Gangtok, Jan 11 (UNI) With a view to protecting and conserving the Changu (Tsomgo) Lake, the most sought after tourist destination in Sikkim, the state Forest department has constituted the Tsomgo Lake Conservation Society.
The Changu lake, located at a height of 12,310 feet from the sea level, with around one lakh visitors annually, was now gradually becoming the highest polluted lake in the world.
Experts pointed out that the lake, about one km long and 15 metres deep, with rain water as its only source, has around 35 shops selling snacks, souvenirs, warm clothes and snow boots, cluttering neck to neck along the right periphery of the lake.
Moreover, the basic sanitation and sewerage facilities are almost negligible, leading in all the human and yak wastes ultimately percolating down the lake.
The experts also observed that due to low temperature, bacterial decomposition of the wastes is a very slow process.
The lake is situated about 35 kms from Gangtok on the Gangtok-Nathula highway which forms a part of the old trade route from India to China and in the recent times, has witnessed tremendous tourist inflow.
The Nathula area has three lakes - Memonchu, Kupup and Tsomgo - and out of three, tests have shown that the Tsomgo lake is heavily polluted, a state environment officer said.
''The number of vehicles travelling towards the Tsomgo lake, Baba Mandir and Nathula, which fall on the same route, is around 300 at peak season since the past few years,'' a senior tourism operator said.
Besides, the exhaust fumes from the vehicles greatly damage the rarified air and water resources.
With environmentalists and stakeholders voicing concern over the degradation of the tourism destination, the setting up of the Tsomgo Lake Conservation Society by the state forest department came as a welcome step.
The society, comprising the entrepreneurs and panchayats from the Changu lake area, had been set up in May as the starting point of the Pokri Sanrakshan Samiti.
Sikkim has around 227 lakes and wetlands, which are considered holy by the people, with Guru Dongmar, Keopchari and Tsomgo lakes being the most sought after by the tourists.
Tsomgo Lake Conservation Society president Chewang Norbu Bhutia said earlier, when tourism in the state was not so popular, the lake water was pure and drinkable, but it had become polluted subsequently.
The efforts of the society included sensitising the locals and tourists alike about maintaining the cleaniness of the lake and its premises, besides maintaining the tourist amenities and eco-tourism code.
It is also mulling in collaboration with the state Forest department to raise funds by charging Rs 10 per person as entry fee.
The revenue will be used to pay for five Pokri Rakshaks and other conservation activities of the society.
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