The damaged bridge at Rit Chu. File picture

TT, Gangtok, June 23: The Border Roads Organisation that maintains the North Sikkim Highway came under fire at a meeting today as the road connecting tourist destinations like Lachung, Lachen, Gurudongmar lake and Yumthang valley in North District snapped twice in a span of one month.

A bailey bridge over a stream at Rit Chu along the highway had crashed first on May 17 and again on June 18. After the first collapse, the bridge had been restored temporarily and vehicles, especially those carrying tourists, started moving to Chungthang on June 9. At both the times, the bridge was damaged in landslides triggered by heavy rains.
Today, a meeting was held in the conference hall of the forest department here, where all three MLAs from the North District, chief secretary, home secretary, the collector and the superintendent of police of the district and BRO officials were present. Local people and tourism stakeholders also attended the meeting.
“We are fed up with the deplorable condition of the road in North Sikkim. The BRO is not doing its work satisfactorily. The residents are facing problems as the road is closed most of the time,” said a dzumsa member, Chedup Bhutia.
The president of the Travel Agents’ Association of Sikkim, Paljor Lachungpa, said almost 90 per cent of the people in north Sikkim depended on tourism and the frequent road closure was hampering the livelihood of those in Chungthang, Lachung and Lachen.
The general secretary of the association, Barap Namgyal Bhutia, claimed that there was a loss of around Rs 5 crore because of cancellations of bookings following the bridge collapse in the district in the past one month.
A senior tourism official informed that more than seven lakh tourists visited Sikkim every year and 80 per cent of them went to North District.
The chief secretary, A.K. Srivastava, said he had sought a detailed report on the road condition from the BRO. “Once we get the report, we will pursue the matter with agencies concerned. There should be a permanent solution to the problem,” he said.
The Commander of the BRO, B.K. Sarkar, said the agency was putting its best effort to maintain the roads. “We are doing our work. Sometimes, the inclement weather is also a hindrance. For now, we are working to restore the road at Rit Chu and it may take at least 10 days,” said Sarkar.