Organic and sustainable too - Some lessons on what a Government can do

1. The Northeastern (NE) states of India are located in the extreme corner of India’s eastern periphery and one or the other among them shares India’s international border with Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Bhutan or Nepal. Most of them are landlocked with little access to shipping or railway lines resulting in a sense of isolation ingrained in the psyche of its inhabitants. With very few exceptions, the NE states depend entirely on grants from the Central Government and most states seem destined to be stuck in this dependency rut like a needle stuck on an LP record.

2. What can a landlocked state, therefore, do in these circumstances? Very little, I thought, until I came across an interview Mr. PawanChamling, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Sikkim, gave to a monthly magazine in May 2013. Any head of a NE State has to do something radical to come out of the rut. That is precisely what happened in Sikkim when it decided to go organic. Let us put down some of the steps taken by Sikkim.

2.(i) Sikkim is landlocked and has the disadvantages that all landlocked states have, including complete dependence on the Central Government for funds. The Chief Minister, therefore, chose to turn its disadvantage into an advantage.

It took political decision and declared 1996 as the Year of Green Revolution. Messages were sent to all people to conserve trees, birds, plants, aquatic animals, wild animals, flora and fauna in order to create harmony between humans and their environments. To save birds, Sikkim has identified 11 important bird areas.

In order to make it a people’s programme, the government made the effort to convince people to leave behind trees as legacies for future generations, teaching that land fertility would remain intact, that trees would provide protection from landslides while giving clean and green environment

10 Minutes for Earth, an annualprogram in which a certain date and time was designated for all people in Sikkim to plant a tree was started on 15th July 2009. The saplings are provided by the Forest Department.

SmritiVan(Memorial Forest), a scheme under which anybody, including a tourist, can plant a sapling (in memory of someone), was introduced. A record of who planted each tree is maintained.
Govt started eco-friendly tourism, a tourism in harmony with environment, making Sikkim a laboratory for sustainable development. Sikkim now receives about 6 lakh tourists annually and this is roughlyequal to its population.

Tree cutting, green felling, is banned. If anyone fells a tree in his/her own land, he/she has to plant 20 trees in return. Grazing of cattle in forest land is banned. Killing any wildlife carries a fine of Rs. 5 lakh plus 1 year imprisonment. To boost agriculture, horticulture, and floriculture, the government put emphasis on high value, low volume agriculture.

In 2003, the state resolved that Sikkim would be an organic state. To achieve this, the government took up training of youth and government officials, building up skilled workers, including making organic manure and organic pesticides. To implement this commitment, the government started Sikkim Organic Mission to promote growing of vegetables on large scale. This step has generated wide interest with countries like Argentina, Germany and Netherlands who send queries. Organic baby corns, ginger, etc. grown in Sikkim are reportedly in great demand.

2.(ii) There are 18 Bio-diversity hotspots across the world. Sikkim is one among them. None of the Green Initiatives has affected Sikkim’s growth that is reportedly a high decadal figure of 12.26%.

3. In this short narrative, we would like to show that going green and organic as Sikkim has demonstrated is sustainable. Not doing so, well, could make you go green with envy.

(This is an article on Green Zogam Initiative) Green Zogam-An Initiative of Delhi Paite Inndongta