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

In Part I of the above title, we wrote about Sikkim, Northeastern State, that took a radical step to declare the State green. Going green means huge paradigm shift for people who are called upon to change, among others, how they earn their livelihood. We are now focusing briefly on one aspect of this change with the emergence of Eco-Tourism.  

When Sikkim Government banned felling of trees, killing of wildlife and even grazing of animals, people were not happy. When it decided to go for organic agriculture, there was resistance from the government’s own bureaucracy. Eventually, the policy has since been implemented.   One major policy that the government introduced as part of the green initiative was eco-friendly tourism. With the ban on deforestation and wildlife killing already in place, the government decided to make the environment productive.

The advantages Sikkim has are a).The geographical assets in the form of thick forest cover,  and expanding every year.
b). Sikkim is biodiversity hub. There are as many as 4500 flowering plants, 550 species of birds, 690 species of butterflies and 154 species of mammals c). Attractive culture – practice of traditional songs, dances, local drinks- in a friendly atmosphere d).Formation of Eco Tourism Conservation Society of Sikkim e). Favourable political and law and order situation f). Pro-active Government launching the Concept of Homestay Tourism.  

Homestay Tourism: When the government started Homestay Tourism, it identified 4 villages in each of the 4 districts. The scheme later came to be known as the Sikkim Himalayan Homestays Program and is intended to bring in additional income to the community while showcasing the natural and cultural heritage of Sikkim and its people. Village homes with extra rooms to spare are selected. These homes are renovated and facilities like attached bathrooms are added to add convenience for the guests. Members of the village community are chosen as tourist guides, porters and cooks. The food provided are usually sourced from the village produce that are organic and green.  

Now Sikkim is receiving as many tourists in a year as its population(about 6 lakh). Many tourists who flock to Sikkim are from abroad, while others hail from the metropolis like Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, etc. Some tourists spend their days trekking, or going for animal sightings, or bird-watchingin the forests even assome spend their holidays reading books that they bring along. Tourists are also entertained with folksongs(many communities have revived their folksongs), dances and even herbal baths. Tourists also have taste of local food, local beer called chhaang, and the friendly culture of the people. Guests are also sensitized about environment protection and the green program of Sikkim.  

The scheme has become attractive enough for educated, young people to return to their villages and communities to set up homestays. Some of them print leaflets/brochures, or start their own web-sites to advertise andpublicize the facilities. The government’s own tourism department links up with the homestays on a cost-sharing basis in an agreed ratio among the stake-holders, i.e. the host, the guides, and the tourism department.   Homestay Tourism now occupies 90 – 100 days in a year and provides good income for those who are involved.  

Now, is this too far-fetched for us to emulate? Start with preservation &conservation of the environment around us, recharge the waters, make the forest hum with life, adopt a green(and clean) way of life, embrace peace, and lo and behold!- I am sure we toocan have tourists from all over the world spending their holidays with us. All these to be managed by our smart, educated, cultured youth fresh from colleges.Then our land will become meaningful. Let us take the first Green step.

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