Conclave on Innovation & Progress of Ecotourism In Sikkim held
Feb, Gangtok (IPR) : : A day-long Conclave on ‘Innovation & Progress of Ecotourism In Sikkim’ organised by Directorate of Ecotourism, FEWMD, was held today at the conference hall of Forest Department, Deorali.
The inaugural session of the Conclave was graced by Minister Tourism & Civil Aviation Department Mr Ugen T. Gyatso Bhutia as the Chief Guest and Minister Forest Environment & Wildlife Management Department Mr Tshering Wangdi Lepcha as guest of honour. Also in attendance were Mr C. Zangpo, Secretary Tourism, and Mr C.S. Rao, CCF Forest-cum-Project Director, SBFP, along with senior officers of Forest department. Distinguished tour operators and ecotourism experts from various parts of the country invited by the Forest Department to visit the four ecotourism zones were also present at the Conclave. It also saw participation from ecotourism stakeholders of Sikkim.
Ugen T. Gyatso, Minister for Tourism & Civil Aviation Department in his address extended a warm welcome to all the visiting tour operators and thanked them for their valuable suggestions after carrying out an extensive study of the four identified ecotourism zones from 12th to 15th February.
The Minister threw light on the concept of ecotourism, terming it a medium to connect to nature, while at the same time maintaining human environment balance. He added that ecotourism is mostly propagated in the rural areas, through active involvement of the communities living in these villages. He further added that the practice of ecotourism has all the more relevance in today’s time with the global challenges of pollution and climate change. He added that Sikkim is blessed with clean and green environment with minimal pollution, clean air, clean water and organic agricultural products. ‘Sikkim is also blessed with a visionary leader in the Chief Minister who is now an institution in himself. The promotion of clean and responsible tourism has been one of the main focuses of the government,’ the Minister further stated. He appealed to the youth to work relentlessly to excel in the field of ecotourism. He urged them to interact and learn from the illustrious team who are in Sikkim to share their experience. The Minister called for adopting sustainable practices to make the profession a long lasting profession and livelihood. Meanwhile, the Minister commended the role of tourism stakeholders like TAAS and SAATO and appealed to them to continue to lend their support to the youth and upcoming tour operators and partners in progress.
Shri Tshering Wangdi Lepcha, Minister for Forest, Environment and Wildlife Management Department in his address extended his greetings to the visiting tour operators from various parts of the country and tour operators from within the state.
He highlighted some of the path breaking environmental initiatives of the Government under the leadership of the Hon’ble Chief Minister, and added that these policies have complimented the growth of ecotourism in the State. The Minister thanked the visiting team of experts for visiting the four ecotourism zones and providing valuable feedback from their experiences on the ground. He called for continuity in the relationship through exchange programs and correspondences.
Secretary Tourism Mr C. Zangpo while delivering the keynote address stated that the visiting ecotourism luminaries had added great value to the existing practices in ecotourism in Sikkim.
“Their observations after carrying out the two-day field visit to the four identified eco-tourism zones from 12th to 15th February have given us rich insights in moving forward in the field of ecotourism and achieve the goals of sustainable development,’’ Mr Zangpo stated. He maintained that the Department of Tourism & Civil Aviation had been doing its best to protect and promote sustainable tourism.
He further added that the green policies formulated and implemented by the Government showed great concern for the environment and its preservation and conservation. “Sikkim is the only state moving towards sustainable tourism. Increase in forest cover shows we are moving with nature and are not in conflict with it, despite the infrastructural and other developments taking place in the State. It epitomizes the commitment and vision of the Government,” summed up Mr Zangpo.
Earlier, CCF Forest-cum-Project Director SBFP Mr C.S. Rao in his welcome address gave a brief introduction about the Conclave. He also highlighted some of the issues discussed during the interaction with the visiting experts. He put on record his satisfaction on the positive engagements in the last few days leading up to the Conclave.
Mr Palzor Lachungpa, President Travel Agents Association of Sikkim gave an insight into the concept of eco-tourism, and the role of stakeholders in ensuring a balanced growth of economic activities through branding of ecotourism products and services and the preservation and conservation of the culture of the people. Adverse impacts such as poaching and bio-piracy should be strictly monitored and the onus lies with the stakeholders which involve the local populace. He outlined the guidelines to be followed for ecotourism practice and development in the state. He pointed out the pathbreaking initiatives taken by the Government for development of responsible tourism in the state.
One of the upcoming stakeholders from Nampong Lingdok Ecotourism Zone, Mrs Sapna Limboo shared her experiences of getting trained by JICA assisted project and the impact it has had on her life. She shared that the training and handholding have given purpose to her life and enabled her to ensure a sustainable livelihood. Beside economic benefit, we are getting an opportunity to share our culture with the rest of the world, she shared.
At the end of the inaugural session, the Conclave was declared open by Minister for FEWMD Mr Tshering Wangdi Lepcha. He also pronounced the key agenda of the conclave.
The inaugural session concluded with vote of thanks proposed by Mr J.B. Subba, Director, Sikkim Ecotourism Directorate, FEWMD, Government of Sikkim.
The inaugural session was followed by the technical session with noted speakers deliberating on the theme ‘Revisiting Sikkim’s Ecotourism Development – Key stakeholders and their renewed roles’.
Mr. Jaswant, IFS, DFO, Ecotourism, SBFP, FEWMD, made a presentation on Ecotourism development in Sikkim: Role of FEWMD.
Likewise, the significance of ecotourism for Sikkim’s tourism industry was put together into a presentation by Mr S.K. Pradhan, Advisor, Travel Agents Association of Sikkim.
Mr R.P. Gurung of Ecotourism Conservation Society of Sikkim (ECOSS) presented a piece on community based Ecotourism and role of NGOs.
A presentation on Khangchendzonga National Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site was made by Ms Sonam Norden Bhutia, ACF, KNP.
The special plenary session that followed had distinguished panelists summing up their experiences from their respective ecotourism zones and the learning from them.
The noted panelists comprised of Mr Chandrashekhar Jaiswal, DGM, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation, Mr Anirudh Chaoji, Executive Committee Member, Adventure Tour Operators Association of India, and Mr Madhu Menon, ANALA Outdoors, Ahmedabad. The panelists also presented comparative study of ecotourism scenario in their respective states and Sikkim.
During the open house discussion session that followed, the panelists responded to some questions and issues put forth by the participants.
In the course of the Conclave, MOUs were signed between the Directorate of Ecotourism, FEWMD, Government of Sikkim and eight visiting tour operators. The MOUs were signed with Going Wild LLP Kolkata, Renaissance Holidays Coimbatore, Outdoor Adventures Bangalore, ANALA Outdoors Ahmedabad, Mercury Himalayan Explorations New Delhi, Pugmarks Ecotours Pvt Ltd Pune, Khorlo Tours and Travels Kolkata, and Intersight Holidays Pvt Ltd Kochi Kerala,
The MOUs were handed over to the Tour Operators by CCF-cum-Project Director, SBFP, FEWMD, Mr C.S. Rao.
Mr C.S. Rao in his valedictory remarks thanked the visiting team for their valuable suggestions. He assured to implement the suggestions positively. He appealed to the local tour operators to take back the knowledge gained and share with the fellow tourism partners in their respective areas. He also assured support from the Directorate in promoting ecotourism in the State.
It may be mentioned here that the JICA assisted Sikkim Biodiversity Forest Management Project under the Directorate of Ecotourism, FEWMD, has identified a total of eleven ecotourism zones in the State. Out of these eleven zones, the four zones that were visited by the visiting team are at an advanced stage of development, equipped with the adequate facilities for a successful ecotourism destination. The four zones are Nampong Lingdok, East Pendam, Kitam and Okhrey. The Conclave was also represented by stakeholders and tour operators from each of the four zones, along with representatives from tourism-based organisations in the State.
The day-long deliberations came to an end with mementoes which were given to the local tour operators and stakeholder for their participation. The closing remarks was made by Mr. N.Jaswant, DFO, Ecotourism, FEWMD.