Former Chief Minister and the President of the SDF party Pawan Chamling says that the random cutting down of trees and sand mining in Sikkim rivers are the result of “Pariwartan” that the SKM promised. He asks that when Sikkim was one of the best performing states in India, what was SKM wanting to change? Only bad should be changed and best should be preserved but the SKM government changed the best state into the worst in the country. Soon Mr PS Goley will change India’s greenest state into a barren land. “Only people can stop this change.
Question: Illegal quarrying and the illegal cutting down of trees have become rampant in Sikkim. The state government has not done enough to check these illegal activities. What are your thoughts?
Ans: This is nothing but the Parivartan or the change that many in Sikkim voted for. Let me ask all the thinking fellow citizens of my state – when Sikkim was one of the fastest developing states in India with some of the best development indicators such as the steepest poverty reduction (from 41.43% BPL 1993 to 3.85% BPL in 2018), the highest leap in life expectancy (62.7 years in 1990 to 73.15 years in 2016), a literacy rate increase (56% in 1994 to 96.72% in 2018), a world record increase of 4% in forest cover, the highest increase in institutes of higher learning (15% – 2 colleges in 1993 to 26 colleges, no universities in 1993 to three government universities and five private universities, safest state for women in India, lowest crime rate, number one tourist destination in the country, massive industrialisation, what kind of Parivartan was the SKM party advocating for? Sikkim was recognized by the Centre for Science and Environment as the Greenest State of India in 1998. During the SDF governance, Sikkim saw an increase of 4 percent forest coverage – a record in itself. What was the SKM party wanting to change when Sikkim was already one of the best. The worst should be changed and the best should be preserved. The SKM government instead of preserving the best changed it and the results are there for everyone to see. So is it surprising that the SKM party has decided to change Sikkim from the greenest state into the most barren state.
Our eco-friendly policies were far above the grasp of the slow-witted, nonprogressive leadership of the SKM party. Sikkim set a global example in green economy. We formulated the State Forest Policy on Environment, Forest and Land Use in 1995 and declared the years as Harit Kranti Varsha and then 2000-2010 as Harit Kranti Dashak. The SDF government formulated a series of green policies every year which are there for everyone to see. We banned the use of plastic (1998), cutting, looping and collection of dhupi leaves (2000), grazing in forest areas (2000), collection of medicinal plants and non-timber forest produce for commercial purpose, killing of wild animals (2001), pan masala gutka (2002), sale and use of crackers (2014), burning of agricultural wastes (2015) and diclofenac sodium (20015).
The SDF government introduced Environmental Education in schools in 2005. The same year, a High Level Task Force was established to study the issue of environmental management and suggest policies for their implementation. In 2006, the State Green Mission was launched and the Sikkim State Biodiversity Board was established, guidelines for lake conservation were laid down in partnership with Gram Panchayat and Pokhari Sanrakshan Samiti and Himal Rakshak were appointed. In 2007, a Glacier and Climate Change Commission was formed. In 2008, I, as Sikkim’s Chief Minister, was invited to participate in the Governor’s Global Summit in California, USA and was privileged to be one of the signatories of the Global Climate Solutions Declaration. In 2010, we launched the 10 Minutes to Earth program. In 2011, the Chief Minister’s Green School Rolling Trophy-cum-Green School State Award was constituted. In 2012, an Eco-Tourism Policy for Sikkim was formed.
It took us over two decades of hard work and commitment to make Sikkim a global example in the field of green economy and the SKM government came and has destroyed our green image in just two short years. Can there be a clearer example of a backward moving, anti-environment, anti-nature governance? Chief Minister PS Goley is asking for ten years so that he can convert India’s greenest state into a desert.
One year ago, I had told the people that over one lakh trees had already been cut down by the SKM government. The SKM government even cut down trees in the capital city of Gangtok openly. Imagine the situation in Sikkim forests. The saw is what we see everywhere. Sokpay School Dhuppi Scandal is just the tip of the iceberg.
The SKM government has institutionalised a sand mining mafia. The Rorathang and Chirbiray quarries have become the den of such mafias where JCB digging machines are openly mining sand and stones directly from the rivers. The Forest department has been asked to keep its eyes closed. The damage done to aquatic plants and animals is beyond description but it is beyond the understanding of the present government. Telling the SKM government about nature conservation is like reciting Puran to a wild buffalo. All they know is timber, sand, gravel, stones, supplies and profits.
It is an example of Law Makers becoming Law Breakers, Rashak becoming Bakhsak. It is an example of anti-people, anti-Sikkim forces changing a progressive and prosperous Sikkim. Parivartan is going on and Sikkim is changing beyond recognition. Only the people can stop this Parivartan.”
Vice-President, Publicity Affairs