Guwahati: CEO of social organisation Grow-Trees Bikrant Tiwary believes afforestation can not only revive the flora and fauna of Sikkim but also boost the state’s economy by promoting eco-tourism.

The Northeastern state of Sikkim covers just 0.2% of India’s geographical area but contains  26% of the country’s biodiversity. It is one of the 18 biodiversity hotspots in the world with a large number of species of trees, orchids, flowering plants, medicinal plants, birds, moths, and butterflies. More than 40 per cent of the state is under forest cover.  

However, deforestation, construction activities and environmental threats like global warming and extreme weather events have led to diminishing wildlife habitats and per cent paved the way for human-animal conflicts. Himalayan Black Bears have been known to stray into farmlands while the disrupted ecological balance has led to a reduction in fruiting species and posed a clear threat to the state’s biodiversity.

This is why, apart from government programmes like ‘Smriti Van’, ‘Sikkim Green Mission’ and ‘Ten Minutes to Earth’, social organisations such as Grow-Trees have come forward with various planting initiatives to repair the ecology of the state.

Bikrant Tiwary, CEO of Grow-Trees, says, “Through our various tree planting projects for Himalayan forests, monasteries, schools and for the state’s overall ecosystem, we are aiming to enhance Sikkim’s bio-diversity and aid its eco-tourism. We believe that Sikkim’s eco-tourism can be enhanced only through nourishing its biodiversity, ecology and wildlife. Planting more trees will also create carbon sinks, provide employment opportunities to local people, prevent animal-human conflicts and curtail  crop destruction, which will safeguard the local economy.”

 An ecologically fragile part of Sikkim is Pakyong which shares its borders with Tibet and Bhutan has planted around 15,000 trees here via its ‘Trees for Himalayan Forests’ project. Many local species have been planted here including  Englehardtia Spicata (Mahuwa), Acer Campbelli (Kapasi), Duabanga Sonneratoides (Lampatey), Macaranga Nepalensis (Malata), T.Myriocarpa, Terminalia Alata, Symingtonia Populnea, and Bischofnia Javanica. These trees will also help in preventing flooding by regulating the downstream water flow.

 Bikrant points out that regions where tourist traffic increases, often suffer the most ecologically. Bikrant gave the example of the Eastern District of Tsomgo where the speedy development of infrastructure has led to vehicular pollution and contaminated lake water. To address this issue, through its ‘Trees for Himalayan Monasteries and Forests’, project, Grow-Trees has planted trees at the fringes of Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary and the surroundings of Hattipailey Reserve Forest land and Boudha Gurung Gumpa land. “These trees will improve the ecological health of the forest and also increase the fruiting and flowering species. Indigenous tree species will also increase water tables for rural communities that are dependent on natural water resources,” Bikrant said.

The ‘Trees for Himalayan Monasteries and Schools’ project is beautifying monastic and educational institutions as well as forests near Aritar, Sudunglakha and Dalapchand Gram Panchayats while ‘Trees for Ecotourism’ is being implemented in the watershed catchment area in East Sikkim, 12300 ft and 13000 ft above sea level.  

“A 2017 report by the Sikkim Forest, Environment, and Wildlife Management department states that there will be an increase in temperature of 1.8°C in the East of Sikkim and more than 2°C in North and South Sikkim between 2021 and 2050.  Projects like these are therefore important to mitigate the impact of global warming and climate change,” Bikrant added.

Also read | 2 killed, 3 injured as car plunges into gorge in Sikkim

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