Bhanjyang Lake off Darjeeling restored to glory

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Darjeeling: Few people know the existence of a once-beautiful lake off Darjeeling which lay hidden behind overgrown hyacinths and other wild weeds. The Salamander Bhanjyang Lake was dug by L. Helegon, manager of Margaret’s Hope tea estate, three kms down the National Highway 55, in 1947.

People from far-flung areas used to visit the 2.5 square-mile lake after it took shape, officials of the Margaret’s Hope gram panchayat said. But in 1955 a boy drowned in the lake during a boat ride. The incident caused panic in the surrounding villages, so much so that not only did they stop visiting the lake, but even avoided its vicinity.

Soon word spread and tourists also started avoiding the lake, leaving it to the nature to take care of it. The lake thus lay unattended and before long got converted into a swamp.

Later, people gathered around Bhanjyang Lake once again in 1968, but only to deal with the disastrous landslide that occurred in the area. Finally, efforts to revive the lake were launched in 2003 by the Gorabari-Margaret’s Hope, the then gram panchayat pradhan, Late Jagat Sangbo.

In 2005, Sangbo was able to accomplish the uphill task, thanks to the hard work of the 23 gram panchayat members and other residents of the area.

Bhanjyang Lake now looks clean and attractive, and is also situated in a picturesque location. Such an enormous job would naturally require a lot of money.

Locals said that it cost about Rs 60,000-Rs 70,000 at that time. This is because Late Jagat Sangbo, panchayat members and others gave the project their hard work by working themselves in the project than to hire labourers.

According to Sangbo’s son, it was his father’s dream to revive the lake after it fell into disuse ever since the boat with the boy sank. The lake was replenished with 15,000 fish for breeding purpose. Bhanjyang Lake has also been home to several species of salamanders for a long time, locals said.

And to preserve these animals, a separate lake was dug beside this by Late Jagat Sangbo. In India, salamanders are found only in Manipur and Darjeeling. Outside India, they are found in America and China.

Salamanders are a rare species and are said to have originated from dinosaurs that existed on earth nearly 500 crore years ago. As per the locals, besides picnickers, students of science and forest officers frequent the lake as part of their research on the water creatures.

In 2009, Sangbo died, after a long illness.

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