TOURISM: Pipes go dry, tourists flee Sikkim – Water scarcity hits gangtok hotels

TOURISM: Pipes go dry, tourists flee Sikkim – Water scarcity hits gangtok hotels – nothing new for Darjeeling areas, learnt to cope ?!!

Gangtok: Popular but parched - while Darjeeling areas ignored by Bengal ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Gangtok, June 3: Many tourists have left the Sikkim capital with water scarcity in hotels for the past two days after a series of landslides damaged pipes and mud buried the main water supply point on the Rathey Chu.

Three 6-inch pipes and one 14-inch pipe were damaged during the mudslides triggered by heavy rain on May 31. Although the state public health engineering (PHE) department said the repair had been completed and supply resumed last evening, normality is yet to be restored.

“Many hotels in Gangtok are facing a lot of problems because of the water shortage. Pipes have gone dry and several tourists have checked out of the hotels,” said Sikkim Hotels and Restaurants’ Association general secretary Bhanu Rasaily.

When the repair was in progress, the authorities were rationing water with the supply being restricted from half an hour to 45 minutes a day. Otherwise, water is pumped to houses and establishments for two hours each in the morning and evening.

Hotel Tashi Delek on MG Marg with 36 rooms said the water scarcity had hit its business badly.“We are unable to provide our guests with full time water supply. Any other problem could have been addressed by us, but the water supply is an area where we are helpless. Ninety per cent of our guests have left in the past two days,” said a spokesperson for the hotel.

Santa Kabrel had arrived from Calcutta with his family to spend two days in Gangtok.

“We had booked a hotel here on MG Marg for two days. But there was no water in the room and we went to another hotel. But even the taps in the washrooms were dry there. Finally, we found a hotel where there was water. The whole day was wasted searching for a hotel with water supply. We are moving out tomorrow morning,” said Kabrel.

There are around 720 small and medium hotels in Gangtok which boast of 24-hour water supply. But for the moment, tourists are being advised to use water judiciously.

Hotel Tibet, another popular haunt in Gangtok, said it had stored water in tanks, but it could sustain with rationed supply only for a few more days.“Only 30 per cent of guests are with us now because of the crisis,” said a hotel official.

The water shortage is the latest crisis to befall on the tourism sector in the state this year.

The mudslides on May 31 night had left more than 800 tourists stranded on North Sikkim Highway and Jawaharlal Nehru Marg for more than 16 hours.

The visitors were evacuated in a joint operation involving security personnel and tour operators.

A spate of bandhs called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad in north Bengal in the middle of May had taken its toll on the Sikkim tourism. Traffic on NH31A, the only road connecting Sikkim with the rest of the country, is disrupted whenever a bandh is called in the Darjeeling hills.

Most of the hotels have now started collecting water from nearby streams. The residents are also flocking the streams to bathe and wash clothes.

The PHE department said the supply would become normal soon. “We finished the restoration last evening by clearing the debris at the intake point on the Rathey Chu and repairing the damaged pipes. The whole distribution system had been affected and the supply will become normal soon,” said PHE secretary Pratap Basnet.

The Rathey Chu, 18km from here, is the main source of drinking water for Gangtok. Water from the stream is pumped to a tank near 2nd Mile and then ferried to the treatment plant at Selep. From Selep, around 36 million gallons of water are distributed to Gangtok daily.

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