Wednesday, Oct 11, 2023 08:15 [IST]

Last Update: Wednesday, Oct 11, 2023 02:37 [IST]


(This Letter to the Editor was published in the 22nd Febraury 2013 edition of SIKKIM EXPRESS. It is again reproduced here in view of the recent GLOF event at South Lhonak Lake)



The Secretary,

Science & Technology Department and Climate Change

Govt of Sikkim



As a citizen of Chungthang, living on the Banks of River Lachen chu and Lachung chu, these rivers have severe impact of on the lives and livelihood of the people. While for some it is natural resource to generate various kinds of benefits for others these are the cause of Death & Destruction.

While we are still to recover from the Devastating 18th September 2011 earthquake and the Sept 2012 flash floods. The news of possible glacier outburst arising from SOUTH LONAK GLACIER came from a very reputed institution after thorough scientific studies and analysis. The positive aspect of this vital information regarding the possible catastrophe is that some concerned people have put in lot of sincere work and dedication to forewarn the forever sleeping State and the Nation. For the people living in the Basin of the River Teesta it has a very important bearing.

We expected the Government of Sikkim to respond sensibly and scientifically to the news and were hoping that, taking lessons from the bitter experiences of the Earthquake and other calamities some concrete measures would be put into place.

Unfortunately the news of the Science & Technology Department and Climate Change contradicting the findings of a reputed Institution has caused more panic then to lessen it in the minds of concerned people. While it might be the effort of the Department to placate any panic reaction but due to hard lessons from other instances, it in fact took away the urgency, thrust and emphasis required for important issue like this.

The reason being:

1.      It is a very serious offence when politicians and bureaucracy make institutions refute hard scientific facts for sake of carrying forth other agendas, as it lowers the morals of the scientific communities who are experts in the field.


2.      A classic case of suppression of Scientific finding and serious consequence is the statement of Govt of Sikkim, on the occasion of release of research materials  related to earth quake and the book “Seismic Hazard and Microzonation Atlas of the Sikkim Himalaya” by Prof. Sankar Kumar Nath of IIT Kharagpur. While the finding of the study had clearly mentioned the risk of Earth quake in Sikkim particularly At the geometrically central frequency 7.5 Hz six major zones are mapped, with the hazard index range between 0.0 - 0.1, 0.1 - 0.2, 0.2 - 0.3, 0.3 - 0.4, 0.4 - 0.5, and greater than 0.5.The maximum risk is attached to the seismic hazard index greater than 0.5 at Mangan and its immediate neighbourhood, where PGA values range between 700 - 800 gal. The probabilistic Seismic Microzonation map at the geometrically central frequency 15 Hz identifies five major zones with the hazard index range between 0.0 - 0.1, 0.1 - 0.2, 0.2 - 0.3, 0.3 - 0.4, 0.4 - 0.5. The maximum risk is attached to the seismic hazard index between 0.4 - 0.5 in the region encompassing Singtam, Gangtok and Mangan, where PGA values range between 800 - 850 gal”. The Government in spite of such report issued a press statement saying that such high intensity earthquake can take place only after 50 years!  Unfortunately when the devastation struck within 5 years the state was completely unprepared.

3.      The issues is certainly not weather we can stop such natural disaster or not, but the contradiction lowers the general preparedness level and lack of mitigative measure that adds to the devastation.

4.      The present scenarios too the Department has taken the same step and taken off the need to take precautionary measures. It is better to Panic and be prepared then to face the pain and misery of losing loved ones and only belonging that the poor people any case don’t have much.


5.      Since the problem has been detected by all scientific findings, the issue here is not whether it is going to happen or not but what to do in the event the catastrophe takes place.


6.      As a local of the region what we foresee in such a scenario is that along with the death and destruction it will cause to human and other living beings by it normal forces another compounding factor is the very serious probability of the Ammunition Depot of the Army, located at Yugang, few kms from Chungthang toward Lachen getting washed away and making the entire Teesta Basin a LIVE MINE FIELD with lakhs of live ammunition embedded in it. Along with all habitations, the Dams and tunnels of all the Hydro electric Power Projects on Teesta will be choked with debris filled with mines and bombs. One can well imagine the level to threat to Human lives & the Bio-Diversity at the same time the colossal loss that the nation will have to bear.


7.      There is no doubt that the measures that the department has undertaken are important but under the circumstance too insignificant, as history shows these will be forgotten.



8.      The panic in the minds of people will subside only when there is sense of security and hope.


Therefore, you are requested to revisit the entire issue and take necessary sensible and scientific steps. There is need to understand the ground situation and take all necessary inputs from all those who might be affected and make a comprehensive management plan.

We have past experience of immense suffering due to death and destruction caused by the earthquake and general unpreparedness of the government agencies. In this case too if such situation is repeated we will have no option but to take to take all legal and other option available under the law against all those who are  being an impediment toward proper preparedness for disaster which might result in loss of lives and properties.


Thanking You,

Yours etc,

Tseten Lepcha

Social activist & founder member, Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT)

Chungthang, North Sikkim

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi