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1 | P a g e
and Forests
in Sikkim:
and well-
being of
June 30
The ba...
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Sikkim is the second smallest state of India after Goa in terms of size- 7096 sq. km (0.22% of size o...
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1.5 As of in financial year 2011 the nominal State GDP of Sikkim is INR 5652 crore (0.08% of India’s GDP),
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Economic growth and environment: making strategic choices
1.9 For a small, land-locked, mountainous and remote...
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eco-tourism and hydropower as key sector for growth and employment generation. Over the years,
hydropower deve...
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threats to rhododendrons are deforestation and unsustainable extraction for firewood and incense by
local peop...
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20, 0%
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Elevation wise Forest Cover
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Case 1: Role of EDC in Fambong Lho Sanctuary
Situated very close to capital city of Gangtok, Fambong Lho
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Case 2: Himal Rakshak- Guardians of high mountains
from the Forest Department. In Gorucharan Forests, local p...
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4. Forest and people: dependence and relationship
For the people of Sikkim, the forests are their nourishing ...
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4.3 In general, forest fringe communities and upland farmers are more dependent on NTFPs for their
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purpose forest
Bamboo leaves Livestock fodder Mostly cultivated
leaves of Machilus edulis,
M. odoratis...
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winter and very little in rainy season. Women and children are actively involved in the collection process
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4.10. Bamboo: Usage and potential
4.10.1 Bamboo is an immensely valuable forest resource in Sikkim. As in man...
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Case 3: HWC in Pangolakha and Fambanglho wildlife sanctuaries
WWF- India in collaboration with the Sikkim For...
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5.2 In Sikkim the cases involving direct encounter between man and animal is less common with only
stray inci...
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Case 4: Demojong, the sacred landscape of Sikkim
Demojong is a sacred landscape that in one sense has given t...
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rights. However the, Gumpas (monasteries) and private forests are also very common where community
exercise c...
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regional, national and global level. It can be argued that the forests and biodiversity wealth of Sikkim has
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8. Policies: analysis, gaps and recommendations
To protect and sustain its natural resource and biodiversity ...
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•Government announces 1995-'96 as Harit Kranti year for greening Sikkim through peoples
participation. D...
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generates low internal revenues from taxes and other sources, it has been able to fund the burgeoning
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Recommendation: While the state policy on forest is firmly entrenched in conservationist agenda, it
would be ...
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maintaining hydrological balance, soil moisture retention, landslide prevention and carbon
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Case5: Ban on grazing: peoples’ perception in Barsey
Rhododendron Sanctuary (BRS)
For the 36 villages and 645...
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much in terms of usufruct benefits for JFMC members from the forest. From the interaction with the
JFMCs memb...
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Recommendation: If the ultimate aim of forests is to enhance the well-being of people of state then the
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1. The climate trend
Climate change is now an accepted fact globally, ...
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2.1 A study on Rhododendrons one of the most important floras of the state has shown that the suitable
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2.7 Perception of the local community captured in the recent climate change studies show that climate
change ...
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pest, disease and dry winter. Communities in the middle and upper hills were found to be less
vulnerable, and...
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3. Policy measures
State action plan for Climate change
3.1 Policies for addressing the issue of climate chan...
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Box 1: Climate vulnerability assessment for Sikkim
With impacts of climate change becoming increasingly visib...
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potential of hill top forests. Most of the rain water just flows away as surface runoff due to steep terrain
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  1. 1. 1 | P a g e Biodiversity and Forests in Sikkim: Linkages with sustainability and well- being of people June 30 2012 The background paper highlights the human dimension of utilization, management and governance of biodiversity, forests, and other natural resources in Sikkim. The paper reviews the current and future prospects, issues and threats to biodiversity and forest conservation and its likely implications on the lives of people of the state. Finally, the report provides a critical overview of the Sikkim’s forest policies and suggests recommendations as a way forward to sustainable development and green growth. Background paper for Sikkim Human Development Report 2012
  2. 2. 2 | P a g e
  3. 3. 3 | P a g e OVERVIEW Sikkim is the second smallest state of India after Goa in terms of size- 7096 sq. km (0.22% of size of India) and smallest in terms of population- 6,07,000 ( In 2011 or 0.05% of India’s population). Wedged between Tibet Autonomous Region of China to the north and east, Bhutan to the south-east, Indian state of West Bengal to south; the landlocked state of Sikkim shares international border with China, Nepal and Bhutan. From being a protectorate, Sikkim became part of the Indian union in year 1975. Bio- geographically Sikkim is predominantly mountainous terrain being part of lesser Himalayan zone, with elevation ranging from 250 meters to 8500 meters, the highest peak being the Khangchendzonga which is also the highest peak in India and third highest in the world. 1.1 The climate of Sikkim is highly varied due to factors related to wide range of elevation which plays a primary role in determining climate and also partly due to diverse configuration of surrounding high mountains, valleys and water bodies which produces variety of climatic conditions from sub-tropical humid type to temperate alpine and arctic type. The average temperature of the state varies from sub-zero during winter to 28 degrees centigrade during summers. Rainfall varies from 2700 mm to 3200 mm. 1.2 Originally the land of Lepchas, Sikkim society bears strong influence of Tibetan Lamaic traditions that came with Tibetan Buddhists. The benevolent rule of early Lepchas kings and later Buddhist influence has shaped the social and political evolution of the state into a peace loving society that has retained strong bonds with nature and environment. The state today is a beacon of peace in largely volatile and restive north-eastern region of India. 1.3 With the total population of 607,000 (2011) the state has overall low population density of 76 persons per sq. km spread across the four districts of the states- North district, South district, East district and West district. The population density shows large variations across the four districts; with the relatively densely populated (257 persons per sq. km) and most developed East district with capital city Gangtok to very sparse density (10 persons per sq km) in the North district. 1.4 The economy of Sikkim is predominantly rural (over 88% population live in rural area) with a strong agrarian base, showing little diversification in industries and manufacturing sector. Over 80% of the population is directly and indirectly dependent on agriculture and allied sector, and rest in manufacturing and service sector. The state suffers from poor infrastructure with weak communication- lowest road density per 1000 km, lack of efficient health and education system and weak manufacturing and skill base. The weak economic status is reflected in low per capita power utilization at 192 kwh (India average 354) and poor investment climate of the state. Sikkim is the only state of India which presently does not have rail and air connection with rest of the nation (though a proposed airport is coming soon near the capital city of Gangtok). Figure 1
  4. 4. 4 | P a g e 1.5 As of in financial year 2011 the nominal State GDP of Sikkim is INR 5652 crore (0.08% of India’s GDP), exhibiting one of the highest growth rate among the states at 19.24 percent and high per capita income of nearly INR 49,000 per annum which is second highest in the north-eastern region after Arunachal Pradesh and higher than per capita income of states like Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa and UP. The budgetary deficit at just over 2 percent is one of the lowest among the states of the country. 1.6 The state’s economic growth rate picked up during IX plan at 8.3 percent and is expected to grow at 7.9 percent during X plan which is higher than the national average. While good showing in agriculture has helped in boosting the rate, the real driver for growth has been the service sector which has benefitted from tremendous expansion in sectors like tourism. Though the poverty rates in year 1999- 2000 assessment showed very high poverty rate at 36.6 percent, latest poverty estimates indicate sharp decline in poverty levels to about half at 16 percent. 1.6 On the social indicators side, the state shows strong performance with literacy rates at 68.8 percent (India- 64%), and similarly on health with lower than national average fertility rate and infant mortality rate. However the sex ratio at 875 is lower than the national average. 1.7 Rice, maize and buck wheat are main crops grown on terrace cultivation with channel irrigation as main source. The average productivity is much below the national average due to lack of application of modern agriculture techniques arising from constraints related to the mountainous terrain and poor agriculture infrastructure such as irrigation, weak input supply and poor market support. As a result Sikkim is food deficient and has to depend on import from rest of the country to feed its growing population. Among cash crop, Sikkim is the largest producer of large cardamom (4500 MT) producing more than 88 percent of India’s total production and half of global production. Recent years have witnessed decline in large cardamom productivity owing to large scale pest attacks on cardamom crop across the state. Animal husbandry is another major sector of rural livelihood though it has seen significant decline since the past decade after ban on grazing in the forest areas by the state government. 1.8 Over the past decade the public policy has largely veered towards providing huge subsidies to people below poverty line to cover range of welfare measure including provision of low-priced food- grain, distribution of livelihood assets like cows, pigs, supply of fuel efficient chulhas and giving out LPG cylinders and such. Though the subsidies have stemmed migration from rural to urban areas and reduced pressure on forest resources, it has inevitably strained the fiscal balance with huge public debt which is mostly offset through central funding to Sikkim under the special category status for being member of north-eastern group of states. 1.9 Sikkim enjoys special status under article 371 F of the constitution of India which broadly recognizes and provides safeguards to protect unique ethnic character of Sikkim and preservation of its traditional laws. The Article guarantees several privileges to Sikkim in terms of local autonomy on governance, laws restricting people of non-Sikkimese origin to settle and conduct business in the state, provisions related to central taxation and special role of state Governor and legislature.
  5. 5. 5 | P a g e Economic growth and environment: making strategic choices 1.9 For a small, land-locked, mountainous and remote state like Sikkim blessed with abundant natural resources, the strategic choices for future economic development are critically poised. The real challenge for the development planners is to frame policies that maintain the critical balance between conservation of natural resources and at the same time spur economic growth to help large population escape from poverty and unemployment. Owing to the boundaries Sikkim shares with three countries to its North, West and East, there is large presence of defense and paramilitary forces in the state. Most of the high altitude areas are occupied by these forces and the pressure on these fragile ecosystems from their presence cannot be undermined. Improper garbage management practices, burning of rhododendrons for firewood and the increase in number of feral dogs are some of the challenges that need to be overcome. 1.9.1 High population growth rate in the decade of 70’s and 80’s has put enormous pressure on Sikkim’s natural resources from increasing demand of land for settlement and agriculture. Due to widespread poverty, there was intense and unsustainable pressure on forests for fuelwood, fodder and medicinal plants for subsistence and commercial use. Small scale mining activities and demand of land for development purpose was also causing diversion of forest land and loss of biodiversity resources. A change in government in the state in mid 90’s led to a turning point with conservation agenda pitch- forked at the forefront followed with a slew of new policy measures firmly supporting conservation through increased public investment in improving natural resource base, putting a halt to green felling and timber export and subsidizing services like rural energy supply, promoting livelihood diversification for reducing pressure on forest. The ban on grazing activities in all Protected Areas and Reserved Forest in 1998 was further aimed at reducing cattle population to arrest further degradation of forests. Though such policy decisions have potential political cost it has given strong signal to stakeholders on the state government’s firm commitment towards conservation of biodiversity. 1.9.2 Land is a highly scarce resource in Sikkim. Devising a balanced land use policy presents a pressing challenge in view of rising demand for land from growing population for settlement, agriculture, infrastructure development and other economic activities. The land use pattern of Sikkim is strongly influenced by the elevation, climate and mountainous terrain, especially in the field of agriculture and forestry. Forest is the main land use in the state and nearly 40% (reserve + private) of the geographical area is under varying forest densities cover followed by alpine barren land, snow and glaciers. The cultivated land is approximately 11% of the total geographical area (776.74km2) and is confined to altitude less than 2000m. Around 70% of the cultivated land (541.44ha) is terraced/semi-terraced and remaining is under fallow/scrub. The planning decisions may not always be scientific because of conflicts among sectoral interests, government policies and the priorities of landowners. Therefore, planning decisions for implementation should be based on compromisation among several interests without risking the principles of land capability, sustainability and environmental security for agriculture, forests, horticulture, grasslands, urban development, mining, infrastructure facilities, recreation and others. 1.9.3 To balance imperative on conservation with sustainable economic development, and to leverage its comparative advantage in abundant natural resources, Government of Sikkim as a policy has selected
  6. 6. 6 | P a g e eco-tourism and hydropower as key sector for growth and employment generation. Over the years, hydropower development on rivers like Teesta has generated clean energy and growing eco-tourism has provided direct and indirect employment to large section of population 1.10 Biodiversity and natural resources Sikkim is a part of Eastern Himalayas and is listed among one of the 34 Global Biodiversity Hotspots. The small state is endowed with rich natural resources, represented in its huge floral and faunal biodiversity, abundant water resources, streams, rivers and glaciers and plentiful forest cover. With over 500 species of orchids, 4500 species of flowering plants, 27 mountain peaks, 21 glaciers and 227 lakes, Sikkim is home to amazing range of biodiversity many of which are endemic in nature. 1.10.1 Due to varied elevation and climate, Sikkim has four distinct eco-regions - tropical, sub-tropical, temperate and trans-Himalayan. The exceptional biodiversity in small area of less than 100 km stretch is result of states’ unique bio-geographic location with Tibet in north to Bay of Bengal in south; former climatically influencing cold desert region of north and later the moist deciduous features of south. Sikkim is the only such example of bio-geographic zone in India and perhaps among few in the world having such range of ecological conditions from tropical moist to temperate and alpine zone in such small geographical area. The mountainous terrain of Sikkim with varying altitude, variety in elevation and aspect creates innumerable pockets of unique micro-climatic conditions, ecology and eco-tones nurturing wide ranging physical and climatic scenarios for unmatched biodiversity and endemism. The state is also home to large variety of unique ecosystems like high, mid and low altitude lakes and wetlands, pastureland, alpine meadows making a mosaic of immensely valuable natural resource base. The state is a valuable repository of national biodiversity wealth and therefore has seminal importance in the country’s biodiversity conservation strategy. 1.10.2 As a result of the biodiversity conservation measures, Sikkim has over 47 percent of area under tree cover which is one of the highest in India both in terms of proportion to geographical area of state and per capita forest cover. Over 77 percent forest cover in Sikkim falls under dense or moderately dense category which is again among the highest for any state in India. Sikkim is the only state in the north-east which has not lost its forest cover over the past assessment which again indicates its successful efforts on conservation of forest resources. 1.10.3 Out of approximately 1200 orchid species found in India, Sikkim is repository of over 523 species and one of the richest hot-spots for orchid diversity in Indian Himalaya. Sikkim is home to 4458 of the 15000 flowering plants, nearly one-third in the country and 50% of India’s of Pteridophytes. Sikkim jointly with Darjeeling hills has been blessed with rich diversity of medicinal plants of over 700 medicinal plant species found in the region. 1.10.4 The rhododendrons are a great indicator of forest health and ecological stability and out of nearly 72 rhododendron species in North-east India Sikkim is known to have 36. Due to human interference the natural populations of rhododendrons in the entire Himalaya are gradually diminishing. The major
  7. 7. 7 | P a g e threats to rhododendrons are deforestation and unsustainable extraction for firewood and incense by local people. 1.10.5 Sikkim’s diverse faunal base includes 150 species of mammals (India 484), 550 species of birds (India 1222), and 9627 species of butterflies (India 19254) in addition to many reptiles, amphibians and insects. Some of the Red Data Book mammal species are red panda, snow leopard, clouded leopard, musk deer, Tibetan wolf, red fox, Indian wild dog, hog badger, Tibetan sheep or argali, Tibetan gazelle, serow, goral, and Tibetan wild ass.
  8. 8. 8 | P a g e 500, 15% 2161, 64% 696, 21% 20, 0% Very Dense Modera tely dense Open forest Tree cover COMMUNITIES AND FORESTS Sikkim is a land of pristine environment with refreshing air, covered with luxuriant forests, sparkling streams, dotted with glaciers, and scores of lakes and wetlands all teeming with rich biodiversity. Forest is a vital resource for socio-economic development of the state as it constitutes the largest land-use category. Much more important than the economic resource, the forest in Sikkim is home to its 0.6 million people, bearer of their local culture and traditions and in many ways a basis of Sikkimese identity. The human development and to a great extent the well being and happiness and quality of life of the people of the state is critically linked to its forest resources and therefore maintaining ecological balance, protecting forest cover and conserving biodiversity is a key to progress of the state. 1.1 Over 82% percent (5841 sq km) of geographical area of Sikkim is under jurisdiction of forest administration which is among the highest proportion for any state in India (Fig 2). The forest cover constitutes 47.59 percent (93190 ha) of geographical area of the state and Protected Area is over 30 percent of the geographical area. Of the total forest cover in the state over 93 percent is Reserved Forest and 6.6 percent is Protected Area (PA). The per capita forest and tree cover at 0.63 ha is among the highest in country. Nearly 30 percent of the land area in north is under permanent snow cover where tree and vegetation is not possible due to physical and climatic condition. 1.2 The forest cover of Sikkim is in general of very good quality with over 77 percent forest falling under very dense and moderately dense category (Fig 3). Overall South Sikkim has highest proportion of area under forest cover (76.13%), followed by East Sikkim (73.27%) and high altitude region of north Sikkim has lowest proportion of forest cover (31.12%). East Sikkim has highest proportion of forest under very dense category (23%) followed by west Sikkim (14.2%). East Sikkim is also the densest populated region of the state. 1.3 Based on Champion and Seth classification, Sikkim has 11 forest types belonging to 6 forest type groups- Tropical Moist Deciduous, Sub-tropical broad leaved hill, Montane wet temperate, Himalayan Moist Temperate, Sub- Alpine forest and Moist Alpine scrub. In terms of area, Sub-tropical broad leaved hill forest, Montane wet temperate forest and sub-Alpine forest type each constitute approx one-fourth and together a total of three-fourth proportion of forest cover. Figure 2 Figure 3
  9. 9. 9 | P a g e 0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 Elevation wise Forest Cover OF MDF VDF 0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500 4000 Year1975 Year 1987 Year 1995 Year 2005 Year 2009 1.4 Elevation wise nearly 66% of forest cover is between 1000-3000m which is mostly under category of Montane wet temperate and Himalayan moist temperate forest group (Fig 4). Nearly 20% of forest in 1000-3000m altitude is under very dense category. 1.5 From the data available from the Forest Survey of India (State of Forest Report 2011) which inventoried east and north Sikkim for period of six years 2002-’08, the total Tree outside Forest (ToF) in Sikkim is spread over 20 sq km or 0.28% of geographic area of the state. These trees outside forests are important resource for fodder and fuelwood for the local population. 2. Trends in forest cover Based on latest data available from the Forest Survey of India (FSI) Status of Forest Report (2011), there has been an overall loss of forest cover in north-east states from baseline of year 2009 with exception of Sikkim which has been able to keep its forest cover intact. Since 2009 north-eastern states like Manipur and Nagaland have lost massive forest areas; 190 and 146 sq km respectively, whereas Sikkim recorded zero net loss of forest cover in all four districts bucking the national and regional trends. 2.1 Two factors seem to be responsible for general trend of forest loss in north eastern states - militancy and practices like shifting cultivation. In fact regions infested with left extremism like Andhra Pradesh have also suffered massive loss of forest cover, suggesting possible link of militancy with forest destruction. Sikkim is among the most peaceful state of India and has proactive policy thrust on forest and biodiversity conservation that has yielded rich dividends on forest growth1 . 2.2 The recorded forest area of Sikkim since 1975 has consistently depicted an upward trend (Fig 5) with maximum growth of over 5 percentage point in 8 years time period between 1987-’95. 2.3 The bold policy decision like ban on green felling and ban on cattle grazing in 1 From website: i) Northeast/Article1-808199.aspx ii) Figure 4 Figure 5: Forest cover trend over years
  10. 10. 10 | P a g e Case 1: Role of EDC in Fambong Lho Sanctuary Situated very close to capital city of Gangtok, Fambong Lho sanctuary is home to endangered Red Panda, the state animal and to host of other endangered fauna like black bear, barking deer besides scores of colorful birds. 10 Eco Development Committees have been formed for Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary covering all Gram Panchayat Units around it, with members constituted from only those wards that border with the sanctuary. In a study conducted by WWF India to assess the effectiveness of these EDC found that- i) In many cases the prescribed democratic processes for constitution, representation and functioning of EDCs were not being followed ii) there was general lack of capacity and lack of clarity among EDC members on their roles and responsibilities iii) members felt they lacked real power to act against forest offenders. In many cases the EDCs believed that their role is limited to plantation in forest and not much is happening for employment or income generation. EDC members expressed that the forest have regenerated and are getting very dense on account of their contribution through protection and plantation but they will not have any right over any product like fodder, fuelwood and other NTFPs over the same forest which they helped to regenerate. Further due to restoration of forest there has been and increase in wildlife which members believe has led to increasing incidence of Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC). all Protected Areas, Reserved Forest, plantation and water source areas by the state government in 1998 is among the major factor behind arrest of deforestation and degradation of forest. As a result of ban on grazing there was 30 percent decline in cattle population inside the forested areas that led to restoration of large patch of degraded forest and a result, today there is significant proportion of forest cover (7%) that is very dense. 2.4 If we take the recent figures indicating dramatic fall in poverty level in the state to about half at 16 percent population below poverty line, Sikkim seem to emerge as a model state in the region illuminating pathways to sustainable development while protecting its natural resources. 3. Forest Management The main object of forest management is towards conservation and enhancement of forest cover to enable it to perform effective ecosystem services like soil conservation, sustaining hydrological balance; supporting biodiversity conservation and provide effective resilience towards the climate change impacts. 3.1 To achieve above, the forest management is geared towards expanding and improving forest and tree cover through afforestation schemes, rehabilitation of degraded forest through participatory management, reducing human and cattle pressure on forest and promoting nature education. The state vision is to use forest and environment as a strategic resource to be harnessed for sustainable development through responsible eco-tourism without compromising on conservation. 3.2 Over 82 percent of the geographical area of Sikkim is under the administrative control of Forest Department. Of this, 82 percent is under Reserved Forest category and 2 percent Khasmahal (285 sq. Km) and Gaucharan (104 sq. Km). Sikkim has 1 National Park and 7 wildlife sanctuaries covering 2179 sq.Km (30.7% of state geographic area). 3.3 The forest manual drafted in the British period, which has been supplemented from time to time, has served as a statute book since 1909, when it was first compiled. According to this manual, no rights and concessions to the people exist as far as Reserve (government) Forests are concerned. As far as Private Estate forests are concerned, all rights devolve upon the owner, landlords and their tenants. In the case of Khasmahal forests, people have the right to free supply of timber and firewood but this can be availed only after obtaining formal permission
  11. 11. 11 | P a g e Case 2: Himal Rakshak- Guardians of high mountains from the Forest Department. In Gorucharan Forests, local people have the right of free grazing and collection of deadwood and fodder. After the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 was implemented in Sikkim, it became mandatory to acquire permission from the government for any activities in the forest area. Legal diversion is now possible only for public forests while for private forestland this permission is not required. 3.4 In line with the National Forest Policy 1988, Sikkim has embarked on process to engage with local community for protection and management of forest. To this end, 155 Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs) and 47 Eco Development Committees (EDC) have been constituted across the state. A JFMC is formed for a village or a cluster of villages situated adjacent to Reserved Forests (RF) and is registered with the concerned Territorial Divisional Forest Office. Likewise an EDC is formed for a village or a cluster of villages situated adjacent to Protected Areas, such as National Park or Wildlife Sanctuary and is registered with the respective Wildlife Divisional Forest Office. 3.5 The main objective of the JFMC/ EDC is to collaborate with Forest Department for protection and management of forest. The JFMCs/EDCs are required to prepare micro-plan for their village, carry out plantation in forests for regeneration and conduct patrolling to prevent forest offences. However there is a strong need to strengthen policy-legal framework, and address institutional weaknesses, as currently these Committees are not able to exercise much control over forest resources. In absence of genuine democratic process not much decentralization of power that has taken place (Case study 1). 3.6 To address some of the concerns on incentives to JFMCs/EDCs, the Forest Department is in process of initiating a programme where these institutions would be involved in facilitating and providing services to eco-tourists to generate income. However due to weak process of policy convergence, in this case between forest department and Tourism Department may prove to be a serious lacuna to achieve desired result on ground. About 60 percent of Sikkim’s land area is above 3000m which falls under Protected Areas and Reserve Forests with sub-alpine and alpine vegetation. This region is called Himal (meaning snow clad area) and is home to large number of threatened floral and faunal species and biodiversity like snow leopard, musk deer, black necked crane and host of medicinal plants. This region is critical for food and water security of population in low and middle altitude as most rivers and streams are fed from water sources located in this region. The region has largely harsh climate and therefore has poor infrastructure. Unlike lower altitude, constituting JFMCs/EDCs and intensive patrolling by the state Forest Department is not feasible in this region and therefore there is always a threat of poaching wild animals, illegal extraction of medicinal plants, bio-piracy and degradation of vegetation. Realizing the challenges of remote physical conditions, the Forest Department has initiated the process to recruit Himal Rakshak (Protectors of Himal) from among the local pastoralists and herders who use the forests for grazing and subsistence purpose. The Himal Rakshaks patrol forest, prevent poaching and destruction of wildlife habitat, stop illegal extraction of medicinal plants, check bio-piracy and spread awareness among people on nature conservation. They are provided identity cards and are trained by the Forest Department and their partners to carry out patrolling in their allotted area and take action against forest offenders. However lack of incentives for the Himal Rakshaks, which is now purely a voluntary venture on part of the members, is a serious concern that has to be addressed to ensure sustainability. Regular capacity building of the members is also required which will help build their motivation and gain recognition from the state.
  12. 12. 12 | P a g e 4. Forest and people: dependence and relationship For the people of Sikkim, the forests are their nourishing mother. As in a remote, land-locked and mountainous region, the people of Sikkim share a unique cultural, ecological and economic relation with the forest which is strongly embedded in local history and traditions. The social, political and cultural institutions of Sikkim bear a very strong imprint of its physical environment as these institutions have evolved with the need of people to survive in their immediate geographical setting. While the physical environment of Sikkim has shaped its social and political organizations, the interface of institutions itself has been dynamic in nature responding to changing socio-economic landscape over the past decades. The remoteness of the land with less outside influence has contributed to the evolution of its unique social-political ecology that is based on shared value of love of nature and preservation of natural heritage. Due to relatively sparse population the conflict over abundant resources has been low and further due to unique challenges of mountain lives, the abiding value has been of amity and cooperation. The Lamaic Buddhist traditions have influenced moderation in outlook and a respect for nature and its symbols. As the local people believe, the great Buddhist saint Padmasambhava has blessed the land of Sikkim. In the following section on people’s dependence on forest, a short description is being provided on economic relation of community with forest, impact of anthropogenic pressure, the emerging scenario with Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC) and finally a perspective on role of forest on the overall well-being of the people of the state. There is a general lack of data for Sikkim on Non-Timber Forest Produce (NTFP) utilization and markets and on issues related to impact of human activities on forest and biodiversity as most of the past researches have focused on medicinal plants and biodiversity. 4.1 The broad state level scenario on livelihood is- cultivation of large cardamom in sub-tropical zones, cattle rearing in temperate and alpine zone especially in the western region around the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve (KBR). Tourism has brought prosperity in some pockets especially in temperate zone and around the KBR. The ethnic diversity is also reflected in general livelihoods pattern with Gurung and Mangers working mostly as shepherds, maximum population of Bhutias are traders and yak herders, Rai, Lepchas and Limboos hunter gatherers and shifting cultivators, Chhetris and Bauns agro-pastoralists and herders and Tibetan Dokpas are nomadic yak and sheep herders in the trans-Himalayas. 4.2 The people of Sikkim have traditional dependence on forest for food, fodder, medicines, fibers, construction material and for livelihood and cash income. The cultural and social lives of people are also closely intertwined with the forests in way that the two are inseparable. The local folklore, indigenous knowledge and traditions have a strong linkage with the forests and its associated flora and fauna. The nature and degree of local dependence on forest varies with location, altitude, local floral and faunal resources and with other factors like eco-tourism and trekking pressure.
  13. 13. 13 | P a g e 4.3 In general, forest fringe communities and upland farmers are more dependent on NTFPs for their livelihood compared to lowland farmers as opportunities for agriculture are less developed in the upland than at the lower altitude which leads to great dependency of former on forests. For local community NTFPs are important for: a) earning cash income; b) satisfying household needs such as fodder, medicine, shelter, and other household goods; 3) sourcing traditional agricultural inputs such as leaf litter, wild plants, small tools and water; and 4) obtaining supplementary foods such as roots, tubers, vegetables, fruits and grains for the family. 4.4 Research in the KBR which occupies over one-third of the geographical area of Sikkim shows that nearly 80 percent of the fringe communities are dependent on agriculture and pastoralism as source of income. Due to restriction on grazing and limitations of hill cultivation, together with pressure of rising population and fragmented families, there are serious strains on livelihood security of the families. 4.5 In a research carried out in buffer zone of KBR, it was revealed that due to the mountainous terrain and difficulties in communication, communities living in the area uses large number of plants as foods, vegetables, ingredients for house construction and medicines to cure serious diseases, sprains, cuts and fractures since ancient time. NTFPs available in these forests are important alternative to livelihood of the local communities. They consist of house construction materials, edible fruits and vegetables, medicinal plants, fiber, broom grass and natural decorative. 4.6 The above survey recorded ninety-four species of NTFPs. Of these about 8% of the enlisted species were found to use for construction purposes; 45%species as wild edibles; 33% as medicinal purpose, 8% as decorative and 5% as fiber and incense. Among these, above 50% NTFPs were found marketed and among them majority were wild edibles and medicinal herbs. Table 1: Common NTFPs in buffer zone of KBR Category NTFP Uses Occurrence Construction and local handicrafts Bamboo Construction of houses, bridges and fences Mostly cultivated, occurs in community forest and reserve forest, between 1700-2750m Edible fruits and other food Young bamboo shoots Making vegetable and pickles ” Seven edible varieties of mushroom Local delicacy, source of nutrition In forests and roadside young shoots of Pentapanax leschenaultii, leaves- Girardinia palmate, Urtica dioica and flowers of Tupistra nutans Eaten as vegetables or made pickles and also have medicinal value In reserve forests Diplazium spp. (wild ferns) used as vegetables Moist and shady places; also marketed Dioscorea sp. Yams used for edible In private and community
  14. 14. 14 | P a g e purpose forest Fodder Bamboo leaves Livestock fodder Mostly cultivated leaves of Machilus edulis, M. odoratissima, Basia butyracea and Bauhinia variegata offer a good fodder for cattle Cattle fodder In reserve forest Medicinal plants (31 plants with medicinal value recorded)2 Artemesia vulgaris, Eupatorium adenophorum and Hydrocotyle asiatica Used for variety of ailments In open, bushy area close to forests, mostly not marketed Natural decorative Dried Anaphalis contorta, A. triplinervis and Lycopodium clavatum widely used as decorative on different occasions In reserve forest and community forests at various elevations Pollinium mollis and Raphidophora sp used as decorative in houses In reserve forest and community forests at various elevations Cones of Pinus longifolia, Abies densa and Tsuga dumosa decorative in different forms In Reserved Forest Broom and Fiber plants Broom grass Used as broom stick and also as fodder Sub-tropical Himalayan, from plains to 2000m, mostly grows in wasteland 4.7 In the past, before the year 2000, herbal use for a protracted time marked gradual increase in the number of consumers and the reciprocal rise in herbal processing units that have played a major role in diminishing the available medicinal plants in its habitat and also on degradation of ecosystems. Department of Forests has now totally banned collection of medicinal plants and export outside the state is almost negligible as per the records. 4.8 Sikkim has a great potential in the development of herbal enterprise that could be linked with conservation and economic development. The agro technologies for many of these high valued medicinal plants are available and they can be transferred to the communities for cultivation. The value addition and marketing of this important natural resource is of great challenge and opportunity for future development. 4.9 Fuelwood and fodder: demand and usage 4.9.1 In mountains and high altitudes, fuelwood is a critical energy resource and is always in high demand. In Sikkim the households predominantly depend on fuelwood as chief source of energy as it is used for cooking, heating space, and curing cardamom. Most of the fuelwood collection is carried out in 2 The list for medicinal plants use is long and therefore not reproduced here. Several reports, papers, and other secondary sources on medicinal plants is listed in reference section
  15. 15. 15 | P a g e winter and very little in rainy season. Women and children are actively involved in the collection process which is carried out by lopping, chopping of trees and collection of wood from the forest floor. 4.9.2 The average household consumption of fuelwood is greater for higher altitude. Research carried out in the areas around the KBR indicate average fuelwood consumption for a household at over 20 Kg per day and the average usage peaking in winter at 25 Kg per day per household. The estimated per annum usage of fuelwood for a household is 7400 kg which comes mostly from reserve forest and KBR (together 78%) and only 19% comes from private forests. 4.9.3 It has been observed that demand for species with high calorific values are given preference over those with lower value. Among the preferred species Quercus lamellosa ranks the highest in the temperate areas followed by Schima wallichii, Eurya acuminate, Castanopsis hyxtrix, Beilschmiedia sikkimensis and Prunus cerasoides. In the higher altitudes, however, various species of rhododendrons are the most sort of for their ability to light even when the wood is not properly dry. 4.9.4 Apart from demand for fuelwood from households there is a rising trend of such demand from commercial tourism related activities such as from guest-houses hotels and tour operators. In the trekking corridors along the KBR, fuelwood demand from tourism now constitutes 7% of total. The Forest Department has banned use of fuelwood for tourism purpose but illegal collection still takes place. 4.9.5 Tourism (sometimes community based tourism) is one of the main sources of income for the local communities and an estimated 20000 people are directly and indirectly dependent on sector for their livelihood. In Sikkim tourism has grown almost 10 times in past two decades. Growth in tourism has resulted into immense pressure on forest especially in popular trekking trails like Yuksam-Dzongri along the KBR. A large number of the trekking trails occur in some of the important wildlife areas and highly vulnerable ecological zones of the State. Therefore, during peak tourist seasons the number of tourists actually visiting these ecologically sensitive areas is significant. The demand for fuelwood and other anthropogenic pressure is resulting in degeneration of local forest cover and forest disturbances leading to appearance of secondary species at the cost of removal of selected species. 4.9.6 Fodder collection in KBR buffer zone is carried out in dry season and mostly grass and branches of trees are collected and stored for year round use. The estimated average fodder collected per household is 15 kg or 5475 kg per year. However the figure varies in wide range with 340 kg per annum per household in Lachen to 1290 Kg for Uttaray. 4.9.7 Forest floor litter is extensively collected from KBR buffer zone for use in livestock bedding, mulching, composting and as shade for select crops. The estimated annual household use of forest floor litter is 2,920 kg per household.
  16. 16. 16 | P a g e 4.10. Bamboo: Usage and potential 4.10.1 Bamboo is an immensely valuable forest resource in Sikkim. As in many parts of India especially in the north-east, in Sikkim bamboo serves as versatile resource used for multiple purposes as timber, as food especially by tribal and for making handicrafts and furniture. 4.10.2 In Sikkim, bamboo is found in the moist valley, sheltered depressions along the streams and lower hill slope of the Sal forest, moist deciduous forests, wet temperate forests and sub-alpine coniferous forests. The main genera found are Arundinaria, Cephalostchyum, Dendroclamus, phyllostachys etc. Large scale bamboo patches are found along the stream, Sal belt, Gorucharan and Khasmal forest lands, roadside and homestead. The cultivation of bamboo in rural areas is restricted to margins of water courses in the agriculture sector or in the corners or borders of dry farming land. 4.10.3 Bamboo has great potential to boost the rural economy of Sikkim provided the laws and regulations governing cutting, transportation and use of bamboo are more relaxed and friendly to farmers. Bamboo export can provide major income source to the farmers through the generation of royalty. In recent policy change the state government has withdrawn royalty charged on villagers for bonafide bamboo use but the royalty charge on bamboo export continues. Realizing the potential of bamboo for enhancing forest revenue, the Forest Department is now promoting bamboo plantation in private and forest land through the JFMCs and EDCs. 4.10.4 Six out of the top 13 bamboo species identified by the government of India under the Bamboo Mission are found in Sikkim. These bamboo species are of high commercial value as they are used in handicrafts and paper making. The National Bamboo Mission was started in Sikkim in year 2006-07 and received wide support from community for its potential to uplift the rural livelihoods across the state. Under the Mission, the Horticulture and Cash Crop Development Department (HCCD) of Sikkim promoted distribution of quality seedlings in villages for plantation in private land whereas the Directorate of Handlooms and Handicrafts (DHH) has provided skill development training to state artisans for bamboo handicrafts. Recently the Cane and Bamboo Technology Center (CBTC) under UNIDO has decided to work with the state government to promote large-scale bamboo cultivation in the state through appropriate policy framework and investments with view to promote bamboo based industries in the state.
  17. 17. 17 | P a g e Case 3: HWC in Pangolakha and Fambanglho wildlife sanctuaries WWF- India in collaboration with the Sikkim Forest Department carried out a field based assessment (2009) of HWC in Pangolakha and Fambanglho Wild Life Sanctuaries (WLS) in densely populated region of east Sikkim. Village around these WLS are populated mostly by Sikkimese of Nepalese ethnicity (nearly 80%) and rest are Bhutias . The main occupation of the local people is agriculture (92%) with average landholding of 3-4 acres. The research survey carried out with about 1500 respondents, reported large-scale damages to crop and livestock from raiding wildlife from the forest. Macaque, porcupine and barking deer emerged as top three wildlife species causing damage, followed by squirrels, P. civet animals and black bears. Maize and cardamom are two main crops that bear maximum damage from all raiding wildlife. Other crops often damaged are paddy, squash, potato, mustard, cabbage etc. Most incidence of severe damage to maize comes from macaque and porcupine, whereas macaque and palm civet cause severe damage to cardamom. Over 46% respondents reported damage to livestock, mostly to poultry (91%) and rest to young goats and other cattle. Jackal and Y. marten are two main animals responsible for loss of livestock. Over 69% of the respondents reported not using any measures though they were suffering considerable crop damage. For those employing any measure, they mostly used the scarecrow, though it reportedly had little effect on mammals like macaques, porcupine, barking deer. This was followed by bamboo fencing and barbwire fencing. 5. Human-wildlife Conflict (HWC) A large area of Sikkim (47.59%) is under forest cover and of this there is a significant proportion under very dense forest category (7%). Increase in population especially over the past three decades or so has been matched with increasing forest cover which has led to intersperse of human settlement and agriculture land within or close to forest. On account of better protection and conservation measures large tracts of degraded forests have regenerated over past decade resulting in improved density and enhanced forest canopy. With restoration of habitat, many faunal species that had vanished in past due to habitat loss, have reappeared while the population of existing faunal species have also increased significantly. This has led to an overlap in land-use leading to increasing HWC in Sikkim. The HWC has always existed in past but there has been a sharp increase in the spread and frequency of the conflict due to increasing interface of humans with wildlife. The HWC in Sikkim though a major issue for community today has not been studied in details and therefore the understanding on the issue is limited. Villages after villages that were covered as part of this study reported massive damages to agriculture crop, livestock and sometime to human life on account of increasing predator and herbivore raids from neighboring range (Case 3). 5.1 There is a lack of comprehensive policy in Sikkim on managing HWC. There is a compensatory payment mechanism in place to pay-off the loss but there is wide-spread disaffection among the villagers on the amount being meager. Further the compensatory scheme can only serve the tactical purpose and what is actually needed is a long-term policy that seeks to mitigate the conflict by adopting strategic measures
  18. 18. 18 | P a g e 5.2 In Sikkim the cases involving direct encounter between man and animal is less common with only stray incidents of leopard and bear attacks on human reported. This is in contrast to many wildlife areas in India where loss to human life from elephants, tigers and other predators is quite common. 5.3 As reported by the affected villagers, the compensation provided is less than the actual cost of damage; though the disbursal from the Forest Department is quite prompt. This may partly explain the subdued public protests against the rising incidence of HWC and reason for rare incidences of retaliatory killing of wildlife by community. 5.6 Many household access forests for fuelwood, fodder and other NTFPs increasing chances of direct encounter with wildlife. In many cases fuelwood is the main energy source especially in remote villages prompting people to visit neighboring forests for its collection.
  19. 19. 19 | P a g e Case 4: Demojong, the sacred landscape of Sikkim Demojong is a sacred landscape that in one sense has given the state of Sikkim, a cultural identity. Dedicated to the ruling deity Padmasambhava, an incarnate of Lord Buddha, this landscape is part of the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve. Demojong extends from the peak of Kanchendzonga, the second tallest in the Himalayas, down to areas of lush tropical rainforest. Of the total catchment area of 328,000 ha of the mythical Demojong, 28,510 ha lies under snow. The vegetation is varied, ranging from alpine rhododendron scrub vegetation at altitude to moist sub-tropical evergreen forests in the valleys, all within a distance of about 15 km. Such plant biodiversity (including many valuable medicinal plants) provides raw material for the traditional Tibetan pharmacopoeia. Over a dozen ethnic groups living in the landscape practice traditional agriculture, non-timber forest-product extractions (NTFP) and nomadic cattle grazing as a means of satisfying their livelihood needs. While this small scale extraction is permissible in the landscape, larger perturbations are not. Demojong is a sacred landscape so much so that a major adverse reaction, largely emanating from the local population, occurred when a HEP project was proposed for the sacred Rothang Chu river. The project eventually had to be abandoned as this was a Bhutia- Lepcha heritage site with shared associated ceremonies, rituals and festivals. This is the context in which Demojong has to be seen – a site that illustrates the role of culture as a bulwark for the conservation of biological diversity. 6. Forest, biodiversity and role of local culture and traditions In a human development approach to conservation there is need to emphasize the centrality of anthropogenic factors in setting conservation and forest management goals. The new interest in understanding the role of local culture and traditions that attribute community value to a landscape for its tangible and intangible benefits; is a way to look at conservation and management through a bottom- up perspective instead of traditional top-down approach. For the forest rich and traditional societies like Sikkim, it should be realized that conservation of biological diversity and cultural diversity are inseparable and therefore both should be conserved as an integrated whole. The traditional communities as in Sikkim see nature and its varied expressions from the cultural lens where religion and associated folklores paint a rich tapestry of local indigenous knowledge, traditions and customs that provide sacred value to landscapes (case 4). In this sense, the local culture and ecology are woven as in a mosaic of diverse culture-scape which provides guiding principles, ethics and moral fiber to community approach to conservation. 6.1 With a diverse eco-cultural heritage, the Sikkimese people have a rich base of traditional ecological knowledge where the landscape provides intangible values and tangible economic benefits with implications at societal level. Self imposed social restrictions permit only small-scale alterations of the landscape. However, when a large-scale perturbation (for example a government-sponsored Hydro- electric Power project) that would have disturbed the peace of the region was mooted, the project eventually had to be abandoned. 6.2 The traditional ethic in Sikkim states that all sustainable conservation and management of natural resources that takes into account the sustainable livelihood of local people must be based on community participation. It is further argued that this kind of developmental land use has to be built upon validated traditional ecological knowledge and the use of formal knowledge-based technologies should only occur to the extent that the society in question is willing to accept them. One can see a strong influence of these values on the policy landscape of Sikkim which has largely affirmed to these principles. 6.3 The forest administration in Sikkim has direct control over forest land (82% of area) with restricted community
  20. 20. 20 | P a g e rights. However the, Gumpas (monasteries) and private forests are also very common where community exercise control over access and utilization. There are large numbers of forests attached to the Gumpas (monasteries) that are under their management and control. Apart from these sacred groves, sometimes also referred to as gynas (an ethnic Bhotia word meaning ‘forest garden’), may be either stand-alone entities or part of a larger ‘sacred landscape’, as is the case of the entire forested region of the ‘sacred’ cultural landscape of Demojong. 6.4 In the mid and low altitudes, a large number of mountain springs are found dotting the landscape, which is the main source of water for 80 percent of the rural population. Though Sikkim has countless rivers and streams, arising from its high altitude areas, either being fed by glaciers or rain- fed, they find little use in the daily lives of people. These mountain springs, locally known as Dhara, are the natural discharges from various aquifers, dependent on recharge from rainwater. Traditionally most of these springs are considered sacred and revered as Devithans, which have led to their conservation through the ages. The rural areas of Sikkim are replete with stories of Goddesses being the guardians of these water sources, and how some disturbance around these sites have led to inauspicious incidents in the villages. Therefore, many spring sites have always had some form of protection by the local communities. The rural households access water from these springs, mostly through gravity based piped systems and sometimes manually. 7. Forest, biodiversity and wellbeing of people In Sikkim the forest and biodiversity resources are essential to the well being and happiness of the people. In political ecology, there is an emerging school of thought which looks at role of forest and other natural resources in a broader perspective, beyond the traditional forest role of providing goods and services to a larger role in is contribution to well being and happiness of people. Much of these discussions have evolved in the light of limitations of classical economics in measuring values of all goods and services provided by forests as many such intangible benefits do not enter the market system and are therefore go un-recognized or are undervalued. For a state like Sikkim, the limitations are acutely evident as revenue generation from the forests is very small and in many years actually shows a significant deficit with the expenses incurred in the managing the environment and forest. However the forest and biodiversity resources of Sikkim has immense value- environmental, cultural and social, from local to national and global level and in is in many ways performs the core function in ensuring the well being of its people. 7.1 The discussion on well being is related to definition of who counts for the forest? In other words a clear definition of stakeholders is essential to derive a meaningful discourse on forest and its relation to well-being of the people. For example, the forest and biodiversity resources have very different meaning and social-economic significance for community living close to forest as they are in many cases dependent on these resources for their livelihood, fuelwood, fodder and cash income. The population living in capital city of Gangtok will have less direct dependence on forest, but forest are important for maintaining local hydrological balance, landslide prevention, climate regulation and for overall water and food security among the rural populace. And this way the implication of well being will be change at
  21. 21. 21 | P a g e regional, national and global level. It can be argued that the forests and biodiversity wealth of Sikkim has strong well being impact at all level in a way that determines the global biodiversity richness 7.2 The well being from forest is ensured only when some fundamental needs from forest are met- i) Security and sufficiency of access to forest resource now and for future ii) economic opportunity: forest should enhance livelihood of community iii) decision making opportunity: where people should have role in management and decision making process iv) heritage and identity: cultural significance of forest should be recognized and enhanced for the current as well as future generation v) equity in benefit sharing and fair incentive structure for contribution to forest protection and conservation. It would be useful to analyze the well being of people of Sikkim from the criteria and framework described above.
  22. 22. 22 | P a g e 8. Policies: analysis, gaps and recommendations To protect and sustain its natural resource and biodiversity wealth, the future growth paradigm of Sikkim should be based on ecological modernization framework which seeks growth derived from environment protection and conservation. To seek economic development through classical approach of manufacturing sector driven growth may result in stress on local natural resource base and lead to degradation of environment and disruption of fragile balance in ecosystem. The unique economic- ecological context of Sikkim demands an innovative development strategy that can leverage the states’ comparative advantage in sectors like sustainable eco-tourism, hydro-power and service sector as engine of future growth. The recent evolution of Green Growth framework is useful reference point for the state to adopt as it build strategies for future growth. For green growth to take place, both the state government and Central government policy should act in conjunction to promote balanced growth while factoring in the natural resource assets of the state and the value of ecosystem services that it provides at local, regional and at the national level. This calls for a fresh perspective on development planning and sectoral allocation of resources to stimulate growth in right direction. Otherwise, the cost of losing the last vestiges of unique biodiversity and pristine environment would be inexorable and irreplaceable- something which both Sikkim and India as a country can ill afford. To analyze the forest, wildlife and environment policy framework of Sikkim, it will be useful to use year 1995 as the point of departure when the current government assumed office under the leadership of Mr. Pawan Chamling who is also the current Chief Minister of the state. The government of Sikkim has over the years (Box-xxx) provided strong policy impetus towards environmental protection and conservation of biodiversity and forests. The visionary Chief Minister of Sikkim, Mr. Pawan Chamling, who was awarded as the greenest Chief Minister of India in 1999 by the Delhi based Centre for Science and Environment, ushered major policy reforms to ensure that the pristine and fragile environment of Sikkim is not destroyed under the relentless pressure of development solely driven by market forces. As the state vision statement says the Sikkim will not run in ecological deficit but will use its forest and environment as a strategic resource to promote green growth through promotion of eco-tourism, hydro-power development and development of knowledge economy. There is a general dearth of statistics on Sikkim and that applies to the case of forestry. With the introduction of web based Environment Information System (ENVIS), the situation has been remedied to some extent but still there are gaps in available data which makes policy analysis a challenging task. The following analysis and recommendations are based on available data in public domain and may have gaps on account of non-availability of updated information. Structural issues in forestry sector and recommendation 8.1 Sikkim being a small state with small population base has been able to avoid the economic and environmental cost that ensues in a transitioning economy as it evolves from primary to secondary and tertiary sector. Being part of the north-eastern states it falls under Special Category State (SCS), and enjoys preferential status from Center in terms of volume and conditionality of fund transfer from the central pool. From the macro-economic perspective, though the state has a narrow fiscal base that
  23. 23. 23 | P a g e 1995 •Government announces 1995-'96 as Harit Kranti year for greening Sikkim through peoples participation. Decade 2000-'10 declared as Harit Kranti Dashak • Ban on green felling in forests & restriction on tree felling in Reserved Forest. Timber export outside state has been banned 1997 • Ban on use of non-biodegradable materials like plastics, poly bags etc •KNP extended from 850 sq Km to 1784 sq. Km (25.1% of geographical area) 1998 • Ban on cattle grazing in Reserved Forest •Barsey Rhododendron sanctuary, West Sikkim notified •Introduction of participatory forest management through constitution of JFMCs and subsequent notification for EDCs 1999- '00 • Smriti Van (Memorial Forests) concpet launched. people encouranged to plant trees. • KBR with an area of 2619 sq. Km decalared •State Forest, Environment and Landuse policy 2000 adopted to regulate development activities 2001- '02 • Sacred peaks, caves, rocks, lakes, chhortens and hot spring notified •State Medicinal Plants Board set-up •Pangolakha Wild-life sanctuary, East Sikkim created 2003- '05 •Eleven important bird area identified by government • State Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan prepared and Sikkim State Biodiversity Board setup 2006 •E-governance strengthening through launch of ENVIS • State Green Mission launched for avenue plantation along raods and wasteland. Over 32 lakh saplings planted till 2011 • Wetland Conservation Plan formulated 2007- '10 • State of Environment Report prepared and published • Eco-tourism Directorate created • State Council on Climate Change constituted • Ten Minutes to Earth launched to support Global plantation campaign initiated by UNEP • JICA supported Sikkim biodiversity conservation and forest management project launched •International Rhododendron Festival celebrated Figure 6: Major policy milestones
  24. 24. 24 | P a g e generates low internal revenues from taxes and other sources, it has been able to fund the burgeoning subsidies bills on account of Central transfer which props fiscal balance in face of rising public debt. The massive transfer of subsidies to the countryside has been able to stem the rural-urban migration and thawed policy pressure for urban based employment generation in manufacturing sector. This scenario would have extracted cost on the environment and natural resources of the state. Recent figures on poverty line shows Sikkim’s dramatic decline in poverty level down to about 16 percent. Such low figures on poverty despite the stagnant secondary sector (reached peak of 21% of GSDSP in 1997-’98 and is almost stagnant since then3 ) are again due to plan budget grant which is financing state public debt (Debt to GSDSP ratio was 84% in 2004-’05). In nutshell, there is a strong element of subvention that underpins Sikkim’s ability to mount successful investment in natural resource conservation. Recommendation: The outlook for conservation is critically dependent on this policy balance but for a more assured future Sikkim will have to generate capacity for internal revenue generation to fund its investments in conservation and protection of environment. The diversification of economy to service driven sectors like eco-tourism, hospitality, knowledge hub should be accelerated to fortify internal revenue, generate employment and reduce poverty. 8.2 The budgetary trends on allocation to forest, wildlife and environment sector has shown in a real term decline in recent years with a mere 30 percent increase from 4.25 crore plan budgetary allocation in 1995 to 5.55 crore in 2003; which is clearly not enough to cover even the inflationary cost. Around 4.5 crore of the budget goes in wage and salary payment leaving precious little for future investment. The decline in allocation is likely to have repercussion on afforestation and forest regeneration programme and on any planned development in future. Recommendation: For long-term conservation goals, the state government needs to augment budgetary allocation towards forestry sector to make future investments in planned programmes. There is also a strong need to prune expenditure arising from salary and wage payment by downsizing the size of forest bureaucracy and by cutting wasteful expenditure from leakages which also relates to the larger problem of restoring fiscal discipline in government expenditure. 8.3 The forestry sector in Sikkim is not a major revenue center due to traditional policy orientation towards conservation. Within the forestry sector, the contribution of NTFPs, timber and other products in revenue generation over the past decade has been low and erratic with no distinct upward trend- from a high of 4.09% in 1997-’98, the share of major forest produce (timber, firewood, charcoal) dipped to just over 1% next year and was around 3% in 2002-‘03. Due to ban on green felling and several other legal restrictions on collection of NTFPs and firewood from forests, their share in total state revenue has been rather insignificant. The royalty fixed by Forest Department on marketable forest produce like sand, medicinal plants/herbs, charcoal and timber is often lower than the market value and is not revised regularly to adjust to market price and demand-supply conditions. This further depresses the revenue realization from forestry sector and puts strain on forestry budget allocation. 3 The steep rise in contribution of Tertiary sector in 1997-’98 to 1999-’00 was largely on account of increase in salary bill of government from hike of 6th Pay Commission.
  25. 25. 25 | P a g e Recommendation: While the state policy on forest is firmly entrenched in conservationist agenda, it would be useful to revisit the policy structure to facilitate sustainable utilization of forest resources in Sikkim. The forests in Sikkim are mostly in ecologically climax stage and therefore no further succession is possible. It will therefore be useful to harvest/extract forest produce in a sustainable manner to maintain the restorative vigor of the forests. For more immediate purpose, the revenue policy from the forest produce should be revised to give a much needed fillip to the revenue generation from the forestry sector. 8.4 There is in general lack of convergence and coordination between the Forest Department and other wings of the government. The policy formulation process is often carried out in a disconnected manner which often leads to weak governance, sub-optimal policy outcome and in some cases a complete policy failure. A case to point is the lack of synergy between the Tourism Department and Forest, Wildlife and Environment Department that has led to policy incoherence in critical revenue generation areas like eco-tourism. Similarly there is a tremendous opportunity to prime up forestry activities like afforestation, building forest fire line and roadside plantation by routing the MNREGA funds. In fact in a state like Sikkim, the rural development strategy should be closely aligned to the forest resource development strategy as outcome on both are highly inter-dependent. Recommendation: Inter-departmental coordination should be improved through policy reform especially at the state secretariat level where most of the policy and governance structures are formulated and monitored. The office of the District Magistrate should be treated as a nodal point for administrative convergence and therefore should be sufficiently empowered. Time bound and strategically important programme like ecotourism promotion in select corridors in the state should be implemented in a Mission mode while ensuring inter-departmental coordination. 8. Specific and emerging policy issues in forest resource development 8.1 Ban on green felling in the forest (1995): The Government of Sikkim put in effect total ban on felling of trees in Reserved Forest except for dead, diseased and dying trees to be removed for bona fide use similar ban on export of timber outside state for commercial purpose. The Government also framed rules for felling trees in private forest land. In past the trend towards deforestation was mainly on account of – i) demand for land for settlement and agriculture for increasing population especially for the region till the altitude of 2000 m; ii) grazing pressure, forest fires and fuelwood collection and iii) diversion of forest land for developmental activities. Diverted forest land for development purpose which is estimated to be 590 ha till 1998 has mainly gone to army and Border Roads Organization (35%), Hydel project related diversion (26%) and construction (29%). Sikkim has been the best performers among other states on Compensatory Afforestation (CA) and so far 1000 hectares CA has been carried out which has more than offset the forest loss from diversion. Over the past decade and a half, the ban and restrictions have contributed towards increase in green cover and restoration of degraded forests that were under increased pressure from human activities. Similarly ban on timber export for commercial purpose stemmed the felling of trees for revenue generation and led to improvement in stock. The forest stock plays critical environmental roles like
  26. 26. 26 | P a g e maintaining hydrological balance, soil moisture retention, landslide prevention and carbon sequestration. Recommendation: For the ecologically fragile mountainous state like Sikkim, healthy forest covers is indispensible for maintaining ecological balance and for mitigating impacts of climate change. Therefore the policy has clearly yielded good environmental returns and is partly reflected in the state been able to claim a significant fund from Center as environment bonus. To further boost revenue from the forest cover, the state government should initiate measures to test the feasibility of REDD+ implementation in select region of the state to claim returns on carbon sequestration from its forest. This would require new institutional arrangements for forest governance and policy reforms at different levels. The local population is predominantly dependent on fuelwood as primary source of energy and even after large scale promotion of LPG by the government its use has reached to less than one percent of the population. The fuelwood dependence in north is still greater. As a result there is an immense pressure on forest for fuelwood collection. Free distribution of LPG and subsidized re-filling should be allowed only as short-term strategy as the cost of transporting LPG uphill both for economy and environment is considerable. Solar energy options can be explored for limited energy solutions as sunshine is not abundant throughout the year in many parts of Sikkim. As a second step government should promote fuelwood collection from private forests by improving its productivity and by easing out restriction. Finally in areas with sizeable cattle population as in the sub-tropical region, gobar gas should be promoted at large scale to meet household energy need. The ban on use of fuelwood for tourism purpose should be strictly enforced as it is leading to degradation of forest in popular trekking corridors. 8.2 Ban on cattle grazing in Reserve Forest (1998): In a major policy decision the government of Sikkim banned grazing in all Reserved Forest areas, water sources areas and plantation areas. This put an end to age old practice of yak cattle herding especially from migrant Bhutia population from eastern Nepal. With passage of time, there was an increase in demand for dairy products from an increasing local population resulting in larger herd stock with community and consequently a continuous increase in pressure on forest for grazing and fodder. As a result forest patches especially in the temperate region were gradually getting degraded threatening the balance in ecosystem
  27. 27. 27 | P a g e Case5: Ban on grazing: peoples’ perception in Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary (BRS) For the 36 villages and 6456 households in the BRS, pastoralism was traditional occupation, as profitability from agriculture was low whereas there was easy access to forest for grazing and fodder. Before the ban, an average family has 21 cattle units that fetched them about INR 28,000 per annum in household income from sale of milk and other dairy products. The total average annual biomass requirement for 288 herders in BRS in year 2000 amounted to 6,336 metric tons of firewood, 7,476 metric tonnes of fodder and 41,472 pole sized timber. Using village rates, the economic value of this biomass will amounts to Rs. 90 lakhs per year. In public hearings before the ban in villages adjacent to BRS the local women held visiting herders to sanctuary as main culprit behind forest degradation, loss of biodiversity and forest offences. The villagers urged immediate removal of Goths (cattle sheds) from BRS to restore forest health. To implement the ban, Forest Department removed all Goths and banned grazing. Awareness campaign was carried out to remover herders and those volunteering to phase out herding were offered INR 10000 per household to shift to other occupation. Due to ban the herders are facing livelihood problems. Some have shifted to farming and small business but many are still facing financial hardship. 94 percent herders have not been able to earn as much as they used to from pastoralism and on average each family has incurred loss of income to the tune of over INR 18000 per annum as in 2005. While 99 percent herders gave up pastoralism on account of strict enforcement, as time progressed they realize the environmental benefits that has accrued from ban on grazing The ban has resulted in massive decline in cattle grazing population and has led to restoration of degraded forest patches. For example in Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary, there has been a reduction in cattle units from 6324 in year 2000 to 463 in 2005, a reduction of 96%. As noted in the study of Institute of Financial Management and Research (IFMR) in 2012, the ban has led to a notable improvement in standing stock, density and canopy cover, enhanced biodiversity composition, better stream recharge and restoration of wildlife habitat. However the ban has also resulted in loss of traditional livelihoods for large number of households (Case 5). Interaction with the community clearly indicated loss having adverse impact on financial security of households, which is only partly offset by government compensation. Programs promoting stall feeding are feasible only for few cattle and lack of regular fodder supply is a major concern for households retaining cattle. In a nutshell, the ban on grazing has resulted in improved forest cover and other ecological benefit has however adversely impacted the socio-economic security of vast section of population. Recommendation: While the ban on grazing in forest areas makes for a strong case from environment and ecological perspective, it falls short of providing viable long-term livelihood opportunities to affected population. The continued support from subsidies and conditional cash transfers are at best short-term measure that also has financial implications for the state. A rational strategic choice would be to support alternate livelihood enhancement through skill building of local population and transfer of appropriate livelihood assets that can provide alternate employment to workforce. Developing sectors like tourism, health resorts, and knowledge hubs could provide avenues for employment to local population. Sikkim received 37.7 crore in MNREGA fund in 2010-’11 but the utilization rate has been poor at about 50 percent. Delay in payments, lack of facilities at worksite and non-availability of work on demand are some of the bottlenecks in effective implementation of the scheme. Strengthening peoples’ access to the programme can serve important purpose of reducing financial vulnerability. 8.3 Participatory Forest Management through constitution of JFMCs and EDCs (1998): As noted earlier the JFMCs and EDCs in Sikkim suffer from institutional weaknesses which stems from inadequate legal- political framework which defines incentives, roles responsibilities and conflict resolution mechanism effectively. The incentive structures are currently weak as the legal and policy regime does not allow
  28. 28. 28 | P a g e much in terms of usufruct benefits for JFMC members from the forest. From the interaction with the JFMCs members it was clear that there has been little devolution of roles and power to the community and as a result the effectiveness of these institutions is rather restricted. Recommendation: As a strategy the Forest Department should seek to link JFMCs and EDCs to livelihoods opportunities so that the members start to see tangible benefits from their association with the programme. Strengthening non-farm and off-farm income generation activities like poultry, fisheries, gobar gas and village tourism can boost local livelihoods. Recent initiative by Forest Department to engage the JFMCs/EDCS in eco-tourism activities is laudable and should be implemented diligently. To reinforce the process of constitution and functioning of JFMCs/EDCs, local NGOs should be involved in training and capacity building of these institutions and of Forest Department staff, especially the frontline staff. . In the increasing human wildlife conflict scenario, being village based institutes JFMCs and EDCs would be most suited to play an effective and responsible role. This could be for carrying out quick damage assessments in the field, forming anti depredation squads, demonstrating suitable measures like insurance schemes, etc. 8.4 Implementation of Forest Rights Act (FRA, 2006)4 : The FRA is a landmark Act that recognizes and restores traditional rights of the forest dependent population, which includes the vast majority of Scheduled Tribes {ST} along with other forest dependent people. It does this through granting individual rights of cultivation and habitation on forest land and community rights over access to Non Timber Forest Resources {NTFP}, Nistaar5 and also management and control of forest areas which the communities depend on. In Sikkim FRA has been a non-starter with the implementation being poor and mis-directed. In fact in most cases the impelementation has not proceeded beyond the initial stages, for various reasons. As the MoEF/MOTA Committee reported after its visit to the state in September 2010 to review implementation of FRA- ‘No Claims have been made though this Act so far. All the eligible areas and people seem to be not aware of the Act. Therefore, the claims have not filed under the FRA under Individual Forest Rights (IFR)’. Similarly there is lack of understanding on Community Forest Rights (CFR) and no claim filed under this as well. The fundamental reason behind the current resistance to implementation of FRA in Sikkim is the misconception in section of government machinery that implementation of the Act would lead to large- scale forest loss from traditional claims of forest dwelling communities on the forest resources; which is currently highly restricted. A section of Forest Department which is the powerful driver of state’s steadfast focus on conservation, has resisted implementation of Act on grounds of loss of environmental gains from by ceding parts of forest control. With the state forest policies firmly couched in conservation agenda and managed through strict enforcement and control, FRA is likely to face tough challenges in times ahead. 4 Based on latest information available, the government of Sikkim has submitted to Centre its inability to implement FRA in its present framework and has sought amendments to the rules. A response is awaited from Center 5 Nistaar means rights of fuelwood and grazing of cattle
  29. 29. 29 | P a g e Recommendation: If the ultimate aim of forests is to enhance the well-being of people of state then the provisions of the FRA will provide traction to this goal by addressing just aspiration of community towards participation and democratic governance of local resources. The decentralization of power and recognition of communities’ traditional rights over forest will deepen civil society engagement and pave way for poverty reduction and enhanced welfare of community. To begin with the state government should express commitment towards FRA implementation and misconception regarding the FRA should be cleared and provisions of the Act should be explained to the key officials. The Social Welfare Department of the State should take lead in the process. The government’s claim that JFMCs/EDCS are stronger institutions for forest governance and rights protection are untenable. Similarly, argument that people in Sikkim are not dependent on forest which occupied nearly half of the state’s geographical area is highly unlikely. To establish the factual situation on ground, the government should commission a survey to find out communities’ traditional dependence, and not cultivation alone, on forests. Thereafter claims under both IFR and CFR should be facilitated and processed by organizing and notifying the Gram Sabha, SDLCs and DLCs. 8.5 Human-wildlife Conflict (HWC): As noted earlier, Sikkim does not have a policy on mitigating and managing HWC which is increasing in its spread and intensity. As is the case of many other states in India facing this issue, the response to rising HWC is restricted to tactical measures like compensation for human and property loss and not much of strategic thinking is in place. As in many aspects, Sikkim can take lead in framing an inclusive policy on HWC mitigation and management keeping in view the long- term impact of HWC on wildlife, forests and communities. The first step in the direction would be to carry out participatory baseline assessment of current situation and trends on HWC in Sikkim. Based on the assessment, the Forest Department should take lead in identifying critical and high intensity HWC regions and initiate appropriate mitigation measures involving the local community.
  30. 30. 30 | P a g e CLIMATE CHANGE: THREATS AND MITIGATION 1. The climate trend Climate change is now an accepted fact globally, and will be one of the most crucial issues for mountain regions worldwide, with high mountains like the Himalayas expected to warm up at a faster rate than the lower regions. Some authors have reported rapid warming of Himalaya during the last century and it is estimated to be approximately 2-3 times the global average. Warming in the Himalayas in the last three decades has been between 0.15°C and 0.60°C per decade. The mean temperatures in the Himalayan alpine zones have increased by 0.6 to 1.3 ° C between 1975 and 2006. 1.1 Along with warming, a number of changes in other weather parameters have also studied extensively. Monthly, seasonal and annual analysis of data only for Gangtok station for the period 1957 to 2005 indicates a trend towards warmer nights and cooler days. 1.2 The temperature in Gangtok has been rising at the rate of 0.2-0.3o C per decade; therefore since 1957 the increase in temperature has been around 1 – 1.50 C. The warming is more pronounced in winter even though considerable warming has been observed in other seasons too6 . 1.3 Due to climate variability, the annual rainfall is increasing at the rate of nearly 50 mm per decade, except in winter months and during the period 2006-2010 October to February were exceptionally dry months. Comparison of long term meteorological data available for Gangtok station (1957 to 2005) with the trend over the last few years (2006-09), shows an acceleration of these patterns, with winters becoming increasingly warmer and drier. 1.4 Winter rains are increasingly becoming scarce. During the year 2008 and 2009, the state witnessed one of the driest winters in living memory. According to Meteorological Department, Government of India, Sikkim Division, the year 2009 was the warmest year in the century for Sikkim7 . 2. Climate change Impacts Biodiversity Climate is one of the most important determinants of vegetation patterns globally and has significant influence on the distribution, structure and ecology of forests and the biodiversity distribution. A change in climate can have far reaching consequences on diverse species, their distribution and ecology on the whole. 6 -7 Bhattacharya, S., Krishnaswamy, S., Rao C., Vulnerability of Sikkim to Climate Change and Strategies for Adaptation. In. Arrawatia, M. L., Tambe, S. (Eds.) Biodiversity of Sikkim: Exploring and Conserving a Global Hotspot. Information and Public Relations Department, Government of Sikkim
  31. 31. 31 | P a g e 2.1 A study on Rhododendrons one of the most important floras of the state has shown that the suitable bioclimatic envelope for rhododendron would shrink considerably under the climate change scenario. 2.2 A study on the alpine flora, representing more than 30% of the total flora of the state, has shown that with gradual warming, species are migrating to higher elevations. With this trend, species of the highest altitudinal band would eventually lose their habitats because no more areas would be available for the spatial redistribution. High altitude areas 2.3 Sikkim has over one-third of area falling under high altitude region (which is above 3000 meters). They form critical habitats for important flora and fauna of the state some of which are endangered like the red panda, snow leopard, black necked crane, blood pheasant, etc. These are areas where glaciers of the high mountains and snow melt give rise to countless streams and rivers, and important wetlands of the state also dot these landscapes. These high altitude landscapes are very sacred spaces for the local communities, and are thus also culturally very significant. Indigenous communities inhabit these regions that have had long association with nature, having shared a bond that has lasted over the past many years. 2.4 Climate change impacts have been perceived over the years by indigenous communities residing in these fragile and vulnerable regions, which conform to the findings generated by modern science in different parts of the world. Community perception of an overall decrease in snowfall events and changes in timing during the past 10 years in the higher altitudes has been documented for North Sikkim. Needless to say these changes in snowfall patterns would have an impact in the livelihood of the pastoralist communities, as it would affect the fodder productivity for livestock. 2.5 Study of the East Rathong glacier in West Sikkim has been carried out by the Department of Science and Technology which shows that the total recession of the glacier during the last 43 years (1965- 2008) is about 1.44 km and the last 9 years (1997-2006) is about 320 m with an average rate of 35.5 m/yr. In addition, an area of 2.611 hectares around frontal part of this glacier was found completely melted and separated from the active glacier between 1997 and 2006. Glacier thinning and retreat results in formation of new glacial lakes and the enlargement of existing ones due to the accumulation of melt- water behind loosely consolidated end moraine. Recent studies being carried out by C-DAC, Pune jointly with Sikkim State Council of Science & Technology, Gangtok, have shown that many glacial lakes in Sikkim Himalayan region are expanding at a considerable rate, increasing the chance of GLOF events. People and livelihoods 2.6 Climate change will have a direct impact on the livelihoods of communities as the agriculture sector which is the mainstay for more than 64 percent population in the State gets affected. Already this sector is faced with crucial constraints of limited arable land with agriculture being practiced in slopes, soils that are acidic and low productivity in nature, and with more than 70% of the farmers small and marginal with fragmented holdings (average<0.4 ha).
  32. 32. 32 | P a g e 2.7 Perception of the local community captured in the recent climate change studies show that climate change impacts have resulted in a reduction in the temporal spread of rainfall, an increase in the intensity, with a marked decline in winter rain in Sikkim. Increased intensity of rainfall will lead to high runoff, resulting in low absorption of moisture by soil and loss of nutrients impacting crop productivity. 2.8 Incidences of disease outbreaks and pest infestations have also seen a rapid increase in the last 10 years. Cash crops of ginger and cardamom have been severely affected resulting in marked decline in their productivity in the last 10 years. 2.9 With gradual warming communities in the middle and upper hills are expected to be less vulnerable, as the rise in temperature would provide opportunities for new crops, higher production and early ripening. However due to warming up, there is likelihood of spread of vector borne diseases spreading towards upper hills especially from mosquitoes as warmer condition would facilitate their spread on higher altitude. Villages lying in sub tropical zones with higher sensitivity and low adaptive capacity will be most vulnerable as these villages will face higher impacts of climate change. Most number of villages in the state is found settled around this sub tropical region. 2.10 In Sikkim, most of the villages are settled within close proximity of forest areas, be it a protected area, reserve forest, Khasmal or Gaucharan. Communities have had an age old relationship with these forests, deriving direct and indirect benefits from them, though the equations and magnitude may have changed over the years. Any impact on these forest resources brought about by climate change will invariably also affect the communities that depend on these resources. 2.11 With flowering and fruiting being affected by the changing climate, availability of food inside the forests for wildlife has changed over time. This has had a direct correlation to more incidences of wildlife straying into villages leading to increased human wildlife conflict, a phenomenon being reported from all over the state. While increased instances of human wildlife conflict may not only be a climate change impact, and it may have many other contributing factors, it cannot be ruled out that climate change will increasingly be responsible for this phenomenon in the near future. 2.12 Local people in and around the adjacent Darjeeling Himalaya have perceived that these mountain springs are drying up, in some cases upto 60 percent, and while catchment degradation was identified as the main cause for the drying up of the springs earlier, climate change is now emerging as the new threat. The naturally drought prone areas of the state in South and West Sikkim are critically affected. This leads to drinking water scarcity and in many places also affects food production. Women are especially more affected, as they have to travel further to fetch 2.13 In the subtropical zone (less than 1000 m), the production of important cash crops like ginger, orange and fruits has declined due to prolonged droughts and outbreak of pests, diseases and weeds. Plants such as maize, broom grass and turmeric were found to be the most resilient. This zone was earlier a productive area with multiple cropping; now due to less winter rain, only single cropping during the monsoon is possible. Storage and preservation of seeds is also becoming increasingly difficult due to
  33. 33. 33 | P a g e pest, disease and dry winter. Communities in the middle and upper hills were found to be less vulnerable, and warmer winters provided new opportunities for vegetables such as tomato, chilli, carrot, cucumber, passion fruit, beetroot, etc., coupled with higher production and early ripening as well8 . Hence, though production is expected to be negatively affected in the subtropical zone, climate change provides new opportunities to middle and upper hilly regions of the state. 8, accessed on 12.09.2012
  34. 34. 34 | P a g e 3. Policy measures State action plan for Climate change 3.1 Policies for addressing the issue of climate change have been forthcoming from the State Government. The state action plan for climate change (2012 – 2030) has been prepared in 2011, by the State Government through a consultative process. The broad thematic areas covered by the SAPCC are- i) Water ii) Agriculture, horticulture and livestock iii) Forests, wildlife, and eco-tourism iv) Promotion of energy efficiency v) Urban and rural habitats and communities 3.2 Some policies unique to the state, have also been framed that has led to the creation of an enabling environment under the climate change scenario, chief among this is the policy on ban on grazing (1998), which came into implementation in 2004. The grazing exclusion policy was framed mainly for providing a restoration chance to degraded forest landscapes through undisturbed natural regeneration, which led to restoration of forest ecosystems and was later recognized as a decisive policy measure contributing to mitigating climate change. 3.3 The impact of this grazing exclusion policy in terms of enhancement of the forest carbon stock has been studied and it was observed that the difference between the with and without policy intervention scenarios amounts to about 585 thousand tonnes of carbon, which translates to 2142 thousand tonnes of carbon di-oxide equivalent. This difference indicates active role played by forests in enhancing carbon sink and sequestering carbon which would have been absent if grazing exclusion had not been implemented. 3.4 As an offshoot of the ban on grazing making the forest areas inaccessible to the communities, a steady and rapid increase in private forests have also occurred. Communities residing in the fringe of Fambonglho Wildlife Sanctuary in East Sikkim, claim that close to 50 percent of privately owned land is forested. Reasons like non availability of agriculture laborers and decreasing productivity of crops were also cited for more farmers choosing to have forests in place of traditional agriculture. The option of growing trees provides communities with their daily requirement of fuel wood and fodder, and at the same time also bring them economic benefits.
  35. 35. 35 | P a g e Box 1: Climate vulnerability assessment for Sikkim With impacts of climate change becoming increasingly visible locally in the state, areas that are more vulnerable to these impacts need to be identified urgently. Vulnerability exercises have been conducted by the State Government with support of GIZ at the block level and by WWF – India at the district level. Some important findings of the district level VA were- South Sikkim is most vulnerable of all the districts of Sikkim due to higher exposure and sensitivity values. East Sikkim also has high exposure values but it gets offset by higher adaptive capacity thus resulting in lower vulnerability. North Sikkim has low vulnerability in spite of having low adaptive capacity and relatively low sensitivity values because in terms of exposure values it is almost negligibly vulnerable. West Sikkim District is almost as vulnerable as the South district because both its exposure and sensitivity values are medium high while it has significantly low adaptive capacity. The vulnerability analysis of Sikkim highlights the sensitivity of this natural resource dependent region. On one hand there is the district of East Sikkim which stands out by having high adaptive capacity scores yet high sensitivity due to pressures from population growth and urbanization while there are other districts which have lesser adaptive capacity and are still sensitive because of their high dependence on natural resources. Therefore, it can be inferred that there is need of development and employment generation but in a sustainable manner and there should be a balance to reduce the rural urban migration to avoid pressure on natural resources. This will not only enhance the adaptive capacity of rural areas through better managed development but also reduce the load and sensitivity of urban areas. The major difference was in the level of development and their adaptive capacities which made a village less or more vulnerable to changes. 3.5 On the ecological front, the grazing ban policy yielded the expected results and much of the degraded forests could be reclaimed with aided natural regeneration programmes and with minimal disturbance. Communities living around forests, specially protected areas related their perception of the forest becoming much denser and increasingly inaccessible. Provision of alternate energy 3.6 Alternative energy options for reduction of fuel wood through use of LPG have been pursued by the State Government through many of its initiatives. However fuel wood continues to be the main source of energy accounting for more than 85 per cent of total energy consumption. With the trends towards climate change, excessive dependence on fuelwood from forest will add to the existing stress on the forest and may be a threat to energy security of households. 3.7 Though the distribution of LPG has somewhat brought a reduction in the amount of fuel wood used by communities for cooking, it has not served as a complete replacement. One of the main reasons for this is the unavailability of LPG whenever required, which makes it difficult for the villagers to have total dependence on this medium for their daily requirement. On the other hand, fuel wood is usually freely available. Ground water recharge – a climate adaptation strategy One of the main ecological functions of the forests is its contribution to ground water recharge. These forest patches which most often occupy large tracts of hill top areas are the most important zones for recharge of ground water by tapping rainwater, which is the only water available for drinking and irrigation. More than 90% of this rainwater is lost as surface runoff and the utilization is less than 10%. There is a need to reduce this surface runoff and increase ground water recharge. 3.8 Natural ground water recharge in mountain areas is only 10-15 per cent, and a promising initiative has been made by the State Government for increasing recharge by harnessing the hydrological
  36. 36. 36 | P a g e potential of hill top forests. Most of the rain water just flows away as surface runoff due to steep terrain causing soil erosion, landslides and floods, which has worsened under the climate change scenario. 3.9 Making use of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) programme, the State Government has successfully piloted artificial recharge works in hill top catchments for reviving the dry season discharge of streams fed below. These pilot projects to recharge 330 million liters of groundwater by interventions in the upper catchments of critical streams like Rolu, Seti, Reshi and Rohtak in drought prone areas have been developed to enhance the natural ground water recharge in the drought prone zone of South and West Districts. This was based on the Dhara Vikas programme that had been initiated earlier for rejuvenating dried up springs by carrying out interventions in the catchment area. Natural ground water recharge is supplemented by making artificial recharge structures like staggered contour trenches and ponds in appropriate location Case 6: Voluntary effort to revive Khani Khola stream Sadam Reserve Forest lies on top of the Sadam Gram Panchayat Unit in South Sikkim, and it forms a critical ground water recharge zone for an important stream -the Khani Khola, which is the main source of water for the GPU of Melli Dara located below. Catchment area treatment with a view to increase water flow of the stream was undertaken inside the Sadam RF in 2011 by Sadam GPU, covering an area of around 40 hectares, under the MGNREGA Dhara Vikas programme. Trenches, water percolation pits and plantation activities were carried out under this programme for recharge of ground water which would eventually lead to more water flowing in Khani Khola. All these activities were done with the engagement and participation of people from the Sadam GPU, who was in actuality not the true beneficiaries of the intervention. The true beneficiaries were residents of Melli Dara GPU that was located downstream of Khani Khola, who tapped this source for water supply to four of its gram panchayat wards, covering around 400 households. Any increase in the water flow of this stream would directly benefit these 400 households in terms of drinking water as well as for irrigation purposes, and within a year of the intervention in the recharge zone, the villagers of Melli Dara observed positive changes in the flow of water at Khani Khola. The year 2012 was declared as the year of water conservation by Melli Dara GPU, and a steering committee was set up comprising of 20 members from all wards. Recognizing the efforts of the Government in revival of Khani Khola, the committee of Melli Dara decided to make a contribution in the ground water recharge programme that would ultimately be benefitting their village. The members of this committee took it upon themselves to sustain the efforts made by the Dhara Vikas intervention at Sadam Reserve Forest for recharging of Khani Khola. A voluntary drive for maintaining the trenches and pits, and the plantations was initiated, being led the Panchayat members with active participation of the local communities. A day long programme was undertaken in Sadam RF, in which the volunteers cleared the silt that had accumulated inside the trenches and pits, and took care of the saplings that had been planted the previous year. This provided a good case on people contributing voluntarily for maintenance and sustenance of a programme that lay beyond their jurisdiction, but which would be beneficial to them in the long run.