If there is an ideal ecotourism destination in India, it is Sikkim. This eastern Himalayan state of India with its pristine mountains, crystal clear lakes and rich cultural and natural diversity, is fast gaining popularity. Attracting some two lakh tourists a year, of which 12,000 are foreigners, it has witnessed a 15 per cent growth in the past three years.
Recognising the potential this sector offers to Sikkim, the Chief Minister Pawan Chamling says, "the enormous biodiversity of Sikkim is for the people. Sikkim cannot afford to have large polluting industries. Along with education, computers (high tech), agro based industries, ecotourism is a way towards sustainable development for us.' The State has had a record of taking tough decisions to protect the environment. Tree felling has been severely restricted, grazing has been banned in the reserved forests and attempts are on to make Sikkim a plastic free state. Ecotourism is seen as the developmental option for the future. Inaugurating the South Asian meet on ecotourism in the state capital Gangtok in January this year, Union tourism minister Jagmohan grandly announced, "We want to make Sikkim a model of ecotourism for India and the world.'
The state government now has a tourism plan, which includes orchid tourism