Sikkim is currently experiencing an unusual volume of rainfall during the pre-monsoon period, which is expected to continue for the next 4–5 days. Higher altitude areas may also receive snowfall during this time, according to the Meteorological Centre in Gangtok. This weather phenomenon is not limited to Sikkim, as many Eastern and North Eastern states of India have been experiencing more pre-monsoon rain than usual over the past 4–5 days, and are expected to continue to receive more rainfall for another 4–5 days.
The pre-monsoon season typically lasts for three months, from March to May, and does not usually have prolonged rainfall periods. However, this year has been an exception. According to Dr. Gopinath Raha, Director of the Meteorological Centre in Gangtok, the unexpected weather and increased rainfall are due to a phenomenon called Anticyclonic Circulation over Bay of Bengal, which leads to moisture incursion from the Bay of Bengal and climatic variability, which can vary annually.
Dr. Raha also mentioned that while there is a chance of minor landslides, there is no severe concern.
This weather change has caused many issues for Sikkim, with the tourism industry taking a significant hit. Many destinations have become inaccessible, resulting in cancelled bookings and tourists getting stranded at high altitude areas like Tsomgo Lake, Nathula pass, Baba Mandir in Gangtok district, and Gurudongmar Lake and Yumthang valley in Mangan district. Roughly 900 tourists were stranded in these areas and were rescued by the Indian Army, while 175 tourists were rescued by the Border Roads Organization from different parts of Gangtok and Mangan district.
A tourism official advised tourists not to travel to high altitude areas since there is still a possibility of roads being blocked due to snowfall. Although roads are currently open, travellers should exercise caution when visiting high altitude destinations during this time.
By Avinav Pradhan