Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang on Thursday urged the people not to travel in view of the landslides as the state registered a record tourist footfall during the Durga puja vacation. Over 22,000 domestic tourists and 651 foreign travellers visited the state over the last week, Tourism Department officials said. An average of 5,000 tourists are entering Sikkim daily at present, they said, adding that it would soon double. The surge was recorded after the state government withdrew all COVID-related restrictions and reopened its borders.
The government took several measures to encourage tourism this festive season to make up for the financial hit it took last year. The two-month lockdown during the peak season last year caused an estimated loss of Rs 500-700 crore, officials said.
Nearly a quarter of the state’s population is dependent on tourism, which generates annual revenue of Rs 4,000-5,000 crore, they said. However, as landslides hit the state over the last three days, cutting road connectivity to several places, the chief minister urged people to avoid travelling.
“In the past couple of days, Sikkim has witnessed incessant rainfall, leading to landslides in several parts of the state, causing roadblocks at multiple spots. I am in constant touch with the line departments and closely monitoring the current situation,” Tamang said.
“In order to avoid any untoward incident, I appeal to all our citizens to refrain from travelling in these circumstances, and pray for their safety,” he added. Sikkim’s lifeline National Highway 10 is at present blocked with kilometre-long traffic waiting for the road to be cleared, officials said. Vehicles are being diverted through narrower and longer alternate routes at present, they said.
The rains have caused severe damage to crops with paddy plantations destroyed in several parts of the state, officials said.