- Sujal Pradhan, NET Correspondent, Sikkim
In an attempt to find solutions for sustainable tourism along West Sikkim and utilize the eco-tourism related practices; the state administration hosted a workshop on designing a sustainable tourism policy paper promoting green livelihoods for the region.
Supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s ‘Green Recovery Programme’; this workshop was organized by the Khangchendzonga Conservation Committee.
It was chaired by Hari Chettri, Senior Superintendent of Police, Gyalshing District and also attended by SDM (HQ) , SDM ( Yuksom), Additional Director (Animal Husbandry), Additional Director, Tourism Department, Gyalshing, DFO and other representatives of the forest Department, UNDP India & KCC team, rural tourism representatives etc.
The Green Recovery Programme for West Sikkim, being implemented in convergence with the other ongoing GEF-GOI-UNDP SECURE Himalaya project, is addressing the core areas of green livelihoods, and One Health approach for zoonotic disease management.
During the programme, the Consultant of Organic Mission & Ecotourism – Renzino Lepcha, and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ecotourism and Conservation Society of Sikkim (ECOSS) – R. P. Gurung delivered an insightful presentation on the tourism pattern and trends in Sikkim and the Sikkim tourism policy which was drafted in 2018.
After the presentation, the baseline findings for the tourism policy were share by Dr. Amit Sharma, the consultant engaged for drafting the draft policy by UNDP, three thematic groups were divided based on the aspects of sustainability, conservation, policy level engagement and convergence.
Discussions were held in each group regarding the existing patterns and challenges for each sector. After the discussion, the groups presented their major action points of discussion to the session Chair Jaimon Uthup, Policy Specialist, UNDP India and Co-Chairs Hari Chettri, Senior SP & Renzino Lepcha.
Important issues like capacity building standardization of homestay and service provider rates, increasing publicity and information accessibility, enhancing connectivity were some of the pertinent issues highlighted by the groups.
The discussions were summed up by Rinzino Lepcha who mentioned that we need to learn from good practices of rural tourism in countries like Nepal & Bhutan and also encourage the private sector including NGOs, CBOs to take the onus and ensure value addition to existing practices while showcasing the unique natural and cultural aspects of the state.
The workshop also reiterated that the district has immense potential for further promotion of eco-tourism and UNDP shall work with the district administration to make the tourism policy relevant and of the desired quality.