Khangchendzonga National Park, which was recently inscribed as India’s first “mixed world heritage site” by UNESCO, is set to give a boost to eco tourism in Sikkim.
Khangchendzonga, popular for its beauty and majesty, represents India’s unique traditional links between nature and cultural heritage, Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling said in a statement.
Sikkim, the least populated state in the country, is considered to be a wonderland for its mountain peaks, lush picturesque valleys, hills, pine forests and fast flowing rivers that offer rafting, forest-trails, monasteries and incredible flora make it a tourist haven.
“With the UNESCO recognition, this unique national park is bound to receive more and more tourists – both domestic and foreign in the coming days,” Chamling said.
Mythological stories are associated with this mountain and with a great number of natural elements — caves, rivers, lakes — that are the object of worship by the indigenous people of Sikkim.
The sacred meanings of these stories and practices have been integrated with Buddhist beliefs and constitute the basis for Sikkimese identity.
Sikkim is a wholly mountainous state, with one third of its area lying above 3,000 meters to the highest point of India, Mount Khangchendzonga, which stands tall at 8,586 meters and is third highest mountain of the world and is the highest point in India.
Khangchendzonga National Park located in eastern Himalaya was set up in 850 sq km area in August, 1977 and was subsequently extended to 1,784 sq km in May, 1997 by including surrounding areas for the purpose of protecting, propagating or developing wildlife or its habitat. The park has the widest altitudinal range of all the protected areas of the world.
It has an enviable altitudinal variation varying from 1,220 metres to 8,586 metres within an aerial distance of just 42 kilometres with permanently snowcapped mountains, glaciers, high altitude lakes, grasslands, cold deserts and varied forest types and consequent floral and faunal diversity to delight the visitors.
“With an altitudinal range of 1,220 m to 8,586 m within an area of only 1,784 sq km, Khangchendzonga is endowed with one of the highest ecosystems in the world,” the Chief Minister said.
There are 20 peaks, which are above 6,000 metres within Khangchendzonga.Of these peaks, 11 are between 6,000 to 7,000 metres, eight between 7,000 to 8,000 metres and one above 8,000 metres.
The highest peak is Mt.Khangchendzonga and the adjacent reserve forests is home to some 22 endemic and 22 rare and threatened plants.
“Sikkim with highest forest cover of 47 per cent in the country is most favourite tourist destination in entire north eastern region and its tourist arrival has doubled in last ten years,” Chamling said.
The state registered 3,47,650 domestic tourist arrival in 2005 which increased to 7,05,023 in 2015 while 16,518 foreign tourist arrival was registered in 2005 which was increased to 38,479 in 2015.
“The state has set the target of around 12 lakh tourist arrival in the state by 2025,” he said.