India’s first wildlife skywalk will come up in Maenam wildlife sanctuary in the eastern state of Sikkim.
The Sikkim government had proposed to build a 22 kilometer rope-way from Maenam sanctuary to the skywalk to be built beyond on the edge of Bhalleydhunga steep face with rain shelter and public conveniences. The sanctuary, about 65 kilometres south from the capital city of Gangtok, is a popular tourist destination.
The environment ministry has approved the Sikkim government proposal for Rs. 500 crore skywalk - similar to one in Grand Canyon in north America, which attracts over 3,00,000 visitors a year - despite opposition from wild-lifers.
MK Ranjisinh, member of national board for wildlife, said that the state government instead of allowing encroachment of a wildlife area should allow people to take a walk in the wilderness areas. Another member Prerna Singh Bindra, while opposing the project, said the project would have more deleterious effect on the wildlife as it would lead to increased disturbance to animals in the sanctuary.
Kishore Rithe, another board member, said the skywalk would increase traffic load and destruct the entire habitat. Other wildlife activists believe that approving the project could mean similar requests from other state governments like Gujarat, Kerala and Himachal.
But, their claims were set aside in wake of Sikkim’s good record in wildlife protection.
The Sikkim government informed the ministry that it was only state in the country having around 30 % of its geographical area under protected area network. The state government also said that more forest area would be brought under the Central government protection regime.
The state government’s argument that just 2.10 hectares of land was required to build the rope-way and the skywalk would no way effect the wildlife sanctuary and the revenue generated would help to preserve wildlife came handy in convincing the ministry that the project was required.
A senior ministry functionary said that the state government has done a remarkable job in bringing more than 30% of area under protection and the proposed sky-walk would increase people’s interest in the wildlife.
With all hurdles cleared, the Sikkim government expects the private builder to complete the sky-walk in about two year’s time.