|Development of Alternatives||KCC is currently involved in numerous activities centered around livelihood generation and sustainable ecotourism, such as: |
- Village homestays
With the aim of encouraging sustainable tourism facilities and creating opportunities for the villagers to earn economic benefits, KCC started promoting Village Homestays. Along with offering services which are efficient and environmental friendly services such as fuel-efficient cooking and heating, and hygienic indigenous composting toilets (Chettri et al, 2008), the homestay practice also encourages cultural and environmental conservation by providing an opportunity to strengthen the local culture and tradition in terms of hospitality, use of decor, cuisine, and buildings (Chettri et al, 2008) and enables cultural exchange between the villagers and the outsiders.
As of 2017, KCC has helped train around 400 homestay operators by selecting lower income family members who can benefit from additional income and women for whom financial empowerment would be valuable. KCC handles all of the marketing and booking requirements and also provides a range of hospitality-based training for homestay owners. For example, homestay owners are given the opportunity to participate in cooking, housekeeping and financial management training.
An important contribution of KCC’s work has been the establishment of a minimum room tariff for homestays. This emerged from fears of potential exploitation of homestay owners who were arm-twisted into lowering their room tariffs to unsustainable levels. This occurred more so because of competition from large hotels and resorts. Through KCC’s facilitation, all homestay owners now request a nightly tariff of Rs 2500.
- Zero Waste Trekking
KCC formed a participatory monitoring programme of the trekking trail inside KNP and in the surrounding areas. KCC identified and invited key local people and national park staff from the village for a general consultation meeting. The goals of the monitoring process were discussed and with consultation of the village member’s consensus was arrived at about participating in the proposed programme. Consultation and assistance from external agencies such as the Forest department and Sikkim tourism department were sought to make an effective work plan that would address the issues of monitoring tourism activities and conservation impacts. Having set their targets, several meetings were conducted in the village to make local people and those involved in tourism enterprises aware as to why such an initiative was important and how local people could participate and contribute.
Objectives of the monitoring programme:
1. Monitoring the status of waste, condition of trekking trails and campsite facilities over the trekking routes
2. Monitoring the prohibition of use of firewood and other forest products by trekkers, trek operators and their support staff
3. Involve tourists, trekkers and local tourism operators in the monitoring process
Annually, the monitoring programs helps in collection of around 800 kg of waste from the trekking trails and the forests. KCC now operates a functional Waste Segregation Centre and has worked with the Forest Department to create a system by which trekking operators have to declare non bio-degradable waste products through that are being carried through a checklist and upon return account for these products. Defaulters are fined a hefty sum of Rs.5000 if they fail to account for waste that was not brought back.
Waste material like noodle packets, tetra packs, plastic etc. are recycled to make fashionable handbags, pillows, notebooks and so on that tourists can buy when the visit the KCC office. Yuksam was the first village in Sikkim to ban the use of plastic (both bags and bottles) in 1996 and the Government of Sikkim has since implemented this throughout the state. KCC also implemented and encouraged trekking companies to adopt a prohibition on the use of firewood during treks. Currently, all trekking groups are required to carry kerosene stoves (also monitored pre and post trek).
Connected to low-impact trekking trails is the introduction and widespread use of dzos instead of yaks, which is a move that KCC strongly encouraged in the 1990s. This came out of numerous surveys that showed the adverse grazing impacts of yaks as compared to dzos (a hybrid between yaks and domestic cows).
- Ecotourism Service Providers Association of Yuksam (ESPAY)
ESPAY (Ecotourism Service Providers Association of Yuksam) is an association that KCC initiated in 2004 to provide capacity building to trekking guides, dzo and yak owners, porters and other ecotourism-related professionals in Yuksom. As of 2017, KCC has trained more than 100 cooks through various training programs, around 250 naturalists guides, around 1000 porters and pack animal operators. ESPAY currently has 250 members has a range of different activities including: (a) lobbying at the state level for minimum living wages for porters and (b) community compensation scheme for loss of dzos due to trekking accidents and natural causes; and (c) provision of vaccinations and veterinary support for livestock
- Environmental Education Activities
The KCC office is also an environmental education centre that tourists are encouraged to visit to learn about KNP and low-impact tourism. In 2005-6, KCC trained around 100 teachers on Environmental Education. From information about the wildlife that trekkers can encounter on trails to recycled trekking waste, the KCC centre remains accessible for all visitors to the area. However, given that visiting the Centre isn’t mandatory for trekkers, bringing in all visitors continues to be a challenge
|Why? Explain briefly.||Challenges remain: |
Key challenge concerning urbanisation and sustainable development has been to come to village-level agreements. While KCC has been able to achieve a lot by engaging with individual homestay owners or dzo owners, bringing the village together to discuss issues continues to be a challenge. For example, trekking by itself is now zero-waste. However, commercial development in Yuksam town itself in the form of large hotels and allied facilities is not regularized. The Gram Sabha had at one point agreed to restrict infrastructure development to buildings of three floors only. However, it has been difficult to enforce this without a formal Gram Sabha resolution. Finally, with regards to the Waste Segregation Centre, while all trekking-related waste is being collected at a designated Centre, it has been challenging to find ways to recycle all of this waste material. KCC has managed to create some recycled products from this waste but a large amount of waste material remains at the Centre with no clear channels for what happens next.
Enforcing and monitoring stringent trekking regulations has been challenging because of varying support from the Forest Department. Primarily, trekking occurs inside KNP and therefore, strictly enforcing regulations on collection of wildlife species and forest products and fuelwood use is still largely within the jurisdiction of the Departments’ core activities. While KCC can push the Department to carry out patrolling and monitoring activities, these decisions are beyond the scope of KCC’s influence.