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Red-tapism hurting Sikkim tourism prospects, say mountaineers
From Indo-Asian News Service
Gangtok, Sep 18 (IANS) Some of the top mountaineers of the world Sunday called upon the central government to cut down on bureaucratic hurdles to let Sikkim take the best advantage of its glorious mountain peaks.
Addressing a press conference here at the conclusion of the three-day Kanchenjangha Festival to mark the 50th anniversary of the first successful climb to the world's third highest peak, Alan Blackshaw, president of the World Mountaineering Association called for reduction of bureaucratic hassles.
State tourism secretary Aloke Srivastava said that a new set-up has been created in his department to develop a single-window system to make things easier for mountaineers coming to Sikkim.
The state government had Saturday announced that three new peaks in Sikkim would now be open for mountaineers and 10 teams, six of them from foreign countries, would be allowed to climb them each year.
The three new peaks are the Frey's peak (5,830 m) in the district of West Sikkim, the Lama Ongden peak (5,868 m) and the Brum Khangtse peak, both in North Sikkim district.
Srivastava said the government might consider increasing the number of climbs to be allowed each year.
He said that royalty and taxes for climbing Sikkimese peaks would be reduced. A tourism department team will coordinate with the union ministries of external affairs and home affairs, which control the movement of foreigners in this sensitive state touching the India-China border.
"This festival and the opening of the three new peaks would give Sikkim much exposure the world over, but bureaucratic problems would have to be reduced," Blackshaw said.
George Band and Norman Hardy, two of the mountaineers to reach the Kanchenjangha peak for the first time in 1955, also attended the festival.
Talking to reporters, Band called upon the Sikkim government to open more trekking routes and create a trekking circuit to promote long-haul tourism and boost adventure tourism in the state.
However, adventure tourism for foreigners have remained largely stagnant because of excessive taxation by state government.
Apart from fees to the central government, the tourists have to pay royalty, "park fees" for trekking through the reserved forests that lead to the base camps of the mountains and the recently introduced environment tax.
Meanwhile, the state government in 2001 declared the Kanchenjangha as a "sacred peak" under the Religious Places (Protection and Preservation) Act of 1991, since it is considered Sikkim's guardian deity according to the Buddhist tradition and mountaineers prohibited from climbing it.