Construction Of Interpretation Centers And Renovation Of Forest Rest Houses (F.R.Hs)

Interpretation centers will be located at areas of tourism interest to provide tourists with information on the site and a small library to consult relevant documents. The centers will also be built with ecological gardens to exhibit important flora and fauna associated with the locations. It will be important to consider the operational and financial sustainability of the centers when deciding their size, location, and management modality. Staff salaries will be paid by the Forest Department, which may derive funds from leasing arrangements at the centers. The centers will also include an audiovisual room where film and videos can be shown about the site and where meetings and workshops can be held. Handicrafts and souvenirs will be sold at retail outlets within the centers, which will be run by local SHGs under a lease arrangement. There will also be a cafeteria run by local people under a lease arrangement. Public conveniences will be available at all centers for visitors. There are about 27 forest rest houses (FRHs) throughout Sikkim. Many rest houses are situated in scenic areas with potential to attract ecotourists. However, many FRHs are dilapidated condition and need renovation. 

Selection of Locations to Build the Interpretation Centers and to Renovate FRHs
Nine large interpretation centers are proposed for construction, and 9 FRHs are proposed for renovation. A survey and analyses will need to be carried out to select the best locations for securing sufficient numbers of visitors and users, and operational and financial sustainability of the centers. The number of the centers and FRHs may be reduced depending on the results of the survey and analyses. 

Construction of Interpretation Centers
Contractors will be invited to submit proposals to build the structures. The proposals will be evaluated by the EMC, and one or several firms will be contracted upon approval by the board and the PMU. It takes approximately six months from site selection to final construction for the small interpretation centers and eight to ten months for the larger centers. The construction of the interpretation centers will be phased over a three-year period, with several centers built in parallel.

Renovation and Upgrading of FRHs
Nine FRHs will be selected for renovation and upgrading based on their potential to attract ecotourists and visitors. Renovation will be done in such a way that there will be two rooms reserved for foresters and several rooms prepared for visitors. Renovated FRHs should be outsourced in order to secure maintenance and sustainability of the operation.

Training of Local Community Members to Manage and Work in Interpretation
The six larger centers will be run by one manager and assistant managers and the nine smaller centers by one assistant manager. A night watchman will be recruited for protection at each center as well as a cleaner. Therefore, six managers and 15 assistants will need to be trained. Training required includes customer service, administrative duties, telephone technique, and dealing with enquiries. They should be knowledgeable about exhibiting techniques. The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) provides specialized expertise on architectural heritage, natural heritage including ecotourism, material heritage, intangible cultural heritage, and heritage education and communication. This organization should be considered along with other similar organizations. Managers will require some extra management training as well. Instructors will be invited to Gangtok to provide the training over a ten-day period.