Lessons on Sustainable Tourism: Sudha Priscilla, continues..
Yuksom currently serves as the gateway to many of India’s most beautiful and difficult treks. Recognised as the ancient capital of Sikkim, the town is of historical importance as the first Chogyal (king) of Sikkim was crowned here in 1642 AD.
On our drive to Yuksom from the airport, I noticed a garbage bag provided in the taxi. This gave us our first insight into their environmentally conscious mind-set. Despite the invasion of visitors, Yuksom has retained an abundance of green spaces and public spaces are all remarkably clean. Every street is equipped with a well-placed litter bin.
Through my travel, I tried to find out more, and here is some of what I learnt. Truly inspiring
In order to thwart degradation of the fragile ecosystem caused by increased tourism, the community formed the Khanchendzonga Conservation Committee in the ‘90s. KCC played an instrumental role in banning the use of firewood previously used for cooking, heating and camp-fires. They also run a garbage management centre that segregates garbage collected on the trekking trails and recycles it.
The local gram panchayat has also formed an informal association of shopkeepers known as the ‘Bazaar Association’. One of the activities they undertake is sending a family member each week to collect trash from the streets of Yuksom.
During the off-season, members of the Yuksom Tourism Development Committee comprising of stakeholders from the tourism industry, trudge back along various trek routes to collect trash that may have been left behind by travellers. Most of the collected waste is then recycled, thereby reducing pollution.
Additionally, most reputable tour agencies offer clients portable pop-up toilet tents that act as pit latrines. The tent and toilet seat is pitched on a flat surface and placed over a shallow pit with a hump of mud outside. The pit is then used by the client who in turn covers it with mud ensuring that the waste seeps into the ground. This prevents trekkers from defecating near water bodies.
The town is truly at the helm of the movement promoting sustainable tourism.