Stakeholder consultation held on making Sikkim zero waste eco-tourism State

Gangtok, 16 Nov:

Astakeholder consultation on “Shaping State’s strategy to make Sikkim a zero waste eco-tourism state­­-enabling jobs and inclusive growth” was organized at Hotel TashiDelek in Gangtok todaywith Mayor, GMC, Shakti Singh Choudhury, as chief guest, a press release informs.

The consultation was organized by Development Alternatives and Ecotourism and Conservation Society of Sikkim [ECOSS] in partnership with the Integrated Mountain Initiatives [IMI], Green Economy Coalition and with the support of the European Union.

The consultation aimed to get multi-stakeholders together to explore gaps and challenges in making Sikkim a zero-waste eco-tourism state and also identify opportunities and potentials for the way forward.

The consultation had the participation of representatives from the Department of Tourism & Civil Aviation, Urban Development & Housing Department, Rural Management & Development Department, Gangtok Municipal Corporation, PMIU Asian Development Bank Project, Department of Science & Technology, Department of Tourism Sikkim University, Travel Agents Association of Sikkim, Sikkim Hotel &Restaurant Owners’ Association and NGOs namely MLAS, WWF, Green Circle, Chalamthang Ecotourism, and Echostream amongst others.

The first session focused on entrepreneurship and job creation in tourism sector. Some of the pertinent challenges identified included lack of innovation in entrepreneurship amongst youth as manifested by more preference also by the Banks as well as high inclination of majority of youth to opt for luxury taxi owners as business in Sikkim under the Chief Minister’s Start Up scheme. The session further deliberated that this will further aggravate traffic congestion and cause higher pollution levels in Gangtok city.

In comparison to this, it was noted that loans and support from homestays were minimal with having to compete with low-collateral based taxi loans.

Another huge gap was discussed on the lack of data and evidence of tourism related trends in the state. There is a huge need for Government in partnership with the Universities to conduct surveys and systems in place to track actual trends and impacts of tourism in the State. This has resulted in lack of informed policy and planning.

Handicrafts, traditional food& practices and marketing/advertising agency for local homestays were some of the high opportunity areas in the context of local livelihood generation.

The consultation hence deliberated that the State of Sikkim has not invested enough in conserving traditions and cultural heritage and it is important for locals to benefit from the tourism sector and that traditional handicraft sector has to be revived.

In the second session, discussions were focused on solid waste management in Sikkim. Many participants highlighted the urgency to deal with the issue beyond just collection and transportation of waste to the landfill.

It was mentioned that the newly built sanitary landfill that was supposed to be of use for 17 years is now likely to be filled up in just07 years. Segregation of waste at source was an area which had seen little success in spite of distribution of separate dustbin and required renewed effort as was implementing the plastic bag ban which had become diluted over the years and also because of the rampant use of the cloth like PP Bag, another form of plastic. Food waste from hospitality sector was considered of high concern and an opportunity for preventing human-wildlife conflict if managed with responsibility.

It was further added that multilayered plastic such as seen in chips packets, shampoo sachets and instant noodles was the most rampantly seen plastic waste and there was an urgent need to make the manufacturers responsible for setting up take back mechanisms for the waste created from the use of their products. Behavioral change was mentioned as the major bottleneck in waste management in Sikkim.

The consultation also identified some critical steps including education and capacity building for proper sensitization and hand-holding of communities. Decentralization of waste management, specifically organic compostable waste through community engagement and ownership is considered to be the most instrumental need for zero-waste management in Sikkim.

Further, it was felt that government needs to engage with hotel associations and find ways and mandates for hotels to practice minimal use of single-use plastics and waste management at source by the hotels. Alternative green packaging materials and a sense of pride in managing waste were some other points mentioned at the consultation.

The consultation led to an enriching discussion amongst CSOs, Governments and Entrepreneurs.

Representatives from the Department of Tourism and Aviation concluded by mentioning that they will engage more with tourism stakeholders on implementation of State Tourism Policy 2018 in Sikkim for the interest of State and its youth.