Development Of Trekking Routes

Trekking opportunities in Sikkim are excellent, but as previously mentioned, traffic is mostly concentrated on one trek. The Master Plan for Trekking, Sikkim (INTACH, 2002) provides a comprehensive overview of the treks that are available and describes a total of 22. Its recommendations are fully endorsed, and this document should be used as the main reference for this subcomponent. Under the project four international standard trek routes will be created and marketed. These may be existing treks that need improvement or new trails. A number of smaller treks linked to villages will also be developed or improved, many of which have already been identified by local tourism committees.

Selection of Potential International-Standard Routes
It is proposed that 184km of trails with 16 campsites be developed or improved to create four international standard trek routes to relieve the over-congested Dzongri trek. A survey will need to be carried out to select the best potential treks. Four of the following routes should be considered:
  • The Green Lake Trek: Lachen-Zemu-Green Lake; around 18km.: Foreigners are allowed but it takes a long time to obtain permits. These restrictions must be eased.
  • The Tholung-Kisong Eco Trek: Bay-Tumlong-Tholung-Kisong Tso Nag; around 30km
  • The Yumthang-Yumesamdong Lachen Trek: Yumthang-Yumesamdong-Thangu-Lachen; around 44km
  • The Uttaray-Singelila Trek: around 56km. This is already considered one of the world?s top treks; however, since the Maoist threat in recent years, the trek has been closed as it entered into Nepal. A new trail has been found routed only within Sikkim, but it needs development.
  • The Lingee-Sokpay-Bhaley Dunga Trek: Ligee-Sokpay-Panch Pokhari-Bhaley Dunga; around 36km

Other routes with a total length of 76km will be considered for development. In this connection, development of the trekking route will be 260km in total under the Project. The following selection criteria will be applied for the other trekking routes development.
  • The trek starts, ends, and crosses through areas populated by local communities so that income can be generated for them.
  • There are enough attractions on the way to compete internationally with other routes.
  • The route has an appropriate degree of difficulty to attract international trekkers, but is not dangerous.
  • The base camp is easily accessible.
  • The trekking route does not provide any negative impact to the surrounding natural environments.

The trekking route selection will be carried out by two two-person teams comprising each an expert trekker and a specialist with trekking market knowledge such as a tour operator. They will spend two months reconnaissance survey of potential treks and producing a report. The report must present the development requirements of the best treks in detail, including maintenance requirements and costs as well as safety measures that need to be put in place. These experts will be identified by the EMC and contacted directly. Careful attention should be placed on finding out from agencies such as the Forestry Department, the Tourism Department, and the Rural Management and Development Department (RMDD) their initiatives and plans to develop trek routes so as not to duplicate efforts or to look for opportunities to collaborate. However, collaboration should only be entered into if the criteria described above are abided by.

Development, Improvement, and Maintenance of Trekking Routes
Contractors will be invited to develop the routes. The proposals will be evaluated by the EMC, and one or several firms will be contracted. Trek development will be scheduled over the project period. It is important that these are wilderness treks and that no concrete or paving stones are used, just natural trails. The equivalent of 30 km treks, requiring 5 days walking and 4 nights camping one-way should be developed. Some of the treks will interlink, providing the possibility of longer routes. A total of 16 campsites will be developed or improved on the routes. Signage will be included. Areas will be cleared to establish camping sites at appropriate places. These will include access to water, the construction of a shelter for porters, a shelter for the kitchen, and eco-friendly toilets. Maintenance of the trekking routes will be financed by the Forest Department and maintenance work will be done by EDCs under joint forest management scheme.

Marketing of Trekking Routes
One of the main actions will be for the EMC to invite national and international tour operators for an exposure trip so that they are made aware of the new trekking opportunities in Sikkim. This will be funded out of the EMC?s public relations budget with contribution in-kind from the industry.