The Guardian has reported that the UN’s biodiversity cause still lags behind climate change and it needs to do better than its ‘year of biodiversity’ if it is to raise public awareness of species loss. As the threat to biodiversity continues to increase due to climate change, the small northeastern Indian state of Sikkim has been creating its own landmarks in preventing the menace of climate change from taking over its most prized possession: Natural Beauty.
Sikkim accounts for only 0.5 percent of total geographical area of India and has a population of around 6 lakhs according to Census 2011. Sikkim is home for over twenty six percent of the country’s biodiversity which include exquisite species of flora and fauna. There are more than 150 species of mammals, 550 species of birds, 400 types of medicinal plants, over 500 types of orchids, 28 mountain peaks, 104 rivers and streams and around 700 species of butterflies. Due to all this natural advantages, the small Himalyan state is an important link in the environmental security of the entire eastern Himalayan region of the Country.
But Sikkim Himalayas have come under pressure due to activities taking place outside the state leading to erratic snow fall volumes and similar negative effects. Global warming and glacial melting has resulted in receding glaciers and recurring phenomenon of flood in the entire Himalayan region. Climate change has also caused retreat and sometimes disappearance of alpine species.
There is a serious threat that shrinking of the snow, mountains or in glaciers may modify the water-holding capacities of mountains, thus affecting not only downstream ecosystems but also human water availability for human beings. The change in hydrological cycle accelerates water-related hazards, and affects agriculture, vegetation, forests, biodiversity and health. Climate change also affects mountain ecosystems and its role in biospheric carbon storage and carbon sequestration.
Fortunately, for Sikkim, the state government has been very active over last two decade in promoting environmental awareness. The state government declared the year 1995-96 as the “Harit Kranti Varsh” and the year 2000-2010 as the Harit Kranti Dashak”. The government has made various efforts to increase environment awareness over last two decades from banning the felling of green trees in forests to promoting eco-friendly, pollution free and green industries.
The state government also took some innovative steps like building first of its kind Biodiversity Park at Tendong in 2001 and the concept of “Model Village” in each constituency. More than 46 % of Sikkim is under forest cover and the forest cover has increased from 43.95 percent in 1993-94 to 45.97 percent in 2005-06. Sikkim is also trying to add hydel power generation capacity up to the tune of 8,000 MW.
Sikkim government also constituted a Commission to study the state of Glaciers and its impact on water system in Sikkim under the Chairmanship of Prof. Syed Iqbal Hasnain, Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi.
In the year 1999 Pawan Kumar Chamling was declared the ‘Greenest Chief Minister of India’ by Centre for Science & Environment, New Delhi.
In the first Glacier and Climate Change Commission meeting in January 2008 Sikkim Chief Minister Chamling quoted a proverb, “Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned….. will we realize we cannot eat money”. He concluded saying, “This is high time that we understand this everlasting truth to save Nature which feeds us and sustains human civilization on earth.”
The threat to climate today is more than ever before. The need is not only to realise it but put ourselves to action to do whatever we can.
Our effort will determine whether Sikkim will be able to save its own red pandas or not?