“When our determination is strong, even the greatest challenges become simple”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said initiating a flurry of praise bestowed upon the cleanliness and purity of Tsogmo lake.
Calling the “Swachhata” of Thegu Village as a living example of great determination that makes hardest challenges easy, PM Modi showered praise upon Sange Sherpa of Thegu village for his work in safeguarding the sanctity of the environment around Thegu and in his work towards environmental conservation and cleaning of Tsogmo Lake.
“Since past 14 years Sange ji has been engaged in environment conservation at the height of more than 12000 feet,” said PM Modi in one of his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ statements released in twitter.
Lauding the efforts of Sange in preserving the paramountcy of the heritage site by taking up the task of cleaning the heritage site and changing the look of it completely, Modi said, “Sange ji jas taken up the task of cleaning Tsogmo Lake which is of cultural and ancient importance, and with his tireless effort he has completely changed the look of this glacier lake.”
Modi went on a narrated the efforts made by Sange and his community, he said, “In 2008 when Sange Sherpa started his cleanliness campaign, he had to face many problems, but within no time, he got support of youth, villagers, and panchayats.”
The PM further added, “Today if you visit Tsogmo Lake you will find big dustbins there, the garbage collected here is sent for recycling. The tourists here are also handed over garbage bags made out of clothes so tourists don’t spill garbage here and there.”
PM, talking about the strides that the community is taking at Tsogmo, said, “now, nearly 5 lakh tourists visit this extremely clean lake.” “Because of such efforts, Sikkim is amongst the cleanest states of India. I heartily appreciate the noble efforts of Sange Sherpa, his friends and those people working for environment conservation across the country.” He concluded.
Sikkim Chronicle reached out to Sange Sherpa who was positively shocked and in awe that he got under the radar of the PMO. With utter humility, Sherpa informed, “I am just a worker in the Tsogmo Pokhari Sanrakshan Samiti (TPSS) and the work I am being lauded for is actually the work of TPSS. This committee is the undertaking of Forest Department, Government of Sikkim.”
“The Chairperson is DFO-T East, the Member Secy is the Range Officer is, and the President is the Panchayat, I am just a worker. I have worked for the conservation of Tsogmo for 14 years but how my name reached till the Prime Minister, I am also in utter shock and disbelief. After my friends started calling and congratulating me, I couldn’t believe it at first.” Sherpa added.
Further, lauding the work of TPSS and owing the praise he got to his committee he said, “this has always been a team effort and all the credit goes to TPSS and the government, however, the PM took my name in the effort for which I am obviously grateful, but this isn’t just the efforts of me alone but of the government, everyone in Tsogmo and the conservation committee.”
With reluctance to take the credit for himself he lauded his committee members and the Forest Dept, GOS. He further said, “I am grateful that at-least Sikkim’s name and the environmental work put in from here (Tsogmo, Thegu Village) is getting recognised in the nation.”
Sharing words of encouragement Sherpa said, “TPSS is working for the environmental conservation in Tsogmo, similarly there are many lakes, environmental sites, heritage sites, etc., in Sikkim and if everyone plays their individual roles in conserving those sites, all the sites not only Tsogmo, will be cleaner and better place and that will help attract even more tourists in Sikkim.”
Heeding the words of Sherpa, Sikkim Chronicle reached out to DFO T, Forest Department, Government of Sikkim, Smita Shilal, who told us about the history of TPSS and how the committee had laboured since 2006 to work for the conservation of Tsogmo Lake.
“In the year 2006, as per the notification of the Government of Sikkim, Forest Department, a committee was formed that worked for the conservation of numerous lakes across Sikkim. The blanket committee was called Pokhari Sanrakshan Samiti (PSS), under which Tsogmo PSS is one of the conservation committee appointed for Tsogmo.”
“The committee is a registered body, registered under the Forest Department, Government of Sikkim. Tsogmo PSS with the advantage of being nearer to the capital has had more work, as compared to the PSS in other areas.” Shilal added.
Shillal informed about the history of people and the lake in Tsogmo, and how it was of a symbiotic nature, where the lake has not only been a source of water but also, in contemporary times a huge driving force in the livelihoods and economy of the villagers there.
“In early days, the shops were all at the edge of the lake and that caused littering and filth, TPSS worked in relocating all those shops, worked in awareness and has been working since.” The DFO informed.
TPSS has 8 executive members and their committee have tried to build a holistic system that brings about ease in working to conserve the famous lake. The finances that flow through the committee is all collected and put into the fund of TPSS, and the fund is used for the works, the maintenance, remuneration for employees, etc.
The DFO informed, “There is a check-post at 3 Mile where TPSS collects about 10 Rupees per vehicle that cross onto go to Tsogmo, the collection is then put into TPSS fund of which 50% goes to the Forest Department who put that fund into further conservation related use and the other half is used for cleanliness and conservtion works, and to sustain employees.”
There are ten employees who work all around the fields of conservation, from office work, from collecting tickets, to vigilance in watching over littering/defecation, to raising awareness to tourists in the vicinity. All of these employees, of which Sange Sherpa is an executive member, office assistant, and joint secretary of TPSS, are paid through the other half of the funds in TPSS, informed the DFO.
“Recently there were cases of open defecation because of the unavailability of toilets or because the toilet was farther than a few of Tsogmo’s locations, TPSS has sponsored a mobile toilet to tackle that issue as well,” the DFO informed while speaking of the recent strides in keeping Tsogmo’s sanctity.
There are two signatories in TPSS, the Member Secretary and the President, and all the work to be done is sanctioned by the Chairperson, said the DFO who is the current chairperson, informing about the hierarchy in the working of TPSS.
She added, “Sangey is one of the office assistant, and the joint secretary, he also looks after the accounts, and he has been given the maximum responsibility in TPSS, which he fulfils under our supervision. We are really happy that his name came but to get recognition from the PM is a huge thing for entire Forest Department, and it elates us to know that our efforts have helped garner this appreciation for Sikkim at a National level.”
Speaking words of encouragement Shilal said, “I would like to ask people to take an example of Tsogmo, and come forward in conserving other bodies of water, and heritage sites. NGOs (national and local), environmentalists and volunteers should come forward and help in conserving other lakes as well, they all have already been identified by the government and they should be conserved as well. Since they are primary sources of water and also tourist spots, so a holistic approach for cleanliness and conservation should first be the mindset, and then put into action.”