dikchu hills and cutting off the National Highway that connects North Sikkim.
Four houses were completely lost in the landslide, and 18 families were evacuated from nearby the slide, fearing further damages. No casualties were reported, but four livestock were lost.
Speaking with Sikkim Chronicle, One of the resident said, “The area has been surveyed in the past, with suggestions of evacuating everyone who was near a possible slide. However, no action was taken.”
The landslide, estimated to have damaged more than 2 km of vertical length of the Dikchu hills, occurred during dry weather and was not induced by rainfall. Local residents cited a powerline tower construction at the top of the hill and NHPC dam at the base of the hill as the possible reasons for the slide. Two house owners were provided aid of Rs. 1,30,000 for losing their homes, a cow owner was awarded Rs. 40,500, and a house tenant was provided Rs. 25,000.
Manju Sharma, another resident, shared how concerned officials had conducted many surveys in the past with suggestions of evacuating everyone who was near a possible slide.However, nothing was done.
Sharma suggested that the government could give the residents an area, set up a colony, and shift them there. She added that most of their lands were lost to the landslide, but their houses and cowsheds were safe. Every monsoon, those below the landslide have to be evacuated. She further added that any big thud at night, and they start finding caves to be safe or go to others’ residences.
Sunita Subba, a shop owner near Selfie Dara, a tourist spot in the village, lost her entire shop to the landslide. She stated that the compensation may be given to the landowner, but they were using their old home on rent for the past 8-9 years. They have been living there for years, running a shop, but the authorities say that the compensation will be for landowners.
On Sunday afternoon, Gangtok District Magistrate Tushar Nikhare surveyed the slide with other concerned officials from Gangtok District. The Gangtok District Zilla Adhyaksha Balaram stated that the Mines and Geology Department would survey how the slide occurred.
“The highway connected to North Sikkim, and now, with the slide, an alternative road from the nearby Samdong village is commutable. Public Health Engineering officials have surveyed the damage and initiated actions to open road connectivity. The clearance could take 2-3 days since the size of boulders was significant. For people to walk, a pathway would be carved from the slide.” Said Adhyaksha Balaram
The landslide in the Dikchu hills, is being blamed on the NHPC dam construction at the base of the hill as well as the high tension wire towers laid at the top of the hills.
Following to which, Gangtok DC Tushar Nikhare day after the landslide on March 27, said, “There are some actions to be taken from the side of power project companies also. Suitable directions will be given to them and they will have to comply with.”
“We will take collective action after the report from Mines and Geology department. We cannot conclude on any assumption as reason for landslide, right now. We will have to wait for until the report comes from Mines and Geology Department. We are trying to find the root cause of the landslide at the earliest. We do not have a report from the department on the fresh landslide and no report for slides earlier. There is fresh cutting on the hill from the slide. The slide was not active it was triggered either because of the rains we have had in the past week”. He added
“The mass evacuation of people from the village is under active consideration, rest assured the Chief Minister has given us the direction that whosoever requires relocation or any help, the government is willing to provide.We will have to agree on the entire area being a massive sinking area. That way, landslide will be triggered at many locations. It is not that every year there is a relocation done for the residents of Sokpay village. For now it has triggered at one place but mines and geology department will carry a thorough survey of the entire area. Wherever the department feels that an area is not suitable for staying for long, we will prepare a report and submit to the government who will take necessary actions and comply with mines and geology’s findings”.
On the compensation provided to landslide hit houses and families, Nikhare shared, “Four families have already been given compensation on the spot, 16-17 families are also being considered for the same. The compensation is for immediate help, which they will get. The compensation norms are standard, they are pre-decided on the rates but the government will be giving over and above the rates. The tenants are being given for goods, clothing and utensils, ,but for house damage the money will be given to the landowner. We have consulted with the concerned gram panchayat that the person living as tenant has also suffered a damage, hence the amount may be shared proportionately. But as per norms we cannot give compensation for house damage to the tenants, it will go to the land owner. An understanding has been reached between the land owner and the tenant, that proportionate amount with the tenant”