Although a common occurrence throughout the Himalayas, the earthquake of September 2011, with its epicentre at Mangan 42km northwest of Gangtok, was particularly destructive, leaving around sixty people dead and a trail of destruction as far away as Gangtok. The effects of the magnitude 6.9 quake were felt throughout the region, in Nepal and as far away as Kolkata. Much of the destruction took place around hydro-electric projects disrupting roads and infrastructure. To compound the state’s communication nightmare, unseasonal rains in 2012 resulted in deadly landslides and loss of life and in North Sikkim being virtually cut off from the rest of the state for several weeks.
Industrialization and the construction of dams and numerous hydro-electric projects on Sikkim’s rivers, such as the Teesta, has brought pressure on the state’s diminishing indigenous population especially in Dzongu, the heartland of the Lepchas, threatening their lifestyle and heritage. Although the voice of their protest is now all but lost, the destruction of habitat and the extraordinary strain on the state’s fragile road system is self-evident.