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Centre releases funds worth 45 cr as Sikkim suffers damages worth thousands of crores; losses to hydro projects yet to be assessed

Sikkim’s Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang (better known as PS Golay) said on Friday that the Himalayan state has incurred damages worth thousands of crores of rupees in the flash flood. As of Friday evening, 143 people, including 15 jawans, are still missing in North Sikkim after the cloudburst over Lhonak Lake in the early […]

Sikkim’s Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang (better known as PS Golay) said on Friday that the Himalayan state has incurred damages worth thousands of crores of rupees in the flash flood. As of Friday evening, 143 people, including 15 jawans, are still missing in North Sikkim after the cloudburst over Lhonak Lake in the early hours of Wednesday. The death toll has risen to 25 and about 23 army personnel had gone missing from Sikkim’s Bardang area.

“There have been damages worth thousands of crores of rupees. We cannot give exact details about damages, it will be revealed once a committee is formed and it completes its analysis. Our first priority is to save those who are stranded and provide them immediate relief,” CM Golay said.

“Road connectivity between districts has been cut off and bridges have been washed away. Communication in North Sikkim has been severely affected,” the CM said. Tamang said around 25,000 people have been hit by the natural calamity.

The CM said he spoke with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, President Droupadi Murmu and other Union ministers to discuss the situation at hand. “They have assured me that all necessary assistance will be provided to the state,” he said.

DAMAGE TO HYDRO PROJECTS
Several hydroelectric projects over the river Teesta have been severely impacted by the deluge. The enormity of the flood has been felt 90 km downstream at the Teesta-V Dam, where a sudden increase of inflow led to a rise in water level by 19 metres above normal. The 1,200 MW Sikkim Urja dam at Chungthang, formerly known as Teesta-3 dam, has been washed away due to the floods. The power project commissioned in 2017 had just turned profitable last year.

While the actual damages will be assessed only after the water level recedes to normal and the approach roads are restored, visuals emerging from Sikkim reveal major destruction to the hydroelectric projects in the state. The now-damaged Teesta-3 dam was completed at a cost of over `14,000 crore. The Teesta-6 hydroelectric project in the Sirwani village is aimed to generate 2,400 MUs in a 90 percent dependable year with an installed capacity of 500 MW. With an investment proposal for an estimated cost of `5,748 crore, the implementation of the project by NHPC was approved by the CCEA in March 2019. The project was scheduled to be completed in 60 months.

RELIEF FROM CENTRE
Meanwhile, the Union Home Minister approved the release of `44.8 crore as an advance amount from the central share of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) to Sikkim to provide relief to the affected people. Following a directive from Shah, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has formed an Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT), which will visit the affected areas of Sikkim soon to make an assessment of the damage caused due to a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF), cloudburst and flash flood, according to an official statement.

According to government sources, the move is “aimed at helping the state in providing relief measures to the affected people.” The situation in Sikkim is being closely monitored by the central government “at the highest level around the clock,” the statement added. The Centre is also providing full support to the Sikkim government by mobilising timely logistical assistance to deal with the situation effectively. They include the deployment of adequate teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters and Army personnel along with necessary search and rescue equipments.

SIMILAR DISASTERS
In June this year, multiple landslides induced by heavy rainfall caused damages to over a hundred houses in West Sikkim district. The incessant rain caused extensive damage to infrastructure and property in the state as several rivers flowed above the danger level. An orange alert has been sounded for heavy rain and thunderstorms in northeast India for the next three days. Connectivity was also affected as the road connecting Uttarey to Sopakha, which includes two bridges, was completely swept away. Around 3,500 tourists were stranded in North Sikkim due to landslides and roadblocks before being rescued by the army.

In August, one person was killed as heavy rains triggered landslides in various parts of Sikkim. The deceased, identified as Abhiyan Chhetri, was trapped in a landslide. CDistrict administration immediately disbursed an ex-gratia amount of `4 lakh to the victim’s family and announced an additional `5 lakh from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.

IN NUMBERS
Current death toll: 25
People missing: 143 (23 army personnel)
Tourists stranded: Over 3,000
Estimated damage to Teesta projects: Over `14,000 crore
Funds released by Centre: `44.8 crore advance amount
Ex-gratia from State: `4 lakh to kin of deceased
Other relief: `20,000 immediate relief to those in camps

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