EOI, DARJEELING, 21 Jul 2016: The Darjeeling district administration today  demolished 13 structures comprising houses and shops along the Teesta  River at 29th Mile on National Highway 10 under Kalimpong sub- division.
With rainfall battering the hills incessantly, the Teesta is flowing above the danger zone and has damaged several parts of the protection wall constructed by the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) to put the lives of 29th Mile residents in danger.
This morning, the district administration used bulldozers to raze the 13 structures located on the riverside. “Thirteen houses were demolished at 29th Mile this morning. Only recently two such structures were partially washed away by the raging river. And considering the danger to life, the structures have been demolished,” said Darjeeling district magistrate Anurag Srivastava. He added, “The demolition was done peacefully with most affected families even helping when the dismantling team reached the spot.”
The NHPC has two hydel projects – Teesta Low Dam Project III (132 mw) at 27 mile near Rambi and Teesta Low Dam Project II (160 mw) at Kalijhora. The 29th Mile area, which is a forest village along NH-10, has been facing the direct impact of the Rambi project that was commissioned in 2013.
According to the district administration, the evicted families have already been compensated by the NHPC but they chose to hang on to their houses. “Of the 13, the NHPC compensated 11 families two years ago while the remaining two refused the compensation. At that time it was agreed they would move from the area,” said Srivastava.
According to the district administration, the 13 houses at 29th Mile was constructed on forest land and compensation ranging from Rs 6 lakh to Rs14 lakh had been provided to the families. Asked about the rehabilitation of the displaced families, the DM said,
“As per our information, all these families have alternative houses constructed from the compensation amount received. Of the 13 houses, almost none had any furniture and it appears these families were just holding on to the structures despite receiving compensation.”
Apparently, Meena Sherpa, who owned two of the structures, had refused to accept the compensation offered saying it was not adequate. Today, watching her house and shops being dismantled, she said, “I had refused the compensation offered because it was not adequate. I have been living here since our grandfather’s time. I had asked for a week’s time but my property was razed to the ground without I being offered any settlement. I will meet the district administration regarding this.”
Manoj Chhetri, whose house-cum-restaurant was also demolished, was nostalgic but took solace from the fact that he had been compensated. “It is sad when the house you are living in for years gets demolished. But at least we have received the compensation with which we can build another home nearby,” he said.
NHPC officials expressed satisfaction and said that they were open to providing compensation to those who had refused earlier. “A committee was formed and a survey and assessment conducted to provide compensation as per approved norms. Two of them had refused but they can contact us and we will certainly offer them adequate compensation,” said NHPC senior manager Tingal Kispot.
Torrential rain continues to create havoc and numerous stretches of NH-10 and NH-55 linking Sikkim and Darjeeling have been hit by landslides. Landslides occurred on the Pankhabari road at Chilauney Dhura, Rati Khola road at Garidhura and Rohini road at Kargil Dara under Kurseong sub-division. The other places included Kali Mandir near Sevoke and between Karmatar and Jorethang in Sikkim but they were cleared for vehicular movement later in the day. In the last 24 hours, rainfall recorded in Kurseong was 102.4mm, Darjeeling 84.2mm, Kalimpong 40mm and Siliguri 138mm.