Sikkim tourism minister Bhim Dhungel (first from left) after laying the foundation of the ropeway project in Chhangu lake on May 7. Picture by Prabin Khaling
Gangtok, May 10: In a year from now, Chhangu lake will have gondolas flying over its frozen waters.
The gondolas will be stringed to a mono-cable detachable ropeway system, making Chhangu at 12,600ft in East Sikkim a more appealing tourist destination.
According to officials of the Chhangu lake ropeway project which is estimated to be around Rs 6.5 crore, 12 gondolas with six passengers per cabin are designed to glide from the base terminal near the lake across 900m to the right side hilltop at 14,400 feet. The hilltop, overlooking the 1.08km-long lake, provides a panoramic view of the surrounding hills and glimpses of the Tibetan plateau on a clear day.
The lake has an average footfall of around 3,000 tourists a day.
Journey by foot from the lake up to the hillock is 2km but once the ropeway is made operational, a tourist can reach the top in the cable car in five minutes, project director D. Mukherjee said.
The second terminal will be placed atop the hill, and according to the designers, 400 people can be transported from the base terminal to the hilltop in an hour in the initial years. The transport capacity can be enhanced to 800 passengers an hour later.
Accepting the challenge of working in a high-altitude area, Mukherjee said: “The raw material and the special jacketing for tensioning system for the ropeway will be specially designed for sub-zero weather condition.”
While laying the foundation stone of the project at the lake on May 7, Sikkim tourism minister Bhim Dhungel said once commissioned, the ropeway would be a new attraction for the tourists.
“Chhangu lake has always been one of the most important tourist destinations along with Nathu-la and Baba Mandir in East district. The ropeway that will provide an aerial view of the lake will be an added attraction to the tourists,” said Dhungel. He assured the project officials all support from the state government for timely completion of the ropeway.
The ropeway project is being constructed by the Calcutta-headquartered Conveyor and Ropeway on a BOOT (build, operate, own and transfer) basis and is scheduled to be completed by June 2011.
The company will operate the ropeway for 20 years from the date of commissioning of the project and will pay a royalty to the Sikkim government. It has already done 40 such projects in the country, besides currently operating eight passenger ropeway systems.
Travel Agents Association of Sikkim president Paljor Lachungpa has welcomed the project. “The ropeway system will be another attraction to the hundreds of tourists visiting the holy trinity — Chhangu lake, Baba Mandir and Nathu-la,” he said.