Trees for Himalayan Monasteries and Schools of Sikkim
The project is being implemented in monastic and educational institutions and reserve forests adjoining Aritar, Sudunglakha and Dalapchand Gram Panchayats under Rongli sub-division in East Sikkim.
The state of Sikkim has pioneered watershed greening programmes like ‘Smriti Van’, ‘State Green Mission’ and ‘Ten Minutes to Earth’ which have set a model precedent for green development in the entire country. Forests provide a wide range of ecosystem services such as protecting water quality and quantity by reducing runoff, protecting biodiversity and aesthetic element in the landscape that have both important economic and spiritual values (Heal 2000). Growing population demands on forests are rising faster than the capacity of forests to meet them on a sustainable basis. Sikkim has more than 200 monastic institutions and 81 Senior Secondary and 208 Secondary level enrolled institutions (rmsaindia.gov.in). Each of the institutions owns large tracts of forested lands and sacred groves and also form a connecting link to protected areas. These forests and sacred groves bear not only religious and cultural values but are also highly important in terms of biodiversity because they have long been protected. Conservation of such sacred groves and forested areas will be done by providing enhancing plantation and protection activities by religious and other institutions.
The project involves plantation of ecologically valued native trees like Utish (Alnus spp.), Silver Oak, Katush (Castonopsis spp.), Kaulo (Machilus spp.), Guras(Rhododendron spp.), Chandan(Michelia spp.), Pani Saj (Eurya spp.), Asarey (Viburnum spp.), Litsea spp., Bucklandia spp.,Jarul(Lagerstroemia speciosa), Acastomia(Terminalia catappa), Gulmohar(Delonix regia), Rittha(Sapindus mukorossi), among other associated species.
The project area is located on the fringes of the Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary and is defined with the subtropical habitat with a condition which remains mostly humid throughout the year. Rainfall is heavy in the area due to exposure to the south-western monsoon and is well distributed during the months from May to October. Humid condition and adequate rainfall in the region is a catalyst factor among other factors to support diverse vegetation in a concentrated manner. 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 rich natural treasures of the region are under anthropogenic pressure creating adverse impacts on sensitive forest-dependent communities and the unique and fragile mountain ecology of the state of Sikkim. Arboreal diversity is an important resource for local communities, about 80% of the rural population in Sikkim is dependent on tree diversity for-timber, fuel-wood, fodder, ecotourism practices (sikenvis.org). Tree biomass is intuitively associated with the social, economic and ecological life profile of the forest-based communities. There is a rise in human-wildlife conflict due to crop degradation by wild animals. An increasing trend in human-wildlife encounters is hampering an already sensitive rural economy significantly. Thus the large-scale plantation helps in improving the overall ecological health with the restoration of degraded and deforested forest patches in the selected reserves.
Monastic and other institutions are active in matters of environmental conservation. Involving these institutions directly will be a useful entry point in reaching out to the broader mass with the message highlighting the need for environmental conservation and action. The State has launched several environmental conservation programs and the plantation of native species helps to further strengthen the Sikkim’s green mission and also spread environmental awareness among the local population. Plantation of flowering and non-flowering plants in monastic and institution lands will aid in the beautification of the area. It will also help secure wildlife habitats. Flowering species in specific will conserve bird habitat and improve nature trails increasing nature-based tourism in the region. The plantation will help to enhance the tree cover, enrich forests and provide forest resources to the communities. Diversified livelihood options will include the development of nature-based activities that will improve the income of the forest-dependent communities. Moreover, the project would create about 2500 rural workdays among the locals. The forest of 30,000 trees would help sequestration minimum of 6,00,000 Kgs. Of atmospheric Carbon annually on maturity.