The disaster in Uttarakhand has sent alarm bells ringing in another eco-fragile Himalayan region closer home — the Darjeeling Hills. And the focus is on Sandakphu, a quiet retreat up the hills, about 50 km from Darjeeling.
Experts say indiscriminate development in the hill town and the growing number of tourists are posing a grave threat to Sandakphu. Guesthouses, hotels and shops have come up, many of them illegal.
“We paid a formal visit to Sandakphu and observed that the Singalila National Park, located on the edge of Sandakphu, is in a bad condition. A large number of huts has come up, posing a threat to the region,” said Bharat Prakash Rai, convener of the Darjeeling chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach).
Intach will soon write to the state tourism department, advising officials on how to restore the natural heritage of Sandakphu. Intach says the first step will be to restrict the number of visitors to the area. “Trekkers’ huts have been built randomly. Trees have been cut to build them. As a result, a portion of the forest is almost barren ,” Rai said.