Travel to East Sikkim tourist spots restricted
The higher reaches of East Sikkim, including Tsomgo (Changu) Lake and Nathu-la, have been experiencing heavy snowfall for the past 48 hours, forcing the state tourism authorities to allow travel only up to 15 Mile, a few kilometers short of the two popular tourist destinations.
While the snowfall was light on Friday, it became intense on Saturday, bringing traffic to grinding halt in the area. This was the season’s second snowfall in the area, but the earlier spell in the second week of November was very light and occurred only in the upper reaches.
Lachen and Lachung in North Sikkim, too, received heavy snowfall in the past 48 hours.
While Tsomgo is about 44km from Gangtok, Nathu-la is a further 17km away. In fact, Nathu-la was reopened for tourists only on Friday after almost nine months of closure because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, because of the snow, not a single tourist has been able to set foot on the border pass with China so far this season even as over 20,000 have visited Tsomgo, which was reopened to tourists earlier on October 11.
Kapil Meena, the director-cum-additional secretary of Sikkim’s tourism and civil aviation department, said because of the heavy snowfall, tourists were not allowed to proceed beyond 15 Mile on Sunday. “From tomorrow (Monday), permits will be issued only when there are least chances of tourists getting stuck on the route (because of snowfall),” he said.
The weather office, however, predicted more snowfall in the area in the next 48 hours because of a strong weather system prevalent in the region.
“The passage of western disturbances over this region has caused light to moderate rainfall over most parts of Sikkim and snowfall in the higher reaches. This is likely to continue for another two days,” Gopinath Raha, the Gangtok head of Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), told The Telegraph.
Sandakphu, the highest point in Bengal, also received season’s first snowfall on the intervening night of Saturday and Sunday.
Located at an altitude of 11941ft, it is around 60km from Darjeeling town. One can see mountains Everest, Kanchenjungha, Lhotse and Makalu from Sandakphu.
Whenever Sandakphu had received snowfall in previous years, there would be rush of tourists from Darjeeling.
However, as there was hardly any tourist in the Darjeeling hills this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was no rush on Sunday.