Shiba Nanda Basu
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Gangtok, 2 September
A giant screen at MG Marg, the heart of Gangtok, flashes the state government’s determination to make the state a “Clean Sikkim-Green Sikkim”. But an aerial view of Gangtok would hardly appear green, what with concrete structures coming up all over
the place.
The Sikkim government can boast of organic agriculture and ecotourism, but reality can be a nightmare. A combination of gigantic mountains and 259 high-altitude lakes can prove deadly if the government fails to check the constant scratches on the susceptible ecosystem of the region, with even villages now affected. It seems that Sikkim&’s visual treat is not possible without heavy earth-digging vehicles and other construction machines.
The state government is fully aware of the unique eco-system and cashing in on it to fetch as many tourists as possible in the name of ecotourism. But in the sick hurry of development, it is somehow compromising nature, feel experts across the country. Among the four districts of Sikkim, three are rich in terms of wetlands. North Sikkim has the highest concentration, with around 63.72 per cent of the state&’s total wetland area.
Already, experts such as Binay Kumar and T S Murugesh Prabhu of the Pune-based Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) say that monitoring and tracking of the lakes in west and north Sikkim has revealed that quite a few of these are expanding due to accelerated glacial retreat and melting due to climate change.
Another threat for the region&’s eco-system is the continuation of hydro construction, despite its side effects. After the completion of the 510-megawatt Teesta Stage V in 2008, two houses collapsed reportedly due to the erosion the project caused.
Earlier, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests suspended six projects in the northern part, citing geological stability as the reason. But the state government is not going to compromise on development, the main agenda they are pursuing.
“We can say that there must be some negative impact, but currently we are not sure how much devastation it can inflict. And the government would not stop its development projects just on the assumption of devastation,” said a state government scientist on the condition of anonymity.
Mr Naresh Sharma, assistant scientific officer of the department of science and technology, government of Sikkim, said: “We have already started our research and installed a warning system at Shako Lake above Thangu. But we are yet to receive any data.”
The story is written under the aegis of a CSE Media Fellowship