SIKKIM TOURISM: Tie-up of beach & hill tourism

SIKKIM TOURISM: Tie-up of beach & hill tourism – moving ahead in leaps and bounds, unconcerned about Darjeeling’s plight ?!!

Goa Tourism Booths worldwide - just adding a dash of the Sikkim flavour ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Gangtok, July 12: A memorandum of understanding has been inked by the tourism development corporations of Goa and Sikkim to attract more visitors to these destinations.

“We had signed the MoU on June 23 and a copy had been sent to the Goa Tourism Development Corporation which signed it last week,” said chief executive officer of the Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation, S. Anbalagan. He added that the agreement would be valid for two years.

According to the deal, both the corporations would mutually market their accommodations and tourism packages. “Once a booking is made, 15 per cent of the amount will go to the corporation that has made the booking,” Anbalagan said.

In 2009, 3.76 lakh foreign tourists had visited Goa and around 22,000 had toured Sikkim.

“Goa is a premier destination for foreigners. We want the tourists visiting Goa to be informed about the attractions in Sikkim. This will help to lure more visitors to the hill state,” said Anbalagan. He added that tourists visiting Sikkim would also be told about the attractions of the coastal destination.

The STDC has two hotels in Gangtok, one in West Sikkim and a lodge at Rangpo. “We have recently taken over 14 guest houses across the state for tourism purposes,” said Anbalagan.

The STDC has signed similar agreements with Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat.

There are plans to ink MoU with Tamil Nadu too.

Rs 5000 fine for littering trek trails – Clean-up order: climbers told to return with own garbage – leash on locals or foreign tourists, any responsibility on tour operators ?!!

Trekkers along Dzongri trail in the Kanchenjungha National Park - preserving the pristine preserves, local education essential ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Gangtok, July 12: Trekking enthusiasts who litter mountain trails with disposables in Sikkim now have to cough up a fine of Rs 5,000.

The fine will be imposed on tourists travelling along the famed Geochala and Dzongri high altitude trails of the Kanchenjungha National Park in West and North districts of the state.

This is a part of the stipulations laid down in a project called “zero-waste destination” that started in March. The project is being implemented by the state forest department, Kanchenjungha Conservation Committee (KCC) and The Mountain Institute (TMI) Sikkim unit.

The “zero-waste destination” was launched at Yuksom in West Sikkim to prevent the accumulation of garbage along the KNP trails spread over 1784sqkm.

Yuksom, 138km from Gangtok at 5,700feet, is the main base camp for the Dzongri and Goechala treks.

Dzongri and Goechala are located at 10,000ft and 16,400ft respectively. All these treks are popular with both domestic and international tourists during May-April and October-November seasons.

Garbage at Everest - learning from other's experiences ?!!

“Yuksom generally receives 5,000 to 7,000 visitors a year, leading to high garbage accumulation in the national park. The KCC, the TMI Sikkim unit and local tourism stakeholders used to collect the trash piling up in the park before launching the zero-waste mission,” said KCC general secretary Kinzang Bhutia.

“Periodic cleaning made no sense as the garbage would accumulate inside the park again. Hence, we launched the project in March,” added Kinzang.

The tourists had to fill up a form at the entry point at Yuksom before starting for the trek. In the form, they have to declare if they are carrying items like mineral and juice bottles, tinned food and packaged chips and noodles.

“When the group returns, the forms are cross-checked to see that the trekkers have brought back the empty bottles and packets and other forms of garbage,” said Kinzang. “If the items are not brought back by the trekkers, they have to pay a fine of Rs 5,000 as previously declared in the forms. Since March, 250 groups consisting of around 2,000 people have gone through the Yuksom check post and there has been no single violation.”

Garbage being burnt - not a viable alternative solution to recycling ?!!

The garbage collected from the trekkers is segregated by two KCC employees at the Yuksom check-post. “We take the trash on a trolley to the nearby segregation centre where the garbage is dumped in 21 separate chambers. There are different chambers for further segregation of empty tins, noodle packets, bottles and other things,” said the KCC general secretary.

“We are planning to convert the waste plastic items into toys and to set up a paper recycling unit in the future. We are also thinking of selling the empty tins and bottles to local scrap dealers so that they reach the original place of production,” said Kinzang.

Regarding the financial sustainability of the project, Kinzang said the TMI was paying the salaries of the two staff at the Yuksom check-post.

Nima Tashi Bhutia, the programme co-ordinator of the TMI, said: “Now, we are looking at the financial sustainability of the zero-waste project. Earlier, we did not consider this aspect as we wanted to prove that the project could be made a success. There have been no specific funds for this project. The next step is to bring all the tourism stakeholders together and show them the success of the project and seek ways to sustain it.” He added that the project would be replicated at the other entry points to the park like Uttarey, Nambu and Hee Bermiok.

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