Project Inception Workshop held for SECURE Himalaya held at Chintan Bhawan

Gangtok, 25 July (IPR): Forest, Environment & Wildlife Management Department, Government of Sikkim in collaboration with Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEFCC), Government of India and UNDP-India held a project inception workshop for the Global Environment Facilty (GEF) funded project SECURE Himalaya at the conference hall of Chintan Bhawan today.

Initiated in 2017, the project aims to ensure conservation of locally and globally significant biodiversity land and forest resources in high Himalayan ecosystem spread over four states of Himalchal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Sikkim.

In Sikkim, the project was launched in 2018 and it strives to initiate a landscape level conservation approach in the conservation of snow leopard and its habitat while ensuring sustainable livelihoods for communities inhabiting the selected areas of North and West districts of Sikkim.

Hon‘ble Minister of Forest, Environment & Wildlife Management Department, Shri Karma Loday Bhutia, was present as chief guest.

Also present were Zilla Adhakshya, West District, Smt. Devika Subba, Zilla Adhakshya, North District, Smt. Namday Lepcha, and PRI representatives from North Sikkim.

The workshop also saw attendance of Principal Secretary-cum-Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF), Shri M.L. Srivastava, Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF), Shri B.P. Pradhan, Chief Technical Advisor, UNDP-India, Dr. S.K. Khanduri, officers and representatives from Forest, Environment & Wildlife Management Department, Government of Sikkim, UNDP- India, SECURE Himalaya project, professors and students from various institutions.

The workshop began with a short video message prepared by communications-cum-design partner, Echostream, Gangtok introducing the background of the project.

In his opening address, CCF, Forest, Environment & Wildlife Management Department, Government of Sikkim welcomed the dignitaries and the participants present. He gave a brief introduction of the SECURE Himalaya project highlighting its main aim and objectives.

Chief Technical Advisor, UNDP India, Dr. S.K. Khanduri, spoke on the genesis of the project. He said that snow leopard has been identified as one of the 17 endangered species in India and SECURE Himalaya project will focus mainly on conserving the habitats within the snow leopard ranges in Sikkim while also enhancing lives and livelihoods of local communities. He further informed that those areas that are outside the protected area but are part of the habitat will also be covered under the project.

He spoke on the four main components of the project which are as follows: Effective management for conservation of endangered species and their habitats and sustaining critical ecosystem services, Securing sustainable community livelihoods in high Himalayan ecosystems, Enforcement, monitoring and cooperation to reduce wildlife related threats and Improved knowledge, policy and information systems for promotion of landscape conservation approaches. He further said that environment and wildlife conservation is a matter of great concern globally,hence it is time that we also focus on convergence of different sectors to ensure that environmental impact is minimum.

Principal Secretary-cum-Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF), Shri M.L. Srivastava, briefly outlined some of the achievements of the State in terms of environment protection. He said that geographically Sikkim may be small in area but is rich in biodiversity. He outlined some of the significant achievements of the state in terms of environment protection. He advised that the project should make use of the database that is already available and start from there.

Furthermore, strong emphasis on convergence with other ongoing schemes of related departments need to be given.

Hon‘ble Minister of Forest, Environment & Wildlife Management Department, Shri Karma Loday Bhutia, in his address said that he had conceptualised ‘A Day for Mother Earth’ which is to be observed on 7 July every year wherein no vehicle would be plied for seven minutes at 11 AM throughout the state as an effort towards reducing carbon emission.

He expressed his concern regarding proper implementation of central funds that are received for various projects. He also shared his concern regarding over-population certain species of fauna which is causing man- animal conflict. He suggested that plant species that are not edible and are of no use to the animals should not be introduced. He shared his previous experiences of having worked as a forester and urged everyone to come together and join hands in the conservation efforts.

During the technical session, presentations on project result framework and project management structures were made by associates of SECURE Himalaya and UNDP. Expected outcomes and quantifiable targets to be achieved by 2024 were discussed.

State Project Officer, SECURE Himalaya gave a brief overview of the project landscape. He informed that 27 villages of North and West Sikkim have been identified as sample villages and pilot demonstrations would be carried out in these villages. A brief overview of the progress made in Sikkim was also presented wherein annual work plan was also shared with the participants.

The workshop concluded with an open discussion and questions put forward by the participants were answered by a panel of experts and officers from Forest, Environment & Wildlife Management Department, SECURE Himalaya and UNDP-India.

Vote of thanks was proposed by Conservator of Forest, Shri Udai Gurung.

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