Report on Nature Study Programme conducted at East Sikkim between December 24 and 30, 2016.

TREKS – ‘N – ROCK, a voluntary non-profit government-registered organization, affiliated to the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, New Delhi for the last twenty seven years, has been conducting nature study camp towards the promotion of adventure sport activities and nature education among the children and youth of our country. In 2016 they forwarded a proposal to the Principal of Jogamaya Devi College with the request to the faculties to act as academic overseers in the nature study camp in Rongpo Rishi river valley (Doban) in East Sikkim. The Research Committee of the college took the initiative to motivate the teachers to respond to their invitation. Three faculty members Dr.Lekha Mukhopadhyay of Economics,Dr.Rahi Soren of Zoology and Shantanu Majee of English departments volunteered to be the academic overseers in the said program between December 24 and 30, 2016.

Nature is an amalgamation of what it is by itself and the way we look at it. It embraces our thought, culture and practices. The process of man-nature interaction hence is visualized through literary imagination, scientific description and diagnosis of problems generated through anthropogenic intervention in nature. The sequence of individual presentations by our three academic overseers followed this basic tenet. These lecture sessions were conducted in three consecutive days.

The first session focused on Ecology and Literature. The presentation established the inseparable relation that literary representation had sought with Nature studies in English Literature of the West. Initiating with the epics of the Old English and the Middle English era, Nature in its splendour was delineated in the poetry and drama of the Renaissance England. Later, though the focus of literary studies seems to have swung away to the courtly life in the cities, the Romantic age ushered in the movement towards the Return to Nature.  The presentation displayed the history of English Literature in such dialectic progression where art expressed itself through contradictions inherent in man and his natural environment.

Latter part of the presentation concerned representation of the soaring summits in diverse social and cultural activities. It shed light on the enterprising ventures of Albert Smith, the Alpine Club, and the invention of Mountaineering in Mid-Victorian Britain. The extension of such activities were then linked to our own culture back at home, thereby bringing the presentation to its closure with a discussion on the Middle-Class  in India and the construction of agency that Himalayan Mountaineering offered to us during the British Raj.

The second session dealt with the biodiversity-heritage of Sikkim Himalaya and its conservation. It is well known that India is recognized as one of the 12 mega-diversities of the world. The geographic features and the climatic conditions have made Sikkim Himalaya one of the hotspots in the Eastern Himalayas. One of the flying jewels of nature is the butterflies, which also serves as good bio-indicators. Out of 1,400 species of butterflies recorded from the Indian Subcontinent 50% are found inthe State of Sikkim. Some of them are endemic as well as threatened. To give a preview, photographs of some butterflies unique to the Sikkim Himalayas were presented. These were namely Indian birdwing, Common Peacock, Indian Nawab, Crimson tip butterfly, Common imperial butterfly, Red base jezebel etc. Habit and habitat of flagship species such as the snow leopard, Himalayan pika were discussed in the light of conservation efforts. The talk proceeded to discuss the anthropogenic pressure in Sikkim and the importance of community conservation in this State. To conclude, traditional initiatives and opportunities to explore and establish collaborative efforts in conservation were discussed.

Third session was on impact of anthropogenic intervention on Sikkim Himalayan ecology and environment. At the very beginning a brief history of the origin of the state of Sikkim was portrayed. Later the steady rise in the population of Sikkim was addressed historically. In 1901 the population in Sikkim was 59.014 (in thousand) which according to the census of 2011 have been accelerated to 610.577 (in thousand). The graphicalrepresentation of the population growth curve generated from the district census report of Sikkim (1901 – 2011)is given below.q

The population growth at the increasing rate has led to the overutilization of forest land, over extraction of forest and other natural resources. It has further led to rapid and unplanned urbanization with large disposal of urban and industrial wastes. The rapid growth of tourism has further aggravated the situation. In the name of ‘economic development’ nature is being used as a sink to dispose the wastes, without taking into account its carrying capacity. Thus development is becoming unsustainable. As the remedial measures we will have to think about some technological innovations so that exhaustible and inexhaustible resources (which is used at a rate larger than its rate of regeneration) can be substituted by man-made capital. In this regard the traditional knowledge of conservation of resources must be taken into consideration.

Apart from delivering the lectures, a pilot study with 9 households in two villages, viz., Doban and Taza, had been made. In search of the jobs, most of the households were found to migrate from the northern part of Sikkim. Most of them were engaged as daily contractual labours working in quarrying and loading of stones on the river bed. The employment is seasonal in nature. During the winter, when there is less scope of agriculture in the villages, they migrate into the valley to earn from the quarrying activities working at the piece rate of Rs. 25/ per sack of stones. Child labours are also engaged in this activity. Most of the surveyed households perceived that fishery and availability of firewood are being affected after the establishment of pharmaceutical companies and hydro plant in this particular area. Thus, anthropogenic intervention in the ecology and environment of Doban valley was empirically observed.