GANGTOK, Aug 1 - Khangchendzonga National Park, which was recently inscribed as India�s first �mixed world heritage site� by UNESCO, is set to give a boost to eco- tourism in�Sikkim. Khangchendzonga, popular for its beauty and majesty, represents India�s unique traditional links between nature and cultural heritage, Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling said in a statement.
Sikkim,�the least populated State in the country, is considered to be a wonderland for its mountain peaks, lush picturesque valleys, hills, pine forests and fast flowing rivers that offer rafting, forest-trails, monasteries and incredible flora making it a tourist haven.
�With the UNESCO recognition, this unique national park is bound to receive more and more tourists � both domestic and foreign in the coming days,� Chamling said.
Mythological stories are associated with this mountain and with a great number of natural elements � caves, rivers, lakes � that are the object of worship by the indigenous people of Sikkim. The sacred meanings of these stories and practices have been integrated with Buddhist beliefs and constitute the basis for Sikkimese identity.
Sikkim is a wholly mountainous State, with one-third of its area lying above 3,000 metres�to the highest point of India, Mount Khangchendzonga, which stands tall at 8,586 metres and is the third highest mountain of the world.
Khangchendzonga National Park, located in eastern Himalaya, was set up in 850 sq km area in August, 1977 and was subsequently extended to 1,784 sq km in May, 1997 by including surrounding areas�for the purpose of protecting, propagating or developing wildlife and its habitat.
The park has the widest altitudinal range of all the protected areas of the world. It has an enviable altitudinal variation varying from 1,220 metres to 8,586 metres within an aerial distance of just 42 kilometres with permanently snowcapped mountains, glaciers, high altitude lakes, grasslands, cold deserts and varied forest types and consequent floral and faunal diversity to delight the visitors.
�With an altitudinal range of�1,220 m to 8,586 m within an area of only 1,784 sq km, Khangchendzonga is thus endowed with one of the highest ecosystems in the world,� the Chief Minister said. �Sikkim, with highest forest cover of 47 per cent in the country, is most favourite tourist destination in the entire Northeastern region and its tourist arrival has doubled in last ten years,� Chamling said.
The State�registered 3,47,650 domestic tourist arrival in 2005 which increased to 7,05,023 in 2015 while�16,518�foreign tourist arrival was registered in 2005 which increased to�38,479 in 2015. �The State has set the target of around 12 lakh tourist arrival in the State by 2025,� he said. � PTI