Trees for Developing Community Based Ecotourism
Dalapchand, East Sikkim, Northeast India
This project involves plantation of 20,000 trees in Bakbakay village, Gazatar Land, Road Side area, Dalapchand village of Sikkim.
The primary objective of the project is to promote and develop community-based ecotourism in Sikkim by planting trees and beautifying the place with the active involvement of the local people. As the definition of Ecotourism states: Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.(TIES, 1990). Plantation of trees at the Periphery of Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary and in the surroundings of the said villages will help in the Ecological restoration, conservation of the wildlife and in improving the quality of life and self-sustenance aspect of the people living in-around forest areas.
The tourism sector has emerged as a most vital industry in Sikkim, in recent decades, providing direct employment to more than 40,000 people (minimum). Its contribution to the economy of the state is significant. India has two out of the 18 BIODIVERSITY hot-spots in the world, which are in the Western Ghats and Eastern Himalayas. Sikkim, covering just 0.2 % of the geographical area of the country, has tremendous biodiversity and has been identified as one of the HOT-SPOT in the Eastern Himalayas (Sikkim ENVIS report).
Sikkim is a state depending on various types of tourism for the livelihood of the people of the state. An account by the state government provide an account of the state and progress of ecotourism in the state. The account also mentions the ecotourism zones in the state which covers most of the area of the state thus making it an important source of livelihood in the state, where opportunities are scarce. But the growth of ecotourism leads to various negative developments like natural disasters and concentration of population, leading to pressure in certain areas a mentioned in The impact of tourism on livelihood and environment in West Sikkim: A case study of Pelling by Jayatra Mandal et al. Thus diversification of livelihood with the help of production of natural resources from trees and mitigation of the negative effects, requires plantation of trees in abundance in the state.
The area is typically defined with Sub-tropical ecoregion, with heavy rainfall. Thus the conditions remain mostly humid throughout the year. The upper-story of the vegetation consists mainly of trees like Castonopsis spp., Machilus spp., Rhododendron spp., Michelia spp., etc. and species like Eurya spp., Viburnum spp., Litsea spp., Bucklandia spp., among other associates are dominant in the understory vegetation.
Recorded faunal species from the area includes the Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens), Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), Golden Jackal (Canis aureus), Common Leopard (Panthera pardus), Asiatic Black Bear (Selenarctos Himalayans), Himalayan Palm Civet (Paguma larvata), Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) and Barking Deer (Muntiacus muntjac).
The area is also rich in avian diversity including Kaleej Pheasant (Lophura leucomelanus), Satyr Tragopan (Tragopan satyra), Rusty-bellied Shortwing (Brachypteryx hyperythra). It is also home for some rarities like the speckled wood pigeon (Columba hodgsonii), Bay woodpecker (Blythipicus pyrrhotis) and Ward’s Trogon (Harpactes wardi).
Tree species planted here include flowering plants like Angelia, Gurash, Cherry, Benganbelia, Lalu pathay, non-flowering plants like Dhuppi and Duranta Hadge, Fruiting plants like Naspati, Arucha, Jack fruit, Guava, Mango, Phampal, Timber plants like Pani saj, Chandan, Kapasey, Arupatey tree, Lakuri, Peepli, fodder plants such as Nebara, Gogun, Kabra and Baha.
The plantation project helps in improving the overall ecological health with re-forestation of degraded forest patches, securing and enhancing wildlife habitat locally which in turn promotes sustainable eco-tourism and wildlife-tourism in the area. Plantation of fruiting species in the forest areas is even helpful in dealing with Human-wildlife conflict scenario by providing with additional food within their habitat which otherwise would prey into crop fields. Plantation of flowering species adds overall aesthetic appearance both to the visitors and the locals. Moreover, each tree planted aims to increase soil fertility, biodiversity, and groundwater rejuvenation.