Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Impact of the Teesta Valley Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) - updates from North Sikkim (Feb2024)

As has been reported by us in this blog, the GLOF disaster of Oct2023 devastated large parts of the Teesta valley both in Sikkim and W Bengal. Placed below are some recent updates from North Sikkim:
Naga area of Mangan district
The devastation in Naga and Toong area of Mangan district has been covered here.
Recent (09Feb2024) closeup photos of landslide affected areas of Naga are shown below:

A telephoto image of the same area which I took from the opposite hill on 18Nov2023 (below) reveals hardly any change in the intervening 3 months.

As per my source in Chungthang, people from these homes have evacuated and are living with relatives or at rented places.
Toong bridge and road status
The GLOF of 04Oct2023 destroyed the bridge over the Teesta river at Toong (see photo of 18Nov2023 below). This bridge connected Mangan (dist HQ of North Sikkim) with Chungthang

A 'log' bridge (below) built in this area has temporarily restored this communication route.
However, for the time being the bridge is closed between 10.00am to 4pm to allow road repairs as such commercial vehicles and others still have to route via a long route via Saffo- Shipgyer - this route not only takes double the time but is narrow and dangerous at places.
As per information received, the progress of repair of Chungthang - Mangan road and also the Chungthang - Lachen road is slow and this is worrisome since the pre-monsoon season accompanied by intense thundershowers are due to start in March 2024.
Here are some rough stats:
a. The freight charges for a truck with 10 tonnes of load from Siliguri to Chungthang was approximately Rs22,000/- (incl of taxes), when the main roads were available.
b. Now, since the main roads are not available, the detours have pushed up the freight charges to Rs 31,000/- and also the trucks can only carry 8-9 tonnes of material on the alternate route.
c. So because the freight charges have increased while the load which is being carried has decreased - a single brick in Chungthang now costs Rs18.
Chungthang town
Among all the urban centers impacted, the GLOF dealt it's severest blow to Chungthang town at around 12.35am on 04Oct2023. We have covered it in detail here
Even when we visited the town on 18Nov2023, more than a month after the devastation, the whole place still looked like a war zone but I am glad to know that the people of Chungthang are slowly getting back on their feet again. Placed below are recent images of Chungthang town where the almost 10 feet of sludge mud and sand which buried the streets, homes and buildings have been cleared off and shops are open and life is slowly getting back to normal.

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling- Sikkim Himalaya

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