Uttarakhand govt trying to generate jobs via country’s first snow leopard conservation centre
Intending to engage local Himalayan community for conservation of snow leopards in the India-China border area of Uttarkashi district, the Uttarakhand government is trying to increase employment opportunities through the country’s first Snow Leopard Conservation Centre.
Building a sustainable infrastructure, the snow leopard conservation centre aims to give employment to the local population through different avenues like the cafeteria, souvenir shop, guides for research work from local communities, among others. The project aims to secure livelihoods, conservation, sustainable use and restoration of high range Himalayan ecosystems.
The conservation centre will be built at Lanka, near Bhaironghati bridge in Uttarkashi district, a bordering district.
Sandeep Kumar, divisional forest officer (DFO) of Uttarkashi forest division said that the Snow Leopard Conservation Centre is being developed as a centre of excellence with orientation for conservation which will cater to different avenues like local employment, tourism opportunities and facilitate research.
“This centre will help in controlling local tourism through the museums-spread information about all flora-fauna of the snow leopard landscape and use the ecological set-up for scientists to research about the landscape through which we plan to give employment to the local population,” said Kumar.
The senior forest official said that any researcher working in the area will need help from locals as the terrain and the landscape is extremely remote and known well by the locals.
“We will encourage the locals from the adjacent eight villages to work as integrated guides. Locals from the bordering villages like Harsil, Mukhwa and others will be trained as conservation guides for trekking, bird-watching as they are accustomed to the local climate and know the flora-fauna well,” added Kumar.
Professor Anne Feenstra, the main architect working on the project, said that the conservation centre is pro-ecology, pro-local and pro-people.
“Local craftsmen will be involved in the construction, nature guides will be recruited locally for future training expeditions. It will also showcase the local architectural styles and designs along with making it earthquake resistant. Moreover, no trees will be cut for this project and only those trees which have been damaged in landslides will be used, making it pro-ecology,” said Prof Feenstra.
He further elaborated that the design will follow the contours of the mountainous land with no cutting and is based on utilising passive solar energy (using the morning sun to warm up the spaces inside the building given the altitude of over 9,000 feet). The Centre has further been designed with double glazing and thermal insulation to reduce the carbon footprint of the buildings.
In August this year, chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, along with the state forest minister and officials from the forest department, took a meeting in this regard. Rawat had then said special efforts should be made to conserve and increase the number of snow leopards in the state. “Areas, where snow leopards have been seen in the last few years, should be identified by the forest department in collaboration with local people and military forces. Snow leopards should be estimated in these areas by making grids. The conservation of snow leopards and other wildlife in the area will give a boost to winter tourism in the state,” said Rawat.
The snow leopard is a ‘Schedule I’ animal under the Wildlife Protection Act of India and is listed as “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The animal faces many threats to its existence due to poaching and habitat destruction. It inhabits the Himalayas at elevations ranging from 3,000 to 4,500 metres.
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